Summer 2012 will live long in the memories of Newham residents.
It was a fantastic sporting experience and very, very special to me. I was particularly honoured to participate in the victory ceremonies for the Paralympic Men’s and Women’s 50m Backstroke. It was an amazing privilege: something I shall never forget.
Millions enjoyed the Paralympics, watching para-sport for the very first time. Yet again we cheered loudly for Team GB.
Now the excitement’s over, comes the hard part: making the spirit of the Games live on, ensuring a tangible economic social and sporting legacy, which enhances everyone’s living standards.
West Ham’s Community Sports Trust’s contribution to that legacy is its ambition to create the next generation of young para-sports specialist coaches and a Paralympic Sports Club.
Para-sport aside, more changes are desperately needed.
The media’s and Government’s attacks on disability benefit claimants clearly impact on our consciousness at a time when ordinary, hard-working families find it difficult to make ends meet.
Hate crimes against disabled people increased and attitudinal surveys show a majority of us wrongly believe those collecting disability benefits are mainly frauds and scroungers.
Next year, £2BN will be cut from disability benefits: the payments that provide for personal care and mobility. An estimated 25,000 people will have to give up work, when they lose DLA. Mobility cars and scooters will be repossessed. All this will cost taxpayers more. Where is the sense in that?
British public opinion embraced the Paralympians, offering hope to disabled people that the Paralympics would fundamentally change perceptions of the disabled.
Let’s make sure the Coalition hears the real voices of disabled people, and the rest of us. All citizens have a right to access a decent quality of life. Stop savaging the welfare state, on which all but the richest depend.