Government apology for coma woman told to find work

Fri, 28/02/2014 - 13:24 -- nick

The government has apologised for a letter sent to a woman in a coma telling her to attend "intensive job-focused activity".

The letter, written by Iain Duncan Smith's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), was received by the family of Sheila Holt.

Ms Holt had been suffering from physical and mental health problems and had fallen into a coma in December, her family informing the DWP and SEETEC, the organisation providing job-focused activity, at that time.

The family approached their local MP, Simon Danczuk, telling him that she had suffered from bipolar disorder since she was 16 and had not worked in 27 years.

After being sectioned under the Mental Health Act she had a heart attack in December and fell into the coma, and her father Ken believes this was brought on by the stress of being made to find work.

He said:

"If they had left her alone she would not be in this condition. They were threatening her with cuts and she needs the benefits.

"I just believe it's all wrong, you should be chasing the people who are fit, get them to work, not them that are not fit. It's outrageous."

Danczuk believes the government's reforms are  to blame for Ms Holt's health problems:

"She was pushed into the Work Programme before Christmas and she was finding it extremely difficult.

"She was also concerned about the fact around the increases in the council tax benefit that she had to pay. On 17 December she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act because she was struggling to cope.

"Let's make this important point – before the election when the prime minister toured the TV studios he often talked about 'Broken Britain'. Well I have to say that if this is the prime minister's idea of fixing broken Britain, hounding disabled people who suffer from mental breakdowns, harassing their distressed relatives, then I prefer the broken Britain that existed before."

Disability Minister Mike Penning recognised the failure of the government, apologising "unreservedly":

"It's about time politicians did stand up and apologise when things went wrong. It clearly has gone wrong and the family have every right to be aggrieved and I hope she makes a full recovery, as much as she can."

Penning did not apologise for the many other examples of disabled people being found fit for work falsely or the stress caused by its benefit cuts.

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