Iain Duncan Smith’s Department of Work and Pensions took an “unlawful and unacceptably long time” to pay new welfare benefits to two unnamed disabled people, a high court judge has ruled.
The judge was told at a recent hearing that vulnerable people have been forced to turn to loan sharks and food banks because of the delays in providing them with personal independence payments (Pips).
The payments are replacing the disability living allowance (DLA) in a government overhaul of the benefits system. They are designed to help disabled adults meet the extra costs caused by disability.
Two claimants, Ms C and Mr W, asked Mrs Justice Patterson to declare that – because of the magnitude of the delay – Smith, the work and pensions secretary, breached his common law and human rights duties to make payments within a reasonable time.
The judge ruled the delay in both cases was “not only unacceptable, as conceded by the defendant, but was unlawful”.
The judge said in Ms C’s case the delay was 13 months, from 9 September 2013 until the determination of her benefit on 24 October 2014. In Mr W’s case the delay was 10 months, from 3 February 2014 until December 2014.
The judge said both cases had called for “expeditious consideration” as they both suffered significant disabilities. She said: “They were each to be regarded as the most vulnerable people in society.”
The judge added: “There is a high duty on local authorities to act promptly, consistently and appropriately to recognise social welfare benefits. There can be no public interest in delays such as was the case here.”