A pregnant woman living in Hackney jumped to her death while clutching her baby after her benefits were stopped, an inquest heard last week.
Christelle Pardo, 32, a philosophy graduate from France, plunged from the balcony of her sister’s third floor flat in east London, with her 5- month year old son, Kayjah.
Since leaving London Metropolitan University in May 2008, she had been claiming Job Seekers Allowance, but her benefits were stopped 6 months into her pregnancy because she was considered unable to work. As a result, she also lost her automatic entitlement to housing benefit.
She was advised to apply for income support, but her application was rejected because the Department for Work and Pensions said she had not proven that she had been in continuous employment in the UK for the previous 5 years, despite having been in either education or employment since 1997.
Her application for child benefit was also then rejected after officials learnt she had been denied income support, and Hackney council demanded that she repay £200 in housing benefit.
Two further appeals for income support were rejected when her attempts to take the DWP to a tribunal failed after she was repeatedly failed to be given a date for a hearing. Her last phone call to the DWP was on June 12 of this year, the day before she committed suicide and killed her son.
DWP officials told the court that her Income Support had been correctly rejected because she had failed to show that she had been working for a period of eight months at the end of 2003. However, her sister, Olaya, told Poplar Coroner’s Court that she and Ms Pardo had been in employment ever since moving to Britain from France.
She said: “Her application was completed- she had the right paperwork.”
Hackney council refused to comment, instead explaining that as in any case where a child has been killed or seriously harmed, a Serious Case Review run by City and Hackney Safeguarding Children’s Board, is pending.
Fran Pearson, chair of the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board said: “Immediately following the deaths of Ms Pardo and her child, the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board commissioned a Serious Case Review to examine the involvement of all agencies with this case. The report is nearing completion and will be submitted to Ofsted on December 21. The executive summary of its findings is expected to be published in January.”
Describing the day her sister died, Olaya told the court she had seemed distant and upset, and was concerned about getting a date for her tribunal.
“She was stressed about her benefits”, she said. “She didn’t want her son to feel all the stress that she was going through with the paperwork.”
“We talked sister to my sister and she told me how she was feeling. She said she was upset because she felt that she didn’t exist.”
Ms Pardo died at the scene. Paramedics took her son to a nearby hospital where he died later that day. Dr Andrew Reid, the coroner, 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.”
He recorded a verdict of suicide for Christelle Pardo, and a verdict of unlawful killing for the death of her son.