A massive PIP assessment backlog of almost one third of a million claimants has been allowed to build up by the DWP, figures obtained by the Disability News Service (DNS) have revealed. It raises big questions over the plan to have the same assessment providers carry out both PIP and UC/ESA assessments in the same geographical area in the future.
According to DNS, 311,870 claimants were waiting for a PIP assessment in December 2021. That figure is likely to be even higher now.
The number of cases waiting for an assessment was just 88,500 in October 2016.
By October 2019, prior to the pandemic, this had risen to 143,000.
This suggests that Capita and Atos (IAS) have long struggled to keep up with the level of assessments needed, even before the pandemic.
But once Covid hit waiting numbers rapidly increased and, having more than doubled, they are now at levels which it will be hard to get under control.
More concerning still, is that the DWP is planning to switch to joint assessment areas in which the same provider carries out both PIP and UC/ESA assessments.
From August 2023 just one company will carry out the assessments for PIP and the WCA in any given geographical area. The number of areas has not been disclosed, nor the number of companies that might provide services.
But if companies which can’t even cope with their current contracts for PIP are also allowed to take on work capability assessments, what kind of waiting lists might be allowed to build up? Even if Maximus, who currently carry out WCAs are included in the new contracts, it still seems unlikely there will be sufficient capacity for all the work required.
And it means that each company will have to develop skills and procedures for assessments it currently doesn’t deal with.
Claimants are already waiting a long time for an initial assessment and being left terrified that their awards may end where they are left waiting for an assessment for a renewal claim.
To add to this chaos by a major change in the system seems an act of extreme folly. Unless the backlog is massively reduced before August 2023, and additional companies are brough in to carry out assessments, it’s hard to see how enormous distress to claimants can be avoided.