DWP HQ, Caxton House, London. Photo: Paul Billanie for Welfare Weekly.

A cronically ill father hung himself shortly after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) took the cruel decision to stop his lifeline benefit payments, an inquest has heard.

Kevin, from Leeds, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and mental health problems, was found dead by his daughter shortly before Christmas 2018.

An inquest into his death heard how the 48-year-old often struggled to breath because of his condition, but was still found “fit for work” following a medical assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

His daughter, Leanne Dooley, is convinced that the DWP’s decision to stop her father’s benefit payments “led to him taking his own life”, due to being left in financial distress and unable to pay bills.

Campaigners protest against government welfare changes. Photo: Paula Peters

In a statement read out at the court hearing, Leanne said: “I am of the firm belief that the issues around my father’s fitness to work and the subsequent stopping of his benefits had an adverse effect on his health and led to him taking his own life.”

Kevin had been in receipt of ESA for a number of years due to his breathing difficulties and inability to work, but after being told by the DWP that the payments would be ending he was pushed over the edge.

Leanne tried but failed to convince her father that things would work themselves out, telling the inquest that there was absolutely “no chance” that “a man as poorly as my dad was fit to work”.

After the DWP’s decision to stop Kevin’s ESA payments, he was left with “no choice” but to apply for Universal Credit and launched an appeal against the decision.

But while waiting for his appeal to be heared, Kevin’s health and mental well-being deteriorated, and he had a history of anxiety and depression after the breakdown of a relationship and tragic death of his mother and one of his brothers.

Ms Dooley visited her brother shortly before he committed suicide and told the inquest how she found him “crying” and “upset about his benefits being stopped”.

“I knew straight away that something was wrong and that he would harm himself in some way”, she said.

“I did not think he would hang himself”, she added.

A coroner recorded the cause of death as “suicide” and passed on his condolences to the family.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Dooley’s family at this difficult time.

“We want to ensure that people with disabilities and health conditions get the support they’re entitled to and decisions are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.

“Mr Dooley continued to receive benefits during his appeal.”