Working in The Walton Centre means I’m lucky enough to meet people from all over the country, all with interesting and diverse stories to tell. Their conditions, backgrounds and individual circumstances vary greatly, but there’s one thing that unifies almost all of them - their condition has had some form of financial impact on their lives.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports that, “When the extra costs of disability are partially accounted for, half of all people in poverty are either disabled, or in a household with a disabled person.” This is a shocking statistic but one that certainly represents the reality of the lives of people we speak to every day.
We meet a great many people who struggle under the weight of the extra costs incurred due to the nature of their disability. From taxis to hospital appointments and hourly pay for extra care to pre-peeled vegetables and increased heating bills, the costs of your condition can quickly rack up and lead to a lack of control over your finances. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is supposed to help shoulder some of these costs through either the Daily Living or Mobility components, but the lengthy and difficult application process can mean those in most desperate need can often go months before these payments are made.
The lack of bridging support available to people in this situation makes getting them urgent help ever more difficult. Many claimants of DLA, in receipt of the benefit for lengthy periods, would find meeting the costs of their condition next to impossible without the additional funds. The holes in the PIP assessment process means that people who are struggling, but managing, don’t meet the criteria for financial assistance. However, in these cases their status is assessed when they are in receipt of DLA - and when this is withdrawn, their ability to manage is greatly decreased. People have told me frequently that this makes them feel ‘punished’ for managing their condition.
It would appear increasingly that poverty and disability goes hand-in-hand. With cuts to public and charitable services happening across the country, people with disabilities are finding it ever more difficult to access the help and support they may urgently require. This is something I’m seeing across the board for patients at The Walton Centre and clients who get in touch with The Brain Charity from around the country. However, with access to good support and information we can help as many people as possible get access to the financial assistance they need to continue to maintain or improve their quality of life.
Siobhan Mealey, Information and Advice Officer, The Brain Charity.