There cannot be many who were not inspired by the remarkable performances of all who took part in the Paralympics which came to an end last night.
Bearing in mind the astonishing hurdles which they all had to overcome, their achievements far outweigh those of the mainstream Olympians who went before. They have been an inspiration to us all regardless of which nation they represented or which medals they did or didn’t win.
What the games have also done is emphasise the massive contradiction between the achievements of people with disabilities and the major struggles that they have to face in our country.
This is something which I mentioned a few weeks ago –
The tragic case of Cecilia Burns is one of many –
I attended a meeting in Liverpool last week with a group of representatives who advise those who have been deprived of disability benefits following medical assessments which say that they are fit for work. They talked of the tens of thousands of appeals against ATOS decisions. They also confirmed the alarming statistic that about 80% of the appeals succeed where the claimant is represented. That is bad enough. But to add insult to injury the entitlement to Legal Aid will be withdrawn for all of these cases in April 2013. This means that these organizations will no longer be able to appear for those most in need.
I hope that the achievements of the Paralympics heroes will highlight these injustices. These are people who have to live from day to day facing difficulties which the rest of us cannot imagine. Why should they then have to battle to retain benefits to help them get by? And then on top of that they have to fight those battles without access to professional advice and support.
Do we really need to have a discussion about whether or not this is wrong?