Mum with brain condition that causes her to collapse ruled fit for work by benefits bosses

Kathryn Hammond is to have her Employment Support Allowance stopped.
Kathryn Hammond is to have her Employment Support Allowance stopped.

A woman suffering from a birth defect that makes her collapse regularly has hit out at benefits officials after she was ruled fit for work.

Kathryn Hammond has a condition called Arnold Chiari Malformation which she says can make her collapse on a daily basis, suffer excruciating head pain and even lose her sight and hearing for periods.

How can one professional say I’m not fit for work and another say I am

Kathryn Hammond

The 34-year-old says she lost her job as a customer service advisor because of it and has a doctor’s letter confirming her condition.

Kathryn, mum to Barry Ford, 11, received Employment Support Allowance (ESA) between last October and April this year.

But it has now been stopped by the Department of Work and Pensions after an assessment said there was no evidence it affected her ability to work.

Kathryn, who lives at Wheatley Hill, said: “How can one professional say I’m not fit for work and another say I am?

“I collapse daily, lose vision, hearing and suffer with severe depression due to this, however according to them, I am fit for work.

“I need someone with me at all times and have been advised I’m unable to drive due to my condition, however according to them I can travel alone.

“I’m genuinely unwell and I’m not coping. I find it humiliating how I’m genuine and there’s so many people on ESA who is not.”

She was diagnosed with the condition six years ago, but says the symptoms have got significantly worse in the last year.

It is caused by the lower part of her brain being pushed downwards because it is too big for her skull.

Kathryn, who previously worked for NPower in Peterlee, says anything from laughing, coughing, physical exercise and bending down can trigger the pain.

She has enquired about decompression surgery but has been advised there is a high chance her symptoms will be the same or even worse.

“If my medication could be sorted out I would happily go back to work,” she said. “All it takes is for me to fall in the wrong place and I’m out for he count. It’s scary.”

The DWP says the test for ESA is not whether someone has a health condition but how it affects their ability to function on a daily basis.

A spokesman added: “Work Capability Assessments help ensure that people get the level of support that they need, rather than just writing them off on sickness benefits as happened in the past.

“The decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough independent assessment, and after consideration of all the supporting evidence from the claimant’s GP or medical specialist.

“A claimant who disagrees with the outcome of their assessment can appeal.”