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RIP Tim Salter #atos #bedroomtax

December 27, 2013

A DISABLED Kinver man killed himself after his state benefits were stopped, leaving him “almost destitute” – a coroner has ruled.

Tim Salter, aged 53, who was partially sighted and suffered from mental health problems, was found hanged at his home just days before he was due to be evicted over rent arrears.

His heartbroken family say he fell behind with payments after the Government axed his state benefits – having declared him fit for work under a new regime geared at getting the long-term unemployed off the dole.

Mr Salter’s devastated sister Linda Cooksey said: “It just sent him over the edge.

“He must have felt so worthless and that life wasn’t worth living.”

Mr Salter, of Meddins Lane, had been registered partially blind since 1994 after an overdose in 1989 damaged his vision.

Previously he’d worked as an assistant sales manager at Owen Owen in Stourbridge in the 80s but he failed to find further employment after leaving. Depression and the suicide attempt followed, after which he never worked again.

Mrs Cooksey, aged 60, said her brother, who was agoraphobic, “never asked for help” and she never imagined changes to the country’s benefits system would affect him.

Relatives only pieced together his dire predicament after discovering a repossession order from South Staffordshire Housing Association in the bin. Dated September 17 – it had given Mr Salter ten days to leave the home he had lived in all his life.

He committed suicide on September 25, two days before the eviction date.

As his financial situation became apparent relatives presented paperwork to Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh and at an inquest on December 3 he concluded: “A major factor in his death was that his state benefits had been greatly reduced leaving him almost destitute and with threatened repossession of his home.”

Mr Salter’s family has since written to the Prime Minister and South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson over his death.

David Cameron’s reply expressed “sincere condolences” and said concerns about benefit changes had been passed to the Department for Work and Pensions while Mr Williamson promised to raise the matter with Government Ministers and that “lessons will be learnt”.

He added: “This is a truly awful situation. The Government takes cases like this very seriously indeed.

“We are doing our best to ensure that when people enter the workplace they are given the support they need and not left in limbo.

“However it is equally important to ensure people are not mistakenly identified as being fit for work when they are not.”

A spokesman for South Staffordshire Housing Association said: “We were very sad to hear of the death of Timothy Salter and have met members of his family to extend our sympathy and offer them support.

“Cuts to benefits are causing distress very widely, including to many of our customers.

“We work very hard to avoid getting to the stage of seeking possession of any of our properties by calling, visiting and writing to customers who we believe are struggling with their finances to offer them advice and support.

“Offers were made to Mr Salter on a number of occasions between July and September. We always try our best to talk to customers in difficulties to offer help and advice but if they do not respond it is difficult for us to provide the practical support that could help them.”

However Mrs Cooksey, who discovered her brother’s body hanging in the hallway, said “he couldn’t ask for help”, adding: “He didn’t want to be a burden on anyone.

“I think he’d just got that depressed and down he was just ignoring everything after being told he was fit for work.”

Mr Salter’s benefits stopped on December 22 2012 after an assessment of his health and abilities – and relatives believe he lived off savings until the money ran out.

Mrs Cooksey said: “He was never extravagant, didn’t go on holiday and never had a car. I totally believe he’d still be alive now if they hadn’t stopped his money.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said a decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken only after a “thorough assessment” and consideration of medical evidence provided by the claimant and everyone has the right to appeal.

A spokesman expressed “condolences to Mr Salter’s family” and added: “Whenever people’s benefits change we do our best to ensure the right support is available to help them through the transition as we know this can be a difficult time.”

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