Fears over benefits were final straw for ill mum Amy

Amy Nice, 21, had battled with mental and physical ill health, but fears over her benefits proved the final straw, an inquest in Preston heard yesterday.
Amy NiceAmy Nice
Amy Nice

Preston Coroner’s Court heard that Chorley artist Amy, who was unemployed, was also struggling to cope financially to provide for herself and her young son.

Coroner James Newman talked of Amy’s underlying physical illness and mental health issues.

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He also said that she had been “placed under great financial pressure because of the changes to her benefits”.

He said: “She had a long and documented history of physical illnesses that I believe led to the onset of depression as well.

“In 2016 and 2017 there’s a picture of a cyclical depression and anxiety together with underlying and undiagnosed medical conditions that I can understand would have played on Amy’s mind.

“She had a history of self-harm but there were protective factors - she was well supported by family and friends and she cared for her son.

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“However, her condition appears to change quite dramatically in late 2017. I heard that she was under pressure from the DWP, a source of income that she relied upon.

“I can foresee that financial pressure would play massively in a young woman’s mind, a young woman with a young child and with a history of mental illness.

“It would seem to me that matters had been coming to a head and on October 24, 2017 Amy has taken that ultimate step, after dropping her son off at school."

Amy was found by dog-walker Paul Taylor, after she had committed suicide in Birkacre Wood in Chorley on October 24, 2017.

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Speaking at the inquest Amy’s mum Joy Nice said: “Universal Credit was a massive thing.”

The inquest heard that because of Amy’s health problems she was in constant pain and was struggling to keep up with the pressure from the job centre to hunt for work.

She was fearful that as changes took place with Universal Credit that she would lose her benefits.

Amy’s GP Dr Susan Heald, who was called to give evidence, told the court that her colleague had given Amy a sick note to hand over to the job centre.

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“My colleague felt at the time that she wasn’t capable to be looking for work,” said Dr Heald. She added: “I understand that a lot of the reason behind her depression was financial because she was bringing up her son on her own.

“She was looking after him really well, there was no question about that. There was just one mention of her ex partner being in the scene where she was extremely anxious at one point.”

Dr Heald also told the inquest that Amy had had panic attacks in October 2016, a year before her death, because “her previous partner had been abusive towards her”.

Giving evidence detective inspector Jane Webb of Lancashire Constabulary told the inquest that four handwritten notes were found at the scene of Amy’s death, one to Amy’s family and friends and another to the person who would find her. She said that they told of how Amy was “deeply sorry for her actions but she couldn’t see a way forward”.

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The detective inspector added: “It was the ongoing mental health issues that she had coupled with the physical difficulty that she had at the time which were compounded with the financial pressure of providing for herself and her son.” Emma Clayton, a mental health nurse for Start Team, said: “The main part of the assessment was around her benefits and that was causing her a lot of concern.” She said that Start Team commonly hear from people coming to them with concerns over changes to the benefit system.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with Ms Nice’s family at this difficult time. Suicide is a very complex issue, so it would be wrong to link it solely to someone’s benefit claim. We’re committed to ensuring that people with mental health conditions get the full support that they need.”

For help and support for those suffering from suicidal thoughts, the Samaritans can be found on 116 123.