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Personal Independence Payments

Volume 576: debated on Monday 24 February 2014

12. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the implementation of personal independence payments. (902610)

Personal independence payments were only introduced nationally for new claims in June 2013, and reassessment of existing disability living allowance claimants is being gradually implemented from October 2013, so we are at an early stage. However, the process is taking too long—I accept that—and, working with officials, I am pushing through an agenda to change that.

Newport citizens advice bureau has assisted many clients with applications for PIPs, and has reported that most decisions take about five months, but some people have been waiting for a decision since July. There are serious delays at both the DWP and the Capita end, although we were assured by previous Ministers that the PIP process would be fit for purpose. Does the Minister accept the stress and hardship that that causes vulnerable people, and why has it taken Ministers so long to get to grips with the problem?

The reason we are phasing the measure in is to make sure that we get it right. There are internal DWP processes that are taking too long. The assessment is taking too long, and it is also the case that some claimants are taking too long to return the forms that have been sent to them. We are working on this with both providers, and we will get there.

Under the current DLA system, it is hard for people with severe mental health conditions to get the higher-rate amount, but will that change when PIP is implemented?

We often hear about the negative side of PIP, and we have heard again from the Opposition today about their opposition to some parts of it, but there is a great success story for people with mental health issues. Under the old DLA system, they would not be able to get the higher rate that they will receive under PIP, which should be welcomed across the House.

Last year, there were 229,700 claims for PIP, but decisions were taken on only 43,800—fewer than one in five. How can it be right to take up to six months to reach a decision of such significance for severely disabled people? Has the Minister actually set a target for timely decisions, and what penalties will he impose on the assessors—Capita and Atos—for failing to meet it?

It is always difficult to ask a question that has been written before hearing the previous answers. We accept that there are delays: we accept that within PIP, and we accept that within Atos and Capita. We are working closely with them to deal with that. Under the previous system, less than 6% of people ever had a face-to-face assessment; now it is 97%, which we should welcome. We need to get that down so that we can address paper claims quicker, particularly in cases of terminal illness, which we are working on. However, we must push this forward.

It cannot be too early for my constituents who have experienced waits of between five and six months to get an assessment after they have submitted their PIP claim, and others have been told by service providers to expect to wait up to three months to get a decision after the assessment. Will the Minister tell us what he is doing to make sure that service providers face consequences if they do not improve those times?

There are contractual requirements on both providers, and if they do not meet them they will be penalised financially. I also have to say that there are internal delays in DWP, so I am not going to pass the buck entirely on to them, but we will address the problem, and we are doing so. There are measures that we introduced last week which I hope will address the situation with an accumulative effect.

Question 13 is a good idea. The hon. Gentleman, not for the first time, and probably not for the last, is ahead of himself.