The waiting time for the results of a vital disability benefit test has more than doubled, official figures reveal today.
A charity raised fears as people now wait more than three months to find out if they can be paid Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
The benefit hands 1.5million £22 to £83 a week to help them pay for everyday costs of being disabled or badly sick.
But new claimants now wait an average of 16 weeks between registering with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and finding out if they can get the benefit
That figure, for July, has risen from 10 weeks since October 2016.
PIP claimants now wait an average of 16 weeks from start to finish (Image: REX/Shutterstock)
The figures are even more dramatic when they focus on disability benefit tests – the most controversial part of the process.
In July, new claimants waited an average of 11 weeks between being referred for an ‘assessment’ and finding out if they’d been cleared to get the benefit.
That more than doubled from five weeks in October 2016.
In both cases waiting times are now their longest in more than two years.
It means claimants are being left in limbo for months while suffering from serious conditions including multiple sclerosis, cancer, dementia, anxiety and depression.
James Taylor of disability charity Scope warned the delays “cause real distress to the thousands of disabled people who rely on PIP to live independently.”
He added: “Today’s figures reinforce the fact that there remain serious issues with the application and assessment process for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The benefit is paid to around 1.5million disabled people (Image: PA)
“PIP is a lifeline for many disabled people to help meet extra costs related to their impairment or condition – our research show these add up to an average of £550 a month.”
Clearance times are measured from the moment of referral to an “assessment provider”, usually private firms Atos or Capita, to a decision by the DWP.
Waiting times are still nowhere near their peak in summer 2014 – when they reached an average of 42 weeks.
A DWP spokeswoman said the overall number of claims processed each month had risen slightly.
“We are committed to processing PIP claims as quickly as possible, while ensuring we have all the evidence we need to make the right decisions. Around 81,000 claims are processed each month,” she said.