A pensioner with just £5 in savings left took their own life after their state pension had been wrongly stopped by the DWP for over a year. Much of the evidence about the case has never been produced by the DWP, who also failed to give the pensioner’s next-of-kin the facts about the case, according to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE).
The claimant had been getting state pension since 1997 and pension credit since 2006.
In 2014 the claimant told the DWP about an inheritance, even though they did not need to declare it at that point.
They were sent a review form in 2016 which did not include details of the inheritance, but the DWP no longer have any evidence about whether or how the claimant replied.
In 2016 the DWP rolled the claimant’s state pension and pension credit into a single payment, without carrying out a full review as they should have. This would have identified the inheritance.
In 2017, the DWP suddenly stopped the claimant’s state pension and pension credit and referred the claim to the Fraud and Error Service. The DWP no longer have any evidence about why they did this.
But, in any case, only the claimant’s pension credit should have been affected by the inheritance. Their state pension would not have been affected in any way. However, because the two payments had been rolled into one, the DWP simply stopped them both.
The DWP have no evidence to show that the claimant was contacted about the payments being suspended and given a chance to explain or challenge the decision.
A change of address and a request to cancel Pension Credit were received by the DWP in October 2018 and a message was sent to Fraud and Error, but not acted on.
A task was also set to look at the suspensions, though again the DWP took no action and the payments remained suspended.
In November 2018, the claimant went missing and was later found to have taken their own life. At the time they had been living off their savings and had just £5 left.
The claimant’s family contacted the DWP who then paid arrears of £7,500. Even this was a mistake, however, as it included £1,500 of pension credit which would not have been payable.
After the family took the matter to their MP, £5,000 was paid to the claimant’s estate in recognition of the failings by the DWP.
The family, still unhappy with the way the matter had been dealt with, then took their complaint to ICE. After a review, ICE found that the DWP had withheld the truth from the family, not telling them about many of their failings, including the failure to carry out a full review, the failure by Fraud and Error to do anything at all and a failure to act when they received the claimant’s request to stop pension credit in 2018
The claimant’s family was awarded £3,000 in recognition of the distress they had been caused and ICE commented:
“This case was again hindered by a lack of evidence that should have been available to help my investigation.”
The inability of the DWP to find evidence that might show them in a negative light is a feature in a number of these cases. It demonstrates how vital it is to keep copies of correspondence and records of phone calls with the DWP, because there’s a good chance the DWP won’t been able to find them just when you need them most.
You can read the full account in the ICE annual report (See: case study 5)