PIP investigation: Woman took her own life two days after learning of failed PIP appeal

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A disabled woman who lost her disability benefits because of a controversial reassessment process took her own life just two days after being told her appeal had failed.

The body of Susan Margaret Roberts (pictured) was discovered by a care worker at her warden-assisted flat near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, surrounded by letters telling her that she would not be entitled to the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP).

The long-term claimant of disability living allowance (DLA) had also placed a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) note by her side.

There have been many cases involving deaths connected with claims for out-of-work disability benefits and the work capability assessment (WCA) system, but this appears to be the first time a death has been closely linked to someone losing their support in the move from DLA to PIP.

An inquest into the 68-year-old’s death did not record a verdict of suicide, and no-one from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or its assessment contractor Atos gave evidence at the hearing last September.

But her daughter, Hayley Storrow-Servranckx, is convinced that she would still be alive today if it was not for the flawed PIP assessment system.

She told Disability News Service (DNS): “If it wasn’t for PIP, my mum would still be here.”

DNS has collected more than 100 cases of PIP claimants who have raised serious concerns about their assessments, following a two-month investigation that suggested an institutional problem that spreads across DWP and the two private sector contractors – Atos and Capita – that assess PIP eligibility on its behalf.

Susan Margaret Roberts died on 19 May last year, just two days after receiving a letter from a benefits tribunal telling her she had lost her appeal against the PIP decision.

She had had to return her Motability vehicle several weeks earlier, as a result of the DWP decision to refuse her PIP claim.

Storrow-Servranckx is determined to secure answers from DWP and Atos, the company that carried out her mother’s face-to-face PIP assessment.

She said: “I want their apologies, and I want to know that they are going to try their hardest to change things, so it doesn’t happen to other people.

“There needs to be a change. They are killing people. It can’t happen to other people.

“It has just left so much destruction. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

She added: “I don’t want them to get away with it. I want them to know that my mum existed.

“I feel like they killed her. That’s how I feel.”

Her mother had a number of long-term health conditions, including significant mental distress and “very severe” fibromyalgia – which meant she often slept all day and night, except for a few hours every evening – had had four major heart attacks, and had a serious bowel disorder that meant she needed daily colonic irrigation.

She had previously received an indefinite award of DLA, at the higher rate of mobility and the lower rate of care.

But after her PIP assessment last year, she was awarded just six points for the descriptors that are used to decide eligibility, which meant she was told she was ineligible for PIP, even though her impairments meant that she had to be visited by care workers every day.

Storrow-Servranckx, who is herself disabled and receives PIP, said: “When they found her, she was surrounded by her PIP letters and her DNR letter.

“Her PIP letters were never out. She always kept them filed away.”

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle Campaign, said the case was “utterly heart-rending”.

He said: “The catalyst for the establishment of Black Triangle Campaign was the suicide of our friend Paul Reekie of Leith, Edinburgh, following a WCA carried out by Atos.

“These circumstances are remarkably similar to what happened to Paul, only this time the suicide occurred following a PIP assessment carried out by the same firm. 

“Like the WCA, the PIP assessment is underpinned by the so-called ‘biopsychosocial model’ of disability created by the corrupt and predatory US medical insurance industry.

“It was designed with the express purpose of denying disability claims so as to maximise profits: it is as far away from evidenced-based medicine as it is possible to get. It is also lethal. 

“If we truly lived in a civilised society operating under the principles of justice and the rule of law there would  be an immediate police investigation into all the circumstances surrounding Susan’s death – leading to the prosecution of all concerned, including crown servants and ministers working out of the DWP.” 

He added: “We cannot even begin to imagine the suffering that this tragedy has inflicted upon Hayley.

“There can be few things in this life more painful than losing a mum before their time, owing to the despicable actions of this government and it’s henchmen and women who operate this disability assessment regime. 

“What have we as a country become? We demand justice for Susan and for all victims of this barbaric and hateful system.”

Storrow-Servranckx believes there are important questions over the way her mother’s PIP claim was dealt with.

Among them are an apparent refusal to accept further evidence that she wanted to submit about her claim.

On an envelope containing a letter her mother said she was not allowed to submit to DWP was written a scribbled note in her hand-writing, which said: “This is my evidence that the DWP would not send to them in response to their first letter of refusal of my claim.

“It contains information that is crucial to my claim. Reconsideration ie the mandatory notice was made without this.

“I would be very grateful if you could consider the contents yourselves.”

Her family have not yet seen the assessment report that was completed by an Atos assessor and led to her being given only six “descriptor” points and therefore ineligible for PIP.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Suicide is a tragic and complex issue. Our thoughts are with Mrs Roberts’ family but there is no evidence to suggest any link between her death and her benefit claim.

She said neither DWP nor Atos believed they had made any mistakes in this case, and pointed out that the independent tribunal had “upheld the original decision”.

Asked if DWP believed that the report written by the Atos assessor was fit for purpose, accurate and an honest representation of the impact of the claimant’s impairment, she said: “Decisions for PIP are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.

“The independent tribunal upheld the original decision.”

She said the department did not accept that Roberts was refused permission to submit further medical evidence.

She said: “Claimants are always welcome to supply further medical evidence, but it is not guaranteed that it will change a PIP decision.

“Mrs Roberts was informed of this during [a]phone call on 24 February.

“We want to use the widest range of evidence when we assess PIP claims, so we encourage claimants to provide us with any relevant evidence or information they already have that explains how their condition affects them.”

A spokeswoman for Motability said: “We were unaware of Miss Roberts’ death before your email and would like to offer our condolences to her family.

“Although Motability works closely with the DWP on issues related to the Motability scheme, Motability has never had any role in determining who should receive DLA or PIP; that is solely the responsibility of the DWP.

“As such, we are unable to comment on the assessment process.”

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  • Bill Hasan

    All i can say is that the DWP have another death on their hands. It’s about time our stupid Government started changing the rules.

    • Dave Hunt

      They know what they are doing. If they were stupid it wouldn’t be so bad

      • MissCostello

        Well said.

      • re_present

        It’s both. And it’s bad.

    • truckerlyn

      First and foremost, they have to stop seeing us as all being the same and start treating us as the individuals we are!

  • Lyndsey Mckinnon Mccormack

    feckin gestapo……

  • Sain TDpac

    Yes, the policies of Herr IDS, the butcher of the disabled, lives on.

  • Moira Hewitt

    The fact that the dwp told the lady over the phone, that medical evidence would not necessarily guarantee a change in a PIP decision, speaks volumes.This lady already had physical disability, through no fault of her own, which could at a time, unbeknown to anyone else, cause mental distress. I can tell the dwp, as somone trying to cope with depression, that as she was already mentally distressed, being told that she may still not get PIP would certainly depress her further. For the dwp to say it like it did, puts more negative doubt in the mind of someone already in a pretty depressed state of mind. That poor lady would have remembered them saying that. It would have crossed her mind and worried her greatly every single hour of every single day. A person with physical illness alone would worry. What they said would cause hurtful and harmful worry. Any decent person would never tell a family member or friend something like that. The dwp have no empathy and do not deserve benefit of the doubt, with their pathetic staple replies.

    • Sain TDpac

      Medical evidence is ALWAYS needed.

      • Jonno Raab

        And always ignored

    • Jonno Raab

      I have never suffered from mental health problems until the DWP decided to persecute me until I had a nervous breakdown. Then once I was softened up by them they violated my human rights and laughed about it. I am now a different person.. Preoccupied with the constant battle of paperwork and unable to have normal relationships with other people because I only have one topic of conversation
      ..

      • re_present

        when people need support *just to go through the process of fighting for support* then there is something very wrong.

        When that process causes harm. :/

    • truckerlyn

      On top of that they were confirming to her that she truly was useless and worthless, which is most often what people with depression think and believe of themselves already. This is quite possibly what pushed her over the edge and caused her to end her life. It is a tragedy that could well have been avoided if the people actually dealing with all of this had any knowledge at all of what it was they were actually dealing with! Every single individual is just that, an individual and every single individual will be different, even if their illnesses are the same. Governments of late seem to have decided that we are all the same and that we should, consequently, all fit into the same sized little box! I have no idea what to do to convince that they are totally deluded and us all fitting neatly into their little boxes will never, ever happen! One size most definitely DOES NOT fit all!

  • Sain TDpac

    In April 2017, the DWP will further cut down on us ‘scroungers’ by reducing the amount of ESA that new claimants can claim. Anyone interested in protesting outside Caxton House in London?

    • re_present

      Yes 🙂

  • Paula Czarnecki

    Instead of denying any responsibility for this poor lady’s death, the DWP should be dealing with the point that a person having had 4 heart attacks and a bowel condition needing daily treament from carers doesn’t qualify for our main disability allowance! That’s before we even start to consider the fibro which is a diagnosed, serious condition! I am getting more angry by the day. We await to hear from the DWP at present having submitted our teenager’s application form (migrating from DLA). I am also angry that the people of this country will march in their thousands to prevent a foreign President from visiting this country (vile though he is) but will completely ignore the cruel and heartless treatment meted out to thousands of its most vulnerable citizens!

    • TM

      I couldn’t agree with you more, sign a petition to stop a corrupt man speaking in a corrupt building yes absolutely over a million in days – sign a petition to get the tories to accept UN findings of Gross and Systematic Abuse of disabled people er nah can’t be bothered. Thousands on the streets to prevent President Agent Orange coming but the UK government killing its own citizens not even slightly. I’m sick of it, personally I have never felt as disabled as I do now and I’m fed up of virtue signaling, megaphone politics and an ineffectual political system that has allowed this killing, cos lets call it for what it is, to continue.

  • maureen drennan

    What the point in cutting money from.people depriving them of basics like heat and a bit of comfort, especially when folk are unwell.? Its Insane!

    • Unfortunately that’s how our beloved government operates, they don’t for one minute consider the impact of their decisions.

      • Brian Yates

        They do consider every action they take but they just don’t care about working class, old, poor, sick, and disabled, that has been the Coservative policy I have witnessed my whole life the 80s were bad with thatcher and now they’re indirectly murdering the “useless eaters” as they call the old, sick, and disabled, the aristocracy are brought up believing that the lower classes are commodities and when they have to many it is time to get rid of the least profitable ones, the David ike conspiracy theory is that the aristocracy are all reptilians but the fluid running in their inhuman veins is colder than any snakes.

        • truckerlyn

          Good points, but I sincerely do not believe it is JUST the conservatives, the other parties have had as much to do with this as well. Maybe, if more people had voted UKIP this debacle may well have changed by now! We all know that all we get when we keep voting the same bunch of wealthy ignoramuses we will just get the ‘same old, same old, rubbish’.

      • truckerlyn

        I believe their problem is they don’t live on the same planet as the rest of us! Therefore they have absolutely no idea of what suffering many of their actions and decisions causes simply because it does not affect THEM!

  • donald

    How about making the real scroungers pay: the Governments’ rich tax avoiding chums?

  • Phil Tutty

    Do you have a link to the original news story. The only sources I can find are you and Black Triangle. I can’t even find an obituary for a Margaret Susan Roberts in Tunbridge Wells and I’ve been looking for half an hour or so. I’ve even searched for coroners reports from September of last year and nothing comes up, so could you please link me to the original source.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Phil, there is no original story. This is an exclusive. The inquest was not covered by local media. You’ll see from the DWP and Motability comments that this is a genuine story.

      • Phil Tutty

        The question I would have is this. The article states that a verdict of suicide was not recorded by the coroner. The quote you have from the DWP says “Suicide is a complex issue”. Those 2 things do not match up. The DWP very rarely comments on individual cases, as you put in the article, they didn’t even send anyone to the inquest.

        Whilst inquest verdicts are not routinely reported by the media they are reported by the coroners who carry them out.

        I’m not trying to be difficult, I just want some actual evidence.

        • You’re right, they don’t often comment on individual cases. On this occasion, they did. Coroners often do not record a verdict of suicide if there is not a note left. In this case, there wasn’t. I’m afraid I’m not going to share the DWP statement with you but feel free to contact DWP if you don’t believe me. I would hope you might trust my integrity. Sadly it seems you don’t.

          • Phil Tutty

            It’s not your integrity I’m questioning, it’s everyone’s. We live now in an age where people don’t question what is presented to them as news. I always do. You don’t appear to have any evidence that what you say happened happened. There are no obituaries for a Margaret Susan Roberts in the timeframe you have set out. There is no coroners report in Kent for that name in the timeframe you set out.

            The obituaries I have found for that name are from 2012 and earlier.

            We don’t know each other, but they call me Red Phil. I firmly believe that the Tories don’t care what happens to the poor, sick, and disabled in this country, and that we have to fight every single injustice that they cast down on the country.

            The only way we can do that is with the truth and with evidence. You seem not to be providing any evidence as to what you are saying is true.

          • Yes I do. You’re just not accepting it. I have comments on her death from both DWP and Motability. I’m sorry there wasn’t an obituary. There often isn’t. But I can assure you that DWP would not be commenting on the death of a PIP claimant if that PIP claimant had not died. I’m afraid I’m extremely busy, so won’t be responding to any more of your comments on this. Feel free of course to email me.

          • Phil Tutty

            You don’t quote named sources at either the DWP or Motability. The only evidence for this story is this story.

            I’m not saying that it’s true or false, what I’m asking the readers to do is consider the evidence for this story, and the lack of any external verification.

            If this story is true it’s a disgrace, if you’ve made any part of it up you are a disgrace. I sincerely hope it’s the former.

          • Marge Peta Storrow-Servranckx

            If you want to question news at least get the persons name correct! Again, please show some respect to my Mum, Family and Disability News Service!

          • Marge Peta Storrow-Servranckx

            You are one stupid, nasty man! Having a go at DNS when in fact its you that is at fault here..you cant even get my Mums name correct. The reason you failed to find evidence is that you yourself made the mistake of searching news on the wrong person! How stupid have you made yourself look Sir!

          • Phil Tutty

            At this point there is nothing that I can say that makes the situation better. If I defend myself then I will again be accused of upsetting you and having no respect for the family. If I question anything at all I will be in the wrong. You have all made your decision on me, that’s something I will have to live with. All I did was politely question the news presented in front of me. I didn’t call anyone any names, I made no judgement, all I wanted was a more complete picture of what had occurred. If that offends you, my apologies again.

            I won’t answer again, I have no wish to antagonize any of you any further. If you can’t accept that no malice was meant in my enquiry, and there wasn’t there is nothing more I can do.

          • That’s nonsense, Phil, and there is nothing ‘polite’ about accusing a journalist of fabricating a story about a person taking their own life. And I’d like everyone reading this to know that I twice (or possibly three times) offered to try to provide you with the evidence that you were apparently seeking, and each time you ignored my offer. Very sad. And also quite suspicious.

          • Marge Peta Storrow-Servranckx

            You, Sir, cant even admit that you were in the wrong from the very beginning!

        • Marge Peta Storrow-Servranckx

          My name is Hayley Storrow-Servranckx. The reason, you are so bothered about, only finding 2 links regarding this ‘article’ which its not it’s my Mother’s wish to be heard, is the FACT i only contacted certain people..actually 3 in all regarding the tragic loss of my Mother and the wrong doing’s of our government and their murderous reforms! You have no right asking for actual evidence or for the Coroner’s report! The FACT of the matter is my Mother is dead. I saw her body. I was at the inquest! not the fact you require this and that! Please can you show our Family some dignified respect at this sad time!

          • Phil Tutty

            My condolences. Losing a parent is not easy under any circumstances. If I have upset you or your family please find it within you to accept my sincere apology.

          • Mandy Mullen

            Hi I see nothing in your reply of any sympathy for this family and the awful distressing way this poor woman died! I find your comments challenging to this service, that are heret o support and help disabled people. From your comments so far, Im wondering do you work for the DWP. My sincere condolences to this lady’s family.

  • Mandy Mullen

    Hi so sad this poor lady had to take her own life! This country needs to concentrate on the people that desperately need help in this country. I have every sympathy believe me for the poor people suffering in these war torn countries. But what about the people in Britain? It seems to me millions of pounds are sent abroad for every crisis. Are disabled people paying the cost.! And yet more and more illegal people enter the country daily and are given benefits and housing. I ask the question,are cuts made to the needy , to make Britain look great to the rest of the world .

    • Lisa.

      It’s a disgrace. I am appealing against ESA stopping. I suffer both mental and physically.I am petrified of crowds. I had to sit today for 45 mins in dwp to hand in a sick note in a room mainly full of men. My worst fear. During that time I couldn’t stop a panic attack and crying. Nobody came to help.
      It’s disgusting. My heart goes out to this lady and her family.

      • Mandy Mullen

        Hi Lisa completely understand how your illness affects you. My daughter has been suffering with exactly the same things as you, for 15 years and will not apply for pip, becsuse of the disgraceful hurdles.A disgrace how this government says it’s all about human rights! It’s a joke to put people with mental health illness and disabilities in situations where they are made to feel like a fraud, having to prove themselves to people who have no idea how an individual’s life is affected day to day..Good luck x

    • She didn’t have to take her own life, that’s the misconception here, she was forced by her undeniably impossible situation, many are weaker than most and cannot find the strength to continue or make a stand and fight for your RIGHT to the benefits they have summarily stopped. It’s not hard to feel that pressured by everything around you, let alone deal with physical illness, I for example was diagnosed with a suspected DVT yesterday, after having been bed ridden with a kidney infection over Christmas (incidentally that’s when the DWP called me to tell me they stopped my ESA).

    • truckerlyn

      Excellent points and I agree wholeheartedly

  • TM

    I didn’t pursue to appeal because I thought it would push me over the edge and settled for daily living. It didn’t help that the DWP did a mandatory reconsideration without me asking and therefore denied a chance of being able to supply any more evidence. The DWP are acting with impunity and I can’t see it getting any better with Damien’s Green Paper already citing work as cure. And yes if I am denied social security in the future I will be left with a very limited choice a choice of one in fact.

    • angela cawthra

      You get disallowed for working too, I have attended appeals with clients who now no longer work because they have lost their cars.

  • Jasmine Poppy

    We all have a right to a home assessment and you must ask for a person who knows about your illness like Fibromyalgia . They have to provide a doctor to do the assessment ,never go to them as they say if you can come here for the assessment you are fit to work and if they still say no l would suggest go to your local MP . l had to go to my MP to get a home visit ,he said it was my right to have a home visit . stay strong in your fight to get the help you need .

    • Marge Peta Storrow-Servranckx

      My MP was useless and passed the buck..hense why i contacted DNS

  • re_present

    Despicable. And inhumane. Another person lost to PIP.

    Many people know that the PIP system is deeply flawed but may not be aware how it is especially ignorant of ‘hidden’ disabilities and systemic disorders.

    So is 99% of medical profession – both conventional and complementary – though this is changing – slowly.

    These exhausting and debilitating conditions are almost always a key factor behind depression, anxiety and ‘mental health’ problems, which are hyper focussed on and yet reports of physical symptoms are discredited or sidelined both in diagnosis *and* support.

    This is gaslighting and an abuse of human rights.

    This is happening to the people who are least able to stand up for themselves or their needs.

    It’s impossible to diagnose from a distance but ALL of the symptoms that Susan was experiencing would fit an autonomic disorder diagnosis.

    If you have long term issues with exhaustion, gut problems, chronic pain and resulting mental health issues please get screened for autonomic disorders – even if your symptoms don’t seem that severe.

    My condolences to the family, and thanks to them for making this public.