Woman who can suffer up to 18 mental breakdowns a week claims she was denied benefits for ‘not looking ill enough’
- Camilla Robinson from Sunderland suffers from anxiety and mental breakdowns
- The 24-year-old has to be supervised and prompted to do even the simple tasks
- In February she attempted suicide, claiming it was due to stress from the DWP
A young woman who can suffer up to 18 mental breakdowns a week says she was denied benefits for ‘not looking ill enough’.
In one week Camilla Robinson can suffer multiple anxiety attacks and mental breakdowns.
The 24-year-old from Sunderland has to be supervised and prompted to do simple tasks because she can space out, dissociate and self-harm.
Three years ago she was diagnosed with generalised anxiety, severe depression, vitamin D deficiency and Lipedema – a chronic condition that causes the legs and thighs to become enlarged due to a build up of abnormal fat cells.
Ms Robinson applied to the Department for Work and Pensions for support through the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) after being advised by the Job Centre to apply.
But assessors scored her 0 – despite her presenting medical evidence – and a mandatory reconsideration was rejected and so was an appeal.
She said: ‘When the results came back I was heartbroken.
‘The DWP scored me 0 on everything despite all of my medical evidence.
‘They claimed I do not look ill enough to claim benefits.
‘They have no right to tell me that I don’t look ill, or that my illness does not affect me at all.’
At the tribunal, Ms Robinson says she was faced with tough questions in a difficult environment.
She said: ‘I was thrown into a hostile environment and asked the same question over and over again.
‘It was tough and my partner had sent them my medical background.
‘When I went for my tribunal the DWP said I had one mental breakdown a week – that is not true. The most I have had is 18 and it is a lot higher than one.
‘It felt invasive and uncomfortable and I kept forgetting things.
‘All the tribunal did was change my daily living score from 0 to 4, they kept my mobility score at 0 despite me having to use a cane and potentially needing surgery on my legs to treat the constant pain and swelling caused by my Lipedema.’
In February, Ms Robinson attempted suicide, and claims it was due to the stress of dealing with the DWP.
‘Our own Government doesn’t seem to realise how debilitating it is to have a mental illness and spend most of your days in bed with no energy to get up and have a wash,’ she said.
Ms Robinson was dealt a devastating blow last year when the Government said she was no longer entitled to Universal Credit after her partner moved in.
This meant he was £3,000 per year worse off and forced to increase her working hours from 15 to 30.
‘I physically and mentally struggle to do 30 hours,’ she said. ‘If I wasn’t working as many hours I would be able to focus on my mental wellbeing and have more time for therapy.’
‘I have received no apology from the DWP for their harsh treatment towards me, for their benefit cuts leaving me £3,000 out of pocket every year, for discriminating against me for having an invisible illness, and for not recognising the agonising pain I feel every time I try to work.’
The DWP said PIP is designed to support people with the greatest needs, helping people with the costs of their care and mobility.
PIP may be used for a number of reasons, including therapy sessions or if someone requires a carer to come into their home.
A DWP spokesman said: ‘We understand people experience difficult periods in their lives and our JCP staff are there to help and signpost them to other appropriate support if needed.
‘PIP is awarded following consideration of all the information received and means-tested benefits may be available to people on are low income.
‘Anyone who disagrees with a benefits decision has the right to appeal and can provide more evidence.’