Delays in PIP assessments ‘puts DWP savings at risk’

27 Feb 14
The government is set to miss its savings target from the new disability benefits because of a massive backlog in the assessment process, auditors said today

Examining the rollout of Personal Independence Payments, which began to replace Disability Living Allowance from April 2013, the National Audit Office said the Department for Work and Pensions had not left enough time to test the system. This is despite a phased rollout intended to reduce risks. 

By October 2013, there was a backlog of 92,000 mobility assessments for PIP. These need to be undertaken before claimants can start receiving the payment to support them with their daily living and mobility costs.

Overall, only 16% of the expected DWP eligibility decisions had been completed by last October after assessments by providers Atos Healthcare and Capita Health and Wellbeing. 

Following the backlog, the department’s programme to reassess the 1.7 million people receiving Disability Living Allowance as part of the transition to the new payment was postponed.

The mobility assessments are intended to match support more closely to the needs of recipients than DLA did. It is also expected the tests will lead to reductions in the cost of the benefit by £3bn from 2018/19, when 3.6 million claimants will have been assessed. 

However, auditors said the £780m of savings forecast for the current spending review 15 would not be realised because of these delays.

It was now expected only £640m will be saved in this period, although the DWP insisted the long-term savings target was unchanged.

Auditor general Amyas Morse said it was too early to conclude if PIP would be a success given the delays in cases. 

To achieve value for money, the DWP needed to show it could reduce the delays and deliver planned savings while maintaining the quality of its decisions, he said.

‘Because it may take some time to resolve the delays, the department has increased the risk that the programme will not deliver value for money in the longer term,’ Morse said.

Responding to the report, a DWP spokeswoman said the changes would replace the ‘broken’ DLA system.

‘Personal Independence Payment is a principled reform which will ensure support is focused on those with the greatest need. It includes a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews, something missing under the old system.

‘The NAO acknowledges this reform started on time and on budget, and we have reduced risk by rolling it out in phases. This has enabled us to adjust our plans as we learn from the initial phases, well before the roll out to the majority of existing Disability Living Allowance claimants next year.’


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