A YOUNG woman who had to abandon training for her dream career in nursing after suffering repeated violent seizures has been told she is ‘fit to work’ after trying to claim benefits.
Becki Chalk suffers from epilepsy and dissociative seizures that leave her ‘covered in blood’ and ‘clueless’ to who she is.
The 25-year-old, from Fareham, is left with open wounds from scratching herself, migraines and exhaustion after a bout of seizures and needs constant care.
Out-of-work Becki, who was forced to abandon hopes of being a children’s nurse, went through an assessment for personal independence payments to keep her going while she waited for NHS therapy treatment for the attacks.
Click on the video above to see our interview with Becky.
The former Henry Cort Community College student, who spent time working as a support assistant at Heathfield Special School, said: ‘I don’t want to be on benefits.
‘I want to be back at university completing my degree so I can be a children’s nurse.’
Last year Becki won Student Nurse of The Year at Great Ormond Street Hospital. She said: ‘To go from that to the situation I am in now and to be told by the Department for Work and Pensions that I am fit to work is horrible.
‘If I could work, believe me I would. This whole thing has made me feel a burden to my family and to society and my mental health is bad because I feel like I can’t contribute anything.’
Dissociative seizures are how the brain reacts to thoughts or feelings related to present and past experiences while epileptic seizures happen because of abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
She added: ‘It is frustrating. At my age I want to be out enjoying life and be able to be independent but I can’t in case I have an episode.’
Becki has been in and out of hospitals, including Queen Alexandra in Cosham and a specialist centre in London, over the last four years due to the seizures and it has disrupted her studies at London South Bank University.
She is now unsure if she will be able to complete the degree of which she only had three months and one exam left to complete before the attacks started last year.
Mum Janine, 45, said: ‘She can’t be left alone ever and it is extremely frightening seeing your daughter not remember who she is or who her family are.
‘She harms herself and thinks we have kidnapped her and tries to escape the house before fainting and coming round again.’
Becki had applied for personal independence payments and went through a face-to-face 20-minute interview as well as sending in letters from her consultants and videos of her attacks but was refused and told she is ‘fit to work’.
Supportive dad Michael, an 50-year-old plumber, added: ‘Becki gets so upset that she can’t even pay her mobile phone bill. I pay everything for her and of course we don’t mind but it has such an effect on her mental health.
‘It is horrible not being able to help her when she is going through these attacks and heartbreaking that she faces not having her independence.’
A DWP spokesman said: ‘We’re committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support they’re entitled to, and we introduced PIP to give invisible and non-physical conditions the same parity as physical conditions.
‘Under PIP five times more people with mental health conditions receive the highest possible support than under [Disability Living Allowance].’
The DWP told The News that a letter from Becki’s neurologist said she would be well enough to return to university this January.
But Becki said that letter was written on the assumption she would have been treated by a specialist psychiatrist team in London – but that has not happened.
She added: ‘I sent [the letter] to the DWP because it was a good letter explaining everything about my situation and thought it would help them understand everything I was going through.’
Now Becki and her family want an overhaul of the benefits system which they say doesn’t cater to those with ‘invisible disabilities’.
Becki said: ‘I am lucky that I have my family to help and support me through this but I can’t imagine what it must be like for people who don’t have a strong support network and have to deal with their daily struggle while filling out forms and having interviews.
‘I think something needs to change.’
The family has started a petition and shared their story on social media.
Becki’s sister Kayleigh, 28, said: ‘It is absolutely horrendous seeing my sister like this and witnessing her covered in blood because she has scratched herself so much during her episodes.’
The mum-of-two added: ‘I decided to put our story on Facebook to show what was going on and it has been shared thousands of times and we have had hundreds of people messaging us saying they are in the same boat with a disability that doesn’t show up in the 20-minute interview you get with the assessors.’
To sign the petition visit change.org/p/government-abolish-current-pip-assessment-replace-with-one-that-considers-all-disabilities