Legal Experts Say Vulnerable People ‘Left In Lurch’ By Delays In Vital Payments
Expert lawyers have been given the green light to launch a judicial review into the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP’s) system for providing essential payments to disabled families, on behalf of vulnerable people who have been “left in the lurch” and have faced waits of up to 13 months for vital support.
Irwin Mitchell’s specialist public lawyers have been granted permission for the legal challenge in relation to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), after hearing numerous first-hand accounts from those who have faced serious financial hardship after experiencing delays in receiving the funds.
Introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance from April 2013, PIP is designed to help disabled adults to meet extra costs as a result of disability, including basic essentials such as food, heating and transport.
While the DWP estimated the process for applying for payments would take just two and a half months, of the 529,400 claimants who had registered for PIP assessments between April 2013 and July 2014 only 206,000 had received a final determination. This means that more than 300,000 applicants who applied since April 2013 were still awaiting a determination by the end of July 2014.
The problems with the scheme were described by Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge in June last year as “nothing short of a fiasco”, while the delays were also discussed at a Department for Work and Pensions Committee meeting in January.
Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team, which has already successfully helped seven people to obtain decisions on PIP after launching legal action on their behalf, have now been given permission to launch a judicial review with the aim of improving the system for others affected. The action is on the grounds that delays of more than six months amount to a failure to reach a decision in reasonable time.
Expert OpinionWe are delighted to have been given permission to ensure that the voices of thousands of disabled people can finally be heard on this issue.
"While we have helped a number of clients obtain decisions on PIP, it is worrying that the DWP’s approach has been to fast-track those who are taking legal action but not address the situation for the many people who continue to face delays and – as a result – are unable to pay for essentials such as food and heating.
"This has left our clients struggling to cope financially, with the strain and stress of these issues having a significant impact on their health and wellbeing.
"Simply too many people have been left in the lurch as a result of these issues and we hope that our legal challenge will lead to the vital improvements that are needed to ensure that disabled people up and down the country can get the support they need." Anne-Marie Irwin - Senior Associate Solicitor
Among those that Irwin Mitchell has representing in relation to the issue is Ms C – who cannot be named – from Kent, who suffers from severe depression and was diagnosed with ME and high blood pressure in 2009. This condition causes severe physical exhaustion and a host of other health problems. She applied for PIPs in January 2014 after her worsening condition meant she was forced to leave her job, but she did not receive PIP until October, the day after court proceedings were issued.
Ms C said: “The delay had a massive impact on my life. I applied for PIPs so I could look after myself, but without it I could barely eat and only ever left my house for a weekly trip to a supermarket.
“I was completely isolated during the nine months I was waiting for my payments. While my wait came to an end, it is worrying that many, many others have still not received a decision.”
If you have been affected by an unlawful public body decision, we may be able to help you challenge its decision. Visit our Judicial Review page for more information or call us free on 0800 028 1943.