The chickens are coming home to roost at the Department for Work and Pensions.
The families of three benefit claimants – who are said to have died because the DWP deliberately mishandled their claims – are continuing to take the department through the court system in their search for justice.
Publicity around the cases has led to a BBC investigation in which it was found that they are just three out of 150 cases in which the DWP has conducted internal investigations into its own behaviour.
Now the department is facing demands for an independent investigation into its conduct. Long overdue demands, in This Writer’s experienced opinion.
Here‘s the BBC:
Cases where people claiming benefits died or came to serious harm have led to more than 150 government reviews since 2012, a BBC investigation found.
Internal reviews are held by the DWP when it is alleged its actions had a negative impact, or when it is named at an inquest.
Calling for an inquiry, Labour MP Debbie Abrahams said: “It needs to be taken out of the hands of the DWP.”
Ms Abrahams, who previously read out in the Commons the names of 29 people who have died, said: “There needs to be an independent inquiry investigating why these deaths are happening and the scale of the deaths needs to be properly understood.”
The DWP said it had established a new Serious Case Panel in 2019 to consider themes identified from serious cases, which included independent members.
Yeah, right. I opened Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the other day. That doesn’t mean I read any of it.
Now let’s hear from Leigh Day solicitors, who represent the three families who are pushing their cases through the courts:
The families spoke to the BBC to share their stories and the legal stages of their cases.
Philippa Day who lived with a long standing mental health illness, and was diabetic, died aged 27 in October 2019, two months after she was found collapsed at home in Nottingham.
On 27 January 2021, HM Assistant Coroner for Nottinghamshire, Gordon Clow concluded that the problems Philippa had with her application for disability benefits were “the predominant… and the only acute factor” which led her to take action on 8 August 2019 that ultimately proved fatal.
Following the inquest, a letter of claim has been sent to DWP and Capita which alleges breach of human rights and negligence by the DWP and Capita arising out of the events which led to Philippa’s death and seeks compensation for the wrongs Philippa and her family suffered. DWP and Capita have three months to respond before claims may be pursued in the High Court.
Jodey Whiting, aged 42, took her own life on 21 February 2017. She suffered severe mental health problems and had her benefits terminated a fortnight earlier for not attending a Work Capability Assessment, leaving her with no source of income.
The Attorney General granted their consent last year for an application to the High Court for a fresh inquest into her death, which the High Court will hear on 22 June 2021. Jodey’s mother seeks a fresh inquest to ensure the role played by the DWP in her daughter’s death are publicly and fully investigated.
Errol Graham, was found dead aged 57 in June 2018, eight months after his benefits were stopped because of his failure to attend a fit for work assessment. When his body was found, Mr Graham weighed four-and-a-half stone.
An inquest in 2019 found that DWP and NHS staff had missed opportunities to save Graham, and the coroner concluded that “the safety net that should surround vulnerable people like Errol in our society had holes within it”.
Mr Graham’s family have submitted an application to the Court of Appeal after their judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the DWP’s safeguarding policies was unsuccessful. The family argue that the decision in 2017 to terminate his benefits was unlawful and that the DWP’s safeguarding policies and systems need to be overhauled to provide greater protection to vulnerable benefit claimants who, like Errol, suffer from mental health conditions.
The allegations against the DWP are extremely serious.
They indicate that it has been DWP policy to endanger the lives of benefit claimants.
For that reason, it seems clear to This Writer – and I expect to anybody with the slightest common sense – that the DWP should not be judging its own work with regard to these cases.
I say that for the same reason I say Boris Johnson’s Conservatives should not be conducting inquiries into whether contracts were corruptly handed to Tory cronies – or into whether Johnson himself breached the ministerial code by getting donors to pay for his Downing Street flat’s redecoration.
They are liars; they will always whitewash themselves.
We have seen evidence of such behaviour many times over the last 10 years – reported on This Site, among others.
The work of Debbie Abrahams has been exemplary in trying to get an investigation into this scandal by an organisation we can trust.
It’s true that such efforts have achieved very little, so far.
But attitudes are changing.
As more evidence has come to light, public tolerance of the DWP’s entitled attitude has eroded.
Maybe we are finally about to get some factual answers to questions we have been asking for more than a decade.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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