Saturday, September 18, 2021

Distraught relatives demand a public inquiry into benefit deaths

Number of benefit-related deaths investigated by the DWP just the "tip of an iceberg".

Distraught relatives of people who have tragically died whilst claiming social security benefits have written to the Secretary for State for Work and Pensions, demanding a public inquiry into the possible reasons for the death of their loved-ones.

In an open letter to DWP Secretary Therese Coffey, the relatives of vulnerable people who have sadly passed away – some of whom committed suicide – whilst attempting to navigate the benefits system have expressed disbelief at a lack of urgency seen by the DWP.

Relatives have spoken publicly – many for the first time – about how this has left them feeling powerless to find out the truth about the causes behind their family member’s death.

The relatives say: “Your department says that cases like ours are not part of a wider problem.

“But your own figures show that the DWP has internally investigated 97 deaths since summer 2019 as well as 27 cases of serious harm.

“How can these figures be acceptable? What will it take to overhaul the way that the system works, when so much harm has been done over so many years?

“It is hard to imagine a more serious concern for a department that exists to support people, yet the full scale of the problem is still not known because official records are inadequate and the system for investigating such serious cases is shrouded in secrecy.

“For as long as that remains the case, other families will continue to suffer as we have.

“We have two urgent requests for the Government.

“Firstly, we want a full public inquiry to learn the truth about what has happened so far.

“Secondly, we are calling for a new independent body to be established to investigate future cases of death or serious harm in the benefits system.”

DWP Secretary Therese Coffey. Photo: UK Parliament (cc).
DWP Secretary Therese Coffey. Photo: UK Parliament (cc).

The Rethink Mental Illness charity says that while some cases have been reported in the media or investigated by the DWP, there could be many cases that have so far escaped scrutiny.

They added: “We want to build a complete picture of benefit-related deaths and serious harm, to help make the case for a public inquiry and a new body to investigate future cases.

“An inquiry will also give families the answers they deserve, restore faith in the system and prevent further tragedies.

“The evidence we collect here will also help us to identify specific problems within the benefit system and solutions that could make a difference.”

The charity has launched a new survey asking people to share their own experiences. The survey can be found here.

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