DWP lawyers tried to prevent a coroner from releasing a recording of a distressing telephone by Philippa Day in which she told a call handler that she ‘needed a reason to live’, but received no help whatsoever.
Philippa took her own life after she was told that she had to attend a face-to-face PIP assessment in spite of her anxiety, depression and agoraphobia and in defiance of pleas by her CPN.
In the call, a clearly very distressed, sometimes crying, Philippa tells the DWP staff member she is “literally starving and cold”, “genuinely can’t survive like this for much longer”, is “in so much debt”, “literally cannot leave the house”, and needs “a reason to live”.
However, the DWP agent simply asks her if there is anyone in her family or a local charity who can help her and tells her that she needs to talk to Capita about when she will have her assessment.
No note was made on Philippa’s file of the level of distress she was in and the DWP’s six-point plan to be used when claimants express suicidal intent was not used.
The call handler told the inquest that she had heard many claimants crying and saying similar things.
In a statement, Philippa’s family said:
“As our family made clear in evidence given at the inquest into the death of my sister, we believe that Pip’s treatment by the DWP had a direct impact on her mental state and in the end is the reason for her death.
“Support from her community psychiatric nurse and from her family kept her going. But the constant cold and unsympathetic wall of resistance that she met at Capita and the DWP was more than she could endure.
The coroner is to issue a prevention of future deaths report telling the DWP to improve mental health training, record keeping and assessment processes.
Listening to the call, however, it is hard not to conclude that the first thing the DWP needs to introduce is the tiniest scrap of humanity into its treatment of claimants.
Read more about the conclusion of the inquest on the Leigh Day website