Capita in U-turn over claimant death case

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Victoria Smith died last July, before a tribunal overturned the decision to stop her benefits

A benefit assessment company that threatened legal action to reverse “reputational damage” after a claimant died has dropped its case.

Victoria Smith died months after her personal independence payments were stopped following a Capita assessment.

It was told to pay £10,000 over the way it handled her case, but planned to dispute this at Telford County Court.

Capita has now decided not to contest the judgement and has apologised “for any additional distress”.

Ms Smith, from Market Drayton in Shropshire, was agoraphobic and had fibromyalgia, which left her body in constant pain.

The 33-year-old died in July 2018, four months after a Capita healthcare assistant assessed her and found she did not score a single point in the test, leading the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to stop her PIP benefits.

The week after her death, a social security tribunal found she had been eligible.

‘Destroyed my world’

Her mother, Susan Kemlo, pursued legal action against the firm for maladministration and was awarded £10,000.

On Tuesday, Capita said it stood by its employee and argued it did not have a chance to defend itself, leading to “significant reputational damage”.

In a U-turn, the company said on Thursday it had “considered this exceptional case on an individual basis [and] decided not to contest the original default judgement”.

Mrs Kemlo said her daughter’s death had “destroyed my world”.

“Our family will never be the same again,” she said.

Mrs Kemlo was supported by the Unite union, which applauded her “courage and tenacity… in pursuing justice”.

“We hope that Capita and other companies contracted to assess benefit claimants on behalf of the government will now adopt a new and more sympathetic approach,” the union’s head of community, Liane Groves, said.

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