Caitlin Mack’s death may have been avoided with mental health support and accommodation

The inquest into the death of 20 year old Caitlin Mack concluded this month. Senior Coroner for Cornwall, Mr Andrew Cox, concluded that “it is possible that had mental health support been provided in the first half of 2021 along with suitable long-term accommodation near her family, her death could have been avoided “. Prior to the conclusion of the inquest the Senior Coroner ruled that Article 2 ECHR was engaged because of an arguable systems failure in mental health services. Caitlin’s mother was represented by Cian Murphy instructed by Alexandra Kenney of Simpson Millar solicitors and supported by INQUEST.

Caitlin was described by her family as kind and considerate to others. She had a history of mental ill-health from the time she was seven years old. At the time of her death, Caitlin had been in the care of Cornwall Council as a “former relevant child. Despite this, and the Council’s responsibility to provide Caitlin with suitable accommodation, the inquest heard that she had struggled to find a home in which she felt safe.

She had been evicted from some properties for breaching premises rules, but in other cases, she left because she felt she was too far away from her family, who were her primary support network, or because she was feeling unsafe due to “predatory males”. Her decision to leave meant that Cornwall Council then classed her as “voluntarily homeless”. She later successfully appealed this decision.

The inquest heard evidence that while Caitlin was referred to Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's community mental health team in early 2021, she was not given a care coordinator due to staff shortages, meaning they did not have regular contact with her.

A representative from Cornwall Council gave evidence that shortages of temporary accommodation were the reason why Caitlin could not live nearer to her family. At the start of 2020, the council was housing 250 households a night in temporary accommodation, and in early 2021 as the country emerged from the Covid-19 lockdowns, that figure had risen to almost 700 families. The Council’s evidence was that this figure is unlikely to reduce in the near future.

Read the full press release, including reflections from Caitlin’s mother, here.