Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – introduced to help with the extra costs of long-term illness or disability – are still causing “misery” to thousands of sick and disabled people, Citizens Advice has warned.
The charity said that the past year has seen the number of people asking for help with the sickness and disability benefit rise by 36% compared to the previous year.
More than 500 people a day have turned to Citizens Advice for help with Personal Independence Payments since the start of 2016, the charity revealed.
Personal Independence Payments, introduced in 2013, are meant to help people of working age who have a long-term condition or disability that causes difficulties with the demands of daily life.
It involves an assessment process that has been criticised by campaigners as unfair, with several high-profile stories of people being rejected for the payments despite being in clear need.
Chancellor George Osborne had announced cuts to the PIP in the latest budget, but was forced to backtrack following a public outcry.
Citizens Advice said its branches have helped people with more than 630,000 enquiries about PIP since the payments were introduced three years ago, adding that it had become the most common issue people need support with.
In the past 12 months almost 125,000 people sought help with the sickness and disability benefit from their local Citizens Advice, the charity said. 13% asking for help are in work, and Citizens Advice says many will rely on PIP to be able to keep their job.
Chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Three years after it began, the PIP system is still causing misery for thousands of sick and disabled people.
“PIP can be a lifeline for anyone living with a disability or long-term health condition such as arthritis, because it helps them with the additional costs they face like having someone come in to help with household chores or specialist equipment so they can get around.
“But every day hundreds of people are turning to Citizens Advice for help with the benefit.”
She said many people felt their medical assessment didn’t accurately reflect the day-to-day challenges they face with their disability or illness, while in some cases the appointment was so far from home that it was very difficult to get there.
“These problems with PIP assessments not only cause people unnecessary stress but can lead to serious money worries and threaten their ability to stay in or return to work.
“It’s good that waiting times for PIP applications and appeals have come down, but the government and companies delivering PIP assessments need to make sure people can actually get to the medical assessments and when they do, that the tests get it right first time.
“This not only reduces people’s worries but also the need for appeals too.”