20 May 2021
What: Lawyers for the family of Errol Graham unearth a second document that suggests that DWP does, or at least did in the past, have a duty of care to protect disabled benefit claimants. It is a copy of pre-2016 internal guidance for DWP staff, written to assist them in dealing with claimants who need support in using its services, and it states: “Where the claimant has a known background of mental illness there are minimum requirements that Jobcentre Plus should be adopting to ensure that we are not found to be neglectful in our duty of care towards these claimants.” Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey has repeatedly told MPs that her department does not have a legal duty to “safeguard” its claimants, and that such tasks are instead the responsibility of local agencies such as social services departments and doctors’ surgeries. It is the second DWP internal document, both dating from before 2016, that mention DWP’s ongoing duty of care to claimants. The other document was a DWP peer review.
Why significant: If DWP does have a legal duty of care, it would make it easier to force the department – through the courts or other means – to take measures to ensure the safety and well-being of benefit claimants.