The sister of the disabled woman who was killed by a train in Margate claims anxiety over filling in a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) form drove her to kill herself – and she wants to make it an election issue.
Helen from Broadstairs wants change in what she calls the “barbaric” PIP system and is calling on all the people running to be her MP in Thanet to pledge themselves to take action.
Helen’s sister, Diane Hullah, suffered with mental health problems, including severe anxiety. This resulted in episodes of complete paralysis, which meant she was unable to work and needed benefits to live off.
But, says Helen, it was Diane’s anxiety over filling in the 50-page PIP form and her fear of failing to get the payment which pushed her to her death.
Helen said: “She knew it was going to be really hard for her, because it’s a long form with a lot of detail. And she knew if she didn’t get it right, if she said the wrong thing or didn’t phrase it profitably, that it would get automatically turned down. It didn’t just stress her a little bit, it really sent her downhill…”
Helen added: “She was self-harming, she poured a kettle of boiling water over her arms, she was burning herself, she would heat metal rods and burn her arms.”
Helen says the stress led her sister to make two attempts to kill herself before finally succeeding.
Diane wrote in her diary: “I’ve been trying to do my PIP renewal with a lot of help from Helen [her sister] and I found it incredibly difficult. I even tried to throw myself under a train on 11th of this month [March] following four consecutive days of shutdown. Luckily I was saved literally seconds before the train arrived by a stationmaster. Perhaps somebody is looking after me after all because I was going to jump.”
Diane also took an overdose, Helen says, before finally killing herself by throwing herself under a train in Margate on Friday 21 April.
She said: “I want to ask all candidates for this forthcoming election to look at this area and really see what’s going and I want them to state very clearly what they would do about it if they were elected, in terms of mental health generally but in particular this barbaric system that is applying for PIP and the complete blank wall you come up against.
Diane’s case is not a one-off. A previous death believed to have been a direct result of PIP happened earlier this year in Tunbridge Wells, when a disabled woman was discovered by a care worker surrounded by letters telling her that she would not be entitled to the payment.
The woman, Susan Margaret Roberts, had placed a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) note by her side. Her daughter said: “If it wasn’t for PIP, my mum would still be here.”
Campaigners claim that PIP is based on a model created by the US medical insurance industry designed to deny disability claims and so maximise profits.
They also point to a number of other deaths of disabled people who have apparently killed themselves after having problems being assessed for benefits.
A film about how PIP kills people is now being made by Thanet Watch. An extract can be viewed in a previous post on this site.