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34-year-old Dad with just £4.61 took own life after waiting weeks for Universal Credit

Desperate father Phillip Herron took his own life after waiting for three weeks for the Universal Credit money he needed (Image: Mirrorpix)

A debt-ridden single dad of three who had waited weeks for Universal Credit took his own life — with just £4.61 left in his bank account.

Phillip Herron, 34, was trying to feed and clothe his family while out of work, falling behind with rent and trying to repay £20,000 debts — including payday loans of over 1,000 per cent interest.

He applied for government help but the month-long wait for Universal Credit drove him deeper into debt.

“That was the final nail in his coffin,” said his grieving mum Sheena Derbyshire, 54.

Phillip’s final act as he sat in his car on a quiet country lane on March 18 was to upload a picture of himself crying to social media.

Minutes later he was dead.

“In his suicide note he said his family would be better off if he wasn’t there any more,” Sheena added.

“He was a single dad. He was responsible. He always had money before and the kids had the best of everything.

“But Phillip had quit his job as a factory worker recently to look after his young kids and he got in to debt, which must have been difficult for him.

“To suddenly have no money for them must have been very hard. He was waiting for Universal Credit and had just £4.61 when he died.

“When people turn to the Government for help they’re already desperate. To make them wait so long for payments is dangerous.

“There’s no reason it should take so long. Phillip already had problems but I think this was the final straw.”

Have you got a story about struggling with Universal Credit? Email

Final picture of Phillip posted minutes before his death showed him weeping(Image: Mirrorpix)

Universal Credit – brought in by the Coalition Government 2013 and rolled out nationwide since – was meant to replace a series of benefits with just one.

But it is paid monthly in arrears, meaning an average wait of five weeks for the first payment.

Labour claims the delay drives families into debt, poverty and eviction and aims to reform it.

Like many people, Phillip Herron was deeply in debt when, without telling his family, he applied for Universal Credit.

“His death came as a complete shock,” Sheena said. “I couldn’t understand why he’d do this.”

It was only later that Sheena pieced together what had happened.

Papers in his home showed he owed around £20,000 to banks, utility firms and payday lenders with, Sheena said, “1,000 per cent interest rates”.

She also found an eviction notice sent to him by the Bernicia Homes housing association.

And she discovered from his children that things got so bad at Christmas “Santa had not come”.

But worse was to come when, after weeks of trying, she worked out the code to unlock his phone. Mum-of-six Sheena trawled through emails and listened to months of calls he had recorded.

“I was trying to knit his life together,” she said. “You could hear him changing so much over those final months.

“He used to be very quietly spoken but in his recent calls and messages he was often screaming.

“He loved his kids but he started shouting at them. And you can hear him sobbing in calls. I heard him talking about suicide to other people.

“I wish he’d told us how he was feeling but we never knew.

“Listening to those last few months of calls I started asking myself, ‘Who is this person?’ He’d changed so much so very quickly.

“If we didn’t have his phone and his computer we wouldn’t have known what had been going on for him. It was like walking back­wards through his life.

"It’s the most heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever done.”

Read more from Mirror

My view: This is so sad, this appears to be such a tragic and needless waste of life.

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