Thursday, 18 September 2014

Coroner says reduction would have forced family from their home

Father killed himself after housing benefit cut

A father killed himself after his housing benefit was cut, an inquest heard on Tuesday.

Richard Sanderson, of Southfields, south west London, committed suicide after receiving a letter from Wandsworth Council informing him his housing benefit would be cut by £30 a month.

The 44-year-old was found dead in the bath by his wife Petra on 29 May with three stab wounds in the chest and abdomen, Westminster Coroner’s Court heard.

Wandsworth Council confirmed Mr Sanderson, who had a nine-year-old son, was renting from a private landlord and claiming local housing allowance.

Mr Sanderson’s death came a month after the government capped LHA at between £250 and £400 a week depending on property size. It is not clear whether the £30 cut was as a result of LHA caps.

A statement read on behalf of Mr Sanderson’s widow by Westminster coroner Fiona Wilcox, said: ‘We received a letter from the council saying our housing benefit would be cut by £30, forcing us to move but leaving us with nowhere to go.’

Suicide notes to his family were left on Mr Sanderson’s bed.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Ms Wilcox said: ‘He carried out a considered act in response to his inability to find employment and the fact that his housing benefit was about to be cut and the family would have faced having nowhere to live.’

Inside Housing has been calling for more equitable reform of housing benefit as part of its What’s the Benefit? campaign.

The Department for Work and Pensions declined to comment.

Readers' comments (34)

  • The worst things seem to all come out from Wandsworth Council Borough.

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  • Rick Campbell

    The vulnerable, of whom I am one, are being driven to take their own lives or to consider doing so not only because of the demonisation but by the practical steps being taken by the government .

    More and more people ar singling out certain sectors of society for harassment -- it happens on threads here on IH.

    Fear not people, a different government wouldn't be much better.

    There will possibly be those who post on IH that will welcome the extermination of the vulnerable and social housing tenants.

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  • Outside Housing

    This is tragic in so many ways.

    I wonder if Mr & Mrs Sanderson, being private renters, had any idea that they would be priority need and wouldn't end up on the street?

    It is easy to forget when you have worked or lived in social housing that information like that is not universal common knowledge.

    I trust Wandsworth Council will offer help, whether accpeted or not, to Mrs Sanderson and her son.

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  • Chris

    This is what happens when sections of the community are demonised and stigmatised. The guilty know who they are.

    This is a tragedy, as is the many more who will suffer in silence, in poverty, and with decreasing helath and well being - the human face of Tory policy.

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  • Jono

    A sad outcome. The article does not mention whether he had asked his landlord to reduce the rent.

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  • Rick Campbell

    Would not Wandsworth, or indeed all councils, have a discretionary fund from which to 'top up' the LHA for families?

    My heart and soul go out to the Sanderson family, who will no doubt have spent the time since Mr Sanderson's death very reflectively.

    Even the threat of cuts to housing support have a disastrous effect but the government and their acolytes don't give a flying fig! J'ACCUSE!

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  • The governemnt and social landlords have created a fear and terror of insecurity in all social tenants. One wonders how many cases like this or close to this we will never hear of.

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  • Rick Campbell

    I hope that the member of staff who wrote/dispatched the news of the cut has not blamed her/himself for Mr Sanderson's death.

    Personally, I have no knowledge of any such deaths locally but am aware through various groups and individual conversations that there are more people considering taking their own lives through worrying about the future -- luckilly, many of them are tenants of my landlord so they can be assured their future tenancies are safe.

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  • I've been warning my Lib Dem about this for a year now. He kept telling me that none of the problems would arise and that he was "monitoring the situation".

    I wrote to him today with 2 pages of evidence from local councils, charities and individuals proving that vulnerable people were facing homelessness etc asking him to comment on all of it and what he wants to say about the death of this man.

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  • Is this really a surprise to anyone with knowledge of the many changes to Housing Benefit, and the tory coalition cuts. I'm afraid i fear that this is just the tip of a very big iceberg. I believe there are 10 changes to housing benefit in total to be implemented.

    There is the reduction to LHA to the 30th percentile in October which will create a large increase in homelessness and the meagre discretionary fund put in place to mitigate these cuts is tiny to the alleged money saved.

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