-A A +A
Select color visibility that suits you Basic theme Dark theme Darker theme Text only

DWP “hounded disabled woman for years” before her “starvation” death, papers show

22 September 2022

A disabled woman whose body was found in her flat months after all her benefits had been removed “had been hounded for years” by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and repeatedly failed by other public bodies, documents have shown, the Disability News Service (DNS) reports.

Sophia Yuferev, a 37 year old talented artist, who lived with significant mental distress and had a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, had been living on a sandwich a day for the last few months of her life after both her employment and support allowance (ESA) and her personal independence payment (PIP) had been stopped.

Her body was discovered by police in her flat in November last year, weeks after she had died.

Her electricity had been cut off months earlier for non-payment of bills.

Two months before she died, Havering Council sent her a summons for non-payment of council tax, and the previous year she had faced eviction by her housing association for non-payment of rent.

Although her family alerted her mental health team to the financial problems caused by the DWP cutting off her benefits, they say nothing was done to help her.

The DWP has confirmed to the DNS that it has carried out an internal process review (IPR) into the circumstances surrounding Sophia’s death and her benefit claims, although – as with all IPRs – this will be kept secret and not shared with her family.

The DNS also reports that, due to the evidence of failures by several local agencies, a statutory safeguarding adults review (SAR) is likely to take place into her death.

Sophia’s is the latest of countless deaths over the last decade to have been linked to the DWP’s actions and its failure to ensure the safety of its benefit claimants

An inquest in July 2022 concluded that Sophia’s death was due to ketoacidosis of “unknown” cause, but DWP was not asked to give evidence to the inquest.

The inquest had heard that one of the causes of ketoacidosis is starvation, and Sophia had told her mother that she had been living throughout the last summer of her life on one sandwich a day from a local café.

After her death, her family discovered documents that showed how the DWP had hounded Sophia over her benefit claims for several years, with the first documented removal of her ESA dating back to 2014, and evidence of a PIP removal in July 2017.

Although they have only been able to piece together a small part of her interactions with the DWP, the documents her family have collected show both her PIP and ESA were repeatedly removed and then eventually reinstated.

The DWP should have been aware of her significant mental distress, history of suicide attempts and detentions under the Mental Health Act.

The Department has confirmed to DNS that it has carried out an IPR into the circumstances surrounding Sophia’s benefit claims but stressed that this did not mean that it had been found culpable in the circumstances or events leading to Sophia’s death.

It claimed that it did not have a statutory duty of care, although it said that this did not mean that it did not care about claimants.

However, the DWP refused to answer other questions put by DNS about the case, including:

  • how it justified repeatedly removing Sophia’s benefits;
  • whether she was marked on its system as “vulnerable”
  • how many times it had removed and then reinstated Sophia’s PIP and ESA in the last five years of her life
  • whether it had been aware of her history of mental distress and
  • whether it accepted that her ESA and PIP had been wrongly removed in the last months of her life.

Source and for the full report see The DWP hounded disabled woman for years before her ‘starvation’ death, papers show available from disabilitynewsservice.com.

See also our relate news story Secret reviews into DWP deaths have more than doubled in three years.