A Tory MP has dismissed a disabled woman on live television after she told him tens of thousands of disabled and sick people were dying every year due to cuts in health and social care.
Conservative MP Dominic Raab responded to an emotional address from Fiona, a disability activist from Aberdeen, in which she said she had known disabled people who and committed suicide, by saying it was “just a childish wish list” if there was not a “strong economy creating the revenue”.
During the open debate on the Victoria Derbyshire show, Fiona said disabled people were “fleeing” from England to Scotland where she said the devolved parliament was doing more to protect them.
“You’re all talking about numbers and money, and there is an ocean of suffering under that. Oxford University just released research showing that in 2015 in England and Wales alone there were 30,000 excess deaths caused by cuts to health and social care,” she said.
“Tens of thousands of disabled and sick people are dying every year. We are dying. There have been hundreds of suicides. I spent hours after the last general election trying to talk people out of killing themselves, and I didn’t always succeed.
“People are dying here and nobody cares. I have friends who have been helping resettle disabled people in Scotland because at the very least we have a Scottish parliament which is trying its best with limited funds to protect people against the worst of these cuts. People have been fleeing England for their lives.”
Fiona cited a study by Napier University that found the work capability assessment causes deterioration in people’s mental health and can lead to thoughts of suicide, adding: “It kills people. It is an act of violence and we are dying.
“This election is life or death for us. Anybody who votes for the Conservative Party, who are going to further these cuts, they are complicit in those deaths.”
In response to Fiona’s comments, Mr Raab said: “There are plenty of heart-rending stories here, and no one could be anything other than moved by it. We have put in 11,000 more doctors into the NHS, 12,000 more nurses. We have got a renewed focus on mental health and also making sure we’re trying to take the pressure off big hospitals in the manifesto.
“But the real truth is the money’s got to come from somewhere, and I can think of lots of things that I would like to avoid making difficult decisions on and lots of areas like the health service or schools that I want to put even more money in, but unless you’ve got a strong economy creating the revenue, it’s just a childish wish list.
“We’re trying to do our best to get the balance right between responsible public finances and investing in some of those crucial areas you discussed.”
Fiona responded by saying: “So you choose to sacrifice tens of thousands of disabled people, for the sake of that? This is the sixth richest country in the world. It is a choice that people make.
“In Scotland, we have a limited block grant, and they still manage to create a health service which functions, they still manage to create a care service which functions. And you are choosing to sacrifice us.”
It comes after Theresa May refused to rule out making further cuts to disability benefits in the next Parliament if the Conservatives are returned to government.
Asked by The Independent at a campaign event in Mansfield earlier this month whether she would rule out any further cuts to support, the Prime Minister responded: “If you look at what we’ve been doing on disability benefits, what we have done is look at focusing disability benefit payments on those who are most in need.
“In fact, we are spending more on disability benefit payments than has been done by any government in the past.”
A £30-a-week cut to some new claimants of the Employment and Support Allowance came into effect in April despite opposition from more than 30 disability charities.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says the lower rate of cash support will encourage disabled people to find work, but charities say the cuts make life harder for disabled people who face extra costs and mean some people will be unable to afford basic necessities.
The Government was also forced to U-turn on a £4.4bn cut to the personal independence payment (PIP) in March last year after signs of a rebellion amongst its own backbenchers and the resignation of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who said he could not back the policy.