THE axing of mental health inpatient services and changes in unemployment benefit will create the ‘perfect storm’ for disabled people in Burton, a welfare charity has warned.
The campaign to save the closure-threatened Margaret Stanhope Centre has received the backing of the East Staffordshire Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
The centre’s importance has been pointed out in a report prepared by the bureau’s social policy co-ordinator, Janice Hansford.
The document says: “An increasing number of our clients are facing the ‘double whammy’ of loss of vital income plus the additional distress caused by news of the closure of invaluable local sources of help and support.”
It continues: “Despite the future of the Margaret Stanhope Centre now being put out to consultation, it has been clients’ understanding that the centre would close any way and this was what they reported to the bureau.”
The bureau has also attacked new ‘fitness for work’ tests, which have been introduced by the Government to reduce the number of people claiming sickness benefits despite being able to work.
The damning report says: “In every case, the focus of these work capability assessments was on physical capacity.
Put simply, this meant that if someone could lift both arms above their head, for example, they were judged ‘fit for work’, despite suffering significantly from conditions such as anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.”
The report says even one cancer sufferer in Burton was deemed fit for work following such an assessment, despite regularly attending hospital for specialist treatment.
The document concludes: “No person would deny that strategies to reduce the financial burden upon hard-working people, who contribute generously to the operation of the welfare state, constitute a sound concept. But it would appear that some of the most vulnerable members of our community are losing out, because the impact of their health conditions upon work capability is simply not being recognised.
“That may even constitute discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.” The bureau claims to be increasingly alarmed about changes to the benefits system.
Chief executive Dawn Green told the Mail: “We are increasingly concerned about changes to benefits.
“We are concerned that people will lose out because of these changes.”
Mrs Green described the benefits changes, coupled with mental health facility closures, as a ‘perfect storm’.
She said: “We are against the closure of the Stanhope and we were saddened to see the rolling back of services run by the Mind charity in Burton and Uttoxeter.”
Further information on the bureau’s services is available by phoning