The DWP does not set a target for processing PIP claims. The Department takes all reasonable steps to obtain evidence of claimants’ individual needs, including independent assessment. We make decisions as quickly as possible based on the available information in order to reach the right outcome. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be pleased to know, as I was, that the median time from start to end is currently 13 weeks.
Notwithstanding further appeal by the Department, will the Minister restore benefits after a successful first-tier decision for the applicant?
My right hon. Friend raises a very important question, but the Department takes the view that, because we are appealing the decision and it is based on an error of law, that really would not be appropriate. I just want to reassure him and all hon. Members that there are always exceptions, and this could arise where a suspension would cause financial hardship. For most benefits, this is considered before suspension is imposed, but, in all cases, the suspension letter sent to claimants invites them to contact the Department immediately if they are in financial hardship so that we can help them.
Sixty five per cent of PIP tribunals find in favour of the claimant, meaning that hundreds of disabled people are being denied the support to which they are entitled. This puts an intolerable strain on whole families, including my constituents Chris and Cathryn Stoney who, having coped with Cathryn’s bowel cancer surgeries, brain haemorrhage and cardiac arrest, now face a further ordeal appealing against an unjust assessment. Will the Minister agree to meet me, the Stoneys and Nottingham advice services to hear how the system is failing disabled people?
I would be very pleased to meet the hon. Lady and her constituents to talk about that case or to listen to their concerns more widely, but we really should put the situation in context: 8% of decisions are appealed and 4% of them are upheld. I am very aware that behind every statistic is a person, but it is actually a small percentage of the millions of people who do receive their benefits, and we are continuously focused on making the right decision, right from the outset, which is why we commission independent reviews. We welcome the findings of the latest independent review by Mr Gray, which has been published today, and we have accepted all his recommendations.
Does the Minister agree that Paul Gray’s recommendations in the second independent review of personal independence payments that the routine provision of the assessment report to the claimant would both improve identification of error and incentivise better performance at the assessment stage, and will she fully accept that particular recommendation?
As I have said before, I am really delighted with the review and to have received its findings. We have accepted all the findings in the review. At the moment, those reports are available, so that everyone can request them. We do not think it is a good use of taxpayers’ money to provide them to people who are happy with the result, who will not be going on to make any further appeal and who are actually getting on with receiving their benefit.