81-Year-Old Woman Kills Herself After Pension Error Left Her With No Money

By Meka Beresford, Freelance News Editor 10 May 2019
Economic, Equality

An 81-year-old woman killed herself after she was left with no money due to an administrative error which froze her pension. 

Joy Worrall had just £5 in her account when she decided to jump from a quarry and end her life, a decision that her family said was motivated by shame.

The pensioner had been receiving a state pension topped up by pension credits, but in July 2017 her situation was reassessed after she declared she had received some inheritance in 2014.

Instead of just stopping the credits, the Department for Work and Pensions also stopped her state pension and left Mrs Worrall to survive on the £5000 she had in savings for over a year until she took her life in November 2018.

A Proud Woman Let Down By The DWP
Image Credit: Pixabay

An inquest heard how the 81-year-old had always threatened that she would kill herself rather than turn to family for help if she encountered any serious health or money problems.

Her son, Ben Worrall, told the inquest that he often spoke to his mother throughout the week, and the last time he spoke to her, around two days before her death, she had seemed fine.

He was contacted two days later by a friend who had not seen his mother. Mr Worrall contacted emergency services when he could not find his mother or her car, and her body was later found at the foot of the quarry.

It’s a disgrace how this can happen in modern society.

Ben Worrall, Joy Worrall’s son

“My mother was a proud woman who was simply left without any capital,” he told the inquest.

“I feel we have been let down by the DWP who have failed in their duty of care. It’s a disgrace how this can happen in modern society and what concerns me is that this could happen to someone else,” he added.

In a statement, a spokesperson for DWP said that their “thoughts” are with the family and friends of Mrs Worrall.

“We apologise unreservedly to Mrs Worrall’s family for the error that led to her pension payments being stopped and pledge to learn the lessons,” the spokesperson said.

Errors That Can’t Be Undone

Crying woman

Image credit: Pixabay

Mrs Worrall’s case isn’t the only instance where a DWP error has led to death, with the Universal Credit and Work Capability Assessment systems meaning that seriously unwell people are fighting for survival.

The system has faced swathes of criticism as a 30 billion pound cut to welfare means some disabled and terminally ill people are being deemed fit to work.

In some cases, like that of Stephen Smith, these unwell people end up fighting with the Department of Work and Pensions from their deathbed. In other cases, they see no other route and decide to take their own life.

These are the real-life tragedies of a broken system.

Laura Pidcock, MP for North West Durham

MPs like Laura Pidcock, the MP for North West Durham, are calling for a major overhaul of the system.

“[The government are] literally taking money from people who are disabled, unwell or dying and what are the worst consequences of this system? The ultimate result of this brutality? Jodie Whiten took her life 15 days after the DWP stopped her benefits for missing a work capability assessment when she was seriously ill. 

“These are the real-life tragedies of a broken system. They are not individual problems, they are systemic failings,” Pidcock said in her speech in Parliament. 

Main Image Credit: North Wales Police