From issue 14, Spring 2012
She’s no ordinary Baroness – just like she was no ordinary olympian – and Tanni Grey-Thompson is concerned about the changes to Disability Living Allowance.
Our most famous Paralympian won an incredible 11 gold medals over four Olympic Games. She was made a Baroness in 2005.
Tanni was born Carys Davina Grey, but the nickname her sister gave to the little baby with Spina Bifida was ‘tiny’ pronounced ‘tanni’. It stuck.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is now highly regarding as a politician, one of the leading lights in the House of Lords to challenge the government’s proposed welfare reforms.
“One man has contacted me saying if he drops out of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) he will lose his car, which means he won’t be able to get to work.” she told Quids in!
“He’s in low paid work, and where he lives there’s no public transport he can use, and his car is his only means of being a part of society. That’s the tip of the iceberg because society is not that accessible to disabled people. So if disabled people start dropping out of work then they start becoming ghettoised and they’re not seen as a natural part of society”.
For Tanni this reminds her of the ‘dark days for disability’ when she was younger:
“When I was young and going around in my wheelchair I never saw another disabled person. My father had to fight the education authorities so I could go to an ordinary school. I’m worried that if people lose out on their DLA we’ll go back to that – where disabled people can’t go out and be a part of society”.
“I understand that the system needs to be reformed and I don’t want to see people cheating and getting money they’re not entitled to. I want to see disabled people in work, meaningful work and paying taxes – everyone should pay taxes. But there are 500,000 people that could be affected by this, and I don’t think the government will save the money they hope to”.
Going For Gold
Tanni has a clear message for anyone who’s put off applying for DLA:
“Don’t be. It’s incredibly important that people claim the benefits they’re entitled to. And it’s a long time until March 2013 when these reforms come in.”
So benefits aside is Tanni looking forward to the Olympics?
“I’m incredibly excited. We’ve got tickets for the Greco-Roman wrestling, which I’ve never even seen before. But I think the best atmosphere will be in parts of central London like Hyde Park where they’ve got giant screens. Just turn up, bring a picnic and enjoy the party…”