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Gwent News

YOUR AM WRITES: South Wales East AM Mohammad Asghar

By Mohammad Asghar, AM

4:40pm Tuesday 4th December 2012

IF YOU won £46 million, what would you spend it on?

I was reading recently about a couple from Nottingham who won almost £46 million on the lottery.

Personal shoppers, an Audi sports car and a luxury holiday were just some of the things that the couple purchased following the win.

As a Muslim I choose to refrain from gambling activities but as shadow minister for equalities the issues of many disabled people are topics I am far more familiar with.

Like lottery winners, many disabled people also tend to spend their money on personal staff and transport – but these are necessities to everyday life and not optional luxuries.

The sad fact is that abuse of the Blue Badge Scheme is actually costing local authorities and disabled people up to £46 million every year. This is over 17 times higher than the average lottery win. I think many disabled people can imagine better ways to spend £46 million.

Earlier this year the Disabled Person’s Parking Badges Bill was introduced in Westminster by Simon Kirby, a Conservative MP.

The bill has received cross-party support both in Westminster and in the Assembly. The aim of the bill is to protect genuine blue badge holders by preventing those who do not have the right to hold badges from abusing the scheme.

Local authorities will be given the power to remove fake, expired, misused or cancelled badges. This will improve the credibility of the scheme, free-up parking spaces for legitimate badge holders, and will allow disabled people the chance to access everyday services and facilities more easily.

At the moment, armed forces personnel who are posted overseas are not eligible for the scheme.

This poses a problem both for the personnel and for their families on their home visits. The introduction of this bill will extend the right to hold a badge to all members of the armed forces regardless of where they are based.

I recently discovered that people with a disability are more likely to have no qualifications than nondisabled people. It seems that disabled people have to overcome additional and unnecessary hurdles to achieve their ambitions.

Welsh Labour ministers must ensure that resources and facilities are available so that disabled people can access mainstream education and adequate transport to overturn these barriers to equality.

Please spare a thought on this issue. Yesterday was International Day for Disabled People. People with disabilities do not ask for a lottery win, only the chance to live everyday life as easily as possible.

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