The DWP is to increase the length of automatic extensions of PIP awards awaiting a review from their current three months to ‘up to twelve months’ from 6 September, the Rightsnet website has revealed. Statements will also be sent out confirming the award to make it easier for claimants to get blue badges.
Although there has yet to be an official announcement, Rightsnet – a highly trusted website for welfare rights workers – is reporting that organisations belonging to a DWP stakeholder group were informed of the change by email on 1 September.
At the moment, many thousands of PIP claimants are awaiting a decision on a planned review of their PIP award. The backlog appears to have been largely caused by an increase in the number of fresh PIP claims and a shortage of assessors.
Where a PIP award is about to run out before a review has happened the DWP has been granting a series of rolling three month extensions of awards, often without even telling the claimant they have done so.
As we revealed back in May, the uncertainty about what is happening with their award has caused enormous distress to many PIP claimants. It has also resulted in problems with issues like getting a blue badge, getting a bus or freedom pass or leasing a Motabilty vehicle. In addition, other benefits have been affected for some claimants, including carer’s allowance, pension credit, council tax and housing benefit.
However, the DWP now say that from 6 September:
'... we will automatically be extending existing claims awaiting review by up to 12 months and will do this 35 days before their end date. The longer extension provides greater certainty for claimants and in particular helps with continuing to access other support for example a blue badge.'
The DWP also plan to issue a letter confirming the length of the continuing award to help with difficulties with blue badges and other services.
Letters will be sent out automatically to claimants from 31 October. However, the DWP also say that:
‘Anyone needing a statement before 31 October can contact the helpline 0800 1214433 and we will issue a statement. Otherwise, claimants do not need to contact us unless their circumstances change.'
If awards have still not been reviewed by the new end date they will be extended again.
This sounds like an improvement for PIP claimants awaiting a review.
But the reality is that many of these are claimants who will be moved to much longer term awards once their review is carried out. Until that happens, however, they are faced with potentially years of uncertainty about what the outcome of their review will be.
The situation also further underlines how broken the whole PIP assessment system is and the need to change to a much more paper-based method of deciding eligibility which puts claimants own evidence and the evidence of their health professionals at the heart of the system.
The fact that companies which can’t carry out PIP assessments on time will soon be doing both PIP assessments and work capability assessments in the same geographical area makes the whole situation even more worrying.