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Mother's case raised in Commons
10:54pm Sunday 17th June 2012 in News
A SINGLE mother with mental illness has revealed how she was driven to the edge of suicide after being told to find work, in a case condemned in the Commons.
North Durham MP Kevan Jones described the treatment of the woman as among the worst examples of a new work test criticised as inhumane by mental health charities.
The 36-year-old, from Stanley, County Durham, has suffered from bipolar depression since the age of 21 and receives a “cocktail of medication”, with treatment from a psychiatric nurse.
When she was first contacted by Atos – the French firm employed by the Government to test incapacity benefit (IB) claimants – she was given the impression her benefits were not under threat.
After a 20-minute test, she was passed as fit to work, after being given zero points on a scale in which 15 points are required to be deemed unfit.
She said she immediately lost her £97.50 a week IB payment, making her reliant on her mother to help her look after her two-year-old son.
She is appealing against the ruling, with the risk of losing some of her £92 a week income support if she is placed on jobseeker’s allowance.
She said: “I fell to pieces when they told me I had got zero points and that I would have to get a job, because I have a two-year-old son and because of my mental illness.
“I was crying and I felt suicidal.
I thought I was going to lose my house, because my housing benefit was withdrawn, which meant I could not pay the rent. It was then reinstated.
“I do not want to think about having to go to work. I know I could not cope, because I have tried before. Not unless my mental illness gets better.”
She said her psychiatric nurse was shocked at the ruling, and said: “She felt guilty, because she hadn’t realised it could happen.”
In the Commons last week, Mr Jones, who revealed his own battle against depression, said he was sure the woman would win her appeal, but said she had already been waiting eight months.
The Department for Work and Pensions said it was talking to charities to find ways to improve the tests.
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