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.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
People walk through Autumn leaves in St James's Park yesterday
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits