Single dad killed himself after being driven into debt and homelessness over Universal Credit wait

A struggling dad of three took his own life after being driven into debt and given an eviction order because of the minimum five-week wait for Universal Credit, it has been reported.

Phillip Herron, 34, had just £4.61 in his bank account when he took the unimaginable decision to commit suicide, leaving behind three children.

His debts had spiralled out of control to more than £20,000 after he gave up working so that he could care for his young children, the Daily Mirror reports.


The UK government recently reduced the minimum waiting time for an initial Universal Credit payment, from six weeks to five weeks, but critics say this is still too long to make poor and vulnerable people wait for vital financial support.

Claimants can also apply for a cash advance of up to 100% of the expected value of their Universal Credit claim, but this is repayable (deducted from future payments) and is a relatively new concession.

His grieving mother, Sheena Derbyshire, 54, said the long wait for Universal Credit was the “final nail in the coffin” in a long struggle to provide for his children.

Phillip took his own life shortly after uploading a tearful video to social media, in which he apologies to friends and family for what he is about to do.

A suicide note read that Mr Herron believed his family “would be better off if he wasn’t there any more”, said Sheena.

She explains: “He was a single dad. He was responsible. He always had money before and the kids had the best of everything.

“But Phillip had quit his job as a factory worker recently to look after his young kids and he got in to debt, which must have been difficult for him.

“To suddenly have no money for them must have been very hard. He was waiting for Universal Credit and had just £4.61 when he died.

“When people turn to the Government for help they’re already desperate. To make them wait so long for payments is dangerous.

“There’s no reason it should take so long. Phillip already had problems but I think this was the final straw.”

Sheena discovered letters showing her son had accumulated debts amounting to more than £20,000, including from payday lenders who were charging as much as 1000% in interest on the loans.

He had also received an eviction notice form the Bernicia Homes housing association.

Sheena also found that her son’s behaviour had become erratic and abusive.

“I was trying to knit his life together,” she said. “You could hear him changing so much over those final months.

“He used to be very quietly spoken but in his recent calls and messages he was often screaming.

“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.

“If we didn’t have his phone and his computer we wouldn’t have known what had been going on for him.

“It was like walking back­wards through his life. It’s the most heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever done.”

It was these messages that enabled Sheena to draw a link between her son’s long wait for an initial Universal Credit payment and his subsequent suicide.

“You don’t just go out one day and take your own life”, she said. “There’s a build-up.”

Sheena called on others who are going through a similar circumstance to talk to family or friends or contact the Samaritans for help and support.

“Don’t let another family go through this. If you can’t talk to family or friends, there are people like Samaritans.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “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.”

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