The number of people who had their disability benefits stopped for failing to return a reassessment form plummeted following the death of a young disabled mum in 2019, new figures have revealed.
The figures show that, from 2016 to 2019, there were roughly 20,000 “disallowances” a year of disability living allowance (DLA) from disabled people who had failed to return the PIP2 re-assessment form to apply for the new personal independence payment (PIP) benefit.
The number of monthly disallowances reached nearly 3,000 in September 2019, according to the figures obtained by Disability News Service following a freedom of information request.
The following month, 27-year-old Philippa Day (pictured, with her son), from Nottingham, died in hospital after falling into a coma on 7 or 8 August 2019.
A coroner later concluded that flaws in the PIP system were “the predominant factor and the only acute factor” that led to her taking her own life.
Her life had begun to spiral out of control in January 2019 when DWP stopped her DLA after it did not receive the PIP2 form she had posted to the department.
From November 2019, the number of DLA disallowances for failing to return the PIP2 form began to fall.
The following year, there were less than 9,000 DLA disallowances – a fall of more than 10,000 in just one year – in 2021 there were about 5,000, and in the year to October 2022 there were just 4,000, with an average of about 400 a month, compared with 2,898 in September 2019.
DWP refused to say this week if it took action in late 2019 or early 2020 as a direct result of Philippa Day’s death.
Marsha De Cordova, the disabled Labour MP who has been asking parliamentary questions about disallowances, said: “It is completely wrong and unacceptable that nearly 20,000 people a year between 2016 and 2019 had their DLA and PIP disallowed due to them not returning their reassessment forms.
“This has led to hardship for many ill and disabled people and in some cases death, such as that of Philippa Day.
“By failing to implement safeguards until 2019, it shows the level of disdain the government have for disabled people.
“All the evidence shows how the Conservatives in government have created a hostile environment for disabled people.
“The government must apologise to everyone that has been impacted by this cruel policy, commit to greater transparency and ensuring that no-one is left worse off for not returning their reassessment forms.”
Philippa Day’s sister Imogen said the number of disallowances in the years before her sister’s death was “horrifying” and “shocking”.
She said she was “terrified” by the thought that other disabled people could have lost their lives because they had unfairly lost their DLA.
She said the figures appeared to show a clear decline in disallowances in the months after her sister’s death.
She said: “I am pleased that it’s downward trending but it’s still not enough.”
DWP refused to say if it took action on DLA disallowances after it learned of Philippa Day’s death; refused to apologise for those who lost their lives after having their DLA removed for not returning their PIP2 forms; and refused to say how many other claimants it believed had lost their lives in similar circumstances.
But a DWP spokesperson said in a statement: “To ensure we continue to provide the necessary protection and support to our most vulnerable customers we keep our processes under constant review and ensure all staff are provided with appropriate guidance and training.”
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