UK

Disability payments delay 'forced claimants to use food banks'

Man in wheelchair Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The claimants say the delay in receiving their benefits was unlawful

Two disabled people had to turn to loan sharks and food banks because the government took so long to process their benefit claims, the High Court has heard.

The unnamed pair waited nine months for their Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

They brought the test case to the High Court, claiming the delay was unlawful.

A minister said "significant progress" had been made in processing claims.

PIPs started replacing disability allowance in April 2013.

Labour, along with several charities, criticised the government for the way it handled the switchover, which left about 3,000 people waiting more than a year to have their welfare claims processed.

The High Court is now conducting a judicial review into the payment system.

'Reasonable time'

The claimants said they struggled to pay for food and fuel because of the delays and their health declined as a result.

They had a right to such benefits under the law and should have received them within a "reasonable time", their lawyers told the court.

One of the claimants, Ms C, from Kent, said she had to leave her job because of ill health. She suffers from ME and severe depression.

"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."

Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, said that PIP claims were being processed "at five times the rate they were in January 2014".

He added: "In addition 21% of claimants have been awarded the highest rate, compared to 16% under the disability living allowance, demonstrating that the benefit is being targeted at those who need it most."

But counsel for the claimants said the "most challenging phase" of the PIP rollout was still to come.

About 1.5 million recipients of disability allowance will be moved into the new scheme at the same time as existing PIP claimants face reassessment.

Currently, up to 16% of applicants are still waiting more than 30 weeks for their claims to be completed, the claimants' lawyers said.

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