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George Freeman No10 Policy Chief – Credit: The House

Personal Independence Payments should go to ‘really disabled people’.

The Government have defended plans to reverse the effects of a recent court ruling which widens the number of people who have a right to claim Personal Independence Payments.

Local MP George Freeman said in a recent BBC interview that the suggested changes are due to the “bizarre decisions by tribunals that now mean benefits are being given to people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety”.

The government says the rulings – if unchallenged – would have added £3.7bn to the benefits bill by 2023.

The backlash from his comments on the matter sparked a response from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who tweeted: “This is an insult to disabled people. (George Freeman) should apologise immediately or Theresa May should make him”.

George Freeman has since apologised for his comments stating “Having experienced myself traumatic anxiety as a child carer living with alcohol, I know all too well the pain anxiety and depression causes- which is why as a former Health Minister and Policy Adviser I am passionate about supporting Mental Health 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.”

Disability charity Scope criticised Mr Freeman’s “crude” distinction between physical and mental health and said it was concerned about the Government’s “worrying” changes to PIP.

MP Heidi Allen of South Cambridgeshire has said that the judgment on whether an individual’s disability was bad enough to entitle them to benefits is not one for MP’s to make but instead should be taken on a “person by person basis”.

She labelled the current process as “not fit for purpose.”

Ms Allen suggested that Mr Freeman may not have been “fully aware of the detail” of the ruling when he made his comments.

Last month The Prime Minister was seen to be making the issue of tackling mental health a priority, saying that mental illness has for too long been “shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health.”