Dealing with the loss of a loved one, especially a parent, is difficult enough. However, one daughter had more on her plate than any grieving child should have at a time like that. Her life got turned upside down.
It all happened due to a clerical error.
Louise Broxton was suffering from a neurological condition that entitled her draw benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions. However, Louise sadly passed away at the age of 47 due to lung cancer.
Her daughter had to deal with all the details after her death.
As part of the usual post-death obligations, her daughter, Hatti, had to make sure to cancel any cards, etc. that her mother might have had. This also included canceling her mother’s benefits. She immediately went to the DWP in August to inform them of her mother’s death.
As far as she knew, the matter was handled.
Seven months after she had gone to the DWP, however, there was an unexpected knock on her door. When Hatti opened the door, a doctor from the DWP was standing on her doorstep. Hatti was confused by his presence.
When the doctor told her why he was there, Hatti couldn’t believe her ears.
Hatti stood there, dumbstruck as she listened to what this stranger had to say. There in front of her, stood a man asking to see her mother. What made this so ludicrous was not only the fact that she was dead, however.
He was there to assess whether Louise was fit to work.
“It’s our government that has done this to us,” Hatti said. “I’m only 27 and my brother has just turned 17. We’ve been through enough already and we don’t need this. I told the DWP afterwards I’d love to live in the world that the DWP live in, the one where my mum’s still alive. But she’s been gone for seven months.”
“I got an acknowledgement from the DWP themselves to say that mum had died. They stopped paying her benefits and paid the arrears they owed her into my account because I am her next of kin,” Hatti said.
However, there’s more to the story.
“On February 28 we got a letter addressed to mum saying they were going to do a home visit on March 13 to assess her disabilities for ESA. I was furious about it so I decided not to phone them about the mistake,” Hatti stated
“Instead I waited to see if they would actually have the balls to do the home visit.”
“I booked the day off work and stayed at home to wait for someone to come. My cousin came round to support me. The letter stated they’d be coming between 11am and 2pm band they would contact to book an appointment.”
Hatti waited to see what would happen next.
“Obviously they haven’t been able to contact Mum because her phone has been cut off. They had my details as next of kin but they didn’t contact me.” The doctor finally knocked on the door at 1pm and Hatti invited him in.
She led him into the lounge.
When the man saw her cousin on the sofa, he asked if she was Louise. Her cousin responded with ‘No’ then Hatti replied saying: ‘Hang on a minute.’ Hatti then went behind their couch where she had placed the urn with Louise’s ashes.
She turned to the man and said: ‘This is Louise Broxton and you’ve come to assess her?’
“He was completely mortified, as you would be. He apologized and offered his condolences. I told him, ‘I’m not doing this to embarrass you, but the letter and having you on my door today, that’s twice the DWP have missed something.’”
Hatti then asked the man to leave and speak to his superiors.
Ms Broxton believes the DWP missed a number of opportunities to avert the mistake and said she hoped that policies were tightened so no one else had to go through the same situation. “It’s not the case that my mum died a couple of weeks ago.”
“Then a crossover would be understandable and I would accept their apology,” she said.
“After the doctor left, within 10 minutes the DWP rang. The lady apologized and offered her condolences, but after admitting their mistake she tried to leave it at that. That’s not good enough. I want policies in place and procedures to be followed. I don’t want anyone else to be in my situation.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We’ve apologized to Ms Broxton for the distress caused by the administrative error.”