Anxiety UK has questioned bosses at an Essex Jobcentre that have insisted that a 22-year old unemployed agoraphobic woman must attend face to face meetings with its staff.
The case was highlighted in the national media after Jobcentre staff insisted that Jen Lant would not be allowed to continue to attend meetings via videolink. As a result she now risks losing her unemployment support allowance.
The UK’s leading anxiety disorder charity say this is just the tip of the iceberg and is calling for a full review of the way the Department of Work & Pensions and other government agencies such as the Department of Transport whose policies are discriminating against agoraphobia sufferers.
Nicky Lidbetter, Anxiety UK’s Chief Executive, who herself suffers with agoraphobia, says the charity is hearing of more and more frequent cases of discrimination by government departments and local authorities.
“This is a very disturbing development and Ms Lant’s experience is very concerning,” said Ms Lidbetter. “This is quite clearly a case of discrimination as defined by the Equality Act 2010 in my view.
“Agoraphobia is a very complex phobia that can manifest itself in a variety of ways but should be treated sensitively as you would any other form of disability.
“I was shocked to hear that someone with this condition had been treated so insensitively but must admit not surprised given my own personal experiences over the years.”
Ms Lidbetter is now leading calls for a review of all government policies in relation to the treatment of agoraphobia sufferers, highlighting the Blue Badge scheme as another example of agoraphobia sufferers being discriminated against.
“Despite many promising messages coming out from government ministers in relation to the treatment of mental health we are not seeing that rhetoric manifesting itself on the ground.”
If you are a journalist interested in covering this story, contact:
Terri Torevell or Dave Smithson | firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com | 0794 7599 491 | www.anxietyuk.org.uk