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The families of five claimants whose death was linked to actions of the DWP have today called for a public enquiry into deaths and serious harm related to the benefits system.

The letter is from the relatives of:

Errol Graham

Jodey Whiting

Philippa Day

Kevin Dooley

Clive Johnson

In the letter, the families write:

“The benefits system – which is meant to be a safety net and lifeline – is harming some people who most need its support. It is not fit to meet the needs of the disabled people it supports and it feels inhumane and unaccountable. It has failed us all.

“Together, we refuse to stand by and watch the same thing happen to other families.

“Your department says that cases like ours are not part of a wider problem. But your own figures show that the DWP has internally investigated 97 deaths since summer 2019 as well as 27 cases of serious harm.

“How can these figures be acceptable?”

The families are calling for a public enquiry and for a new independent body to be set up to investigate future deaths.

Rethink Mental health, which is supporting the families, point out that in the last two years alone, the number of internal investigations by the DWP into deaths and serious harm has soared by 124 cases – almost triple the rate of previous years - suggesting either the number of cases has significantly increased, or a failure of the DWP to record and investigate cases in the past.

They warn that the 268 cases investigated by the DWP since 2012 may be just the tip of the iceberg, which is also the title of a report into deaths and serious harm in the benefits system released by the charity.

To help uncover the true scale of the problem, Rethink Mental Illness has also launched a call for evidence from members of the public who have been affected. Anyone who has been affected by a death or serious harm related to the benefit system – either directly or to a loved one – can share their story in confidence here.

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