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1 in 2 disabled cyclists fear benefits will be taken away

On International Day for Disabled People, Wheels for Wellbeing has published survey results that show nearly half of disabled cyclists fear benefit sanctions for being physically active. It comes just weeks after The Activity Trap research commissioned by Dwarf Sports Association UK and released by Activity Alliance. This also revealed that almost half of disabled people fear losing their benefits if they are seen to be physically active.

Two people on a bike

Wheels for Wellbeing's latest survey reveals that almost half (49%) of disabled cyclists have worried about having their benefits reduced or withdrawn because of being physically active. Of those who expressed being worried, 17% said that this worry had deterred them from cycling, caused them to cycle less or to give up cycling altogether. Six percent reported having their benefits reduced or withdrawn because they cycle and are physically active.

Some respondents to the cycling survey reported having Personal Independence Payment (PIP) withdrawn, whilst others expressed concern that they would not be awarded PIP because they cycled.

“I’m currently awaiting DLA/PIP transition, but was told that cycling as a hobby would "count against me" when assessing my care and mobility needs”, one respondent said.

Another said they felt there was “an assumption that disabled people must not be allowed to do more (physical activity) and, if they do, must be treated harshly by removing benefits”.

Such concerns echo those of John, 59, who recently shared his story on why fear of benefit sanctions meant he stopped cycling four years ago. The results of this survey, and stories like John’s, raise serious questions about how disability is perceived. It challenges the Government and its commitment to tackle the physical inactivity crisis, particularly given that disabled people are twice as likely as non-disabled people to be physically inactive.

Besides the issue of disability benefits and cycling, the survey also reveals stark findings around disabled cyclist’s experiences of abuse and disability hate crime. It highlights the ongoing challenges faced by disabled people who use their cycle as a mobility aid.

Isabelle Clement, Director of Wheels for Wellbeing, said:

“For Disabled people, cycling is a wonderful thing because it mitigates the effects of impairment and enables you to move freely over long distances, improving your overall wellbeing in the process – it doesn’t however make your impairment magically disappear! So to penalise people because they use a cycle to move around, as well as or instead of a wheelchair say, is just lazy and discriminatory. We call on DWP to clarify its position on this.”

Supporting the call, Xavier Brice, CEO at Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity and the custodian of the National Cycle Network, said:

“Now more than ever we should encourage people to keep active and enhance a positive perception of walking and cycling as levels of obesity, physical inactivity and isolation are progressively increasing.
“Cycling and walking improve health and wellbeing, increase independence while bringing benefits such as social interaction and friendship. Over 7% of users on the National Cycle Network have an activity-limiting health problem or a disability. We know the paths on the Network are hugely important places for them to both travel along and interact with others. And that is why we have recently laid out a new vision for the Network to create safe and more accessible paths for everyone, including wheelchair users, those riding adaptive bikes and the less physically active.”

Andy Dalby-Welsh, Deputy Chief Executive of Activity Alliance, said:

“The stark reality is that disabled people are still twice as likely as non-disabled people to be inactive. We need to understand the challenges and barriers that disabled people face on a daily basis to change the reality of disability, inclusion and sport. These survey results from Wheels for Wellbeing build on our insight by revealing more about disabled people’s experiences in a particular activity.
“We would urge policy makers within national and local Government to take on board the findings within this report. We all have an important role to enable more disabled people to lead happier and healthier lives.”

Roger Geffen, Policy Director at Cycling UK, said:

“It is surprising how many people find it difficult or impossible to walk very far but are able to cycle perfectly easily. Sadly, this survey shows how easily ‘disabled people’ get pigeonholed as being totally inactive, when the reality is far more complex. The more we can enable people to use cycles as mobility aids for day-to-day journeys or simply for pleasure, the more we can save on NHS and social care costs, by helping them to stay healthy, independent and happy.”

Baroness Barker, who sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG), said:

“This report makes clear the amount of harassment and unjustified criticism disabled cyclists face when trying to maintain their health. The DWP’s outdated view of cycling and mobility of disabled people is a costly mistake.”

The survey was carried out between August and September 2018. Just over two hundred (202) disabled cyclists from across the UK took part. Full results of the survey, and a report. Full survey results can be found here. For further comments please contact Isabelle Clement directly on 07903 450137.