A much-delayed adult safeguarding review has finally been published nearly five years after Errol Graham’s death. The review found that opportunities to help Mr Graham, who had severe mental illness and starved to death, were missed.
Mr Graham was found dead in his Nottingham flat in 2018, eight months after his employment support allowance (ESA) was withdrawn. He was suffering severe mental health problems and the review found that he could have received support if agencies had communicated better.
The report by the Nottingham City Safeguarding Adults Board, said Mr Graham, weighed four-and-a-half stone when he died. His body was found by bailiffs who were sent to evict him because he had not paid his rent for seven months. Housing benefit had been stopped after he had not responded to the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) repeated requests for information to review his entitlement to ESA. His gas had been cut off and his flat – rented from Nottingham City Homes (NCH) – had no heating or hot water.The report said at the time of his death, Mr Graham had no income for food and utilities.
The review found that while NCH, the DWP and his GP all had information on Mr Graham, none had the full picture of how he was living. He was “debilitated by his depression and unable to function”. A letter he wrote, but never sent, showed he had been “in extreme mental health distress”. If agencies had communicated between themselves better, they may have mobilised the help and support he needed. The report found “tragically, the interventions by agencies added to his problems by cutting off vital services.”
Jabeer Butt, CEO, Race Equality Foundation said:
“Even after many examples of how we conspire not to care about Black men, how the circumstances of Errol Graham’s death happened are truly shocking. Saying that ‘chances were missed’ does not capture the lack of care.
“Errol’s life mattered and it was only through the determination of his family that these failings came to light. He was a man in acute mental distress, who had shut himself away from the world. The DWP has rightly been criticised for the failings that contributed to Mr Graham’s death after it wrongly stopped his out-of-work benefits.
“Steps now being taken to improve information sharing and improve safeguards for vulnerable claimants need to be standard across the country. There should be many more checks before high impact actions like cutting off gas, better links with tenants’ contacts and families, and a national protocol for cooperation between the DWP and safeguarding adult boards going forward. Hard lessons have to be learned from this tragedy.”