Disabled hit by benefit delays

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WIGAN’S disabled residents are having to wait months for their Personal Independence Payment following changes to the benefits system.

The Evening Post today spoke to a woman who had to wait an infuriating nine months before the cash started coming through.

And Wigan MP Lisa Nandy today blasted the Government over the backlog, saying: “I have had a real upsurge in people seeking help because there has been a delay of a minimum of six months. And I am sure there are many more who are not complaining.

“These people have to wait even longer just to get an initial appointment and have an assessment to see if they are entitled. I wrote to the Minister for Disabled People in March to express my dismay and he said everyone was working hard to resolve it.

“It is now June and nothing seems to have changed it - I think it is getting worse.

“The problem is that the people it affects are in crisis because they have not got enough money to live on in the first place. And to add insult to injury, they have to pay money they can’t afford for taxis or parking to get to appointments. It is outrageous.

“There are a lot of people in Wigan who are disabled and this is not the way to treat people.”

One Wigan resident who has experienced a delay is Liz Coleman of Gidlow.

The 60-year-old suffers from COPD, which leaves her struggling for breath, and faced a nine-month ordeal before payments started.

She said: “I applied on September 19 and sent off my documents to the Department for Work and Pensions in October and they referred it to Atos on November 9. Then I didn’t hear anything so I asked Ms Nandy to get involved in April.

“I finally received a letter to attend a medical on May 12 and got my first payment last week. I had always had my weekly Employment Support Allowance but it is not about the struggle financially - it is about the delay with Atos. There is no contact unless you ring them and that costs money.

“There are plenty of people who really do rely on this money. It is a ridiculous amount of time to take. This money would really help people who need to pay parking or transport fees to get to medial appointments.”

But Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning defended the PIP system, saying it ensured “support goes to those who need it most. I have introduced a faster process for people with terminal illnesses, with clearance times reducing to our target of 10 days.”

PIP replaced Disability Living Allowance in April 2013 and is worth between £21 and £134 a week. Most people applying for PIP have a face-to-face assessment to determine eligibility, which have been carried out by the private contractors Atos Healthcare and Capita Business Services.