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Sussex family say their James was 'let down' when fighting for benefits while suffering liver disease

James Oliver (left) Photo:

After doctors told him that liver disease would kill him within a year, James Oliver spent the final months of his life fighting pain, and officials at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The 49-year-old father from Sussex was repeatedly assessed as not being 'ill enough' to receive desperately needed benefits. However five months after his death, his family received a letter saying the case was to be reviewed.

His brother Dave is now launching a change.org petition aiming to force a House of Commons debate on the fast-tracking of DWP assessments in cases of terminal illness.

James' brother, Dave Smith Credit: ITV Meridian

If you're in a situation where you can't even walk without struggling, sweating, you can't breathe, and then somebody comes into your home and tells you you've scored 0 points on every factor they assess you on - it would destroy you. It destroyed him."

– Dave Smith, James' brother

In rapid decline from liver disease, James Oliver spent his final months in his basement flat in severe pain, and battling for P.I.P (Personal Independence Payment).

P.I.P is a benefit paid to people with serious disability or illness, and paid at the top rate of around £100 a week in terminal cases.

James had been given a year to live by doctors, and struggled to move just a few yards. However assessors from the DWP scored him zero for PIP.

Assessors from the DWP scored James zero for PIP. Credit: ITV Meridian

When the DWP finally relented, sending a letter inviting James to attend an appeal, he had been dead for five months.

James's case has been taken up by a charity providing nursing care for people living with terminal illness.

Scott Sinclair from the charity Marie Curie says: "We know there are about 17,000 people a year dying while they are waiting for assessments to be done by the DWP. That's a huge issue because obviously people need that time when they're dying to spend time with their family and loved ones. They shouldn't be stressed and worrying about whether they're going to get benefits or not."

In a statement the DWP says: "Our thoughts are with Mr Oliver's family at this difficult time. We are very sorry for the distress caused and are looking into this to prevent it happening again."

  • Watch John Ryall's report below: