Stephen Smith, 64, from Liverpool died in April was repeatedly and incorrectly turned down for benefits
The treatment of a six-stone man deemed “fit to find work” by the DWP despite barely being able to walk before he died ‘followed policy,’ according to an investigation.
Images of Stephen Smith’s skeletal frame shocked the nation when they were published earlier this year.
The fragile 64-year-old was forced to get a pass to leave hospital to fight the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) decision to axe his disability benefits.
He was also repeatedly and incorrectly turned down for benefits while suffering with a number of serious illnesses before his death in April, reports the Liverpool Echo.
The DWP had ruled the Liverpudlian could work and ordered him to sign on for Job Seeker’s Allowance and head to the job centre once a week to prove he was looking for work.
But the tribunal ruled in favour of Mr Smith after a judge saw he could barely walk down the road and the DWP were made to pay him £4,000 in back pay.
Sadly, he never had the chance to use it – and the money was used to pay for his funeral.
Now an investigation into the treatment of Mr Smith has shockingly found that the DWP ‘followed policy’.
It comes after there were widespread calls for an independent inquiry into his treatment, including from Birkenhead MP and Work and Pensions Committee chair Frank Field.
He wrote to Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd who would not grant a full inquiry – instead only ordering an internal DWP review.
The results of that review have now been revealed.
Writing to Mr Field, Ms Rudd states: “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.”
The letter states that the changes will include:
– Identifying other trigger points for information sharing between lines to improve, join up and provide more holistic support
-Improving 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.
– Identifying the opportunities to embed these recommendations effectively and quickly across multiple customer journeys
Ms Rudd wrote: “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.”
Mr Field was seriously unimpressed with the lack of humanity and abundance of jargon in a response about the death of a man so clearly failed by the system.
He told the 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?’