I am proud that every year around £50 billion is spent to support people with disabilities and health conditions, over £3 billion more than in 2010. I passionately believe we should focus support on those who need it. PIP is designed to ensure support is focused on those with the greatest barrier to independence. I am glad that since its introduction, 27 per cent of claimants are now on the highest level of support, up from 15 per cent previously.
Nonetheless, I do appreciate concerns which have been raised about the assessment process. The Department for Work and Pensions is continually reviewing and refining the PIP process in order to improve its efficiency, effectiveness and the claimant experience. Weekend appointments are also utilised when appropriate to improve the customer experience and reduce waiting times for appointments.
New claims are now being cleared in under a third of the time they were in July 2014, at a current average of 13 weeks from registration to decision. I understand that the Government is committed to further improving this process, and I’ve been pleased to hear this from the minister personally. Assessments are independently audited to ensure that they are accurate and fair, and I look forward to further improvements in the near future. There is a legislative requirement that two independent reviews of PIP are carried out; the Government has formally responded to the first’s recommendations and is currently considering the second’s.
A public consultation has just closed which asked how the assessment process could be made easier and quicker, with particular focus on how information can be shared between decision makers, lessening the amount of paperwork for claimants. I look forward to seeing the Government’s response to this consultation in due course. I am also encouraged that a new feedback system will be introduced for claimants to talk about their experience claiming PIP, which will help focus reforms where they matter to claimants.