The week after she died, a tribunal panel overturned the Department for Work and Pensions’ decision, deciding that Victoria was eligible for a PIP award that she had been refused.
Victoria Smith [pictured] passed away last July aged just 33, within weeks of being told she was not eligible for Personal Independence Payments (PIP). Her family have been awarded £10,000 in damages
Victoria’s mother, Sue Kemlo, sued Capita for making inaccurate statements on Victoria’s health assessment. However, Capita told the BBC it stood by the original decision.
Her mother, Sue Kemlo, told the BBC: “If they hadn’t cut her PIP, my daughter would still be here.” Victoria suffered from agoraphobia and fibromyalgia, which left her in constant and severe pain.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) wrote to Victoria in early 2018 to tell her she needed to be re-assessed for the benefit, which is intended to help with the additional costs of having a disability, and to support disabled people in living as independently as possible.
In March, 2018, Victoria was re-assessed at home by a healthcare professional employed by Capita. The assessment led the DWP to decide she was no longer eligible for PIP, a conclusion her mother said “was a pack of lies”.
Victoria immediately asked for a mandatory review but was again refused her PIP award by the DWP. She received the decision in June, shortly after she was admitted to hospital. The decision “destroyed” her, her mother said.
“When they took away her ability to look after herself, to have a way of life, she gave up.”
Victoria died of a brain haemorrhage. However, her doctors told the family that her underlying conditions, particularly the fibromyalgia, had deteriorated as well.
The week after she died, a tribunal panel overturned the DWP’s decision, deciding that Victoria was eligible for PIP.
Furious with the conclusions the Capita employee had reached, Victoria’s mother took legal action against the company for maladministration; on the grounds that the Capita assessor made inaccurate statements in the report.
The family has now been awarded £10,000 in damages.
“I didn’t do it for the money,” said Mrs Kemlo.
“I did it for them to admit they were wrong, to get some justice for my daughter, because (it’s) only ever been about justice for Victoria.”
In a statement to the BBC, Capita said: “We offer our deepest condolences to the family in this very tragic case.
“We have reviewed this at a senior clinical level and we are confident that our report was correct based on the information presented to us at the time of the assessment.
“Our full response to the claim was not considered by the Court as a result of a procedural issue, and as a consequence judgment in default has been entered into against us.
“We have asked the Court to investigate the procedural issue and we are expecting a response from the Court shortly.”
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