Being disabled is hard enough – don’t make it worse

Cuts could mean I could lose £1,500

Today, it remains unclear what the government’s final decision regarding disability welfare benefits will be.

Students are under threat of losing vital funds that make their lives at university possible.

Durham Maths student, Gina Cuomo, spoke to The Tab about how damaging the cuts could be to the lives of disabled students. She is due to represent Durham at the NUS Disabled Students’ Conference in London this week.

The cuts on PIP payments could make students with disabilities lives’ at university even harder than they already are.

Students assessed from January 2017 onwards could see the Daily Living component of their benefit hugely reduced, or even lost totally. This money is designed to help individuals who struggle with daily tasks such as washing and dressing. I am personally under threat of losing £1500 a year, making living in accessible housing even harder. Losing £30 a week may not sound like a lot, but if you add it together over the year the difference is huge.

I am personally very fortunate as my family are able to financially support me.

But many disabled students are not so lucky. They are some of the most vulnerable people in society but who often lack the energy to fight their corner. You have to wait eight weeks before filing for an appeal, and for 60% of students that decision will be overturned, meaning that they are without financial support that they need for a long time.

Students with learning disabilities and mental health problems could also find themselves seriously impacted by changes to daily living support. Life at university is already unimaginably difficult for disabled students, from access issues within departments and colleges, through to support for the variety of disabilities and mental and physical health issues experienced by the student body, meaning that it is not always possible to have a full university experience.

Personally, I am unable to use a shared bathroom, I have to pay an extra £500 on top of the already extortionate accommodation fees for an en-suite. For many students, the ability to pay for these crucial adjustments comes from their PIP payments. Many could find themselves unable to continue living at their university.

Many students like myself use their PIP benefits to pay for related costs of their conditions. £30 a week pays for a specialist physiotherapist for me, which has a huge impact on my health and my life in general. The loss of this money is detrimental to every aspect of disabled people’s quality of life, including their health.

And it is not just the current situation which is so terrifyingly under threat. For all students, leaving university and thinking about the future is scary. However, with access restrictions and high financial costs, life after graduation for those like me with a disability is even more daunting.

Living on my own would be incredibly difficult without support and a certain level of care. Further to this, many firms do not have fully accessible offices and concessions are not always in place.

Cutting PIP payments will make this situation yet worse, as independent living will be threatened and there will be fewer opportunities available.