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Philippa Day family secure settlement from Capita

The family of Philippa Day, who died following acute financial distress caused by the administration of welfare benefits, have secured a substantial financial settlement from Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) contractor, Capita.

Posted on 03 November 2021

The company, to which the DWP outsourced some of the benefits operations which affected Philippa, has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to her family by way of compensation for their failings and will meet with Philippa’s family to discuss the changes made to prevent another person being treated like Philippa was.

At the conclusion of the inquest into Philippa’s death in January, 2021, assistant coroner Gordon Clow delivered a damning indictment of systemic problems at the Department of Work and Pensions and their agent Capita and concluded Philippa’s mental health illness had been “exacerbated” by the way her benefits were processed. He said: "Were it not for this problem, it is not likely that she would have [taken the act which ended her life] on the 7th or 8th of August."

Philippa died following a long struggle over her Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefits claim in 2019. She was found collapsed by her sister and father on 8 August, 2019, with a letter beside her from the DWP refusing her a home assessment visit over her benefits. She died just over two months later.

As a diabetic Philippa had received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) since she was 16. In November 2018 Philippa made a claim for PIP but the application form she returned to the DWP was not received and her DLA payments were cancelled in January, 2019.

With no disability benefits income, Philippa fell into a spiral of poverty, anxiety and despair. Calls to the DWP and their agents were not treated in accordance with safeguarding policy and it took months for her DLA to be reinstated and she was then refused a home visit for a PIP assessment.

Following the inquest, Philippa’s sister Imogen Day said the constant cold and unsympathetic wall of resistance that she met at Capita was more than she could endure and the refusal of a home assessment by Capita was just too much for her to cope with.

Following the agreement of a settlement with Capita, Imogen Day said:

“Our family have always maintained that my sister’s treatment by the Capita, on behalf of the DWP directly impacted her mental state and in the end is the reason for her death.

“Capita’s wall of bureaucracy, with no consideration for Philippa’s mental state, exacerbated her despair at her debt and poverty. She was met with cold, uncaring call operators who would not listen to her cries for help. However we welcome the opportunity to meet with Capita to discuss improvements to their service.”

“This settlement will in some measure provide for Philippa’s family and a materially stable upbringing for Philippa’s son, but he has lost his mother, and there is nothing Capita can do to put right the wrong that contributed to Philippa’s death.”

Leigh Day partner Merry Varney, who represented the family, said:

“Through this settlement, and the public investigation into how the DWP and its agents treated Philippa, a young mother with physical and mental health conditions which led to damning findings by the Coroner, the law has delivered some accountability for and recognition of the wrongs Philippa suffered and the devastating impact on her family.

“Capita has shown acceptance of their failures and a willingness to ensure their mistakes are not repeated, however there remain too many examples of the DWP, which controls the financial circumstances of the majority of people too sick to work, acting inhumanely to those receiving benefits and a continued resistance by the DWP to transparent investigations into benefit related deaths.

“Until the DWP changes its attitude, people like Philippa and her family remain at risk of gross human rights violations and ‘benefit related deaths’ are just another example of preventable deaths of people with disabilities occurring without any proper investigation or scrutiny.”

Merry Varney
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Merry Varney

Merry is a partner in the human rights department and head of the Leigh Day inquest group

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