Whilst giving evidence to the Work and Pension Select Committee Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, the new boss of the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) casually claimed that the department does not have a legal duty or statutory requirement to safeguard vulnerable benefit claimants.
Referring to a letter Dr Coffey had sent the Committee following her appearance before the committee on 22 July, Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, a former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary asked: “I notice in the second page of this letter a backtracking on [your position in the evidence session on 22 July 2020] when you say the DWP does not have a duty of care or a statutory safeguarding duty. Given that you provide services to vulnerable people … should there be? And shouldn’t there also be a moral obligation under the government in recognition of the services they provide to vulnerable people?”
In her response, Coffey stated that she did not think it was the responsibility of the DWP to have that statutory duty. “We are not the local council, social services, the doctors and other people …” she added dismissively.
Not only does Coffey’s response show a lack of concern over the well-being of disabled claimants, it also means that their safety is not at the forefront of DWP policy and that any harm they cause to vulnerable people is not their responsibility!
It certainly explains their reluctance to engage with the issue of the deaths of disabled claimants due to draconian DWP policies and procedures.