first_imgThe Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is facing fresh allegations of negligence – potentially criminal – after admitting that it keeps no records of how many of the complaints it receives involve the death of a claimant of disability benefits.The admissioncame in response to a freedom of information request from Disability NewsService (DNS), which arrived just 24 hours before the launch of a new parliamentary petition* calling for an independent inquiryinto deaths linked to DWP failings.It adds tomounting evidence that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purposeand will fuel calls for urgent changes to its policies and administration ofbenefits to ensure it makes the safety of all claimants a priority, as demandedby the petition.DNS hadasked in the freedom of information request how many of the complaintssubmitted to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) about DWP involved a claimant of adisability-related benefit who had died before that complaint was submitted.The request followedan ICE report into the death of Jodey Whiting, who had a long history of mentaldistress and took her own life 15 days after her disability benefits werestopped for missing a work capability assessment when she was seriously ill.The ICE reportconcluded that DWP had failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rulesin the weeks leading up to her death, and that it had been guilty of “multiple”and “significant” failings in handling her case.ICE reviewscomplaints about government departments that deal with benefits, work andfinancial support, but can only investigate concerns after that department hasdelivered its own “final response” to a complaint.Respondingto the freedom of information request, DWP said that ICE did not record “thecategory of information you have requested” because the department itself “useshigh level corporate complaint categories to record customer complaints” and thesedo not include whether a claimant has died.The onlycategories DWP offers are: “DWP staff don’t treat me with respect”; “you taketoo long”; “you’ve got it wrong”; “you haven’t given me the information thatsuits my needs”; “I can’t access the system”; and “DWP policy is unfair”.Previousfreedom of information admissions by DWP have shown that it has carried outscores of secret peer reviews (later renamed internal process reviews) into thedeaths of benefit claimants.Andgovernment-funded research concluded three years ago that DWP’sprogramme to reassess people on incapacity benefit through the work capabilityassessment was linked to 590 suicides in just three years.DWP had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).DNS had asked whether DWP agreed that it was seriously negligent to failto analyse how many complaints it was receiving in which a claimant had died,particularly those linked to the non-payment or withdrawal of vital benefits.DNS had also asked how DWP would be able to respond to serious flaws inthe system that were leading to loss of life if it did not know how many such complaintswere being received about various aspects of its service.And DNS asked whether Joanna Wallace, the independent case examiner, hadany concerns about the failure to record this category of information.*If you sign the petition, please note that you willneed to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sentautomatically by the House of Commons petitions committeeSamaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing [email protected] note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…last_img

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