A terminally ill woman was reportedly left with more than £2k in debts after cruel benefit officials stopped her benefits while she was on her deathbed.
Carol Jones was battling to survive cancer and too ill to respond to letters from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about her multiple benefit entitlements.
The 65-year-old had been fighting liver cancer for two years and was admitted to the Royal Stoke University Hospital in May and then a Leek care home, before sadly losing her struggle a week ago.
Her family discovered that Carol’s housing benefit and council tax support payments had been stopped after she failed to respond to letters.
Her housing benefit and council tax support were halted because she hadn’t made a state pension claim.
Carol’s Disability Living Allowance, a disability benefit that is being replaced with Personal Independence Payment (PIP), had also been stopped by the DWP because she hadn’t applied for PIP.
Her twin brother, David Agar, also 65, found out about his sister’s mounting debts when clearing her flat following her death.
He is now calling on the DWP to reform the benefits system so that what happened to his sister doesn’t happen to any one else.
He told the Stoke Sentinel: “I saw a letter from the DWP about her DLA. It was dated May 15 and it said her DLA payments would be stopped if she didn’t make a claim by June 12, and it was already past that date.
“She was still in hospital at that point and had been all through June. I phoned the DWP and explained that Carol had been too ill to answer the letter.
“She missed out on June’s payment, but she reapplied for Personal Independence Payment and was receiving that again.”
He added: “Her housing benefit wasn’t paid to Midland Heart from May to the end of July so she owed them more than £2,000.
“I phoned up about the housing benefit, but they said they couldn’t speak to me due to data protection.
“I’ve been to the doctors about it because I wasn’t sleeping due to the stress.
“What has happened is terrible and something needs to be done about this for everybody else in the same situation.
“The DWP is putting people in debt and I want it to face up to its responsibilities. There must be a better system because, when people are in hospital, they are not going to be able to respond.
“I feel disgusted that somebody can be that ill and have their benefits stopped.”
Midland Heart has since confirmed that they have received a full rent payment in the form of housing benefit after the payment was reinstated.
Director of housing Gary Hardy said: “Our thoughts are with Mrs Jones’ family and friends at this difficult time.
“The arrears on the account are covered by Mrs Jones’ reinstated housing benefit entitlement and we have been in discussion about this with the family.
“We can now confirm we’ve received this back-dated payment, which has cleared Mrs Jones’ arrears. Any credit on her account will be refunded to her estate.”
He added: “In the event of the death of a customer, we would never ask a relative to personally settle any arrears. We make efforts to recover the debt from their estate where possible.
“We would typically ask the relative to confirm whether there is an executor, and then ask the executor to settle the balance, or provide evidence that the estate does not have sufficient funds to do so.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with Mrs Jones’ family at this difficult time.
“We weren’t initially made aware of her situation, but when we were we made her brother a legal appointee so he could deal with her affairs.
“We do not stop benefits because people are in hospital and will often arrange to visit them there to ensure they are getting the right benefits.”