Government Issues Apology for Telling Coma Patient to Find Work

Sheila Holt has been pursued by benefits advisors

By on February 28th, 2014 18:01 GMT

A mentally ill woman from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, has been in a coma for two months. However, she keeps receiving letters from benefits assessors telling her to find a job.

At the end of last year, 47-year-old Sheila Holt has been confined in a mental hospital after being taken off Income Support. Shortly after that, on December 17, she has entered a comatose state.

However, this didn't stop back-to-work health assessors from pursuing her. Health company ATOS sent her a letter dated January 30 asking why she was not working.

The letter, which was sent to Sheila Holt under the back-to-work scheme run by the Department for Work and Pensions, was read aloud to the Commons, leading the disability minister Mike Penning to issue an “unreserved” apology to Ms. Holt’s family. He said things had “clearly gone wrong,” according to Metro.

“I apologize, unreservedly, to the family as the minister responsible. The family have every right to be aggrieved and I hope she makes a full recovery.”

Ms. Holt, who is now in critical condition at Birch Hill Hospital in Rochdale, hasn’t worked for more than three decades due to her health. She was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in December and soon after that has suffered a heart attack, which led to her coma.

During a business debate on the effects of welfare reform on the sick and disabled, local Labour MP Simon Danczuk brought up the issue. He affirmed the woman's family had informed the Department for Work and Pensions about Sheila's condition, but they didn't stop sending letters.

“This government is causing a huge amount of damage and I have no doubt that Sheila’s story is being repeated in towns and cities up and down the country. […] You cannot aggressively push vulnerable people, like Sheila, back into work because it can have, as we’ve seen, very serious health consequences,” the official said, as reported by the same publication.

Ms. Holt's father Kenneth said her last job was 27 years ago, but last year she was forced to start looking for a job again. The situation anguished her and she was hospitalized following a “manic episode.”

“If they had left her alone she would not be in this condition. They were threatening her with cuts and she needs the benefits,” he said.

According to statistics, there are approximately 11 million disabled people in Britain, accounting for 18 per cent of the entire population of the country.

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