One of the stars of the London 2012 Paralympics has said that the government’s disability living allowance (DLA) reforms and spending cuts will damage her chances of defending her two track gold medals at Rio 2016.
Hannah Cockroft is the most high-profile Paralympian yet to speak out about the coalition’s reforms and its plans to cut spending by nearly 30 per cent and replace working-age DLA with the new personal independence payment (PIP).
The 20-year-old wheelchair-racer told Disability News Service: “As a disabled person, I don’t agree with the new proposals. I don’t think they realise how much they are going to take away and how much it is going to take the country backwards.
“We have come so far since London 2012, with disabled people getting their own individuality, freedom and confidence, in believing in themselves.
“By doing this, it is taking all that support away. It is just a massive step back.”
The number of working-age people claiming DLA or PIP – as well as spending on working-age DLA or PIP – will be cut by as much as 28 per cent by 2018, with 900,000 fewer people receiving PIP than if DLA had not been replaced.
Cockroft, who has received huge media and public attention since winning gold at both 100 metres and 200 metres at London 2012, believes she will lose all of her DLA once she is reassessed for PIP.
She said: “I am pretty sure I am going to lose my support. That’s my personal view. If they want to prove me wrong, please do so.”
If she has her benefit removed, she will lose her Motability vehicle, and will then have to reply on her parents to drive her to training and races. If she bought her own car, she would need to find the money to have it fitted with expensive hand controls and adaptations.
She said: “I can’t just hop on a bus with my racing chair. I have no chance without a car.
“My car is a Motability vehicle and it is part of my freedom and helps me get out there. It is a massive worry. I am about to lose my confidence, my freedom.”
Cockroft used some of her DLA to learn how to drive, so she did not have to rely on her parents for transport.
It allowed her to drive to training for wheelchair basketball, the sport she played before making her mark in athletics.
She said: “DLA helped me get to basketball matches and all the other crazy things in my life, so I could see my friends and live a normal teenage life.
“People say, ‘You’re a Paralympian, you can do anything,’ but in everyday life there are things you struggle with, and DLA helps you with that, so you can find another way of doing things.”
28 February 2013