Nygell Firminger inquest – suicide resulted from eviction

On 10 July 2013 Barnet Coroner's Court ruled that Nygell Firminger, formerly of 32a Cambridge Avenue, Kilburn NW6, ‘committed suicide as a direct consequence of being evicted from his home and the effect this had on his mental health’.

The officer from Genesis Housing Association who oversaw the eviction in April 2012 had arrived at the premises at 8am. Nygell was given 30 minutes to take his possessions and get out the door.  This was extended to an hour only because the bailiffs had another job to go to.

The housing officer told the coroner’s court that he was unaware that Nygell was a vulnerable person receiving mental health treatment. There had been meetings to discuss Nygell's rent arrears on 20 April 2011 and 20 February 2012, only a month before Nygell's death, but there was no risk assessment of his mental illness.

However, when questioned during the inquest, Genesis Housing Association representatives did admit that Nygell had become quite ill in 2007 following the death of his mother.

Genesis officers agreed that had they known about Nygell Firminger's mental illness – which should have qualified him for housing benefit - the eviction would not have happened.

The Coroner was concerned that the court which granted Genesis Housing Association permission to evict was also not told that Nygell was receiving mental health treatment.

The Coroner went to great lengths to point out how communication between the Community Mental Health Team and Genesis could have prompted the housing association to help Nygell to access housing benefit, which would have prevented the accumulation of rent arrears and subsequent eviction.

The Coroner will now write to the local health authority about this gap between the Community Mental Heath Service and Genesis Housing Association and the NHS, in order to make it to aware of this gap in services for people with mental health problems.

The inquest was attended by representatives of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group, of which Nygell was a member, and Kilburn Boycott Workfare Group, which has exposed several employers who take advantage of the unemployed, young people and people with disabilities, forcing them to work full time for the money they receive as unemployment benefit.  These campaign groups welcomed the inquest verdict, which encourages assistance for vulnerable people to take up welfare benefits that are available, in stark contrast to the current unbearable pressure being brought to bear on many unemployed workers, people with disabilities, council tenants, and youth to stop claiming the benefits that they are fully entitled to.

John Tymon
Kilburn Boycott Workfare Group


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