Mental illness is the top reason for claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which have cost hundreds of millions more than estimated and are on course to cost more than Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

A new audit of the sickness benefit system has found the number one reason for claiming Personal Independence Payments is mental illness.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 2:45 pm

The Auditor General, Kieran Donnelly, in a new report on the PIP contract, has revealed that PIP is costing hundreds of millions of pounds more than was originally estimated.

Mr. Donnelly estimates that it is likely to cost more than the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA) system it was introduced to replace almost five years ago.

According to the latest available statistics from the Department of Communities there were 17,380 PIP claims in Derry/Strabane in November 2020. That accounted for 11 per cent of the total PIP claims in the north. A fresh update is due in May.

Mr. Donnelly reports how the main disabling condition for claimants awarded PIP is mental illness, affecting approximately 61,000 claimants (42%) in May 2020. Next is musculoskeletal disease, affecting over 46,000 claimants (33%).

This is similar to the position in Great Britain where over 80% of claims are due to mental illness, musculoskeletal disease, neurological disease or respiratory illnesses.

PIP has also cost far more than forecast. Mr. Donnelly notes how claimants were paid a total of £838 million in 2019-20, against an estimated £539 million.

His report says 2019/20 was the first year where expenditure on PIP in NI exceeded that of DLA.

Similar to PIP, DLA expenditure was also higher than expected, at £432m compared to an estimate of £401m. The report concludes that, while it is too early to assess if the implementation of PIP will meet all its objectives, it is likely to cost more than DLA.