Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A disabled Peer has her say on welfare reform bill

Paralympian Tammi spoke against governments planned cuts to disabled people.

Baroness Grey-Thompson, one of the most successful disabled athletes in the UK and a TV sports presenter, seeks to amend parts of the bill with provisions that mean that there would have to be a pilot scheme before a tough new assessment regime for disability living allowance is introduced.

She was born with Spina Bifida and could walk until she was six. She was glad that she had move into a wheelchair because it gave her more independence and allowed her to attend mainstream education. From there she eventually got a degree in politics. Being a former paralympian she entered the Lords because of her campaigns regarding sport. She was also interested in welfare rights for disabled people.

In addition to the Welfare Reform Bill she also works on the Legal Aid Bill, lobbying to protect legal aid for disabled people. She is also still involved with Transport for London and is concerned accessible transport for disabled visitors to the Olympics in 2012.

Campaigners against the bill argue that only once the scheme is shown to work safely can it be expanded to include all two million claimants of the benefit.

“It makes sense to have a trial. It does not have to be long. In my experience as an athlete, you can have all the training plans you like but it’s only when you start doing it that you can see whether it works or not.

“Hundreds of thousands of people will be affected by these changes. We want the government to do what it says, which is helping people.”
I get a huge number of emails from disabled people who are really scared. I'm worried that, for disabled people who fall out of work, or cannot get work, we are going back on everything that we fought for over 40 years.

I accept that there needs to be changes to disability benefits – and the Government says it wants to get more help to the most severely disabled – but we need to be confident that the line is being drawn in the right place.

That's why there should be a trial period of one year, before lots of people move on to this new benefit"

The coalition proposes to replace the working-age disability living allowance (DLA) with a new personal independence payment, and cut spending by 20%.

Of particular concern are mental health problems which is the only area of working-age DLA benefits that is growing. Mental health problems are notoriously difficult to diagnose and campaigners say that without a medical consensus on how it affects work readiness, the assessment will be used to force people back to work.

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