The story of how a 73-year-old pensioner received a letter essentially telling him he had died shows what monumental mistakes a UK government department is capable of but it also reveals far more about how people are treated once a loved one has died.
Roy Bridges lost his wife of 43 years, Edna recently. As you can imagine he was beside himself with grief after sharing the best part of his life with her. Therefore the last thing he needed on the morning of her funeral was a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions which bore an unforgivable mistake.
The letter read, Dear Mr Bridges, we are sorry to learn of the death of Mr Roy Bridges.
Right, well that’s fabulous, a letter basically telling Mr Bridges that he has died. This is obviously a ridiculous mistake to make as a simple proofread of this note should have made anyone with two brain cells think, hang on is this right? ‘This letter is addressed to a Mr Bridges, informing him that a Mr Bridges has died. A little odd’. But no, either no proofreading took place or the mistake was simply not spotted.
But this glaring mistake was actually only the tip of the iceberg when it came to what followed. The whole purpose of the letter was not to send its commiserations on a death. It was actually to inform Mr Bridges that there were to be no further payments of benefit in the name of Mr Bridges and if anyone was found to be receiving any benefit in the name of Mr Bridges in the future they would have to pay it back.
So there we have a fantastic insight into what goes on once a loved one has died. The surviving partner is expected to accept such a letter, pretty much accusing them of trying to cheat the benefit system by claiming in the name of the deceased, so soon after their partner has died. There’s nothing like a bit of sensitivity is there?
So Mr Bridges, who we know is well and truly alive, was faced with the drama of having to telephone the Department of Work and Pensions on the morning of his wife’s funeral to try and clear up the mistake.
He said it could not have been worse timing but that is putting it mildly. This poor man, who fought for his country and has medals to prove it, was on the phone for almost an hour trying to resolve this mistake and so who ever was on the other end of the line was obviously not computing what he was trying to tell them. You can hear them now, “Well we’ve got down here it was a Mr Bridges who died.” Ridiculous.
Mr Bridges said he almost felt too ill to attend his wife’s funeral after the ordeal. Who can blame him but how terrible if he had been too ill to attend and say farewell to her.
The Department of Work and Pensions have said the error was down to a computer glitch and have apologised. To the staff it may seem a simple and unavoidable mistake but here we see just how costly a simple mistake can be. And a computer glitch certainly cannot be blamed for their penny-pinching insensitivity.