Elaine Morrell suffered from an eating disorder, as well as mental health issues, and she was found dead earlier this month in her freezing Runcorn, Cheshire home earlier this month.
Her grieving family claim that the mum-of-four was found wrapped in a blanket at her home because she could no longer afford to put the heating on.
Ms Morrell’s heartbroken mother Linda claims that things were so tight for the late Elaine, who had mental health issues as well as an eating disorder, that she would only put the heating on when her children arrived home from school.
Ms Morrell’s mother said that after being too ill to attend a meeting, the 38-year-old’s Employment Support Allowance was stopped.
In an open letter on Facebook, Linda has slammed the government for “killing vulnerable people.” The letter has been widely shared on social media.
Linda wrote: “My daughter lived in Boston Ave. She died on the afternoon of 2 November, 2017 at home on her own. She was 38yrs[sic].
“In the cold with her coat & scarf on. Because she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids came home from school. Why?? Because she couldn’t afford it.
“Because she was severely depressed. Suffered from eating disorder & many other problems for many years.
“Mainly due to authoritarians of one form or another. I can give you details. Was in & out of hospital in recent months in intensive care.
“But was deemed not ill enough for ESA [Employment and Support Allowwance]. Had her benefits stopped numerous times, which in turn stopped her housing benefit.
“No income but expected to be able to pay full rent. Was told being in intensive care was not sufficient reason for failing to attend a universal credit interview.
“I went to the job centre to inform them that she couldn’t attend. But benefits stopped again.
“Uncaring housing taking her to court. She’s due to go to court on Monday. Is being dead now enough reason? Is that what’s had to happen to prove she was ill?
“How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people??
“What are you and your fellow councillors going to do to protect your constituents?”
The open letter has been shared by thousands of people on Facebook, who are absolutely appalled at the situation.
Many people said that they were “shocked and appalled” and the question “why is this allowed to happen?” has been asked many times.
One Facebook user said: “FUMING !!! such a sad loss of life. A mum died alone and cold in her freezing home after her benefits were stopped because she was too ill to attend a meeting, according to her grieving family.”
Another said: “At Ipswich Unemployed Action we get used to bad stories, written on our site by people who’ve undergone really bad treatment by the DWP/Private Providers and above all because of Universal Credit. But this one is the most heart-rending ever.”
The story was also ran by Welfare Weekly, with the striking headline: “How many have to die before this Government realises they’re killing vulnerable people”.
MP for Halton Derek Twigg is now working closely with the family, and has said of the incident: “It is a very tragic case and I am providing assistance to my constituent.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with Ms Morrall’s family at this difficult time.
“We understand that people can’t always attend appointments, which is why we will re-arrange alternative times.
“Assessment decisions are made with consideration of all the information provided, including supporting evidence from a GP or medical specialist.
“Anyone who disagrees with a decision can appeal.”
Jonathan Horsfall, Halton Housing Trust debt recovery manager, said: “We always follow strict procedures around arrears.
“We strive to find solutions with our customers and have intensive support workers who enable us to do so where possible.
“Our support services are on offer to those who we know are in arrears, and are always reached out to for support.
“If customers are concerned about arrears we always encourage anyone to get in touch with us as early as possible in the arrears process so we can do all we can to help.”
A cause of death has not been revealed yet for the 38-year-old, and in recent days a fundraising campaign has been set up to raise money for her heart-broken children.
Single mother Rebecca Wolfe was so moved by the tragedy that she set up a fundraising page, and helped to raise £800 for the family. They are now close to reaching their target.
The 40-year-old is a mother of two and cares for her autistic son. She was also diagnosed with kidney cancer when she was younger, and she said: “It upset me so much thinking about this woman’s children.
“It struck a chord with me. When I was a lot younger I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
“My children were only young and every waking moment I was worried about who was going to look after them. That was my worst (sic) nightmare.
“You can give your sympathies, prayers and thoughts but that doesn’t help the family.
“I just want this woman to know that we are trying to help in a small way. I didn’t expect anyone to donate but it’s gone massive.”
Many have criticised the expediency of the Universal Credit system, with Labour MP Neil Coyle saying that it is a “mean, flawed scheme”. And people who claim Universal credit often have as much as a six week wait before they get their first payment (compare that to the one week that new MPs in the job have to wait before receiving their first payment) and according to the Guardian, there is a 35-day waiting period as well as an arbitrary seven-day waiting period before a claim can be made.
They also claim that the cuts to working allowance means that people are often thousands of pounds worse off a year.