Staff at a benefits advice centre in north-west England are being given “suicide awareness training” because increasing numbers of clients are threatening to kill themselves.
The centre says media vilification of benefits recipients is adding to the pressure and worry caused by the government’s welfare cuts to the area’s most vulnerable people.
Salford Trade Union Council Unemployed and Community Resource Centre said it was the first time in the centre’s 33-year history that suicide training had been necessary.
Centre staff have also taken up the case of a local disabled woman maligned in the gutter press as a “scrounger” because she suffers allergies which cause her severe and painful eczema.
Tracy Kenny, 45, has been unable to work for 24 years because her skin blisters severely when in contact with rubber, glue, nickel and other substances. One effect is that she cannot wear shoes.
For 24 years doctors have monitored the problem.
But she was called to a 10-minute cursory examination by Department of Work and Pensions inspectors who deemed her fit for work.
The gutter press were tipped off about her case.
The result was a series of appalling but typical attacks by the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Star and even the Daily Telegraph.
The Daily Star set the pace with: “Benefit scrounger hasn’t worked for 24 years because she’s allergic to SHOES.” The ever-imaginative Sun said: “Claiming benefeets.”
Ms Kenny said: “I feel awful and in the last two weeks the media have definitely made me feel worse. I am frightened to leave home and this has just increased the stress and pressure on me. It’s not my fault that I have these allergic reactions. I need understanding and help, not vilification.”
The TUC centre is now helping and representing her.
Manager Alec McFadden said: “We will provide advice and representation. However, the media have stepped in to attack and vilify a disabled person. The irresponsible journalism of these national newspapers has made Tracy’s life hell for the past two weeks and increased hatred and discrimination against individual people with several physical or mental health problems.”
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