Disabled people in Derbyshire are waiting more than ten weeks when they appeal decisions about their benefit claims.
Disability charity Scope slammed the lengthy waits as “unacceptable”, and called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) not fit for purpose.
People living with disabilities in the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales face a wait of more than ten weeks. Those in North-East Derbyshire, Amber Valley and Erewash have to wait nearly ten weeks.
People who are denied PIP – which is worth up to £145.85 a week – or who are awarded less than they expected can ask for an internal review by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
In High Peak, people face an average wait of 71 days for this initial review, known as a mandatory reconsideration, according to the latest DWP figures. In Amber Valley, that wait is 69 days, in North-East Derbyshire and Erewash it is 68 days and in the Derbyshire Dales it is 66 days.
James Taylor, policy head at Scope, said: “Lengthy waits for PIP decisions mean that disabled people are going far too long without essential financial support.
“Delays in income can force disabled people to make impossible choices about what they can afford.
“Disabled people are being continuously let down by a system that is not fit for purpose. ”
Scope estimates that disabled people face on average £583 per month in extra costs. With the average wait time for a review now exceeding two months, this could leave rejected claimants facing additional costs of more than £1,000 during that initial period.
And the mandatory reconsideration is only the first step claimants have to go through in order to appeal their case.
Since PIP was introduced in 2013, replacing the previous Disability Living Allowance, 1540 people in Amber Valley applied for a mandatory reconsideration as did 1420 people in Erewash, 1080 people in North East Derbyshire, 810 people in High Peak and 550 people in Derbyshire Dales.
The DWP rejected the appeal in 86% of cases in North East Derbyshire, 83% in High Peak and Erewash, 82% in Amber Valley and 75% in the Derbyshire Dales.
People who wish to fight the decision can then lodge a formal appeal with the Courts and Tribunals Service – 710 have been made in Amber Valley since 2013, 620 in Erewash, 470 in North East Derbyshire, 380 in High Peak and 240 in Derbyshire Dales.
The tribunal found in favour of the claimant in 78% of appeals in Erewash, 76% in Derbyshire Dales, 75% in Amber Valley, 72% in North East Derbyshire and 58% in High Peak which made it to a hearing – a process which can take months.
Anti-poverty charity Turn2Us attributed the high success rate at tribunal to claimants being able to discuss their condition outside the “strict structure” of the DWP benefits process.
David Samson, welfare benefits specialist, said: “The appeals process is already difficult for many people to navigate. It’s complicated, time critical, and stressful.
“And many of the 85% of people in the UK who are rejected at mandatory reconsideration do not go onto tribunal, which could be because the process is difficult, long-winded, and there is little support available.
“This is clearly off-putting, and many people feel a deep distrust in both the claim and appeal process. The DWP urgently needs to re-evaluate this to make it easier and quicker for claimants.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We want people to get the right PIP outcome as quickly as possible.
“That’s why we have introduced a new approach to gathering evidence so that fewer people have to go to appeal, and we have recruited extra staff to help reduce waiting times.”