Last night saw the spectacular opening of the Paralympic Games in Rio. It is great to see that so many British athletes are tipped for gold medals across a range of events, building on the unprecedented success of Paralympics GB in London and the fantastic Olympic performance of Team GB in Brazil. I will be cheering on our great athletes and, with others, share the stories of those goose bump moments!
I am glad that the budgetary issues facing the Paralympics have now been resolved. Equality for disabled people is at the heart of my ambitions as Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions. I was deeply concerned to see the greatest sporting event in the world for disabled people subject to such uncertainty. We must do more to ensure disability sport, from the grassroots to international competitions, is properly funded.
However, many British Paralympic athletes have also faced uncertainty at home, following deep Tory cuts to disability support, which have reduced some athletes’ access to Motability schemes. Motability is an essential provision of independence for disabled people across the UK, including our Paralympians. The role of the DWP in cutting support to our Paralympians was referred to in last night’s The Last Leg programme on Channel 4, prior to the opening ceremony.
Disability campaigners are right to use the interest surrounding the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio to draw attention to the cumulative impact of the cuts on disabled people that are taking disabled people’s rights back decades with attacks in every area of their lives from education to independent living to employment to income.
Increasing numbers of disabled people are seeing cuts not only to sport and recreation but also to basic human rights such support to eat, drink and use the toilet. The Government’s refusal to even assess the cumulative impact of their policies on disabled people shows the disregard they have for disabled people.
I will be glued to the coverage of the Paralympics, cheering on the athletes and look forward to Team GB building on their exceptional performance at the London 2012 Games, However I will also be doing all I can to hold the Government to account for the disproportionate impact their austerity programme has had on disabled people in the UK.