Disabilities can by physical or otherwise, and millions claim PIP in the UK (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Four in five disabled people who launched benefit appeals won their case at the height of the pandemic – the highest total ever.

Some 79% of Personal Independent Payment (PIP) tribunals ruled against the government between April and June last year, official figures show.

That figure has fallen since – but was still 72% of all cases in the first three months of this year.

People who are refused PIP – worth up to £152 a week to help with the costs of being disabled – can appeal to an independent tribunal to overturn the ruling and get paid.

But they must first go through an internal process called a mandatory reconsideration, which critics brand a hurdle to justice. PIP appeals also take six months to resolve on average.

Critics say the toll of cases overturned at tribunal is an indictment of the assessment process – which since 2013 has been largely carried out by arms of the private firms Atos and Capita.

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The two private operators have each had their contracts extended three times.

The number of new PIP tribunal cases has taken a sharp dip during Covid, from a peak of more than 10,000 a month to 14,557 in the first three months of this year.

But charities fear a surge in cases could be coming, after new PIP claims hit an 18-month high of 70,822 in one month in March.

Louise Rubin, Head of Policy and Campaigns at disability equality charity Scope, said: “With more Personal Independence Payment (PIP) applications than ever, it’s crucial the Government makes sure assessments are right first time.

“These figures show the system is still failing too many disabled people, who have to go through stressful and lengthy tribunals to get the support they need.

“We need a welfare system and assessment process that gets it right first time.

“The Government must use the upcoming green paper to overhaul the system, and iron out routine inaccuracies and mistrust.”

The DWP said between 2013 and December 2020, 4.3million initial decisions on PIP were made, of which 9% have been appeared and 5% overturned at a tribunal.

Officials said new evidence often emerges at tribunal, rather than a judge taking a different view of the same evidence.

A DWP spokesperson said: “In the vast majority of PIP cases we make the right decision, meaning they never even go to appeal and through recent improvements to our decision-making we are ensuring that disabled people get all the support they are entitled to as quickly as possible.”