Disabled benefit claimants are waiting around half a year on average to be awarded their first payment, research suggests.

Working-age claimants are waiting five months for a decision after applying for disability benefits, according to a briefing paper by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

In total, an estimated £300 million of vital funds is being held up.

The research institute said this “likely contributes” to the link between disability and deprivation, with disabled people making up nearly half (44%) of the most deprived working-age adults in the UK.

It comes as separate research by Citizens Advice estimates that disabled claimants are waiting for almost £300 million in support because of the delays.

The Government was urged to “get a grip” on the backlog, as people increasingly struggle during the cost-of-living crisis.

The Northern Echo: Almost £300m in vital funds is being held up (PA)Almost £300m in vital funds is being held up (PA)

Additionally, the IFS research, released ahead of its annual report into poverty and inequality which is published next week, contains analysis of UK household survey data and Government figures.

It found that spending on disability benefits has risen as claims have increased – despite reforms intended to reduce costs and numbers.

Disability benefits claims have been steadily rising over the past three decades, from 2% of the working-age population in the early 1990s to 6% in 2020-21.

In the last two years, four-fifths of the rise in claims was by those with psychiatric conditions, such as mental health problems or learning disabilities, as their main disabling condition.

Since 2013 the Government has been gradually replacing disability living allowance (DLA) with the personal independence payment (PIP), with the intention of reducing spending by 20%.

Despite this, spending on disability benefits has risen and before the pandemic was at around £11 billion a year – 70% higher than expected in forecasts before the reform was introduced.

Peter Matejic, deputy director of evidence and impact at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which funded the research, said: “Most people would be shocked to learn people living with serious health conditions are waiting on average five months for life-changing financial support, with half facing longer wait times than this.

“There is clear evidence disabled people face a higher cost of living. Delays this long are likely to have led many to go without essentials like food or basic hygiene in the cost-of-living crisis.”

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