Paralympians express fears over disability living allowance plans
Friday, 31 August 2012
A group of British Paralympians have expressed their fears over government plans to cut disability living allowance (DLA), warning that the benefit is vital to enable them to live independently.
Under coalition welfare reforms, hundreds of thousands of disabled people will lose the allowance when the government replaces DLA with more restrictive personal independence payments (PIP) in 2013.
The Paralympians fear that the potential loss of the benefit, worth between £20 and £131.50 a week, which helps with the extra costs of transport, equipment, care and other specialist needs that disabled people have, could undermine the key legacy issue of the Games – to open up access to sport for disabled people.
The government plans to replace the allowance, which goes to about 3.2 million people at an annual cost of £12.6bn, with personal independence payments (PIP) from 2013. It estimates that up to 500,000 people will lose entitlement to DLA over the next four years as eligibility criteria are tightened and claims reassessed.
Ministers have argued that DLA is outdated and the switch to PIP will enable the benefit to be targeted at 'people who need it most'. But campaigners say restricting the benefit will force thousands of sick and disabled people to give up work, and give back their specially adapted Motability cars.
Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals, warned in May that the DLA cuts could affect the development of top athletes and prevent working-age disabled adults from engaging not just in sport but in society as a whole.
Ade Adepitan, the Paralympic wheelchair medallist who is a Channel 4 presenter for the Games, said: 'Without DLA I would not have been able to do what I did or be a top athlete.'
Other Paralympians who have voiced their concerns at the proposals include:
Natasha Baker, equestrian
'Disability living allowance enables disabled people another life. If they have DLA they might be able to afford the petrol to go to work ... it allows us to be independent. I love my independence. I hate relying on other people to do everything for me. I drive and probably would not be able to afford the petrol if I didn't have the DLA. I have a Motability car. I have support from lottery fund but definitely, getting around would be a hell of a lot harder without DLA.'
Aaron Phipps, rugby
'It pays for those essential things that I need. A new wheelchair costs £1,700. I would not be able to live independently without a wheelchair like this. It is just completely essential. I would be completely lost without it. '
Kylie Grimes, rugby
'DLA is really important. It has been a massive help for me over the years. It is only in the last 18 months I have got back to playing sport properly. I have been injured now five-and-a-half years. I would have been lost without it to be honest.'
Sue Gilroy, table tennis
'I have tried not to worry about it. If they did decide to stop things it would make life impossible. I have carers at home, I have people coming to help me with the things I cannot manage myself. Obviously things are a lot more expensive. Wheelchairs, cars. £20,000 of adaptations on the car, Motability.'
Ali Jawad, weightlifting
'They need to sort it because a lot of people would suffer for not being eligible for mobility. I just hope the government have thought this through ... [if they haven't] they are going to have a lot of disabled people who are losing their independence, which is not what we want.'
David Clarke, football
'It does seem as though disabled people's independence is being jeopardised by the government's proposals and what worries me is that it has been done with good intentions in certain areas, but is so wide of the mark.
'DLA matters. It covers some of those additional costs that we wouldn't necessarily have the money for.
'What DLA does is enables you to afford all the additional support you need without impinging on the income you receive. It puts you on a par with other people in society.'