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  • Theresa May criticised for ‘not knowing the difference between mental health problems and learning disabilities – The Independent

Theresa May criticised for ‘not knowing the difference between mental health problems and learning disabilities – The Independent

Tuesday, 6 June, 2017

Theresa May criticised for ‘not knowing the difference between mental health problems and learning disabilities – The Independent

Theresa May suffered an uncomfortable moment on Question Time when a woman accused her of “not knowing the difference between mental health issues and learning disabilities".

The audience member was referring to an awkward encounter on the campaign trail when the Prime Minister appeared to conflate learning disabilities with mental health problems as though they were one and the same thing.

She said: “I think it’s fair to say that mental health funding is one of your soundbites whenever people ask you about the NHS but it really concerned me a couple of weeks ago, you were filmed when a lady challenged you about her benefits for her leaning difficulties, you turned around and gave an answer about mental health funding, and it really concerned me that the Prime Minister and potential future Prime Minister of the UK apparently doesn’t understand the difference between a learning disability and a mental health condition.”

Ms May responded: “In fact when the lady first spoke to me, she talked about learning disabilities and mental health, and she’d actually raise mental health herself.

“But I recognise that this particular difficulty that she had was about learning disabilities.”

Ms May then continued to talk about improved funding for mental health and did not address the changes in benefits for those with physical and learning disabilities.

The PM was on a walkabout in Oxfordshire when a woman named Cathy, who has a mild learning disability, angrily confronted her to detail her struggles with the benefits system. Ms May responded: “We’ve got a lot of plans for people with mental health.”

The woman then corrected the Prime Minister and said: “And learning disabilities".

She told Ms May she had lost her carer and that others with disabilities had suffered under Conservative changes to the benefits system as the Disability Living Allowance was replaced by the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and pleaded for "someone to help us"... I'm talking about everyone who's got mental health ... and everyone who's got learning disabilities. Not just for me, for all of us."

“I can’t live on £100 a month. They just took it all away from me.”

Ismail Kaji, a Parliamentary Affairs Support Officer who campaigns on behalf of those with learning disabilities and who has one himself, spoke out after the incident.

“I was really worried to hear Theresa May keep talking about mental health, when Cathy said she has a learning disability, which is not anything to do with mental health," he said.

“That makes me think that Theresa May is unclear on the difference, and that is very worrying.”

The charity Mencap defines mental health as “a term used to cover a range of emotional, psychological or psychiatric distress experienced by people” while learning disabilities are “a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities.” Mental health problems affect people of all intellectual abilities, from those classed as genius to those who might also have a learning disability. A mental health condition is often temporary or may come and go whereas a learning disability will last a lifetime.

Learning Disability England said conflating learning disability and mental health was a common problem, which has had tangible impacts on welfare policy, affecting people like Cathy.

Alicia Wood, the organisations's co-founder, said: “We have experienced senior ministers responsible for welfare reform making the same mistake. The belief that a learning disability is a health problem that can be cured or improved is not the way forward when planning policy and investing in social care and welfare.

"It has meant that people with learning disabilities have not had the investment in the support and income they need to live equal lives."


Source: Theresa May criticised for 'not knowing the difference between mental health problems and learning disabilities - The Independent

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