A major survey by more than 80 organisations found 79% of respondents said their assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) had made their health worse due to stress or anxiety.
More than a third of those who have had their funding cut in the middle of a benefits shake-up said they were struggling to pay for food, rent and bills while 40% said they had become more isolated.
A small number even said the PIP assessment process was so stressful it was causing them to have suicidal thoughts.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said PIP was “a better benefit” than the old system and more people received higher levels of support, the Press Association reported.
However, members of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) warned their findings from a survey of more than 1,700 people showed that PIP is failing “from start to finish”.
Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “This is an absolute indictment of the Tories’ punitive assessments and the miserable effect they are having on people trying to access desperately needed support.”
Writing in his regular PIP diary last month on HuffPost UK, journalist Mik Scarlet described his belief that the reforms were intended to cut entitlements.
“Anyone who imagines the PIP process is fair and will support those in most need is fooling themselves,” he wrote. “As far as I can see, from my own experience and the stories of far too many others, it has been set up to make it as hard as possible to prove you are entitled to a tiny financial payout that is designed to help towards the huge costs of being disabled.”
The research marks the first time that PIP, which is designed to help people with extra costs caused by long-term illness or disability, has been assessed in this fashion since it replaced the old system of disability living allowance (DLA).
It is clear that PIP is failing many people from start to finish Phil Reynolds, DBC
Phil Reynolds, co-chairman of DBC and senior policy adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said: “For the first time, these findings paint the true picture of what it is like to go through the complex assessment process for PIP.
“Shockingly, a small number of people told us the experience of claiming PIP was so distressing that it has caused new conditions to emerge or even caused suicidal thoughts.
“It is clear that PIP is failing many people from start to finish so it is vital the Government work with us to get a grip on PIP and support everyone who needs it, instead of making their health worse.”
The DBC wants Government to urgently review PIP and make improvements, including simplified application forms, better knowledge for assessors and indefinite awards for people with progressive conditions, removing the need for them to constantly be reassessed.
Today’s report is yet another indication that the PIP assessment is failing disabled people. James Taylor, Scope
James Taylor, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at disability charity Scope, said: “Today’s report is yet another indication that the PIP assessment is failing disabled people.
“Disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition. PIP is a lifeline in helping disabled people meet some of these costs, enabling individuals to work, visit friends and live independently.
“Our helpline hears from disabled people daily who say the PIP application process is causing them immense stress and anxiety.
“It is vital the Government urgently reforms the PIP assessment, changing it from a functional assessment to one which accurately identifies the extra costs disabled people face.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting people with disabilities and health conditions, which is why we introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system. PIP is a better benefit which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis, and is tailored to suit each individual’s needs. Under PIP 29% of claimants receive the highest rate of support compared to 15% under DLA.
“The latest official research shows that 76% of PIP claimants are satisfied with their overall experience. More than 2.4 million PIP decisions have been made, and of these 8% have been appealed and 3% have been overturned. In the majority of successful appeals, decisions are overturned because people have submitted more oral or written evidence.”