A disabled claimant died underweight, ‘unkempt and dirty’ after the DWP wrongly stopped both his ESA and PIP. The DWP left the destitute claimant to be supported by their elderly, disabled parent who themselves needed daily carers and meals delivered. £14,000 in backdated PIP was eventually paid to the claimant’s next-of-kin, the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) has reported.
According to ICE, the claimant had severe depression and physical health problems and was classed as vulnerable by the DWP.
For a long time, their elderly parent was their appointee for benefits purposes. But the parent became too ill to continue and informed the DWP.
At this point the DWP should have found another appointee for the claimant themselves, as their guidance requires, but they did not do so.
Over the following months the claimant’s ESA and PIP were repeatedly stopped due to failure to attend assessments and then restarted following interventions. However, the DWP seem to have lost the evidence showing why the claims had been restarted
Sometimes letters were sent to the claimant’s address and sometimes to his former appointee’s, making it even harder for the claimant to meet their obligations.
The DWP repeatedly failed to follow their own safeguarding procedures throughout this period, even though they knew the claimant was vulnerable.
At one point the claimant’s sibling even contacted the DWP to say that the claimant’s GP had sent them for psychiatric assessment due to a deterioration in their mental health.
The sibling explained that they had been to the claimant’s house and found unopened post and said they weren’t fit for a PIP assessment.
Nonetheless, another PIP assessment was arranged by letter, the claimant didn’t answer the door and their PIP was stopped.
The same thing had also happened in relation to their ESA claim.
At the time of their death the claimant had been without ESA for 3 months and PIP for three weeks.
The claimant’s sibling told ICE that when they had last seen the claimant they had lost weight and were unkempt and dirty. Their elderly parent had been giving the claimant money for food, providing support even though they themselves had a care package, meals prepared and carers attending daily.
Following a complaint by the claimant’s sibling, the DWP made a payment of ESA arrears and £3,000 of backdated PIP.
The sibling then took the case to ICE, resulting in a further payment of £10,700 in PIP to the claimant’s estate and a consolatory payment of £2,500 to the family.
The ICE report doesn’t give the claimant’s cause of death.
But there can be no doubt that the continual stopping and starting of their benefits will have exacerbated the claimant’s mental health issues as well as causing considerable distress to their family.
It’s worth noting that even when ICE drew the DWP’s attention to their own guidance, which said they were responsible for ensuring the claimant had an appointee, the DWP continued to dispute this.
Had the DWP provided an appointee and not ignored their own safeguarding procedures on multiple occasions, it is entirely possible that this story would have had a very different ending.
As it is, we can only hope that the Court of Appeal in the Jodey Whiting case will take note that ICE is once again identifying failures by the DWP to follow its own safeguarding procedures. How many more times does this need to happen before it is accepted that it is an entire system that is failing and not just isolated incidents?
You can read the full account in the ICE annual report (See: case study 3)