Legal Action After Nationwide Delays In Personal Independence Payments Leave Disabled Woman ‘Isolated’

Application For Judicial Review Into ‘Unreasonable’ Wait For Support

24.10.2014

Expert lawyers who have already helped vulnerable people challenge their long wait to receive essential benefit payments are now again launching legal action on behalf of a woman thought to be among thousands left “financially and socially isolated” by “unnecessary” delays in applications for the same support.

Public law experts at Irwin Mitchell are representing a Kent woman who has said she is struggling to eat and heat her home after a delay of more than six months in her applications for Personal Independent Payments (PIP) – the replacement for Disability Living Allowance which helps vulnerable children and adults meet the extra costs they might have as a result of a disability.

Between April 2013 and March 2014 there were 349,000 new claims for PIP registered, but by the end of February 2014 there had been just 84,000 decisions made – meaning potentially thousands of people across the UK may have been left struggling to get by day-to-day due to the long wait to access the help they need.

Most people are waiting six months or more for their claim to be determined and many are suffering financial hardship whilst they wait. At the launch of a Public Accounts Committee report into PIP in June this year, the committee’s chair Margaret Hodge described the scheme’s implementation as “nothing short of a fiasco”.

Now, Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team, who have successfully represented five people to obtain the decisions they had been waiting for, have applied for a judicial review to examine the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions’ action on the issue – on the grounds that delays of more than six months amount to a failure to reach a decision within a reasonable time.

Expert Opinion
PIP was created to ensure that the thousands of vulnerable people across the UK are able to get support for extra costs caused by long-term ill health or disability.

"Through our work, we have seen how people have been left in the lurch for a number of months as a result of these issues, with many contacting the Department of Work and Pensions disability helpline several times to check the status of their claims – only to be told they must wait in line.

"The delays that our client and potentially thousands of others have faced are simply unnecessary and unacceptable, as they need this support to be able to get the most from everyday life. This issue has left our client struggling to cope financially, with the strain and stress of these issues also having a significant impact on her health and wellbeing.

"We’ve been left with little choice to take this action to ensure that the voice of our client is heard."
Anne-Marie Irwin, Associate

In April 2013, the DWP estimated it would take around two and a half months to decide a claim for non-terminally ill people and just 10 days for people with a terminal illness. However in December last year, the National Audit Office reported that just 19% of new claims for PIP had been given a decision and the actual time for making a decision was 107 days for claims from people without a terminal illness and 28 days for claims by the terminally ill.

Irwin Mitchell is representing Ms C, from Kent, who has suffered with severe depression for most of her life and was diagnosed with ME and high blood pressure in 2009. The condition causes severe physical exhaustion and a host of other health problems. She applied for PIPs in January 2014 after her condition worsened and she was forced to leave her job.

Ms C said: “The delay has had a massive impact on my life. I applied for PIPs so I could look after myself, but without it I can barely eat and only ever leave my house for a weekly trip to a supermarket.

“While PIP wouldn’t solve all of my problems, without it I just feel financially and socially isolated.”

Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team argues that the Secretary of State’s practice of taking approximately six months or more to determine PIP claims is unreasonable, given that the purpose of PIPs is to support disabled people of working age who have extras costs caused by long-term ill health or a disability.

Expert Opinion
The delays are putting people at a significant disadvantage and if their PIP claims are granted it would meet the additional financial costs which arise because of an illness or disability and so enable them to benefit from a greater quality of life.

"It is clear that urgent action is needed on this issue."
Anne-Marie Irwin, Associate