I was amazed to read in the newspaper that Eric Pickles told a survivor of alleged child abuse to “adjust your medication”.
The minister for Communities and Local Government told a survivor of alleged child abuse to “adjust your medication” when she accused him of ignoring her. He made
the comment in a recorded confrontation with constituent Teresa Cooper earlier this month. Ms Cooper was one of at least six women who say they were drugged as teenagers at the Kendall House care home, Kent, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, whose children now have genetic defects:
Confronting Mr Pickles, who is her constituency MP, she said: “Nothing has changed on the Kendall House abuse. Only you have ignored it. You have ignored it.” Pickles then interjected, shouting: “just, just, adjust your medication”.
Below is the transcript of the conversation and below that the audio recording of the conversation.
Teresa Cooper: you need my signature for…
Eric Pickles: you’ve consistently… you change your na [unfinished word]… you’ve changed your views… You give me different stories.
TC: Different stories?
EP: and before I act I need your signature
TC: different stories.. its been proved publicly
EP: [aside]sorry about this
VOICE: no .. its okay
TC: we’ve got all this stuff its been proved publicly and its you – you tell different stores – nothing has changed on the Kendall House abuse? – only you have ignored it. You have ignored. You have ignored it.
EP: just, just, adjust your medication
TC: no you…. I am not on medication right, but you need to be, you ignore child abuse and people should know about it.
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The two met while at a wildlife event in Ongar, Essex, on 14 September and Ms Cooper recorded the conversation. Ms Cooper, 46, said: “I was shocked to be honest. He’s implying I’m mentally ill which is really rude of him because people do have mental health problems and they should not be spoken to that way.”
She added: “The Conservatives say ‘we need to change attitudes about mental health’ but clearly they need to start with Eric Pickles.”
Mr Pickles’ adviser said that the comment was said in “the heat of the moment” and was his way of giving a blunt piece of advice. Mr Pickles had corresponded with Ms Cooper about some of her concerns but she claims she has been trying to speak to him in person for 16 years.
Mr Pickles said: “It was never my intention to insult Teresa Cooper. I was giving her a frank piece of advice in private.”
Unsurprisingly Mr Pickles has been criticised by a wide range of organisations and individuals including Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind:
“It is disappointing that a minister would use language that can feed the prejudice around mental health. We would encourage everyone to really consider the impact of using mental health language in a way that could contribute to fuelling stigma.”
I believe that Mr Pickles should offer a full unreserved public apology to Teresa Cooper – we shouldn’t have MPs let alone Ministers using language like that.