Friday 28 August 2015

"Mother's Death was Hastened by Long Delay in Processing her Benefits"

Quote: "Moira Drury died less than fortnight ago aged 61. She suffered from combination of illnesses, including depression and cancer, but her daughter believes that a seven-month delay in processing her benefit claim hastened her death.

“She was incredibly determined, resilient, strong and warm-hearted,” said her daughter, Nichole Drury. “She was such an amazing lady.”
According to Nichole, her mother’s demise was hastened by the decision of jobcentre officials earlier this year to stop her benefits. “She told me the day before she died that the stress of having her benefits removed contributed to her decline,” said Nichole, who is a veterinary surgeon based in Sussex.
“Stress and anxiety lowers your immune system and ability to fight disease. I am absolutely certain that the stress she endured caused her to give up her fight against her illnesses. Without the stress this caused she would have had a little more precious time.”
Her benefits saga started when she was told by her local jobcentre in Essex to undergo a fit-work-test, known as a work capability assessment (WCA), on 15 January to assess whether she should continue to be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit awarded to people judged unable to work.
Bed-bound and suffering from flu and a chest infection, she telephoned to say she was not well enough to attend. Illness also prevented her attending a rescheduled WCA just over two weeks later on 3 February.
On 16 February she received a letter from Basildon benefit centre saying it had examined her reasons for not attending the WCA. Presumably it did not accept that she was genuinely ill. The letter only says tersely that it considered she was capable of work and that she was no longer entitled to ESA.

“Having considered all the available evidence, I am unable to accept that a good cause has been shown for not attending the medical assessment … and you cannot be treated as having limited capability for work. As a result, you are not entitled to employment and support allowance.
The DWP aims to process benefit claims within 16 days, but the reality can be very different. Moira’s claim was stuck in the system, and had still not been completed when she died. As a result, for the last seven months of her life, as her health deteriorated, she received no income.When Nichole telephoned the DWP to check on the process of the application, she was told they were awaiting medical records from Moira’s GP. When Nichole checked with the GP practice, they told her they had not received any such request. The lowest point came just over a month before Moira died, when she received a court summons for non-payment of council tax. As her ESA had been suspended, her local council had automatically stopped her council tax benefit, meaning she was liable for full council tax. Moira was not told. The shock arrival in July of a council tax bill for nearly £2,000 came the day after she received the results of a hospital biopsy that detected cancer on her lung.“That was the point that pushed her over the edge,” says Nichole. Ministers are fighting a permanent battle against critics from across the political spectrum concerned at how welfare cuts and reforms and benefit processing delays have hit the poor and vulnerable, causing illness and stress, and driving those affected to food banks and loan sharks. On Thursday the government finally released statistics relating to ESA claimants who have died after claiming benefits. It is under pressure to release internal reviews into 49 benefits-related deaths since February 2012, 40 of which followed a suicide or apparent suicide. Moira certainly did not fit with the crude media characterisations of benefit claimants. She was working as a nurse and bringing up three young children in the West Midlands in the 1980s, when her abusive husband attacked her with a hammer, an assault that put him in prison and her in hospital with a serious head injury.
When she recovered, she refused to sign on for sickness benefit, says Nichole, and returned to work doing night shifts at the local hospital. She later took time out to look after her daughters and subsequently worked as a receptionist until 2007, when a combination of limited mobility, mini-strokes, epilepsy and depression forced her to give up.
The DWP told the Guardian that its sympathy was with the Drury family but indicated that its files said it had proved difficult to assess her claim. “It’s important that people supply sufficient evidence – including medical evidence – when making a claim, as it could affect their benefit entitlement. That is why we contacted Ms Drury several times to try and gather further evidence. People also have the right to ask for a reconsideration of their case or appeal if they don’t agree with a decision.”
However, Nichole, who described her mother as proud and often unwilling to admit that she needed assistance, tried in vain to help her to navigate a benefits system she calls an “administrative assault course”. For her, a successful professional, who had had no personal dealings with the benefits system, her encounter was eye-opening.
“Nobody wants to see people exploiting the welfare system. But we don’t want a system which leaves people by the wayside. The way it works is crude and it’s cruel, and seems deliberately designed to get the weak and vulnerable off benefits to save money. It’s people who can’t fight back who are the victims.” " Go to:

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