David Clarke, who will captain Britain’s blind football team at next month’s Paralympics in London, said he believed cuts of 20 per cent to spending on disability living allowance (DLA) could put people’s independence and equality of opportunity at risk.
And he said that the focus on forcing disabled people off incapacity benefits and back to work ignored the barriers in society and workplaces that can prevent them from finding jobs.
Asked by Disability News Service (DNS) about the cuts to disability benefits, he said: “It does seem as though disabled people’s independence is being jeopardised by the government’s proposals and I think what worries me is that it has been done with good intentions in certain areas, but it is so wide of the mark.”
Speaking at the official launch of the ParalympicsGB team for London 2012, Clarke said the push towards forcing disabled people off out-of-work disability benefits appeared to be ignoring the “wider debate” about equality and discrimination.
“It is about creating opportunities through diversity programmes within businesses, it is about transport, it is about assistance in the workplace.”
He said the government appeared to have failed to understand the importance of DLA to disabled people’s independence. “If a government minister found himself in the middle of a city with no-one to help and needed to get a taxi owing to mobility difficulties, he probably would appreciate his DLA. Or indeed if he needed someone to read his post.
“DLA matters. It covers some of those additional costs that we wouldn’t necessarily have the money for.”
“What DLA does in my opinion is it enables you to afford all the additional support you need in all sorts of guises without impinging on the income you receive. It puts you on a par with other people in society.”
He added: “Every single penny of that DLA goes back into the economy. It is not like people are clinging onto it and creating a nest egg. They spend this money on funding their independence, on necessities, on assistance, on transport networks. Whatever it is doing it is going into the economy.”
A string of other Paralympians have joined David in speaking out about the importance of DLA.