Sick and disabled people trying to claim a new benefit introduced by Iain Duncan Smith are facing "distress and financial difficulties" because of mismanagement by civil servants and the outsourcing firms Atos and Capita, a spending watchdog has found.{jcomments on}

The Guardian reports that the National Audit Office discovered that the new personal independence payment, which will replace the disability living allowance, will cost almost three and a half times more to administer and take double the amount of time to process.

The department for work and pensions [DWP] had budgeted to pay £200m to administer the new benefit but pays Atos and Capita £127m to conduct face-to-face consultations or paper-based assessments.

The report shows that within six months of the introduction of PIPs in some areas of the north of England in April 2013, a backlog of 92,000 cases had built up, almost three times the number expected. The DWP had made decisions in only 16% of the expected number of cases, the report found.

Atos is singled out for criticism in the report. Contractually, assessment providers should complete 97% of assessments within 30 days. By the end of October, Atos and Capita had completed 55% and 67% respectively, the report disclosed.

Claimants were waiting an average 107 days - and terminally ill patients 28 days - for a decision on their cases, the NAO report has found, rather than the predicted processing times of 74 days and 10 days respectively.

Each new PIP claim - worth between £21 and £134 a week to disabled claimants - costs an average £182 to administer, compared to £49 under the disability living allowance, said the report.

Read the article in full here


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