Charity raises concerns over welfare reform

PUBLISHED: 13:09 11 September 2012

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw, left, with Devon in Sight director of services Martin Pallett, resource centre manager Colin Hoskins and volunteer Janice Cackett.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw, left, with Devon in Sight director of services Martin Pallett, resource centre manager Colin Hoskins and volunteer Janice Cackett.

Archant

A Topsham charity is calling on the Government to remember the needs of visually impaired people during its welfare reforms.

Devon in Sight says its service users are concerned that government plans to replace disability living allowance (DLA) with a new personal independence payment may mean that the challenges they face are not taken into account.

The charity has therefore been lobbying local MPs and the Government to try and make sure that their needs will not be forgotten.

The charity’s director of services Martin Pallett said: “We’re very concerned and worried that visually impaired people may lose out, so we have been trying to seek reassurances from the Government and been lobbying MPs and others to express our concerns about the changes.

“We want the changes to genuinely reflect the needs and issues that visually impaired people face, because we fear the new personal independence payment that’s being designed won’t reflect the issues visually impaired people face every day.”

The charity raised its concerns during a visit by Exeter MP and former Labour health minister Ben Bradshaw.

He said: “In Devon we have a growing number of elderly people who are living longer, which is great, but with that comes issues around visual impairment and living with it, and Devon in Sight seems to be doing a great job helping these people.

“I’m concerned to hear [they] are worried about the changes to DLA, and it’s something I have taken up in Parliament and will continue to do so, because it doesn’t seem right that people who have got genuine needs, because they are visually impaired or even blind, should lose support that helps them lead independent and active lives.”

In response to the charity’s concerns, East Devon Conservative MP Hugo Swire said that its users need not be concerned about the changes. He said: “As a vice president of the West of England School [for visually impaired pupils] I am acute to the needs of that sector of the community.

“The changes to DLA should not affect those genuinely in need. The changes are designed to better target help where it is genuinely needed as there is evidence of abuse which is neither fair to those in genuine need nor to the hard pressed tax payer.”

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