DELAYS in claiming the Government’s new disability benefit have failed Parkinson’s sufferers, causing them stress and anxiety which has made their symptoms worse, an MP has claimed.

Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds criticised Personal Independence Payments during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.

The benefits which replace the Disability Living Allowance were introduced as part as wide ranging welfare reforms last year.

Meanwhile, Parkinson’s UK said a huge backlog of applications had highlighted the “monumental failings” that have blighted the PIP system.

The charity’s director for Wales Barbara Locke, said “unfair delays” in claiming the vital benefit had left many struggling to heat their homes and pay their bills.

She called on the roll out of PIPs to be stopped until the Government had drastically improved the system and speeded up its decisions.

The Labour MP called on the Government to review the assessment process and apologise to those who have suffered as a result of delays.

He said: “More and more people will be migrating from long-term Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independence Payment, but will the system cope?

“We must not have delays of the scale we have had in the past.”

Mr Thomas-Symonds said people with Parkinson’s were facing barriers to a fair assessment and that the awards made were inconsistent.

He argued that the system must be more sensitive to different medical conditions and that, where a medical condition requires, claimants should not be forced to go to assessment centres.

Ms Locke said: “We applaud Mr Thomas-Symonds for highlighting the monumental failings that have blighted the PIP system since it was introduced last year."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The PIP process includes a face-to-face assessment and reviews to ensure people continue to get the right level of support if their condition changes. The process ensures that support matches need.

“We accept that, in the past, some PIP claimants have waited too long for an assessment but the most recent figures reflect the significant progress made since last year. The average new claimant now only waits five weeks for an assessment.”

The DWP said the PIP does not label people but instead assesses everyone as an individual, recognising that their needs are specific to them rather than to their condition.

The spokeswoman said they had replaced DLA with PIP because it better met the individual needs of people who need help, and it was targeting support to those who needed it most.

The spokeswoman added the PIP was designed to be more sensitive to the specific impacts of all medical conditions on an individual’s daily life, recognising it would be different for everyone.

PIP assessments are carried out by independent health professionals who assess the impact of all aspects of a disability or long term health condition on people’s lives, the spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman added they were working with providers to ensure they have capacity to deal with the increased volume as they continue with the further rollout of PIPs.