Tragedy of Liverpool mum who died penniless after her benefits stopped

Distraught family say Annette Francis, who suffered from severe mental illness, was let down by the authorities

A mum-of-one suffering from severe mental illness died without any money after her disability benefits dried up.

Annette Francis, 30, was found dead at her Garston home two weeks ago, leaving behind 11-year-old son  Kieron.

Her distraught family say Annette  was let down by the authorities in the  months leading up to her death.

At the time of the tragedy, Annette had spent six months without receiving a single penny in benefits, her aunt Ann Sorotos claims.

She told the ECHO: “Annette was penniless because she had  no money coming in from the benefits people.

“I’m disgusted with them and  think Annette was really badly let  down.”

Annette suffered from a mental  illness similar to bipolar disorder  and was unable to hold down a job.

Mrs Sorotos, from Childwall, who  has taken care of Kieron since her niece’s death, continued: “She had very bad mental health problems and  struggled to cope day to day.”

Last autumn Annette stopped receiving disability living allowance  (DLA), which she had been paid for  around 10 years, after the benefit was  scrapped by the Government.

She then applied for personal independence payment (PIP), the replacement for DLA, in October – but the  cash never arrived before her death  six months later.

Mrs Sorotos said: “She never got  any of her PIP money. Up to the day  she died she never got it.

“What was she meant to live off in  the meantime?

“I had to keep telling her to get  down to the job centre to keep the  pressure on.

“It caused her a lot of stress. She  couldn’t afford to get the bus down to  come and see her son who was staying with me before she died.”

It is not known how Annette died.  Her family are still waiting for the  results of toxicology tests. A full inquest into the death will then be  carried out by a coroner.

Her body was found after a friend  went round to her flat on the morning  of May 22. She had died some time  during the previous night.

Mrs Sorotos said: “The system has  really let Annette down, but my  biggest concern now is looking after  Kieron. He needs to come first.

“Annette was crying out for  help because she needed her  benefits.

“She even texted her social worker saying ‘I need  help’. She needed a lot  more support.

“I tried to help her as  well as I could but she was  let down every step of the  way.

“I am heartbroken.  We just can’t get  our heads round  it.  Annette was a really bubbly, lovely  person but she varied day to day  because of her mental illness.

“I want the benefits authorities to  get their act together and stop other  people with mental health issues  from going through the same  problems.

“I want the system changed so  it doesn’t fail anyone else.”

Mrs Sorotos is now calling on the Department for  Work and Pensions (DWP), which processes benefits claims, to hand over Annette’s unpaid PIP money  so it can be placed in a trust  fund and given to Kieron  when he turns 18.

Annette’s local MP, Garston and Halewood’s Maria Eagle, slammed the DWP in the wake of the tragedy.

She said: “I am shocked but unfortunately not surprised to hear of PIP  applications taking this length of  time to determine.

“To the extent that this causes  severe difficulties for vulnerable  people, it is utterly deplorable.

“The DWP should get their act  together on PIP as soon as possible  because frequently people like Annette are in no position to look after  their own interests as well as those in  good health may be able to.”

A DWP spokesman said: “It would  be inappropriate to comment on this  case at this time. We are committed to  getting PIP claims processed as  quickly as possible.” PIP can be  worth up to £550 a month.