PIPs disability benefit delay unlawful, says High Court
A delay in paying welfare benefits to two disabled people was "unlawful" and "unacceptable", the High Court says.
The unnamed pair waited nine months for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs), and they said this left them dependent on loan sharks and food banks.
During the test case, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) argued that it took prompt action when delays in processing claims were identified.
There are currently 78,700 people waiting to hear if they can claim PIP.
Of these, at least 3,200 people have waited more than a year to have their claims processed, and 22,800 have waited more than 20 weeks.
The court heard that the two claimants, Ms C and Mr W, asked Mrs Justice Patterson to declare that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith breached his common law and human rights duties to make payments within a reasonable time.
This breach was caused, they said, because of the magnitude of the delay.
The judge ruled that in both cases, the delay was "not only unacceptable, as conceded by the defendant, but was unlawful".
The claimants in the test case said delays meant they struggled to pay for food and fuel, and this caused their health to decline.
Their lawyers said they had a right to the benefits and should have received them within a "reasonable time".
The DWP argued the delays were unacceptable but not unlawful, and said more than 800 extra staff were assigned to work on PIPs after problems emerged.
Justice Patterson said in Ms C's case the delay was some 13 months, from 9 September 2013, until the determination of her benefit on 24 October 2014.
In Mr W's case the delay was from 3 February 2014 until December 2014.
The judge said both cases suffered significant disabilities and therefore called for "expeditious consideration".
She added: "They were each to be regarded as the most vulnerable people in society."