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March 2015

The death of Sheila Holt, following a work capability assessment.

What: Sheila Holt had always been unable to work because of her mental health condition, but had been placed in the ESA work-related activity group following a WCA. This led to her being forced onto the government’s new Work Programme. She also had to start paying the bedroom tax. She began falling into poverty, became increasingly agitated by the work-related activity she was forced to undergo, and eventually was sectioned. A few days later, in December 2013, at the age of 47, she had a heart attack, which left her in a coma. She died in March 2015.

Why significant: Her treatment had led Mike Penning, then minister for disabled people, to “apologise unreservedly to the family”, during the WOW petition debate in February 2014. He told MPs: “In that case, things clearly have gone wrong and the family have every right to be aggrieved.”


Commons debate 27 Feb 2014
'Woman in coma who was hounded to go back to work has died', Waugh, 2015
'Sheila Holt: Woman ordered to find work while lying in coma dies aged 48', Wynne Jones, 2015