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Man took his own life after bedroom tax left him facing eviction

A coroner has demanded answers from the department for levelling up after a former foster parent took his own life when he was unable to pay the bedroom tax.

Last month, an inquest into the death of Lee McHale ruled he had died after taking an overdose of paracetamol which caused him to suffer multi-organ failure.

The investigation into Mr McHale's death revealed he had taken a fatal overdose after falling on hard times in the months leading up to his death after being taken to Tameside Hospital.

South Manchester coroner Alison Mutch wrote in her report: "The inquest heard that he had incurred debts prior to his death as a consequence of the gap between his housing benefit entitlement and actual rent.

"This arose due to the 'bedroom tax'. He had a larger property from when he had fostered children.

"However, he had had to give up fostering and was as a consequence reliant on benefits. He was at risk of eviction at the time of his death."

The so-called bedroom tax was introduced in 2012 by then Tory Prime Minister David Cameron and meant housing benefit was reduced according to the number of spare bedrooms a claimant had.

One spare room meant a 14 per cent reduction in benefits, rising to 25 per cent if two rooms were unused.

Ms Mutch has asked the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to respond to her concerns about the case.

She said: "The inquest was told that once Mr McHale was no longer able to foster he began to claim benefits including housing benefit.

"However the property he resided in was larger than a single occupancy property because he had previously fostered children. As a consequence he was subject to the so-called 'bedroom tax'.

"This meant that there was a gap between housing benefit and his actual rent. Therefore he rapidly went into arrears with his rent and liable to be evicted.

"He did not feel able to deal with the situation. He was worried about moving from his home in part because he had allowed one of his now adult foster children to continue living with him.

"He had allowed that because he was concerned that person would otherwise become homeless. Ultimately he took a catastrophic paracetamol overdose."

The department has been given until August 28 to respond to the coroner's concerns.

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