Leeds father took his own life after benefits were stopped, inquest told

A woman has told an inquest how the decision to stop her chronically ill father’s benefits “led to him taking his own life”.

Wakefield Coroner’s Court heard on Wednesday how Leanne Dooley found her 48-year-old father Kevin hanged a week before Christmas last year.

The court was told how the father-of-three (pictured), a painter and decorator who suffered from breathing problems caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, had feared not being able to pay his bills when his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was stopped as he had been deemed “fit to work”.

Ms Dooley said her father, of Torre Crescent, Leeds, had been claiming ESA for years through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) because his difficulties in breathing, coughing fits and blackouts prevented him from having a job.

Witnesses told how Mr Dooley had struggled to cope with the pressure to make ends meet and was found hanged at his home on December 17 last year, dying three days later in hospital.

In a statement read to the court, his daughter said: “I am of the firm belief that the issues around my father’s fitness to work and the subsequent stopping of his benefits had an adverse effect on his health and led to him taking his own life.”

Ms Dooley told the court how her father had been fearing the DWP would stop his allowance ever since he received a letter on July 18 last year calling him for an assessment.

She said she had attempted to calm him down and convince him everything would be OK because she felt there was “no chance” that “a man as poorly as my dad was fit to work”.

But the inquest heard how, in November last year, Mr Dooley received a letter from the DWP saying his ESA would be stopped, and a subsequent appeal against the decision failed.

Ms Dooley said her father was left with “no choice” but to apply for Universal Credit and take the matter to a tribunal.

The father-of-three’s GP, Dr Carolyn Abbot, of the Garden Surgery in Leeds, said Mr Dooley had visited the practice on December 11 last year and was in a “state of panic” because his “debts were accruing”.

The inquest heard how Mr Dooley had a history of anxiety and depression, worsened by the breakdown of a relationship in 2011 and the death of his mother and one of his brothers in 2012 and 2015 respectively.

The court heard how his mental health issues, coupled with his condition, meant there were many days when he would be unable to get out of his bed.

Ms Dooley said when she visited him on December 17 last year he was “crying and was really upset about his benefits being stopped”.

That night, she said she received a message from her father that simply said “I love you”, telling the court: “I knew straight away that something was wrong and that he would harm himself in some way.

“I did not think he would hang himself.”

She tried to give him CPR, the court heard, and he was taken to Leeds General Infirmary in a “comatose state”.

Doctor David Moir, a consultant in anaesthetics, described it as an “unsurvivable brain injury”.

In the days after his admittance to hospital, he failed to respond when lifted from sedation and he died on December 20 last year.

Ruling that the death had been a suicide, Coroner Jonathan Leach told Ms Dooley: “I am grateful to you for coming and all that is left is for me to pass on my condolences.”

A DWP spokesman said after the inquest that Mr Dooley had continued to receive the benefit while the appeal against the decision to stop the ESA was under consideration, and that he received a payment on December 8.

They said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Dooley’s family at this difficult time.

“We want to ensure that people with disabilities and health conditions get the support they’re entitled to and decisions are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.

“Mr Dooley continued to receive benefits during his appeal.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Leanne Dooley / PA Wire.