A 39-year-old Northampton woman who was unable to work due to chronic back pain killed herself after the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) threatened to cut off her disability benefits, an inquest heard.
Julia Kelly, formerly of Kingsthorpe, Northampton, took her own life at her home address in November after she had been sent a series of letters from the DWP, including one that demanded she pay back £4,000.
An inquest into her death, held at Northampton General Hospital, heard Ms Kelly was extremely worried in the last weeks of her life that her benefit payments would be cut off and she would have no money to live.
A statement from her father David Kelly, which was read to the inquest, revealed that the family “firmly believed” a letter from the DWP to his daughter demanding that she pay back £4,000 had been the “trigger” for her to kill herself.
Mr Kelly, of Great Doddington, said: “She was worried that they were going to stop her disability payments and she was worried how she was going to afford to live.
“We firmly believe the letter from the DWP was the trigger for her actions. Not to be believed by the DWP that she was suffering chronic back pain and also to be accused of wrongdoing and be told her payments might be stopped - we believe she snapped and could not take it anymore.”
Mr Kelly said his daughter had been forced to “fight for every penny” of disability benefit including attending three tribunal cases.
He said Ms Kelly was a “wonderful daughter” who was out-going and popular and this was demonstrated by the fact 221 people attended her funeral.
County coroner Anne Pember, recording her verdict of suicide, said she also believed that the “upset caused by the potential withdrawal of her benefits had been the trigger for her to end her life.”
Mr Kelly said the DWP were suggesting that his daughter was not entitled to claim disability benefit as she had failed to declare capital funds.
A DWP Spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the family of Julia Kelly.
“Employment and Support Allowance is a means-tested benefit and entitlement depends on the amount an individual has in savings or capital.
“If a claimant exceeds the threshold with thousands of pounds in savings, they may no longer be entitled to the benefit.”
A year ago Julia Kelly spoke to the Chronicle & Echo about her daily battle with chronic pain and how it had inspired her to set up the charity A Way With Pain, to try to help fellow sufferers.
Ms Kelly, who previously worked for Northamptonshire Young Carers, had to give up work in 2010 due to a severe back injury that had grown progressively worse since a car crash, which wasn’t her fault, in 2005.
In 2013, Ms Kelly was involved in another car crash which fractured the part of her spine that had been fused together. To repair this damge she needed a major operation lasting six hours.
Despite her health problems, Ms Kelly co-founded A Way With Pain with her father David as a way of providing support to fellow chronic pain sufferers.
Talking to the Chron last February Ms Kelly said: “One person said ‘until it happens to you, you have no idea what is involved’. It stops your life in its tracks and that is it. Pain management is probably the most under-funded area of the NHS and yet this is something that doesn’t go away. People do get suicidal.”
“You actually go through the bereavement process; not losing a person but you have lost the old you. Your morals and everything are the same, but that girl who used to jump in her car or who was the wildest on the dance floor, that has all changed. You have to get your head around that and be realistic about your expectations.
“In my head I was going to get better, then when it didn’t happen, it was like ‘oh God, now what happens?’ Some people don’t get to that mind-set, through no fault of their own, so many people fall through the net. We are there to be that safety net.”