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DWP fails to meet Information Commissioner deadline for possible benefit related deaths

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Owen_Stevens
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Owen_Stevens
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shawn mach
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From Leigh Day:

On 12 and 13 January 2021 a judicial review hearing will be heard at the High Court to consider the case of Errol Graham who starved to death in June 2018 after his Employment Support Allowance payments were terminated by the Department of Work and Pensions eight months earlier.

The claim, brought on behalf of the family by Alison Turner (the fiancée of Mr Graham’s son), alleges that the decision to halt Mr Graham’s benefits in 2017 was unlawful and that the DWP’s ESA safeguarding policy on the termination of benefits is still unlawful, despite revisions that were belatedly made following the issuing of these proceedings.

More: https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/Press-releases-2021/January-2021/Court-case-regarding-Errol-Graham-to-be-heard

Owen_Stevens
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At today’s conclusion of the inquest into Philippa’s death in October, 2019, assistant coroner Gordon Clow said that Philippa, a diabetic who suffered unstable personality disorder, had taken an overdose of insulin as a result of stresses including mental health problems and a growing sense of failure.

But he said the predominant factor affecting her decision to take an overdose was the financial distress caused by the administration of welfare benefits which led to acute distress and exacerbated the other stresses.

Mr Clow will issue a prevention of future deaths report to call for the DWP to consider and address timely Mental health training for call handers, record keeping and assessment process where is need for review, that correspondence issued is accurate and does not create further stress.

https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/Press-releases-2021/January-2021/Conclusion-of-inquest-into-death-of-Philippa-Day

The Guardian and Rightsnet write ups:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jan/27/inquest-finds-mother-took-overdose-after-removal-of-disability-benefits
https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/acute-distress-caused-as-a-result-of-28-failings-by-dwp-and-capita-materially-contributed-to-death-of-claimant-who-took-overdose-inquest-finds

Also , a couple of DNS news stories from 21/1/21 predating the conclusion of the inquest but, as with the Guardian story, provide details of an internal DWP review:
https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/philippa-day-secret-dwp-report-reveals-errors-that-led-to-disabled-mums-death/
https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/philippa-day-capita-made-changes-to-pip-assessments-after-young-mums-death/

[ Edited: 28 Jan 2021 at 11:36 am by Owen_Stevens ]
Owen_Stevens
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Owen_Stevens
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WPSC questioning mentions Phillipa Day: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/1630/pdf/

Owen_Stevens
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I’ve just become aware of this: https://informationrights.decisions.tribunals.gov.uk/DBFiles/Decision/i2727/Chamani,%20Mohammad%20-%20EA.2020%20-0027%20(11.13.2020).pdf

There are a couple of useful annotations on this WDTK page: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/death_figures_relating_to_richar#comment-89807

It includes this, which is new to me: DWP explained that it had reviewed all cases where an IPRwas conducted since the start of Welfare Reform (2013) and found 96cases that related to claimants who had committed suicide.  DWPconfirmed that of these 96 cases,  it had found that CFCD had beeninvolved in four cases in the last 12 months of those claimant’s lives

I think DWP carried out that review in response to the FOI (rather than the review having already been completed prior to the FOI) which is interesting as it suggests that DWP are able to look into fairly detailed information about the circumstances surrounding IPR cases as part of an FOI.

Owen_Stevens
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Owen_Stevens
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The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Health in All Policies has called for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to undertake an investigation into the deaths of vulnerable claimants, by suicide and other causes between 2008 and 2020.

https://debbieabrahams.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/210221_HIAP-A4-Report-Debbie-Abrahams.pdf
https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/cross-party-group-of-mps-concludes-that-welfare-reform-and-work-act-2016-has-had-a-devastating-effect-on-the-health-and-wellbeing-of-people-on-low-incomes

Owen_Stevens
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Owen_Stevens
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Owen_Stevens
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I’ve been looking abck at some past reports recently.  It’s been quite difficult to find the DWP response to the report into the death of Ms DE.  It might be that I was looking in the wrong place but I was only able to find it on the Wayback Machine - given that it’s difficult to track down I thought I’d attach it as a PDF here.

The original report (26 March 2014): https://www.mwcscot.org.uk/sites/default/files/2019-06/who_benefits_final.pdf

The DWP response: https://web.archive.org/web/20140812165310/https://www.mwcscot.org.uk/media/180947/response_from_dwp_with_mwc.pdf

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Owen_Stevens
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A DWP news story on deaths of benefit claimants: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56819727

They’ve collated press reports naming 82 individuals to have died after some alleged DWP activity such as termination of benefits. They state that mental health vulnerabilities were a contributing factor in 35 of those people’s deaths. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12or_c9cUspul4IWM1Tiv45tEuWSjyOzf/edit#gid=1323456278

Some extracts from the article:

The family of a woman who took a fatal overdose after her benefit payments were cut say they have begun a legal claim against the government.

Ms Day’s family are one of three hoping to take the DWP to court in separate cases within weeks.

Philippa’s sister Imogen told the BBC her family had now begun a legal claim against the DWP and Capita including a claim under the Human Rights Act for violation of the right to life over their handling of the case.

Errol Graham starved to death in 2018 while seriously mentally ill.

His family submitted an application for permission to go to the Court of Appeal in April, after losing a judicial review against the DWP’s safeguarding policy.

Jodey Whiting, 42, took her own life after her benefits were stopped.

Her family are due to attend the High Court on 22 June to argue she should have a second inquest to consider the DWP’s role in her 2017 death.

They’ve also published a methodology and various quotes here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xm4jbi5bB1ONy0LHLCmAV4xVNJCM47a38ued_wtLyuY/edit

The methodology links to this, which I had missed in October: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/october/dr-uk-letter-th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se-coffey

Imogen Day has the following to say about her experience of her sister’s inquest:

“The DWP tried to release as little information to the Coroner [before Philippa’s inquest]as possible – initially their bundle was 100 pages and by the inquest it was more than 4,000.
“They were very hesitant to share information because they did not want the severity of the case to be known; they wanted to hide it.
“The DWP heavily implied I forged the suicide note.
“Initially, it was only supposed to be me and my dad who were due to give evidence at the inquest but my mum felt she needed to speak about her love for her daughter after what the DWP suggested.
“It was clear from Philippa’s CPN the DWP seemed dismissive of her experience and vast knowledge and that it was very difficult to pass information from the DWP to Capita.
(OS - this raises the issue of equality of arms at inquests.  See, for example, https://www.inquest.org.uk/human-rights-act-rev2021)

Edit - More from Leigh Day here: https://www.leighday.co.uk/latest-updates/news/2021-news/investigation-reveals-150-dwp-reviews-into-deaths-or-harm-to-benefits-claimants/

Guardian story here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/may/10/philippa-day-death-family-legal-challenge-against-dwp

[ Edited: 10 May 2021 at 02:15 pm by Owen_Stevens ]
Owen_Stevens
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The background to this post is this reporting:
https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/government-admits-failing-to-record-actions-after-benefit-suicide-inquiries/
https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/letter-shows-appalling-dwp-misled-two-watchdogs-over-benefit-deaths/
...this report by the NAO which found that DWP did not track IPR recommendations: https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Information-held-by-the-DWP-on-deaths-by-suicide-of-benefit-claimants.pdf
...and Therese Coffey’s answer to q.5 in this letter: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/?ACT=39&fid=3&aid=2249_nHecW5FyCTXqEkc7yIsb&board_id=1

The attached FOI states that One Service Networks (which, according to Therese Coffey’s letter, were responsible for tracking recommendations made by peer reviews/IPRs) were scrapped in January 2017.

So we have the following timeline:
Feb 12 to Sept 15 - no tracking of peer review recommendations
Sept 15 to January 17 - tracking of recommendations carried out by One Service Networks
January 17 - March 20 - no tracking of recommendations (at which point DWP start work on setting up a team to monitor these recommendations)

According to the DNS website DWP told the information commissioner in 2017 that the review process lacked “robust governance” during 2012-15 but claimed that it had “identified changes to improve accountability and responsibility and ensure that recommendations were identified, logged centrally and followed up so that outcomes were tracked, audited and understood”.  Around April 2017 the ICO told the DNS website that she “found it unusual that a Central Government Department would dedicate resources to a process of case reviews and recommendations but not require the relevant departments to report back or record the actions taken in response to those recommendations”

I find this timeline pretty confusing.  The only way that I can make sense of the DWP comments to the ICO is to assume that IPR recommendations continued to be monitored by DWP Networks after OSNs were scrapped.  However, this is not what Therese Coffey’s letter says.

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