Blind campaigners lobby Clegg over benefits plan

Julie Swift, who is campaigning for clarity over benefit changes
Julie Swift, who is campaigning for clarity over benefit changes

SHEFFIELD’S blind community has called for clarity over welfare reform plans which could see them lose out on state benefits.

The government’s proposed changes to assessment criteria for people who currently receive disability living allowance have come under fire from the city’s blind and visually impaired residents.

They say the new system, which will see DLA change to Personal Independence Payment, puts too much emphasis on performing tasks without taking into account specific needs of blind people.

Representatives from the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind met city MP and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to seek answers from Whitehall on their behalf.

Steve Hambleton, general manager of Sheffield RSB said: “The needs of blind and partially sighted people have not been recognised. The assessment criteria focuses on mobility.

“People are assessed on points and how many you get determines how much you get. One of the points is seeing if someone is able to walk more than 50 metres. Most people can do that, but it doesn’t take into account if a blind person can do it successfully.

“Tens of thousands of people could be affected by this. Nick Clegg promised to write to the relative member of parliament expressing our concerns.”

Julie Swift, 58, of Lodge Moor, also met Mr Clegg.

The widow was forced to give up her job as an endoscopy technician after her sight deteriorated.

She said: “It is worrying because my DLA helps pay my bills, it helps to keep me independent. I’m scared I could lose out.

“I understand the government needs to save money and get people back to work, but it is difficult for a blind or partially sighted person.

“I’ve not got much faith in Mr Clegg.”

His spokesman said: “Nick has made his views known that whilst we need reform of the system we need to get the details right.

“The assessment needs to be objective so people receive a fair level of benefits.”