An 81-year-old woman killed herself when her pension was frozen because of an administrative error. Joy Worrall, from the village of Rhes-y-Cae in Flintshire, was found dead in a quarry near her home in November last year.
Her son Ben Worrall spoke at her inquest in Ruthin, North Wales, on May 9. According to the BBC, he told the Ruthin court that after her death, the family found that her pension had been stopped.
Here’s the 19 seconds of coverage BBC Wales gave to Joy Worrall’s death. pic.twitter.com/Ygbw1OsIVi
— I was a JSA claimant (@imajsaclaimant) May 9, 2019
He also said that his mother was generally reluctant to talk about her problems but had previously said that if she was in difficulty—health or finance-wise—she would “throw herself at the quarry.”
“My mother felt she couldn’t discuss her finances with anyone,” he said, according to the BBC.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)—a government department in the United Kingdom responsible for welfare and pension policy—apologised “unreservedly” for the error and “pledge to learn the lessons.”
Basic Pension Should Have Continued
Ben said that his mother had been fit and healthy, and that he was speaking to her three to four times a week, and last talked to her on Nov. 19, The Guardian reported.
According to the Guardian, on Nov. 21, Ben was alerted by a friend who asked him where his mother was. He notified the police when he could not find her or her car upon arriving at her cottage in Church Terrace, Rhes-y-Cae.
The following morning, a search and rescue team found her body at bottom of a 40-foot face of the Rhes-y-Cae quarry.
He later found that his mother, a divorcee, had been receiving a state pension as well as pension credits.
In 2014, Joy had told the DWP that she had received an inheritance. In July 2017, her situation was reassessed and at this time, the DWP froze both her pension credits and her ordinary state pension. But they should have only frozen the pension credits. As such, she was left with no income whatsoever.
Ben said that his mother only had 5 pounds (about $6.50) to her name when she died and had apparently spent all of her savings of 5,000 pounds (about $6,508) after the DWP froze her entire pension.
He said at the inquest that at the time, her death was a shock and there had been so many unanswered questions, according to North Wales Live.
Son of pensioner who killed herself after DWP stopped her pension in error, leaving her with just £5 to her name, breaks his silence
Joy Worrall, 81, did not receive a single penny for 18 months due to an error by the DWP
— Socialist Voice ???? (@SocialistVoice) May 9, 2019
According to North Wales Live, according to a letter read at the inquest by DWP’s complaints resolution manager, Suzanne Mitchelson, Joy’s two pension payments should have been “de-combined.”
“I am sorry that due to an administrative error, this did not happen,” the letter from Michelson read.
Coroner John Gittins recorded a verdict of suicide, according to the news outlet.
After the hearing, Ben said that the DWP had been “guilty of a failure of duty of care,” North Wales Live reported.
He added that “it’s a disgrace how this can happen in modern society and what concerns me is that this could happen to someone else.”
According to the Guardian, a spokesman from the DWP said: “Our 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.”
David Hanson, Labour MP for Delyn, said he has asked the DWP to make sure the same tragedy cannot occur again.
“With the support of and at the request of the family I have asked [the DWP] to urgently review this verdict on Joy’s Death,” he said in a post on Twitter.
The inquest was held today for my constituent joy worrall – with the support of and at the request of the family I have asked dept of work and pensions to urgently review this verdict on joys death – Flintshire woman killed herself ‘after pension error’ https://t.co/DfWxntdm8y
— David Hanson (@DavidHansonMP) May 9, 2019
If you or someone you know is showing signs that they might be suicidal, you can call or text for help.
In the United Kingdom, suicide hotline Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or one can email email@example.com.
In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255.
In Australia, the crisis support service hotline is 13 11 14.