A father-of-three with kidney failure who is to receive an organ donation from his wife said waiting for the overdue result of a disability benefits application has been ‘hell’.
Kaushik Shah, of Langton Road, Harrow Weald , applied for personal independence payment (PIP) – a benefit aimed at those aged 16 to 64 suffering from long-term health problems who need assistance with the cost of living – in December.
Applicants are promised a medical assessment and a decision within six months but Mr Shah did not have his assessment with government contractor Atos Healthcare until April and is still waiting to hear from the Department of Work and Pensions whether his claim has been approved.
The 51-year-old is among many people the Harrow Association for Disabled people (HAD) is supporting as they await an outcome.
Mr Shah said he is no longer able to work to financially support wife Rita, and his three daughters, who are all in full-time education.
“It is the uncertainty that hurts,” he said.
“I must have called them [Atos] 100 times or more, but they don’t care.
“They lie to me, time and time again, and tell me it will all be sorted out in a few days, and I have been waiting since April to hear back.”
PIP tax-free payments range from £21.55 to £138.05 a week – comprising a daily living component and a mobility component – depending on how the condition affects the applicant.
Benefits are backdated to the application date if an application is successful.
Mr Shah, a retired courier, is due for a kidney transplant on September 1 at Hammersmith Hospital in East Acton and his wife is the donor.
He said: “I have worked hard all my life and never claimed any benefits, and this is how they treat me.
“To live like this, with this illness, and no financial support ahead of a major operation, and all because of the fault of some else, it is like living in a hell.”
Mr Shah has had to resort to credit cards for the first time and one of his daughters is even using part of her student loan to help tide the family over.
HAD volunteer Gladys Janes said: “There are so many cases that we are dealing with concerning this in particular, and the impact it is having on their lives is there for you to see first hand.
“They become so fed up while they wait six to nine months for an assessment, or to hear the results of an assessment.”
An Atos Healthcare spokeswoman said: “We apologise to those who are experiencing delays with their PIP claim. The assessment process is taking longer than had been expected.
“We are taking immediate action to reduce delays in our part of the process.
“We are working to extend our network of healthcare partners and we are directly recruiting more staff, both health professionals and administration, to increase capacity.
“In the meantime, we are looking at ways in which we can keep our customers better informed.”
Harrow Council’s cabinet member for adults and older people Councillor Margaret Davine (Labour) said: “It is a fiasco. Yes, they may get a big lump sum at the end of all the waiting, but it just isn’t worth living in that way in the meantime.”