A BURNLEY Thalidomide victim who has undergone brain surgery, is blind in one eye and partially deaf, can barely walk and will undergo spinal surgery later this year is scared she will be forced to work.
Martine White (50), of Palatine Square, was left in shock after the Department of Work and Pensions wrote to her saying her benefits would be stopped because she is fit enough to go to work.
She has now been served with court papers and must attend a tribunal where she will have to prove to a judge she is unfit to work – despite not being able to walk to her corner shop.
The White family has been involved in a battle with the department since July and son Carl said, although his mother was still getting benefits, they had had enough of the hassle.
“We’re fed up of it,” he fumed. “They wrote to her saying she is now fit enough to go to work and they want her to attend a training course.
“There is no way she can go to work. All they would have to do is send somebody to the house and they would be able to see she can’t go to work. It’s just something we don’t need. She is in a bad enough way as it is and she’s even going to have to have spinal surgery this year because her bones are deteriorating.”
Last year Mrs White received a letter notifying her of a changeover from incapacity benefits to Employment and Support Allowance. Just a few weeks later, in July, she received another letter saying she was no longer entitled to benefits and must go on a work training course. The family appealed and the decision was overturned.
In October, however, she was contacted by the department and told once again she should not be claiming benefits. This time the family’s appeal was rejected and they are now having to gather medical evidence for the court hearing, for which a date has not yet been set.
“When we got the letter in October I rang the JobCentre and they said it was a glitch, to forget about it and it would be sorted,” said Carl. “It got to March and we hadn’t heard anything so we thought everything was sorted. We couldn’t believe it when this came through. I’ve rang all her specialists and consultants and asked them to send her medical records because we need this sorting once and for all.
“How much is it costing them? All the letters and stress and now they are taking us to court. I understand they are trying to get people off benefits but they are targeting the wrong people. They are targeting the high-rate disabled people because that is where the money is going, but there’s a reason why they are high-rate.”
Burnley-born Martine married fellow Thalidomide victim Michael in 1981 – the first Thalidomide couple to be married in Britain. Michael died in 2004, four years after she had undergone surgery to remove a brain tumour.
Prior to her brain surgery, Martine worked for Social Services helping people with disabilities and learning difficulties. She now requires a carer seven days a week, needs a lift to help her up stairs and is on medication to help relieve constant agony.
“It’s been so much hassle,” she said. “I know there are a lot of other people like me going through this and it’s just not fair. The extra stress has certainly not been doing me any good. I don’t know what they expect me to do or where they expect me to work. I’m in constant agony now and it’s not as if my arms are going to grow back. We just want it sorting.”
A DWP spokesman said: “The old incapacity benefits system condemned too many people to a life on benefits with little hope of moving back to work. Now people who can work will be given help to find a job while those who need unconditional support will get it.
“A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant, but everybody has the right to appeal a decision if they disagree with it.”
“People placed in the Work Related Activity Group for Employment and Support Allowance are currently too ill to work, but with the right help may be able to move into work in the future.”