DAVID Cameron has been urged to look again at disability benefit changes after a Northumberland man committed suicide when told he would lose all support.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery told a stunned House of Commons that he had received a copy of a suicide note written by a housebound 54-year-old man in his constituency who took his own life after a battle with the Department for Work and Pensions.
In an emotional question to the Prime Minister, Mr Lavery called for those losing disability benefits as a result of Government cuts to at least be allowed to undergo an impact assessment to see how the withdrawal of financial support will affect them.
The Labour MP said: “I have in my hand a genuine suicide note from a constituent of mine who, sadly, took his own life after he was informed that he was no longer entitled to employment and support allowance and disability benefits.
“Across the UK, more than 1,000 people have died only months after being told to find work. This is 2012, we are supposed to be a civilised society. We should be looking after disabled citizens in the UK.
“Will the Prime Minister listen to the 62,000 people who have signed a petition on this and please finally order an assessment of all changes hitting disabled people in this country?”
The PM insisted more money was going to those who remained on disability benefits. He said: “Everyone’s thoughts will go out to that person’s family because of what has happened to them.
“What I would say is that the actual money that we are putting into disability benefits over the coming years is going up, not down. I think that everybody knows and accepts that we need to have a review of disability benefits.
“Some people have been stuck on these benefits and not been reviewed for year after year after year. That is the view of the disability charities and it is the view of the Government as well.”
Mr Lavery’s claims are just one of many examples of disabled people facing unfair cuts in the region, MPs have warned.
Gateshead’s Ian Mearns has told of the case of how one severely ill woman in his constituency who needs a heart and lung transplant was told by benefits officers at the DWP to go and find a job.
He said: “One of my constituents suffers from bronchial pulmonary dysplasia, is too ill for a heart and lung transplant, has been on steroids for 37 years, has osteoporosis, has kidney failure, cannot walk a single step unaided, has a fracture in her right arm, has left arm damage, has osteoarthritis and is diabetic.
“She was initially placed in the work-related activity group and told that she would need to find work. It should be borne in mind that she is housebound. Only after my intervention did the Department for Work and Pensions realise that a mistake had been made.”
He added that the Government’s own equality impact assessment from November 2011 predicted that disabled households would lose £37 a week, compared with non-disabled households, which would lose £26 a week.
Esther McVey, the Conservative junior DWP minister, said: “Work must always pay more than benefits, and that is why we are introducing the cap on the amount of benefits that working-age people can receive. It is not reasonable or fair that people out of work can get an income from benefits that is greater than the average weekly wage for working households.”
She added though that “once universal credit has been introduced, many disabled families will receive more support than they do now.”