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Former paralympian from Devon loses job after PIP benefits reassessment

Former paralympian Michael Willavoys has lost his job because he is no longer entitled to a motability car. Credit: ITV West Country

A disabled bowls player who represented Great Britain at the Paralympics now says that same country has let him down after his motability car was taken away, causing him to lose his job that he held for 11 years.

Michael Willavoys from Tiverton was born with cerebral palsy and used the specially-adapted vehicle to travel the 50 mile round trip to work in North Tawton near Okehampton.

The 46-year-old used to receive Disability Living Allowance but when he applied for the new system of Personal Independence Payments (PIP), the Government re-assessed him and found he no longer qualified for additional support. He says it's meant he's lost his independence.

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I was an independent person to do these sorts of things and I just feel with this now, as I've lost the mobility car, I'm losing my independence rights and that is not fair.

I just can't believe how the Government is treating disabled people, as cruel as this.

– Michael Willavoys

Mr Willavoys adds, "If the Government is trying to get disabled people in work, how can they do it if they are going to lose the mobility car? It's the most important thing of their life, to have a car, to get out and do what normal able-bodied people are able to do".

Mr Willavoys has contacted a recruitment firm to try to find work closer to home so he doesn't have to drive. He has years of experience in warehouse control and logistics but he's struggled to find work locally. The firm says he is capable of doing a number of jobs but there isn't much of a demand for his skills. His lack of transport also limits what he can do.

The Department for Work and Pensions says:

We're committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support they're entitled to and under PIP, 31% of people receive the highest possible award, compared with 15% under the previous benefit DLA.

– Department for Work and Pensions
Michael Willavoys being presented with his medal in the World Bowling Championships for the Disabled. Credit: Michael Willavoys

Michael Willavoys has spent his whole life striving for independence, to contribute to society.

The world champion gold medallist has more than succeeded at this but now he says that independence has been taken away, along with the car on which he relied.

If you, or someone you know, are disabled and need help with benefits or employment rights, the charity Disability Rights UK has plenty of advice: