by Rachel Wearmouth Huffington Post
‘You feel that whatever you say may be taken out of context,’ says former Paralympian Carly Tate.
Disabled people avoid exercise as they fear being stripped of much-relied on benefits for appearing “too independent, campaigners say.
New research, published by Activity Alliance, says that almost half (47%) worry the government will cut their benefit if they seem too active for a disabled person.
But almost two-thirds (65%) said they rely on benefits to maintain a healthy lifestyle and that, without support, they could not afford travel, specialist equipment and paid-for exercise.
The study by the national body for disabled people in sport also found that four-in-five (83%) long to be more active.
Many told researchers they dread being reassessed for benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), even if their reassessment date is years away.
Former British wheelchair athlete Carly Tait, who has cerebral palsy, told HuffPost that during her assessment for PIP her adapted car was almost removed, just four months before she was due to fly to Rio to compete in the Paralympics.
She said “the bottom fell out of my world” and feels the UK benefits system is “fraudulent”.
The 32-year-old, from Wythenshawe in Manchester, had access to a car under the Motability charity scheme and needed it to train at her local club, the Stockport Harriers.
Of the benefits staff who interviewed her, she said: “You do feel like they are always asking the same question but in different ways, and you are very aware of it and that you can’t trip yourself up – even though you are telling the truth about yourself.
“You feel that whatever you say may be taken out of context.”
Two weeks after the assessment, Tait was told she was no longer eligible for the part of PIP that gave her access to the car.
“That car is 100% how I live an independent life but they decided I wasn’t disabled enough,” she said. “I was distraught and couldn’t focus on my training – I couldn’t even get around the track without breaking down in tears.
“It was an extremely distressing time in my life.”
She added: “Our benefits system is fraudulent. It is not there to benefit vulnerable members of society.”
Tait feels she retained access to the car because she caused “a bit of a media storm”, and added: “There are enough financial barriers to sport as it is, especially with the high costs of adapted equipment for some disabled people, without the additional fear of losing benefits.
“We need to give all disabled people the same rights to be active that everyone else enjoys – and end the activity trap now.”