Published: 7 September, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
TWO wheelchair users from Islington symbolised the growing despair of the nation’s disabled at a demonstration to co-coincide with the Paralympic Games.
Andy Greene and Patrick Lynch joined a protest outside the offices of Atos, the body tasked with organising benefit assessments for the government. They are also co-sponsors of the Paralymics.
Former charity worker Mr Lynch, 52, who lives off Liverpool Road, suffers from a slowly developing illness, syringomyelia, caused by a cyst between the brain stem and spinal cord.
He featured in the Tribune last year after having to beg for financial support in an experience he found “totally humiliating”.
Labour MP for Islington South Emily Thornberry appealed successfully against a cut to his benefits.
Demonstrators at the protest heard that disabled people now face being institutionalised rather than supported to live independently by at least one local council in the West Midlands.
Wheelchair user Andy Greene, a member of Islington Disabled People Against Cuts, said that putting people in care was cheaper than allowing them to live independently within the community. He said: “I welcome the Games, of course. But we have a situation where thousands of disabled people are being denied essential benefits. Their entire lives are being assessed in minutes and it is extremely distressing.”
He spoke out in the run up to another planned demonstration outside the offices of the Works and Pensions department next Wednesday, September 12, at 9.30am. There is also a Paupers Picnic being held outside the House of Commons next Thursday, September 13, at 1pm.
Mr Green said: “Disabled people represent the poorest and most vulnerable in society. They are struggling against financial hardship, social isolation, ill-health, depression and despair. And now in at least one part of the country there is even talk of taking away their basic freedoms and putting them into care. How much worse can it get? It’s like putting the clock back 50 years. All the gains and progressive changes in the lives of disabled people are under threat.”
Mr Greene, 36, who lives off Upper Street, was born with lifelong disabilities, including no legs and no right arm and is visually impaired.
He warned there would be further protests over the issue of people being refused benefits.
“Disabled people are having their rights whittled away,” he said. “With cuts it means less access and less opportunity for mobility. Long term the Paralympics won’t do anything to address these issues.”
He urged disabled people in the borough to join the fight back. “Don’t take it lying down if your benefits are cut. The majority of people who appeal – about 70 per cent – win in the end.”