Dear Prime Minister......

** October 1st - There is an update at the bottom of this blog post. **

Watching the BBC TV series 'Ripper Street' last night (episode 4) I was struck by the use of the concept of 'the deserving poor' and of course 'the undeserving poor'. This idea was discussed more fully by Ian Hislop (Workers or Shirkers Ian Hislop's Victorian Benefits

It now seems that we have the 'deserving' and 'undeserving ill'.

Over the years in my work as a psychotherapist I have met with many people who have long term health issues. These include AIDS, ME and long term mental health problems. For a small number this has meant that they cannot hold down a full-time job or contribute to society in ways that they would wish to do so. This leads them to having to rely on benefits.

With their dependency on these benefits comes the dreaded 'review' process. None of our services are linked together so these clients who already face day-to-day challenges have to spend energy they cannot afford to lose on filling out long and complex forms and chase already over worked professionals for letters that confirm their diagnoses and disabilities.

During recent sessions such clients have broken down in tears wondering if their lives are worth living. They believe themselves to be a burden on their families, friends and the State. The continued distrust and outright hostility from those people who should be supporting them drives my clients to every greater depths of fear, anxiety, distress and hopelessness.

It was during one such session that the letter below formed in my mind. I don't expect a response or that what I describe here will materially change much for them and yet it was the least that I thought I could do for my clients. I will continue to see my clients in the belief that where society has taken away hope I may be able to restore some, however briefly.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

First Lord of the Treasury

Minister for the Civil Service

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street



9th August 2016

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you on behalf of two of my clients who because of their medical condition and through very real fear feel that they cannot. The people I work with in my role as a professional psychotherapist have been diagnosed with long term conditions such as AIDS and ME and they now find themselves dependent on a benefits system that seeks to cut them off unless they are able to prove how their diagnosed condition or illness prevents them from working.

The evidence that they are required to present is detailed, complex and outside of their control to produce within the deadline set by the DWP. At the moment they are being treated as if they have committed a crime and must prove their innocence when no evidence of such a crime has been presented. These two people, who should be concentrating on getting well, are forced into more debilitating anxiety and depression by the very system that is supposed to be supporting them.

Neither of these people wants to be on benefits, out of work and dependent on society to support them to the degree that it does. They are in the position that they are because family circumstances, physiological changes, mental health concerns and biological attacks that have left them extremely vulnerable.

Watching your statement outside 10 Downing Street on 13th July when you took over the responsibilities of being our Prime Minister, “..make Britain a country that works for everyone..”, I ask you to fulfil that promise you made and help my two clients, and the many people like them up and down the country, who now live in increasingly acute and damaging states of anxiety and fear. Their quality of life is permanently harmed because of your Government’s push to blame these people for their own situation.

What my clients need is not a black or white judgment on the truthfulness of their abilities within their conditions but a stepped programme of support that helps them back into being productive, or as productive as their illnesses and conditions allow. I ask you to review both the work and the style of the DWP and its benefits review process and to bring in the Mental Health Charities, health and social staff (NHS & Local Government) to understand what the people suffering from these illness and conditions actually require. Rather than focussing on what the Government needs, it’s time to ask what this population needs so that they can return to good physical and mental health.

I appreciate how full and busy you are but I would welcome a positive response from you. If our country is made up of its people which it values, and if it judges itself by how it treats those most vulnerable and in need then, given my client’s experiences, I have to question just what your full agenda and busy schedule is actually designed to achieve and for whom? Who is “everyone”?

Yours sincerely

Martin Weaver

Director - Lifetide Training Ltd

NLP Psychotherapist (UKCP). Supervisor, Certified NLP Trainer (INLPTA)"

Update: 13th September 2016

Here is the first response:

"Thank you for contacting the Prime Minister.

Mrs May very much appreciates the time you have ten to write to her.

As the Department for Work and Pensions has responsibility for the matters you raise, I am forwarding your letter to them so the they may reply to your concern directly.

Thank you, one again for writing.

Yours sincerely

{Totally unreadable signature - "Samen" possibly}

Correspondence Officer

Reply from Mrs May's Office

Update: October 1st 2016

I can't claim that my letter on it's own changed Government policy but clearly as a part of an existing and ongoing campaign I like to think it would have helped a bit:

"Tens of thousands of people claiming the main benefit for long-term sickness will no longer face repeated medical assessments to keep their payments.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said it was pointless to re-test recipients of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with severe conditions and no prospect of getting better."

BBC report today: Employment and Support Allowance: Re-tests axed for chronically ill claimants.

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