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Benefit Claims 'Fiasco' For Sick And Disabled
A Government welfare scheme has been branded a "fiasco" for leaving thousands of disabled people waiting months for payments.
An influential group of MPs said the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) had left vulnerable people unnecessarily distressed.
They said the scheme, which replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working age people last year, had been rushed through, with a "shocking" impact on the lives of claimants.
PIP was introduced by the Government to help simplify the welfare system.
Claimants can receive between £21 and £138 a week but must attend an assessment to calculate the level of support they are entitled to.
However, Margaret Hodge, who chairs the cross-party Public Accounts Committee, said: "The implementation of PIP has been nothing short of a fiasco.
"The Department for Work and Pensions has let down some of the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom have had to wait more than six months for their claims to be decided.
"The personal stories we heard were shocking. We heard evidence of a claimant requiring hospital intervention as a result of the stress caused by the delays suffered."
Stephanie Kendrick, 43, from Buckley, Flintshire, developed a condition last year that makes it difficult for her to walk.
She had to give up work and applied for PIP in August last year.
She was told it would take between eight and 10 weeks but a series of delays meant it took eight months for the payments to be agreed.
She told Sky News it put such a strain on her finances she and her husband had to put their house up for sale.
"I've had to live off food parcels from my family ... we've relied on relatives and friends who have bought milk and bread, just ... to make sure we can pay the gas and the electric," she said.
The Government denied it had let vulnerable people down.
Mike Penning, the minister for disabled people, said: "New PIP includes a face-to-face assessment and regular reviews to ensure support goes to those who need it most.
"The PAC report is based on old statistics. I've introduced a faster process for people with terminal illnesses, with clearance times reducing to our target of 10 days.
"A higher proportion of people are getting the highest rate of financial support for daily living under PIP than DLA."