An investigation into the treatment of a man who was denied benefits despite being seriously ill and weighing 38kg (6st) before his death has found the Department for Work and Pensions “followed policy".
Stephen Smith from Liverpool, had a range of debilitating illnesses including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and an enlarged prostate, and used a colostomy bag. His death was reported in April, months after he was forced to get a pass to leave hospital to fight a decision by the department to deny him of crucial benefits. Smith, who could barely walk, was deemed fit for work after a work capability assessment in 2017, which meant his employment support allowance (ESA) payments were stopped. In February the government overturned the decision and agreed to pay back about £4,000 in wrongly denied benefits to Smith. However, he died before he could spend the money and it was used instead to pay for his funeral.
Two letters from two different doctors that had been ignored by the DWP. One written by Dr Terence Crowley, stated that Smith “could not mobilise a distance of 20 metres repeatedly without needing to stop due to pain and breathlessness”.
In response to Amber Rudd's letter, MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field said: “What kind of policy guidance is it that fails to recognise that somebody is seriously ill and dying? 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.”