The coroner in the case of Philippa Day has published his prevention of future deaths report, which the DWP and Capita have to respond to by 12 April. The coroner has made three recommendations after highlighting ‘multiple errors’ in the administration of the claim and says that were it not for these, it is ‘unlikely’ that Philippa would have taken an overdose.
Philippa took her own life after her DLA was wrongly stopped and she was required to attend a PIP face-to-face assessment, in spite of experiencing mental health issues including emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), anxiety, depression and agoraphobia.
The coroner noted the many mistakes made in Philippa’s claim and the effect these had on her finances:
“The administration of Philippa Day’s benefits claim was characterised by multiple errors, some of which occurred repeatedly throughout the period of her claim. As a result of errors made, Philippa Day’s income from benefits more than halved for a period of several months, causing her severe financial hardship. This then resulted in Philippa Day taking out high interest loans creating a financial problem that Philippa Day did not have the means to solve.”
The coroner also noted that Philippa was told she had to attend an assessment, even though this was clearly unnecessary:
“No assessment was in fact required in order to determine her claim and there was clear and abundant medical evidence that an assessment outside of the home would exacerbate her mental health against a background of two recent overdoses. . . . Although the error in decision making was drawn to the attention of those administering the claim on more than one occasion, it was not rectified as it should have been.”
The coroner was clear that the failures by the DWP and Capita led directly to Philippa’s death:
“The distress caused by the administration of Philippa Day’s welfare benefits claim led to Philippa Day suffering acute distress and exacerbated many of her other chronic stressors.
“Were it not for these problems, it is unlikely that Philippa Day would have taken an overdose of her prescribed insulin on 7th or 8th August 2019.”
The coroner has called for the DWP and Capita to take action in three areas:
1 Specific training for DWP call-handlers in how best to interact with people “suffering from mental ill health in such a way as to avoid inadvertently exacerbating the difficulties experienced”.
2 More detailed and more accurate records of calls, to improve decision making and allow for the efficient answering of queries made by claimants.
3 Improvements in the assessment process to allow incorrect decisions to be rectified and to allow appointments to be cancelled without the claimant being penalised.
One of the things that went wrong in Philippa’s case is that although a DWP call handler had agreed with Philippa’s community psychiatric nurse that an assessment should not take place, another appointment was arranged simply to keep her place in the system. The system did not allow for the conversation to be recorded in a letter, so Philippa’s letter still said she had to attend or lose her benefits.
Capita and the DWP must respond by 12 April to say what action they are taking or explain why they do not intend to take any action.