Terminally ill ‘hit by deplorable delays in benefit payments’

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TERMINALLY ill cancer patients are facing “severe” delays in receiving benefit payments under the Government’s flagship new welfare system for disabled people, with dozens of people dying before ever receiving payments, a leading charity has warned.

Macmillan Cancer Support branded delays in processing personal independence payment (PIP) claims “deplorable”, while the official responsible for the introduction of the system admitted to MPs that some patients with fatal conditions had suffered “awful experiences” because of a service that was “not up to standard”.

Minister for disabled people Mike Penning told the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee that he wanted to cut the wait for PIP payments for terminally ill claimants to seven days, although he stressed that he was not setting this as a formal target.

PIP provides between £21 and £134 a week to help people aged 16-64 with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill health or disability, and began replacing disability living allowance in April this year.

But Macmillan Cancer Support said a survey of 140 of its benefit advisers around the country found that 26 per cent of them were aware of one or more cases in which a patient died before receiving a payment.

Duleep Allirajah, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Terminally ill cancer patients are facing severe delays in receiving their benefits under the new personal independence payment special rules claim.

“Under the old system, cancer patients only had to wait 10 days maximum before receiving their benefits. We have raised these concerns with the Government and are hopeful that working together we can develop a solution. We want them to set targets to process all claims in eight to 10 days as a matter of urgency.”

Department for Work and Pensions benefits director Jason Feeney told the committee: “As the operational director for delivering PIP I would absolutely say that the service we gave to some terminally ill claimants at the beginning of PIP wasn’t up to standard and wasn’t where we would expect to be. I wouldn’t try to claim otherwise.

“There were some awful experiences that some people went through.

“We have made a number of changes to the process. We now have dedicated teams in our centres for terminally ill claimants.”

Mr Penning said: “As long as I am a minister, I want to see seven days. I can’t see any reason why we can’t hit seven days and they will have to explain to me why we can’t hit seven days, or even less.”