Single father, 34, with just $4.61 in his bank account wept about having to wait weeks for Universal Credit before killing himself
A single father-of-three who had just $4.61 to his name killed himself after allegedly having to wait weeks for his Universal Credit payments.
Phillip Herron, 34, was out of work and struggling to feed and clothe his family while trying to pay back £20,000 worth of debt.
Even though he applied for help from the government, the month-long wait was the ‘final nail in his coffin’ and plunged him further into debt and despair.
Universal Credit, brought in by the Coalition Government 2013, was meant to replace a series of benefits with just one.
But it is paid monthly in arrears, and results in an average wait of five weeks for the first payment.
Moments before his death Mr Herron uploaded a picture to social media of him crying while sitting in his car on a country lane on March 18.
His mother, Sheena Derbyshire, 54, said that in his suicide note he said he believed his family would be better off without him.
Mr Herron had not told anyone of his money troubles so it was down to his mother to piece together the events that had led him to take his own life.
In an interview with the Mirror she said: ‘His death came as a complete shock. I couldn’t understand why he’d do this.’
His debt had spiralled so far out of control that Father Christmas ‘had not come’ last year and Ms Derbyshire even found a hidden eviction notice from Bernicia Homes in his house.
Mr Herron had quit his job as a factory worker to be able to look after his younger children and struggled financially as a result.
After Ms Derbyshire was able to crack the password to her son’s phone she uncovered hundreds of phone calls that revealed how his personality changed in the months leading to his death.
Once a very soft spoken man, Mr Herron spent most of his final phone conversations screaming.
She said: ‘He loved his kids but he started shouting at them. And you can hear him sobbing in calls. I heard him talking about suicide to other people.
‘I wish he’d told us how he was feeling but we never knew.
‘Listening to those last few months of calls I started asking myself, „Who is this person?” He’d changed so much so very quickly.’
Ms Derbyshire has been riddled with guilt ever since her son’s death and says that her grandchildren are grappling with coming to terms with it.
She said: ‘His youngest daughter is totally lost. She misses her dad so much.’
Ms Derbyshire hopes that the evidence she found will be used to help expose the failings of Universal Credit at Mr Herron’s inquest at Sacriston, County Durham.
Last night a Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson told the Mirror: ‘Our thoughts are with Mr Herron’s family.
‘Suicide is a very complex issue, so it would be wrong to link it solely to someone’s benefit claim.
‘We are committed to safeguarding vulnerable claimants and keep guidance under constant review to provide the highest standard of protection.’