PARENTS

Pregnant Mother Jumps Off Balcony With 5-Month-Old Son After Losing Benefits

04/12/2009 11:55 | Updated 22 May 2015

A young mother's struggle with the benefits system ended in tragedy as she plunged from the balcony of her sister's third-floor flat in Hackney, London, killing herself and baby son, an inquest heard.

Christelle Pardo, 32, had been told she no longer qualified for benefit support, which left her and her child homeless, in debt and with no means of income.

Ms Pardo's sister, Olaya, told Poplar Coroner's Court, 'She was stressed about her benefits. She didn't want her son to feel all the stress that she was going through with the paperwork."

Ms Pardo, a philosophy graduate, had been claiming Jobseekers Allowance since leaving university, but this had been withdrawn shortly before she gave birth to Kayjah as she was considered to be unable to work. This also meant she lost her entitlement to housing benefit.

Her application for income support was then rejected as it was found that she could not prove she had worked in the UK for five years, although she had worked or been a student in Britain since 1997.

Child benefit was also denied on the grounds that she did not qualify for income support. Then Hackney council told her she would have to return £200 in overpaid benefits.

Ms Pardo twice appealed against the decision to refuse income support and was in the process of taking the Department of Work and Pensions to a tribunal. Her last phone call to DWP was made the day before she died.

With no family or connections in her native France, her sister explained to the court why returning was not an option for Christelle. 'Going back to France was like going back to another country. She was living here for so many years - this was her country.' she said.

'We talked sister to sister and she told me how she was feeling. She said she was upset because she felt that she didn't exist.'

The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide for Christelle Pardo and a verdict of unlawful killing for the death of her son.

In conclusion Coroner Dr Andrew Reid said: 'She was not in a position around the time her son was born to be actively seeking work, and was not in a position to claim Income Support, which eventually stopped her housing benefit. In lay terms it seems a very parlous situation.'

Could this tragedy have been avoided? Or will some people inevitably 'fall through the cracks' in a system which sometimes has to say no?

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