A man who starved to death after his benefits were stopped wrote a heartbreaking letter begging officials not to judge him.
Errol Graham said "I am a good person but overshadowed by depression" in the letter – which said just attending an appointment made him ill and added: "Please judge me fairly".
The letter – which has no date and whose ultimate purpose is not clear – was never sent. It was found by family members in Mr Graham's 15th-floor council flat in Nottingham after he died weighing less than 5 stone.
Bailiffs found the emaciated Liverpool FC fan, 57, in June 2018 – eight months after his ESA disabled benefit was stopped for missing an appointment. He had just a couple of five-year-old tins of fish in his cupboard.
In the letter, he wrote: "Most days I go to bed hungry."
It comes as a study showed being put on Universal Credit increases people's psychological distress.
Mr Graham's daughter-in-law Alison Turner – who wept as she read the note in a radio interview – launched the first stage of legal action against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) yesterday.
He action argues the DWP's systems and procedures around cancelling benefits are unlawful. She also claims that the secretive investigations and reviews being conducted by the DWP into benefit-related deaths are unlawful and must be reformed.
Mr Graham's death has been referred to a Serious Case Panel. But its membership is secret; it's not known if Ms Turner will ever see its findings; it's not known how deeply it will probe Mr Graham's case; and it only meets every three months.
Ms Turner said: "The government owes it to Errol, his family and the country to explain why the DWP has repeatedly failed to learn from these tragedies over many years.
"In Errol’s memory I am determined to fight for change so that no more families have to live through the horror we have.”
Mr Graham's letter – released through his daughter-in-law's lawyers, Leigh Day – is a moving window into the world of someone with severe mental illness.
He wrote in neat handwriting: "I wish I could feel and function normally like anyone else but I find this very hard.
"I can't say I have a typical day because some are good not many, clouded by very bad days.
"I get up as late as I can so that the day doesn't seem too long. On a good day I open my curtains but mostly they stay shut."
The letter appeared to be aimed at a Jobcentre or other welfare official, because it appeared to refer to an appointment.
It said: "I have come on my own today because I have been unable to share how I feel with anyone because I don't think they would understand. It has made me ill having to come here today. It's a very big ordeal for me."
Mr Graham's death has sparked fresh calls for an independent inquiry into benefit claimants' deaths.
His family said he was "outgoing" before his depression worsened after his dad's death in 2005. After he was sectioned in 2015, Ms Turner said he "shut me out" and she last saw him in 2016, despite repeated attempts to make contact.
The spiral towards losing his benefits began on 31 August 2017, when he failed to attend a fit-for-work test for his ESA.
The DWP sent Mr Graham reminders in September and October 2017 asking why he did not attend – but had no reply. Benefit officers then carried out two "safeguarding visits" at his home on 16 October and 17 October – again with no reply.
But despite the inconclusive visits his ESA ended from 10 October, some days earlier.
Mr Graham's letter said he "dreaded" any post coming through the door and "sometimes I can't stand to even hear the washing machine."
A DWP spokesman said yesterday: "Our sympathies are with Mr Graham’s family. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year.
If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected]
Errol Graham's heartbreaking letter
I have had to put in writing how I feel as I find it hard to express myself. I wish I could feel and function normally like anyone else but I find this very hard.
I can't say I have a typical day because some are good not many, clouded by very bad days.
I get up as late as I can so that the day doesn't seem too long. On a good day I open my curtains but mostly they stay shut.
I find it hard to leave the house on bad days. I don't want to see anyone or talk to anyone. It's not nice living this way.
I'm afraid to put my heating on and sit with a quilt around me to keep me warm. I dread any mail coming frightened of what it might be because I don't have the means to pay and this is very distressing. Most days I go to bed hungry and I feel I'm not even surviving how I should be. Little things that people brush off are big things to me.
I have come on my own today because I have been unable to share how I feel with anyone because I don't think they would understand. It has made me ill having to come here today. It's a very big ordeal for me.
My nerves are terrible and coping with this lifestyle wears me out. Sometimes I can't stand to even hear the washing machine, and I wish I knew why.
Being locked away in my flat I feel I don't have to face anyone, at the same time it drives me insane. I think I feel more secure on my own with my own company, but wish it wasn't like that.
I am not a drinker and have never been, so don't think that I am here to abuse the system.
Please judge me fairly, I am a good person but overshadowed by depression.
All I want in life is to live normally that would be the answer to my prayers.
Thank you to you all for taking time to read this letter I really appreciate it.
Don't know how I'll cope when I see you all, hope I will be ok.
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