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Heroes or scroungers?

‘I think the Vitality programme is absolutely brilliant – everything I stand for is echoed in the values of Vitality.’ These are the inane words of Olympic heroine Jessica Ennis, now earning a fast buck as a ‘Vitality Ambassadress’ through which she will ‘participate in a number of marketing activities…which add value to the Vitality proposition’. Diplomatically, she continues ‘we all love to be rewarded for our hard work to get healthy…’

Jess has a point there. Some of her less favoured Paralympic colleagues are pointing out how hard they have worked to get where they are and how they couldn’t have done it without the assistance of the Disability Living Allowance, which provided much needed funding and support. DLA is due to be replaced under the Government’s welfare ‘reforms’, it is expected 500,000 people will lose their entitlement to achieve an annual saving of £2.24billion. Paralympian Sophie Christiansen said of DLA: "We use this money in order to get out the house, not think, oh, we've got a comfy life here, living on benefits”. Another Paralympian, Natasha Baker, said: "[DLA] has transformed my life and got me to the Paralympics and got me to win my gold medals."

Tanni Grey-Thompson has spoken eloquently about the impact of the present Government’s policies: "People are either shown as amazing Paralympians who are competing for their country, who are incredible individuals, or benefit scroungers. What I don't want to see is disabled people ghettoised and locked away like it was when I was young. The danger is if we just keep knocking disabled people back then we'll turn the clock back 30 years.”

DLA is worth between £20 and £131.50 a week. Jess, along with other golden elite athletes, is expected to push her earnings into the millions. There is no indication so far that Jessica’s Vitality values include her, or her favoured colleagues, speaking out on behalf of those combating disability, whether they be athletes or not, who deserve to be supported.

It’s a dog eat dog world for sporting heroes.


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