A BLIND man from South Tyneside has called on the Government to scrap benefit changes which could affect people with sight problems.
Peter Bennetts addressed a major conference at Newcastle’s Civic Centre yesterday, which was attended by more than 100 campaigners against changes to the benefits received by blind and disabled people.
The 56-year-old, who lives in Westoe, South Shields, believes his speech at the Hardest Hit North East conference helped to get his messages across.
Mr Bennetts and other campaigners claim that proposed changes to Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit payments mean blind and partially-sighted people stand to lose hundreds of pounds a month.
He hopes the Government will respond by making a fourth U-turn in a week – after deciding to scrap the controversial ‘pasty tax’ and ‘caravan tax’ proposals – and also dropping plans to limit tax relief on charitable donations.
Mr Bennetts says he was encouraged by a speech at the conference by Ann Maguire, the Labour Party’s shadow minister for the disabled.
He said: “I was very encouraged by what happened at the conference.
“There were a lot of people there and they heard a number of positive speeches. Ann Maguire pointed out that the Government has made three U-turns this week already, and urged that the fourth U-turn needs to be on the assessment criteria for personal independence payment.”
Also among the speakers was Steve Winyard, head of policy and campaigns for the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
Mr Bennetts is one of more than 36,000 people who have signed a national petition against the proposals.
The campaign received a boost last week when South Shields MP David Miliband attended a meeting of Sight Service, a leading provider of services and support for people with vision problems in South Tyneside.
Mr Miliband slammed the Government for insufficient consultation over the proposed benefit reforms, and said ministers should work more closely with organisations which represent people with sight-related issues.