DWP aims to offer nationwide online access to Personal Independence Payments in next 12 months after ensuring ‘functionality and stability of service’

Minister reveals that limited digital testing – which began four years ago – is intended to inform and support a plan to ‘scale the service gradually and safely’ over the coming months

The Department for Work and Pensions is working to ensure the “functionality and stability” of its new online service for applying for Personal Independence Payments and – finally – complete the rollout of the digital system by the end of next year.

To apply for the benefit, claimants must call the department. The “majority” of those calling are now offered digital versions of the claim forms, according to Tom Pursglove, minister for disabled people, health and work.

Alongside this partially digital process, over the summer the DWP began small-scale testing of a fully online claims mechanism offered via GOV.UK. This is being offered to people in a selected number of English postcode districts who have never claimed PIP or the benefit it is replacing: Disability Living Allowance.

The department has been working towards digitising the delivery of PIP since 2020, when it commenced limited testing of the digital form that is now offered to most callers making a claim.

In January 2021, Pursglove’s predecessor Justin Tomlinson said that the department was “working on how we enable claimants to access this service directly from gov.uk removing the need for the initial telephone call”.

This work is set to finally reach fruition over the next 12 months, with the current minister claiming that the DWP plans to offer an online PIP claims service throughout the UK by the end of next year. The current testing programme will help ensure the efficacy of the platform, according to Pursglove.

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“The current testing phase is allowing us to test the functionality and stability of the service; the department intends to scale the service gradually and safely,” he said. “We aim to make the online applications for PIP available nationally across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by the end of 2024.”

The minister added that the digital tool will be “an additional optional route to apply for PIP and is not replacing the existing methods of telephony or post”.

PIP provides support with living costs for those with a disability, long-term illness or other health condition. There are currently about 3.4 million eligible claimants across England, Wales and Scotland.

The reform of the benefit service is part of the DWP’s wider £1bn Health Transformation Programme (HTP) which, according to a new report from parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, is at a “critical juncture”. MPs warned that department that it needs to ensure the scheme focuses not solely on digitising services, but on delivering positive change for users.

“HTP is modernising health and disability benefit services”, said Pursglove, whose comments were made in answer to a written parliamentary question Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft.

“We are developing the new [PIP] service carefully, designing it around the needs of claimants.”

Sam Trendall

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