I am pleased to update the House that the average claimant is waiting 14 weeks for an assessment. This is within the 16-week target set by the Secretary of State. In any high-volume business, we would always expect to have a significant number of cases moving through the system at any one time.
My Lords, anyone making an application for a PIP assessment today will have time for 16 return journeys to the moon or 35 flights around the world before they will get their assessment. In fact, they would be back in Britain a week before their assessment was due. The timeframe announced by the Minister is simply not acceptable. However, when this was debated in the Commons in January, a number of Members of Parliament said that when they intervened the process was reduced considerably. Is the system so broken that the best way to get a short and quick interview for a PIP assessment is to involve a Member of Parliament? What does he say to his own independent reviewer, Paul Gray, who said that the delays were doing a disservice to disabled people and their families?
My Lords, PIPs are intended to assist with disability-related expenses. The disability charity Scope estimated in a recent study that these amount to an average of £550 a month. Given that the Government have reasserted their commitment to protecting the value of the state pension through the triple lock, what consideration has the Minister given to affording PIPs the same protection?
My Lords, can the Minister tell us how many 16 and 17 year-olds are awaiting reassessment? What action do the Government propose to take to meet the additional needs of that group, including providing support for them through the reassessment process?
My Lords, the reliability criteria used for the personal independence payment assessments —that is, whether people can undertake tasks safely, acceptably and repeatedly—are crucial for people with fluctuating conditions. In their response to the Gray review the Government say that everybody involved in assessing those criteria should have training, yet later they say that the DWP will undertake training separately from Atos and Capita, which will do their own training. Does my noble friend not think it would be much better if all three worked together on the training so that we have consistency of outcome and avoid outcomes such as the inappropriate loss of a Motability car?
My Lords, the Government have taken to using a variety of unpublished statistics in relation to PIP. When my noble friend Lord Dubs asked a Question on this very subject on 15 January, the Minister answering said that the backlog was down to 107,000—but was then obliged to write and say that that was not the case at all. So can the Minister tell me something very specific? The latest published figures cover only new applications for personal independence payments, not reassessments of the kind mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. People suspect that those on disability living allowance are having much slower assessments in order to enable the Government to fast-track new claims. Can the Minister reassure the House that that is not true and also tell us what the waiting times are for DLA?
The two processes, for PIP and for DLA—or rather, for the WCA, which I imagine is what the noble Baroness meant—are separate, and separate contractors operate them. Indeed, Maximus has come in to run the WCA process. As for the figures, statistics will be released next week, on 18 March, giving the PIP clearance times and the waiting outstanding times. That statistical release has been preannounced, in accordance with the normal protocols.
My Lords, I express my thanks to the Minister for the excellent revision that was made of the training manual for CFS/ME. What checks are made of the assessors to ensure that they are not bringing their preconceived ideas about CFS/ME to the assessment that they make of people with that condition?
My Lords, I am not in a position to give exact figures. We debated this in some detail when we went through the Bill. I can say what the award rates are at the moment. Thirty-two per cent of people have been on both the enhanced daily living allowance and the enhanced mobility allowance, which I hope gives some direction as to where we are going with these tests.