DWP ‘must urgently’ act as PIP waiting times ‘unacceptably high’ – how to cope with delays

Justin Tomlinson gets questioned on PIP assessments

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PIP data for October was released by the DWP recently and Macmillan Cancer Support warned the figures paint a bleak picture. Minesh Patel, Head of Policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, argued: “It is unacceptable that PIP waiting times remain consistently high.”

He continued: “At a time when people with cancer should be focusing on their health, many are faced with a shocking wait of almost six months to receive the benefits they need.

“Every day we are hearing from people struggling with the extra costs their cancer diagnosis can bring, often exacerbated by the pandemic. It’s vital that the Government urgently takes steps to reduce the delays in the system and ensure cancer patients can quickly access vital financial support they’re entitled to.”

Research from Macmillan showed more than four in five people with cancer in the UK (83 percent) experience some kind of financial impact from their diagnosis, and for those affected, this reaches an average of £891 a month.

Additionally, there are tens of thousands of people with cancer in the UK struggling to pay basic living costs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Patel went on to comment on what the DWP should do to reduce or at least address these delays.

He said: “The Department for Work and Pensions must urgently set out a plan for reducing PIP waiting times, with an outline of when they expect processing times to return to normal levels and allocation of sufficient resources to do this.

“Our latest research shows that almost 2.5 million people across the UK are hit by a ‘cancer price tag’, an average of nearly £900 a month.

“It’s critical that people with cancer can quickly access the vital financial support they’re entitled to in order to help relieve these financial pressures.”

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While claimants wait for these problems to be rectified, Macmillan noted there are a number of actions they can take to manage or best cope with these delays.

Christopher Jones, Team Leader on Macmillan’s Support Line, addressed this, suggesting PIP claimants contact their MP where they can.

He said: “People can involve their local MP to challenge severe delays in processing their PIP claim. You can contact your local MP yourself or with the help of a Welfare Rights Adviser if you need extra support. Your local MP has a direct line to the DWP to escalate claims and investigate any particularly long delays, especially if they are giving you serious financial or health hardship.

“Keeping a diary, noting when you have contacted the DWP, can be useful evidence for an MP or a Welfare Rights Adviser if they are looking to expedite your application.

“Keeping a note of any changes to your condition while you wait on the PIP application to be processed is useful so that further evidence of this can be sent to the DWP.”

Additionally, if claimants are struggling to get by with PIP, they may be able to get support through other benefits.

Mr Patel concluded: “People should make sure they have had professional input from a Welfare Rights Adviser to see if there are any other areas of social security support they are entitled to receive.

“A number of other UK benefits include disability elements similar (but not identical) to PIP, and people may be able to apply for these or add them to their existing benefits depending on their circumstances.

“There can also be support through charitable financial grants, as well as energy advice and support that may be able to help with household bills.

“Anyone affected by cancer can get in touch with the Macmillan Support Line Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, and Saturday-Sunday 9am-5pm on 0808 808 00 00 to speak to a Welfare Rights Adviser.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We understand how difficult and life-altering a cancer diagnosis can be and we are committed to ensuring people get the support they’re entitled to as quickly as possible. Where this doesn’t happen, most PIP claims can be backdated.

“In cases of terminal illness, we fast-track PIP claims for anyone applying under Special Rules for Terminal Illness to ensure people receive the financial support they need, typically within three working days.”

To be eligible for PIP initially, claimants must be aged between 16 and state pension age.

They must also have a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability, have difficulty doing certain everyday tasks or getting around and expect the difficulties to last for at least 12 months from when they started.

Claims for PIP can be made over the phone or through the post. Before applying, claimants will need to have certain information at the ready.

This includes personal details and information on their condition(s).

Guidance on this process can be sought from Citizens Advice which has detailed information on the entire PIP procedure.

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