A government minister has apologised after it emerged that a Whitehall department sent letters to a woman demanding she make an effort to find work even though she was in a coma.{jcomments on}

The minister for disabled people, Mike Penning, said he apologised "unreservedly" to the family of Sheila Holt after he was challenged in the Commons.

"It's about time politicians did stand up and apologise when things went wrong. It clearly has gone wrong and the family have every right to be aggrieved and I hope she makes a full recovery, as much as she can," said Penning.

Holt, who has suffered from physical and mental health problems, was contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions, which invited her to attend "intensive job-focused activity", according to her MP Simon Danczuk. She fell into a coma in December last year and the government and its contractor were informed, the Labour MP told the Commons.

Speaking after the exchange, Holt's father Ken, 74, said the government's welfare to work scheme was to blame for the severity of his daughter's condition.…she became more and more agitated until she "cracked" her father said, and was hospitalised following a "manic episode".

Ken said he visited his daughter in hospital daily and that she has suffered "very, very serious brain damage" following a heart attack.

"It's a matter of life and death," he said. "She may not survive, that's how bad it is. All she can do is open her eyes and she shows she's in a lot of pain," he said.

Read the full story in the Guardian.


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