A woman has called a government agency ‘absolutely disgusting’ after she mistakenly sent them a letter saying her 15-month-old baby had died.
Donna Johnson, 31, said she wrote to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in April this year about securing disability benefit for her daughter, Rosabella.
But she felt physically ill when she opened a letter from the agency which read: ‘I am sorry to hear that Miss Rosabella Johnson has passed away.
The scared mum-of-four, who had recently lost an uncle, then rushed upstairs to cradle her precious baby girl and check on her if she was still okay.
A furious Johnson said she then called the DWP – which initially refused to provide funding for her daughter – and received an apology from an agent over the phone.
However, the stay-at-home mother said she had lost faith in the agency and suspected her daughter may have been mistaken for another child.
“I should never have received that letter. The way they worded it was absolutely disgusting. I felt physically ill,” she said.
“I had literally just put Rosabella to bed, and I ran upstairs to cuddle her as I was getting completely freaked out by stuff like this.
“I called them and all they could say was that they were sorry. But that’s not the point.
“Did they look at two claims at the same time and mistake her for a different child? It’s not like she has a common name – it’s very unique.”
Johnson, from Leeds in West Yorkshire, England, applied for Disability Living Allowance in April on behalf of Rosabella, who suffers from hip dysplasia, scoliosis and torticollis.
The conditions, affecting the child’s spine, hips and neck muscles, mean she needs round-the-clock care from her family and regular hospital check-ups.
Johnson said her daughter needed surgery to put her left hip back in place and would face major surgery as an adult – and was not allowed to bounce or jump.
But after her application was filed on the DWP system on May 3, Johnson received a response from the agency in July saying her daughter was not entitled to any benefits.
She said: “I got the decision on July 21, and it basically said she was going to feel better by December 2022.
“I’m not sure where they got that information from because it’s never going to get better.”
Just under a week later, on July 27, Johnson received another letter from DWP – only this time the agency told him that his daughter was now deceased.
She said: “Literally a week later I got this letter so I called the DWP.
“They tried to ask me to send the letter back to them and said Rosabella will be fine by December 6 – obviously claiming to know more than me and her consultant.
“All they could do was apologize, but they couldn’t give me any information.”
Johnson said her 6-year-old son Alfie, who has autism, was in the room when she read the letter to her husband in shock.
Alfie spent the rest of the day wondering if his sister Rosabella was going to pass away.
She said: “When I got the letter, my husband couldn’t understand why I was going crazy, so I just read it to him, and basically Alfie was sitting on the other sofa.
“All day he asked if Rosabella was going to die.”
Johnson now thinks Rosabella’s application may have been confused with that of another candidate and she worries her child won’t get the funding she needs.
She said: “I think that’s what they did. I don’t know where they got the information about her from – and that she will be fine by the end of this year.”
A DWP spokesperson apologized for the error and said the agency was reviewing Johnson’s benefit application on behalf of her daughter.
They said: “We apologize unreservedly for any distress caused by our correspondence with Ms Johnson, as we addressed her directly by telephone.
“[Disability Living Allowance] is awarded based on the impact of a disability on a child and the amount depends on the amount of care and supervision they require.
“Decisions are made using the information we have at the time.
“We have received Ms Johnson’s request for reconsideration and are currently processing it.”
Produced in collaboration with SWNS.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.