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George Freeman, a Conservative MP who chairs the prime minister’s policy board, has been desperately backtracking after mocking as “bizarre” the idea that claimants with severe anxiety should be eligible for personal independence payment (PIP). Meanwhile, the Lib Dems are attempting to overturn the changes to PIP, due to come into force on 16 March.

PIP changes
As we explained last week, following a court victory by claimants just last month, the government is rushing in an urgent change to the law to prevent many people with mental health conditions being awarded the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP).

The change means that people with mental health conditions such as severe anxiety who can go outdoors, even if they need to have someone with them, are much less likely to get an award of even the standard rate of the PIP mobility component.

The new regulations also make changes to the way that descriptors relating to taking medication are interpreted, again in response to a ruling by judges in favour of claimants.

“Bizarre”
Freeman appeared on Pienaar’s Politics on BBC 5 Live on Sunday to defend the reversal of the judges’ rulings, arguing:

"These tweaks are actually about rolling back some bizarre decisions by tribunals that now mean benefits are being given to people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety.

"We want to make sure we get the money to the really disabled people who need it."

Following heavy criticism of his comments by charities and opposition MPs, Freeman tweeted that he had experienced anxiety and depression when he was a carer as a child and added:

"I don't need any lectures on the damage anxiety does."

Many claimants with mental health conditions would strongly disagree with that statement. So too would many politicians and disability charities.

Scope chief executive Mark Atkinson argued:

"It is unhelpful to make crude distinctions between those with physical impairments and mental health issues because the kind of impairment someone has is not a good indicator of the costs they will face.

"Many disabled people will now be anxiously waiting to hear as to whether or not these tighter rules will affect their current PIP award.”

And backbench Tory MP Heidi Allen told Radio Four’s Today programme:

“In my view, the courts are there for a reason.

“If they have come up with this ruling, which says that the criteria should be expanded, then I believe we have a duty to honour that. That is their role.”

Resistance
The Lib Dems have now tabled a motion in the Lords in an attempt to overturn the government’s statutory instrument and are also praying against it in the commons, which could allow a debate to be held about the changes.

At this stage it is not clear that there is sufficient outrage, particularly amongst Conservative MPs, for the government to be defeated.

Comments  

#11 Karen Gill 2017-04-01 23:40
I have suffered anxiety. And depression for over 20 years and one attempt suicide I take medication and been on iapt course for 6 weeks I work but is very hard I walked out lots of times when I get so low I have a very good boss but sometimes I'm so low tired anxiety sets in I just dnt want to do anything or speak to anyone do you think I would be able to claim this benefit so could cut my hours maybe ?
#10 survival71 2017-03-12 19:10
There's a petition about this at www.38degrees.org.uk - treat people with mental health issues fairly under PIP :-

http://bit.ly/2moNJYr

If the government so desperately needed to reduce the deficit then they could immediately save £56 billion by scrapping the needless, over-expensive HS2 rail line and reverse the inhumane cuts to benefits, social care and NHS.
+2 #9 Penelopej 2017-03-08 13:06
I have yet another face to face medical coming up , I suffer from ocd , chronic asthma, osteoarthritis in my spine and neck , I have chronic widespread pain, severe anxiety and suffer with depression.
I am shocked at Mr Freemans remarks., I lead a very restricted life I only go out if someone is with me . Why don't people even try to understand what myself and others go threw , I would love to be able to lead an ordinary life , but I cant so I lead a simple existence and make good of that . I feel belittled, I feel as if people like mr freeman think I am lying about my illness and totally think I am a lower class citizen for being me. .Its humiliating .My anxiety levels are at there highest at the moment I feel constantly sick. my medical will be terrible and exhausting . I dont know why im going because the out look is grimm . This government need to stop taking away are money to feed themselves
+3 #8 Vicky 2017-03-04 11:04
This remark demonstrates how the attitude towards those of us with mental health problems hasn't moved forward in line with other disabilities. I told my psychiatrist recently that I felt as though I was as disabled as someone who was confined to a wheelchair. He responded that he thought I was even more disabled.
Due to my mental health problems the quality of my life is zero. And after the 9 month nightmare to be awarded PIP this has left me struggling even more.
What often gets overlooked is that employers do not want to hire anyone with a mental health diagnosis.
We're discriminated against by the public, employers, the government and DWP. It's difficult enough for me to get through a day...
+4 #7 Christophe 2017-03-01 14:36
Anxiety comes in many forms. Severe anxiety can become disabling. I doubt Mr Freeman's experience, and understanding, of severely disabling anxiety, or generally severely disabling mental health conditions, is satisfactory.

He did the basic, human mistake of generalising his own experience of anxiety as a child, to everyone else.

I'm afraid that he doesn't seem to understand what severely disabling mental health conditions are. And yes Mr Freeman, I believe you would benefit from further training on that subject. For our sake.
+2 #6 DianaW 2017-03-01 12:45
PLEASE include the names of relevant court decisions and links to both those and other public material cited in your articles, such as the broadcast interviews from which you have quoted.

Claimants need hard facts to bolster their own claims and your information would be useful, if only it could be identified and sourced more easily.
+2 #5 survival71 2017-03-01 01:33
Discraceful discrimination
+3 #4 m oneill 2017-02-28 12:30
why dont all the people who this disgusting new rule effects , start a online petition to get it stopped. and also urge their local mps to put pressure on the government to stop it. we all know its a ploy to save money. and one other thing , if someone took a job because of this ruling and had a episode , heart attack or trauma through doing it could they sue the dwp for putting them in that position by stating mental health problems dont qualify for mobility payments .
+6 #3 Idonia 2017-02-27 19:06
Disgusted at Mr. Freeman's remarks. An old schoolfriend suffering from anxiety took his own life in 2011 due to the severity of his condition. And as a sufferer for nearly 12 years, I can categorically state just how debilitating this condition is to live with. But then like most Tories, he speaks from an arena of little-to-no personal experience and a seemingly ingrained hatred of the disabled.
+2 #2 phidgity 2017-02-27 16:12
Totally agree!
+18 #1 Lynn M 2017-02-27 15:13
A total disgrace. As a psychiatric nurse for over 30 yrs and now unable to work due to osteoarthritis, chronic asthma and anxiety and depression I dont leave the house unless to medical appointments accompanied by my partner.

The impact on my life is devastating and the physical health impacts the mental health and vice versa.

To hear the comments made yesterday just shows that mental health is regarded as the lowest form of disability when it can totally impair a persons life.

Ignorance and stigma are still truly current with this Governments views which has made me upset, angry as we are classed as not disabled and taking tablets at home. Yes I am but despite several therapies paid for privately by me, my life is totally impaired.

This Government is leaving people in tatters, taking away any dignity , humiliating them and practically we now have to beg for help.

They could never understand due to their financial backgrounds the sleepless nights and stress to be assessed by some people that have no clue on mental health or physical health for that matter . A shambolic system for the most needy and vulnerable.

Scandalous :sad:

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