The following will be in the January edition of  ‘The See’ –

Suicides are increasing among disabled people too frightened to protest against coalition cuts that are damaging their lives, according to disability campaigners taking their case to Parliament.

They are calling for 100,000 people to sign an online petition  asking Government to freeze, and review, cuts in the benefits and services for disabled people ‘which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families’. Sufficient support would generate a Parliamentary debate.
‘Because of the cuts to benefits and services disabled people and their carers are living in fear,’ said one Lancashire campaigner. ‘Some have already committed suicide. We have been let down by all the political parties.’
The petition, submitted by blind carer Pat Onions  ‘is our last hope,’ the campaigner said. It needed everyone’s support:  ‘you may not think you will be affected now, but you may be in the future, when there will be no safety net for you.
Case studies should summon a ‘coalition of the compassionate’ in support said Bishop Nicholas, who is backing the campaign. The petition is also being supported by a range of disability organisations, including the RNIB,  Disability Alliance, CarerWatch, and CarersUK.
John Blake said he had claimed Incapacity Benefit for a number of years, following a spine injury. A letter and medical form was followed by a phone call instructing him to attend a medical assessment on the fourth floor of a building in Preston, with no parking within his walking distance, ‘so I had to refuse‘.
‘I then received a letter from the Jobcentre asking why I did not attend the medical. I pointed out that the building was inaccessible to me due to my physical condition, which does not appear to be relevant.
The Jobcentre told John he would not be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance because he did not attend the Work Capability assessment. ‘My benefit would be stopped. I was being punished because of my disability. I now have circulation problems and could lose my right leg.
‘My wife is a cancer patient and I am her carer. She is physically and mentally fragile and I am concerned for her welfare as she will also be subject to this kind of treatment by ATOS (the private company carrying out assessments) and the Government welfare reforms.’
“Cathy” is nearly 50 and has been diagnosed with a severe and enduring mental illness. She currently receives Incapacity Benefit and an indefinite award of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), including high-rate care. Medical professionals have said that the illness will last her lifetime, and that her condition is deteriorating.
Cathy describes the last year as ‘One of the worst I can remember.‘ After 18 years of continuous support from the Community Mental Health Team, she was discharged against her will and left without statutory service. One of the reasons given was a lack of funding.
This was followed by ‘compulsory harsher reassessments, threats and sanctions’ over sickness and disability benefits, said a campaigner. Contributory Employment and Support Allowance was to be limited to a maximum of 12 months. Sole exceptions will be for those placed in Support group ‘which is notoriously hard to get into’.
‘DLA will be axed so Cathy’s award will no longer stand. The news made her despair and her condition was aggravated- and consequently the stress on her elderly carer also. Cathy’s prescription was increased four-fold, and has been supplemented with extra medication.’
Bishop Nicholas said: ‘I would like to see a coalition of the compassionate backing this call to Government to stop, and thoroughly review threats to the support available for the most vulnerable members of our society.
‘This transcends party politics. Rather, as those who have launched this petition are saying, it forms an appeal to “everyone who cares about disabled people”. That should include us all!
‘Many thousands of disabled people, and their carers and families, daily show incredible and usually unacknowledged courage, simply achieving the simple things most of us take for granted. We can help them by requesting that Parliament reconsider fully the measures that disabled people themselves feel will further erode their quality of life.
‘As Christians we have a duty to follow the example of Jesus who showed especial care and compassion towards those living with disabilities. We can continue his work by signing this petition, and by urging many others to do the same.’
Bishop Nicholas, the Bishop of Blackburn, Lancashire