We are considering the terms of the judgment. We have achieved further reductions in average waiting times for an assessment, and they are now well within the Secretary of State’s target of 16 weeks.
I thank the Minister for that reply. I accept that waiting times have gone right down, but the judge’s comments were pretty scathing about the introduction of PIP before all the systems were fully in place, which, she said, led to the implementation being “inefficient”. Is he confident that the full rollout of PIP to the bulk of DLA recipients, currently scheduled for October, is entirely safe?
The judge found significant shortfalls in the introduction, as the noble Baroness said, and we agreed at the time that that was simply unacceptable. Noble Lords will probably remember that at the peak of the backlogs we were looking at waiting times of 30 weeks. That was in June; we set a target of less than 16 weeks, and we have now gone down to seven. On that basis we are confident about the full rollout, although we will and are doing it on a safe and controlled basis.
My Lords, during the general election campaign the Prime Minister stated his desire to “enhance” and “safeguard” PIP. Will the Minister say how the Government plan to fulfil that election promise to disabled people and reassure them that their payments will be protected in the Chancellor’s up-and-coming Budget?
My Lords, maybe I can follow that up a little more. The noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, specifically asked for an assurance of the Prime Minister’s guarantee that he would continue to support disabled people and that their benefits would be protected. Let me give the Minister the opportunity to give that. The Government want to make £12 billion of welfare cuts. Will he say today that none of those will fall on disabled people?
I think the judge very much took on board the fact that the Secretary of State realised that something that was simply unacceptable was going on and that we took very large measures to deal with it. Those measures included ramping up the numbers—we ramped up the number of health officials by a factor of four—and we had many more places to do the assessments, and so on. That is what has got the situation under control.
My noble friend makes a fair point. Indeed, one of the ways in which we have speeded up the process since last June is by making more paper assessments, and it is precisely that group of people for whom we are able to do that.
My Lords, what assessment has the Minister made of people with Motability cars who may be waiting for a decision or who are seeking an appeal? While you can back-date cash requirements for people who make appeals and are successful, you cannot back-date a motor car.
My Lords, of course, the people who are being reassessed, whether through a natural reassessment or through the full rollout, will continue to receive their DLA rates, as they were, until they get the conclusion of the PIP assessment. Therefore, there is no question of them losing a car in that period.
My Lords, the Minister will recall that, during the debates on personal independence payments, warnings were expressed from all sides of your Lordships’ House about the dangers of rolling out this programme too rapidly, with some people possibly left exposed. He has told the House how long the average waiting time will be. Can he now tell the House the average amount of money involved for disabled people who have not received the funds that they are entitled to? What emergency provision is made for people who are, after all, some of the most vulnerable in our midst?
The delay is of course unfortunate for people and we have said that that is unacceptable. The money is back-dated to the point of claim. Where people have a serious problem, we have a complaints process which they can use and we can try to make redress through that.