The family of a woman who took her own life after her benefit payments were cut have began legal proceedings against the government.
Phillippa Day was found collapsed in her home in Nottingham in August 2019 with a letter beside her rejecting her request for an at-home benefits assessment.
The 27-year-old single mother was taken to hospital but never regained consciousnesses and died after two months in a coma.
Leigh Day, who represents Ms Day’s family, have sent a letter of claim on the family’s behalf to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Capita, the Independent Assessment Services who carry out assessments.
Phillippa Day, 27, was found collapsed in her home in Nottingham in August 2019 with a letter beside her rejecting her request for an at-home benefits assessment
The news comes amid calls for an enquiry into the way the DWP handles cases following the revelation that 144 internal reviews into similar cases have been carried out by the DWP between 2012 and 2019.
All the cases are incidents where people claiming benefits have died or come to serious harm and there is a ‘suggestion’ that the DWP’s actions had a negative impact.
Following the inquest into Ms Day’s death, the coroner submitted a Prevention of Future Death (PFD) report to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after finding that 28 errors were made in managing her case.
Coroners are required to issue these report if they believe action should be taken to prevent a future death.
Since 2015, four PFD reports have been issued to the DWP by coroners following inquests into the deaths of benefits claimants.
An investigation was launched following the death of Stephen Carré in 2010.
The 41-year-old, who lived in Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, killed himself after he was ruled ‘fit to work’ by the DWP despite being diagnosed as clinically depressed and bipolar.
The single mother died after two months in a coma after taking a fatal overdose
At his inquest, the coroner ruled that the decision that he was fit for work had been the trigger of his death.
The BBC Shared Data Unit has reported that it has seen copies of internal reviews which started after July 2019, which suggests mistakes continued to be made.
The DWP will not reveal the cases subject to internal reviews, but the BBC has named 82 individuals who died after alleged DWP activity such as termination of benefits by looking through press reports.
Poor mental health was a contributing fact in 35 of those deaths.
It was found that many of those individuals died within days of being found fit to work by the Government’s Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process.
MailOnline has approached the DWP for a comment.
Stephen Carré killed himself in 2010 after her was ruled ‘fit to work’ by the DWP despite being diagnosed as clinically depressed and bipolar
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey maintains the DWP ‘does not have a duty of care or statutory safeguarding duty’.
Human rights specialist Tessa Gregory, partner at Leigh Day, said there was a ‘dissonance’ between the DWP’s legal stance and its role in some instances providing the sole income for vulnerable people.
‘When DWP decision making goes wrong it can, as we have seen in far too many cases have devastating and sometimes fatal consequences, so it is vital that decisions are taken with full regard to a person’s disability,’ she said.
‘The case for reform is clear as we desperately need a benefits system which serves to support, rather than endanger, the lives of vulnerable individuals.’
Ken Butler, welfare rights adviser at the charity Disability Rights UK, said people had their benefits cut and suffered ‘fear and anxiety’ due to ‘poor and inaccurate medical assessments’.
Debbie Abrahams MP said there should be an independent inquiry into the scale and number of deaths allegedly linked to DWP activity.
Debbie Abrahams MP, who previously read out the names of 29 individuals to have died during a Commons debate, told the BBC there should be an independent inquiry into the scale and number of deaths allegedly linked to DWP activity.
‘These deaths have definitely not received the attention they should have,’ she said. ‘I believe that the ones that you have collated are just the tip of the iceberg.
‘That there has been such a lack of openness and transparency to enable us to properly examine reports on all deaths is a disgrace.
‘There needs to be an independent inquiry investigating why these deaths are happening and the scale of the deaths needs to be properly understood.
‘Then there needs to be an independent body set up to investigate any future deaths. It needs to be taken out of the hands of the DWP.’
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