Stephanie Bottrill, who blamed the bedroom tax for her suicide, had history of depression, inquest hears

 

Social Affairs Editor

A woman who left suicide notes to her family blaming the bedroom tax for making her want to end her life was under “considerable anxiety and stress”, an inquest has found.

The case of Stephanie Bottrill, 53, became emblematic of opposition to the controversial welfare reform after her son Steven spoke out about its devastating impact on her last year. But in an extraordinary outburst after the inquest at Birmingham Coroner’s Court today, her brother Kevin Owen said Mrs Bottrill had used the bedroom tax as an “excuse” and that she should have given up her home to others who needed it.  

Mrs Bottrill lived alone in her three-bedroom terraced home in Kingshurst in Solihull after her two grown-up children moved out. This meant that under the Department for Work and Pensions’ welfare reforms she received less housing benefit every week - effectively meaning she was charged for the unused rooms.

The extra £20 a week in housing costs meant she ran out of money for food and was reluctantly preparing to move out. The former postal worker had been suffering from depression on and off for 20 years and had agreed to see her GP the day before her death after her family expressed concern.

She was planning to move to a smaller property but was distraught at having to leave the home she had brought up her family in for nearly two decades. In a final note left for her son Steven, she said: “Don't blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”

The grandmother died of multiple injuries after stepping into a motorway. The area coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Zafar Siddique, said that because of the notes she left he was “satisfied she intended to take her own life”.

Her GP, Dr Bindu Nair, said in a written statement to the coroner: “She informed me she had called her children in the early hours of 3 May 2013, saying she couldn't cope with the stress and wanted to end it all, and had written a note planning to jump off a bridge.”

Dr Nair added: “She expressed unhappiness at being pushed by the housing department to make a decision in half an hour, in reference to being made to move into a smaller property.”

He added that Ms Bottrill was “happy to move but it was the way in which she was forced to make a decision” which had caused her “considerable anxiety and stress”.

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council said it “would never ask anyone to decide something that important in half an hour.”

Mrs Bottrill’s 28-year-old son Steven has previously spoken about his anger at the impact the bedroom tax had on his mum. Speaking on live television last year, he said: [the Government] need to rethink it. They’re just picking on the vulnerable people like my mum and they need to offer more help and rethink the law.”

But after the inquest, Steven’s uncle, Kevin Owens, spoke in support of the policy, saying: “For social housing to work it needs for everybody to take a turn. When you're adequately housed by successive governments, and your needs are met, you must give somebody else a turn.

“It’s terrible that people in this country are cramped into one and two-bedroom flats with children while other people sit on three bedroom houses. Our thoughts go out to the lorry driver whose life has been blighted by this, and we just wanted to pass on our thoughts to him.”

Mr Owens contradicted his sister’s claim of being forced into a decision. “She wasn't prepared to give somebody else a chance as far as I'm concerned, he said, adding: “Much has been written about bedroom tax pushing her - it wasn't, because prior to that she'd attempted suicide before and that hadn't been reported before.

“It might have been the catalyst to push her but, was it just an excuse she was looking for? That's all I've got to say.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions would not confirm whether anyone from Government had spoken to the family since the incident. She said “This is a tragic case and our sympathies are with the family of Mrs Bottrill. The council was working closely and supporting Mrs Bottrill with the changes.”

A loophole in the law discovered after she died meant Mrs Bottrill would actually have been exempt from the charge because she had lived in her home continuously on housing benefit since before 1996.

For any readers seeking confidential support, call Samaritans 08457 90 90 90 or visit a local Samaritans branch.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there