A grieving new mum has slammed the 'totally insensitive' Department for Work and Pensions for telling her 'your relationship has now ended' – because her husband was dead.
Mum-of-one Charlotte Linniard returned from the supermarket in November last year to find her husband and new dad Chris dead from a heart attack – at just 32.
The 32-year-old widow contacted the DWP the following day to update her Universal Credit claim to a single person's account after her partner's tragic death just weeks after his daughter's first birthday.
Yet when a member of staff updated her change of circumstances on the online system, she discovered they had written in the 'notes' section: 'your relationship has now ended'.
Distraught by the 'awful' note, Charlotte claims that as far as she is concerned, her relationship has not 'ended' – her husband was simply taken too soon.
Bereavement charity Widowed and Young slammed the DWP for the 'devastating slap in the face for someone who's struggling to come to terms with the death of their soulmate'.
The DWP were forced to 'apologise unreservedly' to Charlotte after she complained and claim they are reviewing their system in light of the incident.
Charlotte, from Reading, Berkshire, said: "When I logged on, I felt awful seeing that.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'm still married. My relationship hasn't ended – he was taken from us.
"It's always going to be awful regardless, but it's one of those things. It's annoyed and upset me.
"I'm sure many other people in my situation feel the same.
"I complained when I spoke to someone last week. I explained something should be done about it because it's really insensitive.
"They all blame it on this computer system, but it must be controlled by people?
"Something so personal shouldn't be the responsibility of a computer."
At the end of last year, Charlotte arrived home from grocery shopping to find Chris, who was looking after their daughter, had passed away.
After performing CPR, new dad and business owner Chris was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Now Charlotte and their little girl Livvy, 21-months-old, are coming to terms with life without their much-loved husband and dad.
Charlotte said: "Chris' death was very sudden and unexpected.
"He was fit, healthy, not overweight, had never smoked. He just suddenly wasn't there anymore.
"I'm the one who found him and did CPR but it was too late.
"The next day I put a message on my universal credit account saying that my husband had died and I didn't know what to do.
"They sent me a letter saying I would get the couple's element for three months, then it would go down to a single person's claim.
"I knew that had to happen and I thought it would happen automatically, since I'd informed them.
"A woman called a few weeks ago and said I was still on a joint claim.
"She said I needed to manually log in to [change] it. I didn't want to do that – it would be too difficult [emotionally].
"She offered to do it for me and that's how it changed. When I logged in to check it, I saw that note.
"Even if I had had a break-up, it's still not nice to see anyway. There should be an option for if you're widowed.
"They shouldn't put it on me to go on there and tick 'my relationship's over'.
"Although it's an automatic computer thing, it's still set up by a human."
When Charlotte initially complained to the DWP staff over the phone about their terminology, she claims she was told it was an automated computer.
Charlotte said: "When I complained to a member of staff, he simply said it was an automated computer. It's not on. It's hard enough.
"I wasn't expecting anything from DWP. The guy was apologetic, but it seemed like he was saying 'that's how it is'.
"It has been hard. Generally people don't understand unless it's happened to them.
"I'm a member of Widowed and Young – a charity for widowed people under 50.
"It can be quite difficult at times to relate to people, but being part of the charity really helps."
After the Department for Work and Pensions was contacted, a spokesperson confirmed staff would be reviewing its system for the future.
A spokesperson for the DWP said: "We have contacted Mrs Liddiard to apologise unreservedly for the distress caused.
"We're reviewing and improving our systems to ensure this is addressed."
Source: Read Full Article