DWP HQ, Caxton House, London. Photo: Paul Billanie for Welfare Weekly.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has confirmed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be holding an urgent review into its practices, following the tragic death of a benefit claimant who weighed just six-stone after the DWP slashed his benefits.

64-year-old Mr Smith lost his life after a prolonged battle with the DWP, with pictures showing how the loss of vital benefits left him resembling a person in famine conditions.

Stephen Smith, shortly before his death. Photo: Public Domain/Facebook.

Mr Smith, from Liverpool, was repeatedly denied state support despite letters from his GP warning about his dramatic weight loss and the wider impact on his overall health and wellbeing.

He eventually had his benefit payments reinstated, including £4,000 in backpay, but the damage had already been done and he sadly lost his battle to survive.

His case has been held up as an extreme example of the cruelty of the current welfare system, prompting calls for an independent public inquiry and complete overhaul of the benefits system.

Now, Amber Rudd has confirmed that the DWP will be investigating the circumstances running up to Mr Smith’s death, but only after the local media pressed the Department for a formal investigation.

Ms Rudd, who has been named as a possible replacement to Theresa May as Tory Party leader, told the Liverpool Echo: “This is a grave and tragic case. I speak on behalf of the Department when I say that we are very sorry to hear of the experience Mr Smith had and that our thoughts continue to be with his friends and family.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. Photo: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0]

“You asked for an official inquiry into this matter. I can advise you that an urgent Internal Process Review has been commissioned on Mr Smith’s case, which will be complete by the end of May.”

However, the scope of the review will be limited to an internal review of the DWP’s handling of the case, meaning we may never learn the full findings from the DWP’s review or how conclusive the actual investigation turns out to be.

Ms Rudd continued: “This will be objectively reviewed against the customer journey and what should have happened – including safeguarding processes.

“This will help us to understand what happened, with recommendations for improvements and changes to be shared with the Permanent Secretary following this review.”