Vulnerability Failings Exposed: Disabled Woman’s Death Linked to Flaws in Universal Credit System

Melton Mowbray, England – The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has acknowledged that it failed to properly address the vulnerabilities of a disabled woman, whose tragic death has been attributed to shortcomings in the universal credit benefits system. Nazerine Anderson, known as Naz, passed away in June of last year, with her death linked to failures within the DWP’s handling of her case.

Coroner Fiona Butler’s prevention of future deaths report, issued to the DWP, revealed that the department missed six opportunities to flag Anderson’s vulnerabilities in their system while reviewing her universal credit claim. Despite Anderson’s evident mental distress during phone calls regarding her claim, the DWP failed to take appropriate actions. Requests to direct communications to her daughter were also overlooked, further exacerbating the situation.

The DWP’s response to the report acknowledged the missed opportunities in sharing critical information regarding Anderson’s universal credit claim and the consideration of appointing a representative on her behalf. It also shed light on an ongoing flaw within the universal credit system, where certain staff lack access to key information necessary for providing support to claimants with complex needs.

Training has been initiated to emphasize the importance of sharing vulnerability information among DWP colleagues, but it remains unclear whether the fundamental flaw hindering some staff members from accessing crucial details about claimants’ support requirements has been rectified. The DWP’s reassurance of granting enhanced access based on business needs raises questions about the effectiveness of their safeguarding tools.

Anderson’s case highlights the repercussions of systemic failures within the DWP, leading to missed opportunities to address her support needs adequately. The department’s delay in recognizing her vulnerabilities and responding appropriately underscores the pressing need for comprehensive reforms in handling vulnerable claimants.

In light of Anderson’s tragic death, the DWP’s commitment to redesigning the additional support tab and enhancing awareness among staff marks a step towards improving their response to similar cases in the future. However, the department’s past failures in addressing Anderson’s mental health concerns and support needs serve as a stark reminder of the critical improvements needed within the universal credit system.

The DWP’s ongoing review of cases involving claimants who require appointees to act on their behalf reflects a broader effort to address systemic issues and prevent similar tragedies in the future. By updating procedures and enhancing staff training on obtaining explicit consent from claimants, the DWP aims to mitigate risks associated with vulnerable individuals navigating the benefits system.