A woman whose husband murdered her two children now fears eviction thanks to the DWP stripping her benefits.
Her case is indicative of the DWP’s apparent refusal to appreciate the difficulties of living with mental health conditions.
‘Fit for work’
As the Sunday Post reported:
A medical assessor has ruled June Martin is fit for work despite being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression after losing her children, Michelle, 25, and son Ryan, seven.
Martin’s ex-husband murdered their two children in 2008 and is currently serving life in prison. Since finding her children dead, she has struggled to rebuild her life. She suffers from multiple mental health conditions and has felt suicidal at times.
Martin was receiving the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) disability benefit until she failed a Work Capability Assessment. The decision was upheld by a tribunal on 20 June. Independent Assessment Services, formerly known as Atos Healthcare, conducted Martin’s assessment. After the tribunal, a spokesperson stated:
Whilst the tribunal accepts Ms Martin has mental health problems and balance problems, the nature and extent of the resulting limitations are insufficient to score the required number of points.
As a result Ms Martin does not qualify for either component of personal independent payment.
But Martin claimed that the assessment was not fit for purpose. She told the Sunday Post:
Neither the assessor or the tribunal last week seemed to want to know about the trauma I suffer daily reliving finding my children posed as if they were asleep in their beds, or pulling back the covers to find them stabbed to death
She went on to describe how:
My disabilities are invisible. They cannot be tested by spelling a word backwards or holding my arms above my head…
I don’t know from one day to the other how I will feel, sometimes from one hour to the other…
I can get up and go to the supermarket for a loaf of bread one day, but if I hear a child crying it takes me back to the murder scene.
Martin is now facing up to the possibility of becoming homeless as she cannot afford to top up the £35 shortfall between her housing benefit and her rent:
I must have moved over a dozen times because I haven’t been able to settle somewhere I feel safe.
Just when I finally found a little peace and somewhere I can feel safe, I fear it’s all going to be taken from me now.
SNP MP Patricia Gibson told the Sunday Post:
This is yet another example of the DWP letting down vulnerable people when they most need support. Those living with mental health challenges are poorly understood by DWP assessor(s) and this has to change.
And head of North Ayrshire Council’s health and social care partnership Stephen Brown stated:
The benefits system often fails to recognise the impact of trauma and its long-term debilitating nature. Our psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers have known this for years and much of their time is spent supporting people to rebuild their lives.
In response, the DWP issued the following statement:
This is a sensitive and distressing set of circumstances and our thoughts remain with Ms Martin.
We will continue to ensure Ms Martin is receiving all the benefits she is entitled to and gets the support she needs.
Shocking but not surprising
Unfortunately, Martin’s case isn’t a one-off. As Gibson stated, the DWP’s assessors seem to have a poor understanding of the effects of living with a mental health condition. So much so that a high court ruling in December 2017 concluded that changes to PIP “blatantly discriminated” against people living with a mental health condition. Yet despite this high court ruling, the DWP stated that claimants who had been wrongly denied benefits will still have to wait months to receive what they are owed. For someone living with a mental health condition, this anxiety can become too much to bear.
Given the DWP’s track record, Martin’s case is shocking – yet sadly, it’s not surprising.
– If you think the DWP has discriminated against you, contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service on 0800 800 0082.
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