Ann Coffey

NEWS
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Stockport Express, Column January 2019

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January 31 2019

Sick and disabled hit hard by benefit delays

It is always very sad to hear about people in Stockport who are under great stress and suffering financial hardship. I have recently been contacted by people who have disabilities and long term illnesses who have been refused Personal Independence Payments or are not being paid their full entitlement.

They are having to wait on average about eight and half months for their appeals to be heard and are struggling with high levels of anxiety and massive money problems.  Personal Independence Payments replaced Disabled Living Allowance in 2013 and are paid to some of the most vulnerable people in the country who have difficulty with daily living and getting around.

It is a disgrace that such deserving cases are having to wait such a long time.

I decided to make further inquiries and discovered that hundreds of people in Stockport are having to wait on average 37 weeks for a final decision to be made on their PIPs entitlements through tribunal appeal. This is well above the national average of 30 weeks, according to a written parliamentary answer I secured from the Ministry of Justice.

Stockport people who appeal against being refused benefits are losing up to £5,377 because of the long delays while they await the outcome of their appeal. The vast majority of claimants in Stockport are eventually told that the initial decision on their entitlements was wrong and it is overturned in their favour.

Of course people do get the money back if the decision is reversed but meanwhile these very deserving people have to go through months of unnecessary anxiety and financial hardship. Many do not have enough money to make ends meet while they are waiting and have no savings to tide them over.  And the situation appears to be getting worse. The Stockport delays for appeals have more than doubled to 37 weeks since 2015, when it was 15 weeks.

The government got itself into deep trouble with the introduction of Universal Credit and has recently been forced to make some U-turns. Ministers now need to look again at how long people with disabilities and long term illnesses are having to wait for PIPs appeals and make changes to speed up these unacceptable waiting times.