A delay in paying welfare benefits to two people with disabilities was “unlawful”, the High Court has ruled.
But the court ruled the pair’s human rights were not breached which means they are not entitled to compensation.
The pair’s lawyers said the ruling showed “clear failings” in the system but ministers said it was improving.
There are currently 78,700 people waiting to hear if they can claim PIP, of whom 3,200 have waited more than a year to have their claims processed, and 22,800 have waited more than 20 weeks.
‘Test case’ rejected
The claimants, known only as Ms C and Mr W, said delays meant they struggled to pay for food and fuel, and this caused their health to decline.
Ms C waited from September 2013 to October 2014 to have her eligibility assessed while Mr W waited from February to December 2014.
Their lawyers said they had a right to the benefits and should have received them within a “reasonable time”.
The judge ruled that in both cases, the delay was “not only unacceptable, as conceded by the defendant, but was unlawful”.
The judge said both cases suffered significant disabilities and therefore called for “expeditious consideration” and that the DWP’s actions regarding these cases were “unreasonable in the sense of being irrational”.
The pair had argued their claim should be a treated as a test case but the judge rejected this.
In her ruling, Justice Patterson said that due to the “considerable variations in individual circumstances”, it would be “inappropriate” to grant a declaration in wider terms covering other cases of late payments.
The court heard that the two claimants had asked Mrs Justice Patterson to declare that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith breached 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 but Justice Patterson ruled this was not the case.
WHAT ARE PERSONAL INDEPENDENCE PAYMENTS
PIPs are benefit payments to help people aged 16-64 with “some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability”.
They are available to employed and unemployed people, and claimants can receive £21.80 to £139.75 a week, depending on how their condition affects them.
This is determined by an assessment, and claimants are regularly reassessed – though there have been claims of people being wrongly assessed as fit to work.
From April 2013, PIPs began replacing Disability Living Allowance.
This process is ongoing and the government says everyone who needs to switch to PIPs should have been contacted by late 2017.