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Rochdale coma woman Sheila Holt told to 'find work'

image captionMinister Mike Penning apologised to the family of Sheila Holt

An "unreserved apology" had been issued by the government to the family of a woman who was sent a letter encouraging her to find work even though she has been in a coma for two months.

Speaking in the Commons, the Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning said things had clearly "gone wrong".

Sheila Holt, from Rochdale, was invited to "intensive job-focused activity".

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk said the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was hounding disabled people.

Sheila Holt's case was highlighted by Mr Danczuk during a debate on the effects of welfare reform on the sick and disabled.

Mr Danczuk said: "Sheila has suffered from severe bipolar [disorder] since childhood and regularly has traumatic experiences.

"She has not been in employment since she was 16 years old.

However she was pushed into the Work Programme before Christmas and she was finding it extremely difficult."

He said members of her family repeatedly informed Seetec, a contractor carrying out work capability assessments for the DWP, that she was not well "but they continued to get harassed by those organisations".

'Threatening her'

Ms Holt's father Ken said her last job was 27 years ago and last year she was forced to go on a job-seeking course for eight days.

After each day she became more and more agitated until she "cracked" her father said, and was hospitalised following a "manic episode".

But while in hospital she suffered a heart attack on 17 December last year and is still in a coma after suffering brain damage.

He said: "If they had left her alone she would not be in this condition. They were threatening her with cuts and she needs the benefits.

"I just believe it's all wrong, you should be chasing the people who are fit, get them to work, not them that are not fit. It's outrageous."

Mr Penning said: "I apologise, unreservedly, to the family as the minister responsible.

"The family have every right to be aggrieved and I hope she makes a full recovery."

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  • Rochdale

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