In a Guardian report, delays in paying benefits to terminally ill people were unacceptable and some claimants went through "awful experiences" waiting for payments, Mike Penning, the minister for disabled people, has admitted.{jcomments on}

Asked why a significant number of cancer patients had died before their claim for the new personal independence payment (PIP) was processed, he said it was critical to improve the service for terminally ill people. "We have to get it right because these people need the help as fast as they can get it," he told MPs on the work and pensions select committee.

Hundreds of terminally ill cancer patients faced long waits of weeks and months to receive income support because of changes made to the way the system is administered after the government introduced PIP, which replaced disability living allowance, earlier this year.

Previously a claim for the benefit took eight to 10 days, but cancer charities warned last month that payments were taking as long as eight to 10 weeks to process.

Penning, who has been minister for disabled people since September, said he wanted terminally ill people to be able to make the claim and receive the payment within a seven-day period, but added that he was reluctant to introduce targets to ensure that this time frame was met.

Asked how he was going to enforce the seven-day goal without targets, he replied: "My size 10 boots."

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