ISSUES and errors in the UK Government’s benefits assessments have “contributed to the deaths of claimants”, a damning report has found.

MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee, which has a Conservative majority, said they were “deeply concerned” about the issue in a report looking at the Department for Work and Pensions’ health assessments.

These assessments help inform decisions on a range of benefits, but issues have persisted for years.

The committee’s report, published on Friday, said: “Our predecessor committee found in its 2018 inquiry that there were significant problems with these assessments. We found many of these remain, despite some improvements.

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“Important changes to improve trust and transparency have not been made, and the system continues to let down some of the often vulnerable people who rely on it.”

It goes on: “We were deeply concerned that nearly five years after our predecessor’s report, people are still experiencing psychological distress as a result of undergoing health assessments.

“In some cases, issues or errors in the system are associated with or have been found at Coroner’s Inquest to have contributed to the deaths of claimants.”

As an example, MPs pointed to the case of Errol Graham, who starved to death after his benefit payments were stopped, having lost a legal challenge against the DWP.

His daughter-in-law Alison Turner said at the time: “He’d stopped going out or answering calls because he could no longer bring himself to deal with people – which is pretty much the number one classic sign of mental health deterioration.

“Yet no one at the DWP bothered to red-flag that something serious may be wrong. There was no duty of care. He didn’t reply, so he was crossed off their books.”

The National: David Linden comments

David Linden (above), the SNP’s social justice spokesperson at Westminster, said people had paid “the ultimate price” for the Tories’ failure to act.

He said: “Five years ago, the Tories were warned by this very committee that the DWP’s health assessment system required urgent change. They didn’t act, and now some claimants have paid the ultimate price.

“This is a scandalous revelation which lies squarely with the Tories. However, we have sadly become accustomed to this. The sanction regime introduced by this Tory government has plunged millions of families into poverty, forcing many to remain on Universal Credit and take lower paid jobs.

“In contrast, under a progressive SNP government, people in Scotland enjoy a social security system that is built on fairness, dignity, and respect – and provides a safety net for those on the lowest income. And all of this is achieved with one hand tied behind our back.

The National:

“With the full powers of a normal, independent country, we could revolutionise the benefit system in Scotland and finally build a fairer, more equal Scotland – and eradicate poverty once and for all.”

The MPs’ report said that the UK Government should ensure that “young people in receipt of Disability Living Allowance should not be required to claim PIP [Personal Independence Payment] until they are 18, as is the case in Scotland”.

It further said: “We were very interested to hear from the Scottish Government and Social Security Scotland about plans for the Adult Disability Payment, which is replacing PIP. This is likely to provide a good test of whether problems with PIP are in its policy framework or its implementation. We look forward to seeing its evaluation and urge the department to watch this process closely and consider what changes, if any, it should make following this.”