A SINGLE dad who had under £5 in his bank account took his own life as he drowned in debt waiting for Universal Credit.
Phillip Herron, 34, struggled to make ends meet feeding and clothing his three kids while he looked for work, falling behind with the rent and trying to repay debts totalling £20,000, some of which were payday loans of 1,000 per cent interest.
He applied for government help but he had to wait a month for Universal Credit which drove him further into debt.
It all finally got too much for Phillip and in a final act he uploaded a picture of himself crying to social media as he sat in his car on a quiet country lane on March 18.
Just a few minutes after taking the photo he was dead.
His mum, Sheena Derbyshire, 54, told the Mirror: “In his suicide note he said his family would be better off if he wasn’t there any more.
“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.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.
“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.”
Sheena also slammed the system for making people wait so long to receive their payments, saying it was “dangerous”.
She added: “There’s no reason it should take so long. Phillip already had problems but I think this was the final straw.”
Universal credit is currently being rolled out with it replacing six benefits with a single monthly payment.
But there are big problems with the new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
Initially Sheena couldn’t work out why her son had killed himself but after going through his papers she realised she was in debt to the tune of £20,000 to the banks and utility companies as well as payday lenders.
He had also received an eviction letter from Bernica Homes housing association.
After managing to unlock his phone Sheena then trawled through emails and listened to months of calls he had recorded.
She was shocked to hear her previously softly spoken son often screaming as well as shouting at his kids and he could also be heard crying in some.
He also talked about suicide to others.
Sheena said: “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.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes. And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet, it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun has launched the You’re Not Alone campaign. To remind anyone facing a tough time, grappling with mental illness or feeling like there’s nowhere left to turn, that there is hope.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others. You’re Not Alone.
Sheena now hopes the evidence she has uncovered about Phillip will be used in an upcoming inquest into his death at Sacriston, Co Durham.
She also wants to help others who may also be thinking of taking their life.
Sheena said: “Please talk to someone. 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 of Works 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.”
A Bernicia spokesperson said when tenants face difficulties “our approach is to seek to work with them to help overcome these.
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“A small number of cases could ultimately end in residents losing their home but this is a long process and we see this as a last resort.
“Help and support is available at every stage. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr Herron’s family.”
You can contribute to Phillip’s GoFundMe page to pay for his funeral here.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans on (free) 116123