26 December 2020
What: Philip Pakree, who died on 26 December, had been told he probably needed a heart transplant, while he also had multiple mental health conditions, and had grown increasingly distressed as the date of his WCA approached. He was already claiming ESA, in recognition of the barriers he faced due to diagnoses of personality disorder, depression, anxiety, borderline schizophrenia, adjustment disorder, asthma, a serious heart condition, and a long history of self-harm and suicide attempts. When he was first told, in October 2020, that he would need to undergo a telephone WCA, he had to be admitted to Royal Derby Hospital several days later with breathing difficulties and heart failure, telling his partner: “They do this to me every time.” He was later told the assessment would take place on 4 December, but Maximus – which carries out WCAs on behalf of DWP – eventually agreed to cancel it after it was sent them a letter from his consultant cardiologist that detailed his multiple health conditions. Maximus had also been sent a note from his partner, in which she warned of her “grave concerns for his physical and mental health” and of his state of confusion due to low sodium levels and which said he was not currently well enough to be assessed. But just 19 days later, on 9 December, Maximus sent another letter to Pakree, telling him he would have to make himself available for a WCA, again by telephone because of the pandemic, on New Year’s Eve. It left him “nearly hysterical”, his partner said. “He said he would be better off dead. He wasn’t sleeping. He was getting obsessed that people were talking about him and believed that DWP were part of the SS.” She called Maximus to beg the contractor to reconsider, but a call handler said he would have to take part in the assessment or it would “affect his benefits”, telling her: “It’s been delayed once, we are not delaying it again.” They moved into a bungalow on 23 December, because the mobility problems caused by his heart condition meant he could no longer cope with the stairs in their house. He told his partner on Christmas Day, the day before he died: “I hope I don’t wake up, because I don’t want this.” Early on Boxing Day, she found that he had died in his sleep. He was 49 years old. Although he is believed to have died of natural causes, she said: “As far as I am concerned, the DWP killed him.”
Why significant: Another death clearly and tragically linked to the actions of DWP and its contractors.