Abandoned: Bereaved family slam DWP for disability payment delays

The family of a woman found dead and penniless at her home has slammed the government for a six month delay in paying her disability benefits.

Annette Francis was found at her home in Garston two weeks ago, leaving behind her 11-year-old son Kieron.

Annette had suffered from severe mental illness, but lost her benefits after the disability living allowance (DLA) was scrapped by the government last year.

Family members say she applied for the personal independence payments (PIP) that replaced them, but delays to the assessment process meant she did not receive a penny in benefits in the six months leading up to her death.

"Annette was penniless because she had no money coming in from the benefits people," her Aunt Ann Sorotos told the Liverpool Echo.

"I'm disgusted with them and think Annette was really badly let down."

Annette had received DLA for ten years until it was scrapped last year. She applied for the new scheme in October but did not receive any payments before her death.

A National Audit Office report earlier this year found there was already a backlog of 92,000 PIP assessments by that time.

"She never got any of her PIP money. Up to the day she died she never got it," her aunt told the Echo.

"What was she meant to live off in the meantime?

"I had to keep telling her to get down to the job centre to keep the pressure on.

"It caused her a lot of stress. She couldn't afford to get the bus down to come and see her son who was staying with me before she died."

Annette is thought to have suffered from bipolar disorder. An inquest into the cause of her death is yet to be held.

A committee of MPs warned earlier this year that major backlogs in assessments mean that some people are being forced to wait longer than six months to receive any benefits.

They warned that this 'dire situation' had caused severe financial difficulties and stress to already vulnerable people.

Her local MP, Maria Eagle said she was shocked by the delays at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

"I am shocked but unfortunately not surprised to hear of PIP applications taking this length of time to determine," she said.

"To the extent that this causes severe difficulties for vulnerable people, it is utterly deplorable.

"The DWP should get their act together on PIP as soon as possible because frequently people like Annette are in no position to look after their own interests as well as those in good health may be able to."

A DWP spokesperson said they could not comment on individual cases.

"It would be inappropriate to comment on this case at this time. We are committed to getting PIP claims processed as quickly as possible."