Disabled people of all kinds – not just those at risk of suicide – have spent years protesting about cuts to benefits and services [Image: Alamy Stock Photo].

This Writer had an interesting message from my friends on the Atos Miracles Facebook page yesterday.

It said: “I wonder if anyone else has twigged that the latest groups to be targeted for PIP cuts are also those targeted in changes to the way regulations 29 and 35 are implemented in ESA; and targeted further in the coming, oh I just can’t wait for it, work and health programme reforms.”

ESA regulations 29 and 35 concern whether decisions to find someone fit for work or able to carry out work-related activity would cause a substantial risk of harm to an ESA claimant – for example, putting them at risk of committing suicide.

This guidance used to state that anyone whose mental health would be at risk if they were denied benefits or told to engage in work-related activity, specifically anyone who is at risk of suicide or self-harm, should be placed in the support group of ESA.

As the number of ESA-related deaths skyrocketed due to the Conservative-led government’s homicidal treatment of benefit claimants, use of these rules increased, in an attempt to defend claimants against work capability assessors who seemed hell-bent on sending them to early graves. They were the basis of more than half of all support group benefit awards in 2015.

So the Conservative government changed the regulations.

Now they say assessors should consider the benefits of employment weighed against any potential risks, adding that “there is good evidence that people in work have better health outcomes and are at lower risk of suicide”.

And there are no longer any “definitive” criteria that would normally trigger Regulation 35 and lead to a Support Group benefit award – such as if a mental health professional had assessed the claimant as highly vulnerable to relapse and self-harm.

It’s a load of old cobblers, of course. But that didn’t stop assessors using it to fuel a 12 per cent increase in the number of claimants found fit for work between December 2015 and March 2016. Oh, and the government is once again refusing to publish numbers of sickness/disability claimant deaths.

The DWP at first tried to deny that any changes had taken place, saying there had been no change in policy because the law had not changed, which is true – the changes were in guidance issued to staff on how to interpret the regulations behind the law.

Then, after the number of ‘fit for work’ verdicts increased hugely, the DWP tried to claim it was because a backlog of new claims was falling, meaning those who were fit for work were leaving after an assessment saying so, rather than going back to work of their own accord beforehand.

Does anybody really believe that?

(Thanks to this website for source information.)

Okay, now fast-forward to the current controversy over changes to the regulations governing who receives the Personal Independence Payment. Here’s the Daily Mirror‘s take on who will be affected:

Two tribunal judgements said the government should hand more cash to 165,000 people in certain situations.

The DWP has laid down emergency laws to stop those tribunals taking effect, because the new payments would cost £3.7bn by 2022.

While drawing up the laws, the DWP put together an “equality analysis” showing the most likely conditions it would affect.

Obviously, just because a condition is on the list, it doesn’t mean everyone with that condition is being denied cash or that those affected are losing ALL their benefits – each case is different.

But it does mean the DWP’s experts have estimated that at least some of the 165,000 people affected are likely to have that condition.

Here are the “conditions most likely to be affected”, according to the DWP:

•Mood disorders – Other / type not known
•Psychotic disorders – Other / type not known
•Schizophrenia
•Schizoaffective disorder
•Phobia – Social Panic disorder
•Learning disability – Other / type not known
•Generalized anxiety disorder
•Agoraphobia
•Alcohol misuse
•Anxiety and depressive disorders – mixed
•Anxiety disorders – Other / type not known
•Autism
•Bipolar affective disorder (Hypomania / Mania)
•Cognitive disorder due to stroke
•Cognitive disorders – Other / type not known
•Dementia
•Depressive disorder
•Drug misuse
•Stress reaction disorders – Other / type not known
•Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
•Phobia – Specific Personality disorder
•Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

•Diabetes mellitus (category unknown)
•Diabetes mellitus Type 1 (insulin dependent)
•Diabetes mellitus Type 2 (non-insulin dependent)
•Diabetic neuropathy
•Diabetic retinopathy
•Disturbances of consciousness – Nonepileptic – Other / type not known
•Drop attacks
•Generalised seizures (with status epilepticus in last 12 months)
•Generalised seizures (without status epilepticus in last 12 months)
•Narcolepsy
•Non epileptic Attack disorder (pseudoseizures)
•Partial seizures (with status epilepticus in last 12 months)
•Partial seizures (without status epilepticus in last 12 months)
•Seizures – unclassified Dizziness – cause not specified
•Stokes Adams attacks (cardiovascular syncope)
•Syncope – Other / type not known

Source: Here are some conditions that don’t make you “really disabled” according to Theresa May’s policy chief

Would you like me to pick up a few obvious candidates who may be at risk of suicide and/or self-harm – or can you see them clearly enough yourself?

I mentioned in an earlier article that George Freeman, the MP who had said PIP should be directed to people with the most serious conditions, rather than people sitting at home popping pills for anxiety, should make a full and frank apology for his comment. In fact I had tweeted that opinion to him.

It seems others have done the same, and were far better at making the appropriate points than This Writer. Such as:

If you’re on Twitter, feel free to express your opinion about Mr Freeman’s words. He’s @Freeman_George – but feel free to pass your comments on to your own MP and the various party leaders/spokespeople, who will be delighted to receive your views – even if Mr Freeman isn’t.

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