A claimant who has waited over six months for a decisions on their PIP claim has launched judicial review proceedings against the DWP, but planned changes to the law mean that such challenges may soon be impossible.
Solicitors Irwin Mitchell are representing Ms C, from Kent, who has suffered with severe depression for most of her life and was diagnosed with ME and high blood pressure in 2009. The condition causes severe physical exhaustion and a host of other health problems. She applied for PIP in January 2014 after her condition worsened and she was forced to leave her job.
Ms C said:
“The delay has had a massive impact on my life. I applied for PIPs so I could look after myself, but without it I can barely eat and only ever leave my house for a weekly trip to a supermarket.
“While PIP wouldn’t solve all of my problems, without it I just feel financially and socially isolated.”
Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team argues that the Secretary of State’s practice of taking approximately six months or more to determine PIP claims is unreasonable, given that the purpose of PIP is to support disabled people of working age who have extras costs caused by long-term ill health or a disability.
Solicitor Anne-Marie Irwin said:
“The delays are putting people at a significant disadvantage and if their PIP claims are granted it would meet the additional financial costs which arise because of an illness or disability and so enable them to benefit from a greater quality of life.
"It is clear that urgent action is needed on this issue."
However, a bill currently going through the House of Lords will make it virtually impossible for ordinary people to seek judicial review of unfair decisions, because they will potentially be liable for massive legal costs from the outset of the case. The bill also makes charities who support judicial reviews liable for costs.
In the future a claimant wishing to bring a case in the same way as Mrs C would have to be prepared to face having costs of tens of thousands of pounds awarded against them, even when they can scarcely afford to feed and clothe themselves.
Combined with the Conservative party’s stated aim of repealing the Human Rights Act, the possibility of claimants getting justice in the future seems to be diminishing rapidly.