7. What the average waiting time is for an assessment for personal independence payment. (905809)
When I was asked this at the last departmental questions, I said that the straightforward answer was that PIP claimants were having to wait too long and we are putting that right. I am pleased to say that since I answered that question we have made considerable progress; both the assessment providers have significantly increased the number of claims they are processing. That is good, and we will meet the Secretary of State’s commitment that nobody would be waiting 16 weeks by the end of the year. On the statistics, we will pre-announce the publication in due course, in line with the UK Statistics Authority code of practice.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I also thank the Minister for that answer, but I would like him to make something absolutely clear. If one of my constituents phones up the Department today to make a PIP claim, will that be dealt with within 16 weeks or will they hear what people are often hearing, which is that it could take up to six months?
Nobody will be waiting longer than 16 weeks by the end of the year. One area where we are performing better is Scotland; the contract Atos runs in Scotland has some of the best performance we are seeing, so I hope that if someone were to make that claim now they would get a decision much more quickly than the hon. Lady might expect.
My constituent Ian Want has severely painful osteoporosis. Having already waited three years for a decision on his claim for disability living allowance, he applied for PIP. Capita rang him at 10.30 pm on a Wednesday to tell him that his medical assessment appointment was at 8.10 the following morning— 50 miles away, in Stoke-on-Trent. Will the Minister apologise to Ian and to the many other disabled people who are being let down by his Department?
I do not know the specific circumstances of that case. If what the hon. Lady describes is the case, it is clearly not acceptable to expect somebody to travel at such short notice and I will look into the matter for her. As I said, however, both the assessment providers are making considerable progress in the number of assessments they are making and communicating to the Department, and departmental decision makers are making considerable progress in making decisions.
We are looking at a number of options to help people. My hon. Friend will be aware that the national health service has made some announcements about the extra help it will be putting in place for people with mental health conditions from April—this will be a significant improvement. We are also running some pilots, examining access to psychological therapies and linking those up with support in getting into work. So she will see that more support is available for those with mental health problems, both now and going forward.