‘Year ru­ined’ as par­a­lympian stripped of his ve­hi­cle un­der ben­e­fit changes

Western Mail - - NEWS - Ab­bie Wightwick ab­bie.wightwick@me­di­awales.co.uk

AWORLD record-break­ing par­a­lympian said he has been left ex­hausted and on painkillers af­ter his spe­cially adapted car was taken away un­der dis­abil­ity al­lowance changes.

Kenny Churchill, from Am­man­ford, said an as­ses­sor from the Depart­ment of Work and Pen­sions (DWP) de­cided in De­cem­ber 2016 that he did not qual­ify for the adapted ve­hi­cle he had been pro­vided with for nearly two decades.

The car was taken away the fol­low­ing month.

The fa­ther of four, whose cere­bral palsy means he can’t use the right side of his body, has spent the past 11 months trav­el­ling five hours a day to get to and from work.

Kenny has to leave home at 5.30am to take two buses to work 40 miles away in Brid­gend. He rarely gets home be­fore 9pm.

The five-times par­a­lympian medal­list, who won medals at the Barcelona Par­a­lympics in 1992, At­lanta in 1996, Syd­ney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, said his in­de­pen­dence has been taken away.

The re­tired ath­lete, who set world records in javelin and shot put, said he has now won an ap­peal against the DWP’s de­ci­sion last spring, but has only re­cently been told he will now get a car.

He said he was told the ve­hi­cle would be de­liv­ered today.

Kenny, 42, who re­tired from com­pet­i­tive sport in 2011, said: “I am work­ing and have a fam­ily and it is like they are pre­vent­ing me do­ing that. I didn’t want to stop work and be on ben­e­fits.

“All these months with­out a car has taken a toll on my health and I am on painkillers. It has ru­ined my year. I am re­ally tired from hav­ing to get up at 4.50am to leave by 5.30am to get to work. It makes me so an­gry.

“I want the gov­ern­ment to re­spect dis­abled peo­ple. I want peo­ple to know how they treat us.”

Changes to as­sess­ments for cars came about when Per­sonal In­de­pen­dent Pay­ments (PIP) re­placed the Dis­abil­ity Liv­ing Al­lowance (DLA) in 2013.

It is es­ti­mated that across the UK nearly 14,000 dis­abled peo­ple who rely on a spe­cial­ist mo­tor­ing al­lowance have had their cars taken away un­der the changes.

Kenny, fa­ther to Ewan, 17, Am­ber, 15, Gra­cie, 10, and Char­lie, three, said he has been too tired to see his chil­dren as much as he would like.

His two old­est chil­dren live with their mother in the north east of Eng­land and his younger chil­dren live five miles away in Lland­darog with his for­mer part­ner and fel­low par­a­lympian, Claire Wil­liams.

Kenny said: “They test to see if you can walk and see if you can look af­ter your­self. I find it hard walk­ing and car­ry­ing shop­ping and get­ting on the bus where there is nowhere to sit. I stand and fall a lot.”

He said he won his ap­peal when his phys­io­ther­a­pist wrote a let­ter ex­plain­ing how cere­bral palsy af­fects him and show­ing pho­to­graphs of in­juries caused by falls.

“I want the gov­ern­ment to re­spect dis­abled peo­ple. I want peo­ple to know how dis­abled peo­ple are treated,” he said.

A DWP spokesman said: “De­ci­sions for PIP are made fol­low­ing con­sid­er­a­tion of all the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the claimant, in­clud­ing supporting ev­i­dence from their GP or med­i­cal spe­cial­ist. Any­one who is unhappy with a de­ci­sion can ap­peal, and may sub­mit ad­di­tional ev­i­dence.

“In Mr Churchill’s case, new ev­i­dence was pro­vided at the manda­tory re­con­sid­er­a­tion stage which was not avail­able to the ini­tial de­ci­sion-maker.

“Claimants no longer el­i­gi­ble for Mota­bil­ity af­ter mov­ing from DLA to PIP can ben­e­fit from a £175m pack­age of sup­port.”

Rob Browne

> Kenny Churchill had his mo­bil­ity car taken away un­der dis­abil­ity al­lowance changes

> Kenny with his medals

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