Huddersfield dad ‘hounded to demise’ over Baby Upkeep Service calls for, say household

A dad-of-one took his own life after being ‘hounded’ to death by the Child Support Service over impossible financial demands his sister has said.

Jonny O’Neill, a 41-year-old engineer from Huddersfield, left a chilling message hours before his death in November last year saying: “The CMS is about to take yet another life…” Two days previously he had posted another disturbing message making it clear he was stressed out about the demands.

His younger sister Joanna Smith lashed out today saying her brother had died a needless death and had been ground down by the authority over incessant demands for more cash stretching back years.

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The 37-year-old said: “He had struggled for years over these demands and on Wednesday, November 17, he seemed OK but on the following day I got a message from one of his friends saying he was in a bad way.” The emergency services were dispatched to his home in Lindley and he was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for treatment but despite the best efforts of medics they were unable to save his life and he was pronounced dead on Friday, November 19.

Joanna said: “JonBoy earned a reasonably modest wage with £28,000 being the most he ever earned. But the final straw was when he was told by the CMS that they were going to start taking a whopping £689 a month from his monthly wage. That was a huge amount, getting on for 50% of his salary, and meant there was no way he would be able to keep his beautiful apartment in Lindley.

“He told me he would have to give up his job where he had been employed for 14 years and his apartment. It’s staggering how it could have come to this. Basically, that’s what pushed him over the edge. Come December he couldn’t afford to live The people who operate this system are absolutely disgusting and they were still adding up his arrears after he had passed away.

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“Me and my mum Judith O’Neill are absolutely devastated by his death and the tragic circumstances that proceeded it. Jonathan was loved by all who knew him and will be missed dearly.”

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said: “This is a desperately tragic case and we have been working with Joanna on it for some time now. I think this man was asking questions and getting no answers.

“It was a hard bureaucracy that didn’t or couldn’t listen. This was a bureaucracy that was not listening and with tragic consequences and your heart goes out to everyone involved.”

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman said: “This is an incredibly tragic case and our condolences are with Mr O’Neill’s family. Child maintenance payments are essential to the wellbeing of a child and the CMS exists to support separated parents who cannot arrange this between themselves, balancing affordability for paying parents with ensuring children get the right level of financial support to give them the best start in life.”

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The service says it ensures child maintenance payments are calculated according to what a parent can afford in line with the legislation. It has introduced a Complex Needs Toolkit as it knows family life is complex and this toolkit is designed to support our caseworkers in helping vulnerable parents experiencing mental health issues, homelessness, suicidal ideation and self-harm, debt, bereavement, emotional support, unemployment, being a victim of crime, and generic divorce and relationship separation issues.

An inquiry into Mr O’Neill’s death will be heard at Bradford Coroner’s Court in due course.

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