Theresa May has branded the Department for Work and Pensions as "not fit for purpose" after it emerged that last year alone it paid out £73 million in benefits to people who had died.

The figures were uncovered in a written answer to a parliamentary question asked by her predecessor as shadow work and pensions secretary, Chris Grayling.

It turns out that of that £73 million, £27 million of those payments was written off, whilst the rest had to be recovered through letters to hundreds of thousands of families who had just lost a loved one.

Theresa May said:

“The DWP is fast becoming the department of waste and is clearly not fit for purpose. James Purnell is meant to be focusing on getting people back to work. Instead he can’t get even his own house in order. What signal does this send out?

“It is absolutely ridiculous that thousands of people struggling on low incomes are missing out on the benefits they are entitled to, whilst the Government is paying out millions each year to dead people. Labour need to get to grips with this problem straight away so they can actually focus support on those who need it most.”

Jonathan Isaby