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Research shows almost half of disabled people fear losing benefits if they take part in physical activity and are ‘seen to be active’

Posted: Thu, 11 Oct 2018 10:39

Research shows almost half of disabled people fear losing benefits if they take part in physical activity and are ‘seen to be active’

According to a new study published by Activity Alliance, 47 percent of people with disabilities fear losing their benefits if they do exercise and are seen to be active. This is particularly alarming as disabled people count for 20 per cent of the population of the UK – nearly 14 million people – and are currently society's least active group.

The study, commissioned by Activity Alliance, called 'The Activity Trap: Disabled people's fear of being active' interviewed 206 people with primarily physical impairments, who received disability benefits, to obtain basic information about their activity levels and experiences of benefits. The results indicated that while nearly half stated they would be afraid to lose their benefits if they were seen to be active, 83% of people interviewed stated they would like to be more active than they currently are. Respondents stated improving physical and mental health as well as managing impairments as reasons they would like to increase activity levels.

The study also revealed that 65% of disabled people who participated in the study rely on benefits they receive to undertake activity. They went on to say without this support they would not be able to afford travel, exercise opportunities or the equipment needed for them to engage in activities. However, half of respondents stated a fear of being seen as 'too independent' which could cause them to be reassessed and have their funding cut. Respondents reported benefiting from Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

The effects of disability funding reassessments are already being felt in terms of sports participation figures according to Alan Ringland, Chairman of Birmingham Ability Counts, who said the league he runs had 455 players three years ago and now only has only 250, with many people dropping out because they have lost benefits after PIP assessment.

Paralympic athlete, Carly Tait, from Wythenshawe in Manchester, was told she would lose her adapted car four months before she was due to fly to Rio for the Paralympics. This came after being assessed for PIP in February of that year. The 32-year-old, who had access to a car for 12 years under the Motability charity scheme needs the car for work and when in training used to attend two training sessions a day with local club Stockport Harriers.

Now eight months pregnant with her first child, Carly already lives in fear of having to undertake her next PIP assessment in eight years' time. She said: "When I was assessed for PIP in 2016 and found out that I was going to lose my car, the bottom fell out of my world. 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, and despite the fact that my next assessment is eight years away, it's already causing me stress just thinking about what might happen.

"Being active means I can manage my disability better; I have more energy, am more confident and all-round I'm a lot happier in myself. Without the financial support that I received, I would never have been able to get myself to training twice a week.

"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.

Active Norfolk's Disability Sport Project Lead, Ellen Vanlint, said: "The benefits of being active for people living with a disability are well-reported and can have a huge impact on quality of life and people's ability to manage impairments.

"To receive this study which shows a constant fear of funding cuts and reassessments is stopping people from being active at all is worrying. We hope people are still encouraged to get out and be active as much as possible."

Click here to find sports suitable for people with disabilities in you area.

Tags: Activity, Disability Funding, Disability Sport