Coroner raises possible link between benefits and suicides

By Michele Paduano
BBC Midlands health correspondent

Image source, Burns family
Image caption,
Kim Burns, who had multiple sclerosis, left a note criticising the DWP

A coroner has raised the issue of a link between suicides and perceived problems with benefits.

Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh said it was possible the number of such cases were increasing.

He recently held an inquest where Kim Burns, of Codsall, near Wolverhampton, left a note criticising the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

However, the DWP said that death was not linked to loss of benefits and Ms Burns had been receiving her payments.

Image caption,
Christine Hammonds said Kim Burns had feared losing £1,000 per year and her car

A spokesman said Ms Burns, 51, was still receiving the higher rate of mobility allowance and personal independence payments were not a factor at the time of her death.

Ms Burns, a former worker with the British Council and at various universities, had worked full time until she developed an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis, her friend Christine Hammonds said.

She killed herself on 17 January. Her inquest in April recorded a verdict of suicide.

Ms Hammonds said Ms Burns had suffered with depression, but thought she would lose £1,000 a year in benefits from April and feared losing her car.

"She was an independent, very proud woman and I don't think that she wanted to get to the state like so many people, she felt, who somehow find themselves on the edge of society," she said.

Valerie Grant, 73, of Great Bridgeford, died in April. Her son had been told he was to lose his disability allowance on 3 May.

Her inquest has yet to be heard, but following her post-mortem test, Mr Haigh said: "Every now and again I do have to deal with sad cases of people who have killed themselves because of perceived problems with state benefits.

"These do not occur very frequently and I cannot really say if there is an increase in trend, but it certainly is a possibility."

He added he thought it was a "worthwhile issue to explore".

The DWP said it was inappropriate to comment on Mrs Grant's case as she was not in receipt of the benefit.

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