The Tory peer [Lord Freud], a former banker and descendent of Sigmund Freud, who is helping to push through a radical overhaul of the welfare state, insisted he understood the reality of living on benefits, arguing "you don't have to be the corpse to go to a funeral."(1)At that time, there had already been several deaths of disability benefit claimants who had been found 'fit for work', including Nygell Firminger of South Kilburn who had committed suicide in the week that the Welfare Reform Bill 2012 was passed by Parliament.(2) In July 2013, the North London Coroner ruled that Nygell's suicide had been brought on by the stress induced by homelessness;(3) and since then suicides related to the 'fit for work tests' that the Freud Report of 2008 brought in have mushroomed, as has the campaign against such corporate homicides.(4)
Is it not time that someone challenged Baron Freud to eat his words, including his 2008 incorrect assertion that Incapacity Benefit tests were conducted by the claimant's own GP? Regarding that 'basic error', Kate Green, the then CEO of Child Poverty Action Group remarked:
"Ministers will surely be alarmed that the man charged with major reform of the welfare system and family security rights gets basic facts wrong about benefits that he could find out in a second with a Google."His suitability must be under question for the task Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell has set him."Claimants were assessed by independent doctors - rather than their own GP - after 28 weeks, she added.(5)
His widow, Sylvia Newman, recalls that one of the last things he said to her, as doctors put him on a ventilator, was: "It's a good job I'm fit for work." He was trying to make her laugh, she says, but it was also a reflection of how upset he had been by the conclusion of the medical test.
"He was so hurt by it. It made him so upset that they thought he was lying, and he wasn't," she says. "I think it added to him just giving up."(6)