A VULNERABLE disabled woman said she has not eaten properly for almost three weeks, after her benefits were docked when she failed to attend Job Centre appointments.

June Howland, from Darlington, said a combination of illness, her lack of mobility and the fact she lives alone made it impossible for her to attend appointments aimed at assessing her suitability to work.

The 42-year-old, of Auckland Avenue, said: "It has affected my health, I have not been able to eat properly and my house has been freezing.

"I have been laid on my couch under my duvet, without gas or electric, not able to get warm."

Ms Howland, a wheelchair user as a result of operations many years ago, is unable to walk long distances and uses crutches to get around her home.

Her combined benefits amounted to £200 every fortnight, but the sanctions imposed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) meant she received just a quarter of that – the majority of which was swallowed by by her rent commitments.

A DWP spokeswoman said Ms Howland's complaint has now been resolved and her payments in the process of being reinstated.

She said: "We’ve written to her to tell her about the decision.

"In general terms, if anyone who is referred to the work programme and thinks their health will prevent them attending their appointment, or if their health condition has worsened, they should speak to their provider."

Ms Howland, a former security officer, who maintains that she is not fit for work, said she had yet to receive written confirmation from the DWP that her payments would resume.

She added: "I was poorly, I called them to say that I could not make my appointment and they sanctioned me for it.

"They expect me to work and I can't – my doctor has declared me unfit for work.

"Every day has been a struggle since they sanctioned me, I have had no money for my gas and electric, no money to feed myself, nothing at all."

Ms Howland, who worked as a security officer before her ailing health forced her to give up her job, added: "There are people out there who claims benefits when there's nothing wrong with them.

"I have got genuine health problems and doctors to back that up."