The Government has been heavily criticised after a series of blunders left an elderly pensioner £26,000 worse off.
The Pension Service – part of the Department for Work and Pensions – failed to send a computerised prompt to the woman’s council that would have automatically triggered a housing benefit claim she was entitled to. Her family who are from Essex, discovered the mistake, but were forced to spend five years battling with government officials from the Pension Service who, according to the family, had refused to correct the problem.
The Pension Service did not look at the complaint until the woman died, aged 90, and then it refused to compensate the family. The service said she had died before it had had time to consider the complaint. However, it was the agency’s own officials who had refused to deal with the complaint while she was alive, the family said.
The DWP fell back on “policy” which the pension service wrongly claimed prevented it from compensating the next of kin of people who had died. The Independent Case Examiner investigated the complaint but, to the family’s astonishment, upheld the department’s decision.
Eventually, the family turned to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which put things right, forcing the DWP to hand over the money owed plus compensation for its mistakes.The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor, said: “An elderly woman and her family were let down because of service failure and poor complaint handling.
“Our investigation upheld the complaint and recommended that both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Independent Case Examiner apologise to the family and pay her family the £26,514 plus interest that she was owed.”
The DWP also agreed to pay the family £1,000 as an apology for its mistakes, while the Independent Case Examiner paid them £250 for its part in the debacle