The DWP was responsible for the pneumonia that killed Stephen Smith. Will his survivors support legal action?

DWP cruelty: These are the images of Stephen Smith that shocked the public, when the starvation that caused his pneumonia was first brought to our attention.

Stephen Smith, the man the Conservative government condemned to death by starvation when it denied him the sickness benefit ESA, has passed away.

It has been revealed that Mr Smith died on April 15.

Despite conditions including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, excruciating Osteoarthritis, an enlarged prostate and a need to use a colostomy bag to go to the toilet, the Department for Work and Pensions claimed that he was entirely fit for work and refused his claim for Employment and Support Allowance in 2017.

Terry Craven, a former city council welfare officer who works at the CASA community centre on Hope Street, Birkenhead, advising people on benefit claims, explained what happened on his Facebook page.

He wrote, on Christmas Eve last year: “My client was thrown off ESA by ATOS 18 months ago. Since then, he has been expected to sign on. Obviously, he’s been sanctioned and forced to go hungry. so much so he weighs 6 stone.

“On Friday [December 21], not surprisingly he was at death’s door with pneumonia. Fortunately, I was able to get him into hospital. Evidently, his left lung was full of fluid with his right not much better.

“He has been unable to heat or look after his home properly because his health has deteriorated… He lives in one room of his 3 bedroom house he rents from a private landlord. It is rat infested, he cannot use the toilet nor is he strong enough to put water in a kettle. He relies on bottled water.”

According to the Liverpool Echo, a friend confirmed that “he never recovered from the pneumonia”.

If that is true, then the Department for Work and Pensions is directly responsible for his death.

Mr Smith would not have contracted pneumonia had he received the benefit to which he had always been entitled – as the DWP admitted when he won his appeal to have the department’s decision on his ESA claim reversed.

He had been put on full ESA support, with back-payments to be paid shortly.

Now that he has passed away, it seems unlikely the DWP will hand over any more money. Conservative ministers call that a “positive benefit outcome”.

The DWP has a duty to have proper regard for the safety of benefit claimants – meaning that it should not make any decisions that may put them in danger. Clearly benefit advisors ignored this duty in the case of Stephen Smith – as they did in that of Jodey Whiting and probably many, many more vulnerable people who are now no longer among the living.

The Department destroyed a report on safety failings at Job Centres in London after it received a Freedom of Information request for it to be published.

And it has refused to accept demands for an independent inquiry into deaths caused by the DWP’s failure to follow its own safeguarding rules, despite having received a petition signed by nearly 35,000 people (at the time of writing).

Ms Whiting’s mother has condemned the response as a “joke”, and has said she would like to take legal action against the DWP.

It occurs to me that Mr Craven should link up with her, to present a combined – and stronger – case. Would any other relatives of the DWP’s victims like to join in?

Source: Six-stone emaciated man who fought DWP after being denied vital benefits dies – Liverpool Echo


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15 thoughts on “The DWP was responsible for the pneumonia that killed Stephen Smith. Will his survivors support legal action?

  1. Ann Bainbridge

    When I saw the picture I thought it was one of Belsen I was surprised and disgusted to read it was in our country a few months ago ,the people or person responsible must be brought to court and severely dealt with and should be charged with murder ,l hope he never again has a rest ful nights sleep .

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      That is exactly why the aim of Tory benefit policy is to ensure people die before they pay up.

  2. Jonno R

    I would very much like to be involved in this as I am going to die because of DWP cruelty. 4 years of constant starvation has made my liver eat itself and as a non drinker there are no other reasons for this to happen. It is beyond repair and I cannot have a, transplant because of other organs swelling as they try to take up the slack of my liver function. I cannot walk so could not attend a food bank. I was unable to get out of bed for months. The DWP knew this and had doctors evidence. I had been given lifetime DLA from 1987. The ATOS assessor lied on every question. The DM made a decision ignoring my evidence and my income was cancelled and car taken away. I was left to rot and only survived because I broke my leg trying to get downstairs so had some home help from the NHS. All I ate was tins of value rice pudding at 16p a tin. I ate it cold out of the can. I was determined to survive this murder attempt by 3 nasty young girls and their bully manager. My complaint to ICE was upheld but ignored by the DWP as was the outcome of a tribunal. I have evidence for all of my allegations. Some of the crimes committed against me were unbelievable and i suspect were supposed to make me sound delusional or paranoid. I Was also an easy target having been diagnosed with early onset dementia. When they realised that i Was going to take them on they stopped all corespondence and now ignore everything so i am unable to escalate my complaint. CAB have aevised me to seek compensation but with no money and legal aid im stuck.

  3. Gary

    I agree with everything in the article, and am dismayed by it. Due to serious illness I have had to negotiate this despicable system myself BUT. I have to make a small but very important point.

    The blames does NOT lie with the DWP. This kind of headline suits the politicians who actually implement these criminal rules. Blaming the DWP allows then to say that it was an ‘error’ on behalf of DWP when, in fact, it was no such thing.

    I worked in HMRC when the Tax Credit overpayment scandal hit. I had to work to ‘resolve’ this. This, like ESA/PIP/UC was designed VERY carefully by politicians to produce EXACTLY the result that it has. This is NOT an error. There IS no mistake. They WANT to make it difficult to claim so that short term claimants (the majority) either decide NOT to claim or at least get considerably less money than they would have if they got their full entitlement.

    Civil Servants HAVE warned the politicians of the outcomes of these new rules. The outcomes ie deaths of claimants in some cases, will have been considered and found to be ‘an acceptable risk’ by the Minister in question.

    PLEASE ensure blame is given where blame is due. It is the Minister and the Cabinet who must be blamed. The Civil Service does everything it can to prevent such idiocy but ultimately MUST carry out any legal instruction given (NB like many former Civil Servants I can recount occasions where ILLEGAL instructions have been given, and refused, so please don’t THINK of saying ‘only following orders’ to me!)

    Politicians make ideological decisions and care little to nothing for the consequences on real people. They ARE very well warned of all of this in advance. Anything that happens IS deliberate. And don’t for a moment imagine that other political parties are immune from this, it’s just that the Tories are worse…

  4. Tony Dean

    Back when this story first broke I emailed Frank Field about it, and unusually never got a response.

  5. Leon Carter

    There needs to be as the starting point an Inquiry by the Works and Pensions committee and if as we all expect wrongdoing found criminal proceedings to follow.

    The Inquiry along with the mountains of evidence will be evidence for criminal proceedings.

  6. Darren

    This needs prosecutions and – at a bare minimum – for jobs to be taken away from those involved with barring from any form of future public service made standard. Court cases that end in fines against government Departments achieve nothing in terms of correcting the malpractices, because it is not the guilty parties who pay but the taxpayers. While they should still be awarded to the bereaved of course, the fines and compensation awards are, as far as the guilty are concerned, actually no punishment at all.

  7. [email protected]

    Nazi Germany revisionist rhetoric deems necessary to enforceTory blacksmithing of the working class and disabled, if they can’t get them out of their hospital beds and homes for more hard labour on a pittance, even when they are ill and infirmed? Put them on the scrapheap?? Compared with the London elite? Wherein too much is NEVER ENOUGH? The turn around of the suffering and dead, on the poor side of the fence – far exceeds, and is unsurpassed by the soulless sniveling swindling dirty dealings of the psychopaths who either vote Tory or identify as one. Your dime our time! You won’t last forever on this earth, opening up to the karma that awaits you is of your own doing no doubt. One term in office, yet death is the leveller

  8. Dan

    I know I’ve said this before and will no doubt say it again, but it’s time the DWP was abolished. It is no longer fit for purpose and the majority of the people who work inside it aren’t fit to operate whatever organisation replaces it.

  9. Rik

    It’s so sad what this poor soul had to endure . . He looks like an Auschwitz surviver. . .
    I would love to see Jeremy Corbyn whip out an enlarged picture of Stephen & show it to T.MAY. & especially IDS live on PMQs tomorrow .
    probably not but here’s hoping . .
    RIP Stephen. . .

Comments are closed.