‘Year ruined’ as paralympian stripped of his vehicle under benefit changes
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.”
> Kenny Churchill had his mobility car taken away under disability allowance changes
> Kenny with his medals