Norfolk MP George Freeman says he regrets if offence was caused by disability comment

The Future50 EU debate event taking place in Norwich Shirehall. The EDP's Annabelle Dickson hosting

The Future50 EU debate event taking place in Norwich Shirehall. The EDP's Annabelle Dickson hosting George Freeman speaking for REMAIN and Steve Baker speaking for LEAVE. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Norfolk MP George Freeman has taken to the social media website Twitter to say he 'hugely regrets' if comments about cuts to disability benefits caused offence.

https://twitter.com/Freeman_George/status/836169461514256384

Norfolk MP George Freeman has taken to the social media website Twitter to say he 'hugely regrets' if comments about cuts to disability benefits caused offence.

Mental health campaigners and opposition politicians rounded on the former minister, who is now in charge of the prime minister's policy unit, after he said disability benefits should go to 'really disabled people', not 'people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety'.

The Mid-Norfolk MP made the comments during a Sunday morning radio show in which government proposals to cut PIPs, which replaced the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), were being discussed.

The government claims two tribunal rulings over who is entitled to the benefit at the end of 2016 will add £3.7bn to the benefits bill by 2023.

https://twitter.com/Freeman_George/status/836170015942537216

The payments are intended to help people cope with the extra costs of living with ill health or disability and are made according to the points a person scores in an assessment of their needs.


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Mr Freeman said on Sunday: 'These tweaks are actually about rolling back some bizarre decisions by tribunals that now mean benefits are being given to people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety,' Adding: 'We want to make sure we get the money to the really disabled people who need it.'

Mark Harrison, chief executive of the Norfolk-based Equal Lives, said: 'His [George Freeman's] comments about disability are crass and ignorant and belong in the last century. I suggest George reads the UN Inquiry judgement on the grave and systematic violations of disabled people's rights by his government and then implements the recommendations. This government is continuing with the failed austerity policies of the coalition which targeted disabled people for the harshest treatment. I really don't understand why disabled people are being singled in this way for more cuts to our independence and living standards.

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'What happened to this governments commitment only made last year that cuts to PIP would not go ahead and there would be no more welfare cuts?'

https://twitter.com/Freeman_George/status/836170404943302656

Mr Freeman took to Twitter today, with the knowledge of Number 10, to say: 'Having experienced myself traumatic anxiety as a child carer living w alcohol I know all too well the pain anxiety + depression causes which is why as a former Health Minister and Policy Adviser I am passionate about supporting MentalHealth and Disability, and hugely regret if my comment about the need to prioritise the most 'serious disabilities' inadvertently caused any offence which was not intended.

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