Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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DWP secret review into the death of six stone Stephen Smith ‘followed policy’

An internal review by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has found that denying a vulnerable gentleman lifeline benefits was inline with official benefits policy.

Mr Smith died weighing just six stone after the DWP found he was ‘fit for work’ and stripped him of his vital benefit payments.

The 64-year-old Liverpool man suffered from a number of medical conditions and was repeatedly denied state support, despite letters from his GP warning about his dramatic weight loss.

Mr Smith died following a prolonged battle with the DWP weighing just six stone, and after being officially diagnosed with suffering from extreme malnutrition.

Stephen Smith. Photo Credit: Public Domain.

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

DWP Secretary of State Amber Rudd MP confirmed in May that the department was holding an internal review into Mr Smith’s untimely death, but that this review would be held behind closed doors… despite calls for an independent inquiry.

Read More: DWP review into the death of six-stone Stephen Smith will be held in secret

Amber Rudd said: “This review has now concluded and shows that whilst the policy guidance was followed in Mr Smith’s case, there were crucial safeguarding opportunities which were missed by the Department.

“The review has identified areas where we need to change our policy and we will be implementing these changes to ensure our most vulnerable claimants are protected.”

In a letter to the Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Frank Field MP, she added: “The Department will be working at pace to ensure that these are embedded and that vulnerable claimants are receiving the best possible support from the Department.

“I am adamant that we will learn important lessons from this tragic case and make changes to protect people like Mr Smith in future.”

Ms Rudd promised to use the findings of the review to:

  • Identify other trigger points for information sharing between lines to improve, join up and provide more holistic support
  • Improve awareness across benefit lines of how new awards to or changes in benefit entitlement can materially affect other benefits in payment or under appeal – and encouraging or requiring staff to look for an act on these these links.
  • Identify the opportunities to embed these recommendations effectively and quickly across multiple customer journeys

In reponse to the letter, Frank Field told the Liverpool Echo: “This letter heavily disguises the fact that we’re talking about a man who lost his life, not a package that got lost within the DWP.

“It sums up much of what’s wrong with the DWP, which is apparently very short on human sympathy.

“What kind of policy guidance is it that fails to recognise that somebody is seriously ill and dying?”.

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