Tag Archives: paralympian

The London Paralympic legacy, two years later: Vox Political’s predictions were true

Plight of the Paralympians: This is what they were being told to expect in September 2012.

Plight of the Paralympians: This is what they were being told to expect in September 2012.

Two years ago, Vox Political warned that the legacy of the London Paralympics would be the loss of disability benefits for the British athletes who took part.

“They have proven they’re fit enough to work and therefore don’t need [the money],” is how this blog’s article of the time described the situation. “Right?”


Gratitude goes to Tom Pride for drawing attention to the plight of basketball player Jon Pollock, who has been refused any benefits at all since he became unemployed after the Games.

His situation is exactly as Vox Political predicted in September 2012. Following up on previous warnings that the Coalition government had launched a campaign of hate against ordinary people who had been claiming incapacity or disability benefits, the article stated: “We knew that, once the chance for profile-boosting photo opportunities were over… the disability pogrom would be extended to paralympians.”

How true those words were.

On the website Inside the Games, Mr Pollock said: “”I retired after London and since then I’m not entitled to benefits because lottery funding isn’t taxable.

“So when I go and apply for a job, the woman in the job centre said I should do charity work. But that doesn’t pay the bills. “The job centre have been absolutely useless.”

Mr Pollock, who has spina bifida, said: “I’ve given everything I have to my career and now I just feel like I’ve been tossed on the scrap heap. If I’d given two decades of service to anything else, I’d be fine but disability sport is just not recognised as a career it seems.”

British Wheelchair Basketball says Mr Pollock declined support that was available, but this seems questionable. If you have a choice between spending two years looking fruitlessly for work and accepting help to plan a career after sport, you’d take the help – unless it wasn’t worth having, which would be par for the course with our useless unelected government.

Why aren’t ministers queueing up to tell us how well the UK treats disabled people who could have had normal careers but chose to represent their country instead?

They’re nowhere to be seen – because there isn’t a photo opportunity involved.

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End of Paralympics signals benefit loss for athletes

Some of us saw this coming, weeks in advance. We knew that, once the chance for profile-boosting photo opportunities were over – whether or not they backfired, Mr Osborne – the disability pogrom would be extended to paralympians.

And that’s what is happening, according to today’s Sunday Mirror.

Team GB footballer Keryn Seal is blind and relies on his £70 per week Disability Living Allowance to get to training. He fears for what will happen to himself and hundreds of thousands of other disabled people when DLA is replaced by the more restrictive Personal Independence Payment as part of a plan to cut £2.2 billion from benefit costs.

“I can’t understand why the Government would dream of taking this money away from us. It shows a complete lack of empathy,” he told the Mirror.

Disillusioned, disenchanted and disappointed are all words I would use to describe how I feel about the Government.”

Double-amputee Derek Derenalagi, who came 11th in the discus, said the changes would have a “devastating” effect: “Not every Paralympian is sponsored and we would hugely struggle without it. We do not get paid like footballers and it really helps us.”

And wheelchair dancer Laura Jones, a star of the Paralympics opening ceremony, said she was worried her £50-a-week payment is under threat.

She told the Mirror: “If people miss out on leisure activities and sports, they end up stuck at home and that will obviously be worse for their health.”

Another thing that looks as though it will be worse for people’s health is the Universal Credit, which the government is touting as “the most radical redesign of the benefits system this country has ever seen”, adding that it will ensure that it pays people to work rather than claim benefits.

What did I say yesterday about this lie? Oh yes: Forcing people off of a benefit system that doesn’t pay their costs and into a job that doesn’t pay their costs is no solution at all and any Tory who spouts this nonsense in the media is to be mocked and targeted for unseating at the next election (in my opinion).”

Honestly… Do they think we’re not paying attention?

It seems there are problems with a plan to pay the new credit only once a month, meaning it will make a mess of people’s budgeting plans and they may be unable to make ends meet.

Also, the plan to make it payable to only one member of a household is likely to cause friction and upset the family dynamic – possibly destabilising family groups and leading to splits.

Bear in mind also that this is another continuation of the attack against disabled people, as the new credit will replace, among other things, Employment and Support Allowance. I wonder if Atos will be interviewing all its disabled ‘clients’ yet again, to find out if their missing limbs have grown back yet?

The wages of sin: promotion?

The minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, may be in line for promotion in David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle, according to the BBC.

This individual, under the guidance of DWP boss Iain Duncan Smith, has presided over the closure of dozens of Remploy factories, forcing thousands of disabled workers onto the dole.

Her colleague at the DWP, Chris Grayling, is also in line for promotion after being responsible for the Work Capability Assessment regime run by the infamous Atos organisation, which has caused the deaths of 32 people per week, on average, since the beginning of last year.

(The figures show that, between January and August last year, 1,100 claimants died after they were put in the “work-related activity group”. A further 1,600 people died before their assessment had been completed, and 5,300 seriously disabled people died after being put into the support group – the group for people who are found to be genuine in their need for continued support. The number who died after being judged “fit for work” was not recorded because the DWP does not keep records of those who have been written off its books.)

The latest person to lose her life was cancer patient Cecilia Burns, who was judged ‘fit for work’ by Atos in February this year. Her benefits were restored just a few weeks ago but the ordeal was clearly too much for a person in a weakened state due to fighting a potentially terminal illness, and she passed away last week.

Atos is still claiming that it does not make decisions on people’s benefit entitlement – it merely carries out the assessments and refers the results to the DWP. We know from TV documentaries Dispatches and Panorama that the findings of the assessments are rubber-stamped by the civil servants in the vast majority of cases.

The firm also claims that its service is “highly professional and compassionate” and that it adheres strictly to the rules. What it doesn’t say is that the government changed the rules – and the benefit – in order to make it easier to cut claimants off. Even after that, 40 per cent of those who appeal win their case at tribunal. If they have legal representation, that figure rises to 90 per cent.

I understand that our Paralympians have been safeguarded from assessment so far – but will all face Work Capability Assessments of their own next year. Like our armed forces, it seems the Coalition government is happy to use them for good publicity in the public eye; once that gaze has moved elsewhere, they’ll be shunted onto the scrap pile.

The reshuffle – and possible promotion for Ms Miller and Mr Grayling – follows a week of protests by the Atos Victims Group, focusing on the Paralympic Games. This culminated in demonstrations outside Atos’ London headquarters and the offices of the DWP on Friday, in which it has been claimed the police physically attacked those present, breaking one protester’s shoulder and damaging a wheelchair user’s chair.

This is what the Coalition government wants to do with the disabled, it seems – push them out of the way, cut off their benefits, forget about them, let them die.

This is extremely pertinent at the moment. Why? Because it is 73 years since the government of a certain European country put its own policy for disabled people into action. Adolf Hitler signed an order to begin the systematic euthanasia of Germany’s mentally ill and disabled people on September 1, 1939.

According to the Nazi policy of racial hygiene, people with physical and mental disabilities were “useless” in German society, and they were a threat to Aryan purity. They were deemed unworthy to live. The euthanasia programme (‘Operation T4’) cost the lives of around 270,000 people.

The best figures we have suggest that the new British assault on the disabled has killed nearly 5,000 so far (rising to almost 10,000 if you include those in the support group). But the Chancellor wants to cut a further £10 billion from the welfare budget (rather than get his rich pals to pay their taxes) so who knows how high this figure may rise before we get a chance to restore sanity in 2015?

I’m already having nightmares about it.