“Missed Opportunities” – DWP Blamed After Claimant Tragedy Triggers Calls for Urgent Reform

In the wake of a vulnerable claimant’s tragic death following a DWP investigation, a coroner’s critique prompts calls for reform within the Department, highlighting crucial flaws in procedures and underscoring the need for better support for individuals with mental health issues. Here’s the full story.

Hard Times

It is not an easy time to be struggling in the UK, especially for those on benefits, suffering from physical or mental illness, or for those who, for any reason at all, need help they would traditionally have received from the welfare state.

The struggles that people can experience on benefits have become all the more clear recently, following a tragic series of errors that led to a woman’s death following a prolonged investigation into her benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The coroner’s report, which shed light on the failures and missed opportunities that could have allowed the DWP to address the woman’s mental health issues, has sparked criticism and raised serious concerns regarding the DWP’s handling of vulnerable claimants.

Declining Mental Health

The woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, experienced a significant decline in her mental health following a six-month official investigation by the DWP into her universal credit payments.

Despite previously having managed anxiety and depression with medication for over two decades, her mental health plummeted when faced with the stress of the DWP’s inquiry.

The assistant coroner representing Rutland and North Leicestershire, Fiona Butler, wrote a report to the DWP which outlined several instances where they missed crucial opportunities to acknowledge the victims’ vulnerability and respond appropriately.

Butler’s Report

In the report, Butler stated, “She was diagnosed with adjustment disorder, an excessive reaction to stress that involves negative thoughts, strong emotions and changes in a person’s behavior.

She continued: “I heard evidence from a consultant psychiatrist that the trigger stressor for this was the DWP performance review, suggested overpayment and potential debt.”

The assistant coroner’s report also outlined several instances where the DWP missed crucial opportunities to acknowledge the victim’s vulnerability and respond appropriately.

Mental Health Struggles

Despite the woman’s apparent distress during phone calls and repeated indications of her mental health struggles, the DWP failed to record this information adequately or alter their communication approach in any way.

Not only did the DWP fail to alter their communication with the woman in question, but they also neglected repeated requests to communicate with the claimant through her daughter. This simple measure could have eased the situation, given the woman’s mental health risks.

In the report, Butler notes, “This was a simple request and had been renewed by [the victim] during telephone calls and journal entries to the DWP.”

She continued: “The request which had been made in writing by [her] daughter sat in another DWP computer system for a period of four months but even when uploaded to the main DWP computer system was not acted upon.”

Despite these requests persisting in various forms, the DWP failed to act upon them, compounding the victim’s distress.

Multiple Communications

In the weeks leading up to her tragic demise, the claimant received multiple communications from the DWP, including phone calls, online journal logs, and letters.

These communications concerned universal credit overpayments, which can happen when a claimant receives more money than the DWP has decided they are entitled to.

This can happen for several reasons, such as changes in work shift patterns, reduced or increased hours, or unexpected sick leave.

75% Debt Increase

The communications that were sent to the woman only added to her stress levels, especially following several, which notified her that her debt to the DWP had increased by 75%.

The woman’s mental health struggles ultimately culminated in a fatal overdose. While the inquest determined that she did not intend to end her life, the irreversible damage caused by the overdose led to her demise in the hospital the following month.

The coroner’s report stated, “Those mental health professionals who had worked with [her] throughout seven months in which her mental health had deteriorated gave evidence to me that the recurrent and predominant cause of [her] increased anxiety was the DWP performance review.”

It finished: “I find on the basis of the evidence I have heard and read that this was the case.”

Meaningful Changes

In the wake of this preventable tragedy, the coroner emphasized the urgent need for the DWP to implement meaningful changes and ensure that similar incidents do not occur.

This would include providing adequate training and support to DWP operatives so that they can handle cases involving vulnerable individuals with care and empathy.

This is not the first time the DWP has been notified of its shortcomings, particularly concerning individuals with mental health issues.

Separate Incident

Three months ago, a separate coroner warned that the DWP’s methods “may not be practical for those with mental health illness and can exacerbate symptoms.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions stated, “Our thoughts are with the victim’s family at this distressing time. We will review the coroner’s report and respond shortly.”

The post “Missed Opportunities” – DWP Blamed After Vulnerable Claimant’s Death Triggers Calls for Urgent Reform first appeared on Edge Media.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Patrick Shutterstock.

Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

Leave a Comment