Disabled 'fear of benefit shake-up'

Keighley News: Barry Thorne Barry Thorne

A veteran disability rights campaigner from Keighley has joined Paralympians in blasting changes to benefits.

Barry Thorne says the impending shake-up of Disability Living Allowance is leaving people feeling threatened and fearful.

He said many claimants with learning disabilities or illnesses would not understand why they had to reapply, despite their conditions being lifelong.

Mr Thorne, funding officer with Bradford Disability Sports and Leisure, spoke after Paralympics icon Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and several other athletes spoke out against the changes.

The Government next year plans to change the current Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which goes to about 3.2 million people and costs £12.6 billion a year, to personal independence payments (PIP).

The Government estimates up to 500,000 people will lose entitlement to DLA over the next four years as eligibility criteria are tightened and claims reassessed.

Critics say losing the benefit will force thousands of sick and disabled people to give up work. Dame Tanni, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals, has warned the changes could mean disabled people could not afford to take part in sport.

Mr Thorne, who is also a Haworth parish councillor, accepted that the benefits system needed overhauling but not at the expense of the most vulnerable.

He said DLA was one of the least-abused benefits and one of the most difficult to get, with a 40-page claim form and medical input from specialists such as educational psychologists.

He said the people most threatened were those with a clearly defined medical condition who were currently receiving “indefinite” DLA.

He said: “When does Down’s syndrome disappear? When does cerebral palsy or autism become cured? Many will not understand why they are being asked to reapply or be interviewed.

“Some with severe autism may even think they have done something wrong. This will mean their parents/carers may find things very difficult to manage behaviour.”

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