There are problems with the delivery of the Personal Independence Payment, the new benefit to replace the Disability Living Allowance.
This comes ahead of a critical report by the National Audit Office being released on Thursday on the implementation of PIP.
A nurse employed by Capita to carry out assessments told Channel 4 News in an exclusive, anonymous interview that she believes the delays are having an adverse affect on the people she has seen.
“Some of the claimants I’ve been to have had no benefit of any kind since early summer last year. If they started with a physical condition last year the stress of the intervening 6 months means that now most of them are being treated for depression.”
She also told Channel 4 News that there is an unrelenting pressure put on health professionals. “So each report is 2,500 to 3,000 words long and takes the assessors around 3 to 5 hours to actually complete the whole package. And if you are meant to be seeing four claimants a day, writing those claimants up and also travelling 130 miles – that actually is not possible. There is this constant pressure to deliver something that it actually not deliverable.”
Channel 4 News spoke to John Wrathall, a writer, who had a stroke last July, paralaysing him down his right side and leaving him struggling to communicate and unable to carry out basic tasks. He applied for PIP when he came out of hospital in October, but when we met him in early February, he was still waiting for an assessment.
“I’ve just been depressed really because nothing seems to be happening”, John told us. Whilst we were filming, his wife Kate called both the DWP and Atos, neither of whom could tell her how much longer they would have to wait. John did finally get a cancellation appointment and he was seen on 14 February.
Lord Alton, who referred the issue to the National Audit Office, told Channel 4 News: “It’s been a debacle from beginning to end. The Department whenever they seem to go to outside interests lose control over those interests and well it’s like a license to print money.”
The new Minister for Disabled people Mike Penning told Channel 4 News: “I do believe there are massive improvements we need to do to speed up the process, we need to get the quality right but at the same time get the throughput through. The companies have a contractual obligation to us. There are delays inside my own department, inside the DWP, which I need to address.”
On Thursday, the National Audit Office will give its verdict on the problems with the implementation of Personal Independence Payment. For John Wrathall, his struggle continues. On 18th February he went missing and after a police search was found the next morning in nearby woods with hypothermia and a broken arm. He is still waiting to see if he qualifies for PIP.
Dr Stephen Duckworth, Chief Executive, Capita Personal Independence Payment, said: “Both our team and the Department are working closely together to ensure that everything is done to deliver this new service in a timely, sensitive and fair way. Every claimant in the regions we serve, Central England and Wales, should have the opportunity to set out how their disability affects them and receive a fair and quality report to allow the Department to make its decision.”
A spokesperson for Atos said: “The contract was awarded on the basis of being able to meet the Department for Work and Pensions stated needs.
“The Department has made it clear that there are delays in the entire claim process, not just the assessment phase, the part for which we are responsible in certain regions.
“We appreciate that delays cause anxiety and frustration which is why we are taking immediate action to address the situation.”