UK & World News

  • 12 August 2014, 16:04

'Bedroom Tax' Suicide: Brother Defends Policy

The brother of a woman who killed herself after becoming "stressed and anxious" over the Government's so-called "bedroom tax" has defended the policy.

Kevin Owens said his sister should have moved out of the three-bedroom council housewhere she was living alone into a smaller property on offer and given "somebody else a chance" of a family home.

Mr Owens was speaking after the inquest into the death of his sister Stephanie Bottrill, 52, who died after walking in front of a lorry on the M6 motorway on May 4 last year.

The Birmingham coroner's court heard that the day before her death, Ms Bottrill had visited her GP with her daughter, Laura, 23, and said she was unhappy because she felt under pressure to make a decision about moving house due to social housing reforms.

The former postal worker said she was "happy" to move to a smaller property but that she had been given just 30 minutes to make a decision. She felt she had not been given enough time to think it through "hence the suicide plan".

The housing changes introduced by the Government mean that those living in social housing deemed too large for their needs have to pay a "tax" on "spare" bedrooms or move to a smaller home.

Ms Bottrill's son, Steven, who was not present at the inquest, had previously told journalists that his mother had left a note saying she had killed herself because she was struggling to pay the "bedroom tax".

But Mr Owens said after the inquest he did not think she had been given 30 minutes to make a decision and that she had attempted suicide before and on this occasion the housing changes could have been the "excuse she was looking for".

He said: "She wasn't prepared to give someone else a chance as far as I can see and for social housing to work it's a system that people need to take their turn and when it's their turn they need to pass those houses on."

He added: "When you're adequately housed by successive governments and your needs are met then 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."

The inquest was told that Ms Bottrill, of Solihull, had been suffering with stress and depression "on and off" since 1993. In 1995 she had taken an overdose. In 2010 she said she had "dark thoughts" following a dispute with a neighbour.

The coroner Zafar Siddique recorded a verdict of suicide and said it was clear from the note Ms Bottrillhad left that "because of the housing changes she felt under considerable anxiety and stress".

A spokesman for SolihullCouncil said Ms Bottrill had contacted them about the move and that she would not have been asked to make a decision in 30 minutes.

:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or CALM on 0800 58 58 58.

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