The Department for Work and Pensions has been slammed after a series of cock-ups left an elderly pensioner £26,000 worse off.
The Pensions Service – part of the DWP - failed to send a computerised prompt to her local council that would have automatically triggered a housing benefit claim she was entitled to.
Her family from Essex discovered the mistake, but then were then forced to spend five years battling with officials from the Pension Service who bafflingly refused to put things right.
It only looked properly at the complaint after the woman died aged 90 and then compounded its earlier errors by refusing to compensate the family. Its reason? Staggeringly, the Pension Service said she had died before the complaint had been considered even though it was its own officials who had refused to deal with the complaint while she was alive.
The DWP department fell back on so-called "policy" which the Pension Service wrongly claimed prevented it from compensating the next of kin of people who had died. The Independent Case Examiner investigated the complaint but, astoundingly, upheld the department’s decision.
Eventually the family turned to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman which put things right, forcing the DWP to hand over the money owed as well as compensation for their mistakes.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: "An elderly woman and her family were let down because of service failure and poor complaint handling.
"Our investigation upheld the complaint and recommended that both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Independent Case Examiner apologise to the family and to pay her family the £26,514 plus interest she was owed."
The DWP also agreed to pay the family £1,000 as an apology for their mistakes, while the Independent Case Examiner paid them £250 for its part in the debacle.