Scottish Liberal Democrats have penned an open letter to Ruth Davidson, asking whether she opposes new regulations from the UK Government that will mean thousands miss out on essential mental health support.
The UK Government last week opposed Liberal Democrat attempts to kill off proposals to severely restrict disability benefits. The new regulations tightening the criteria for claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will see tens of thousands of people with mental health and anxiety conditions such as schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder miss out.
After tribunal rulings said PIP should increase for the thousands of people unable to go out alone due to severe psychological distress, the UK Government’s response was to rewrite the law to remove entitlements and rush it through with minimal scrutiny.
On sending the letter, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:
“Last week, the Tories were right to join Liberal Democrats and campaigners in declaring that the SNP Government’s new mental health strategy would fail to deliver the transformation we desperately need to see.
“However, in the very same week, her colleagues at Westminster were voting to strip personal independence payments from people with severe mental health and anxiety conditions.
“If the Tories are to have any credibility on this issue then Ruth Davidson needs to also show that she is also willing to take on those in her own party who are set to discriminate against those suffering from mental ill health.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat social security spokesperson Caron Lindsay commented:
“Time and again it has been shown that you can’t trust the Tories with mental health. Important initiatives have been abandoned and cash meant for mental health has been diverted to plug gaps elsewhere.
“Now they are looking to make a deplorable attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, showing no understanding of the support needs of people such as those trapped in their homes, too anxious to leave. Ruth Davidson needs to admit this is fundamentally wrong and at least try to do something about it.”
The letter sent by the Scottish Liberal Democrats to Ruth Davidson was as follows:
We were pleased to see your party last week join the Liberal Democrats and campaigners in declaring that the SNP Government’s new mental health strategy lacked ambition. It was the right thing to do because the new strategy will not deliver the transformation we desperately need to see.
However, we were deeply concerned to see that, in the very same week, your colleagues at Westminster were voting to restrict personal independence payments to people with mental health and anxiety conditions, affecting tens of thousands of people both in and out of work.
This shows little understanding of the complex needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, for example those trapped in their homes because they are too anxious to leave without someone. These people can need help to leave their home every bit as much as someone suffering from a physical condition.
Can we ask if you will urge, or already have urged, your colleagues to drop these proposals, in the interests of people suffering from mental ill health in Scotland and across the UK? Are you willing to take on those in your own party who are set to discriminate against those suffering from mental ill health? And do you agree that we cannot afford to increase the stigma surrounding these conditions, say to people that their conditions are not serious, or backtrack on work to give parity of esteem to physical and mental ill health?
We look forward to your reply.
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP Caron Lindsay
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Scottish Liberal Democrat social security spokesperson