‘Disabled people pay “a financial penalty” on everyday living costs, spending an average of £550 a month extra, according to a report by Scope.’http://http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27029928
I have been on benefits most of my life. The way the media and other people talk about benefits makes this fact sound like something I should be ashamed of, but I am not. Sometimes you hear older people say, that they are entitled to benefits as they paid into the system all their lives, I admit I have not paid much into the system at all. Even when I have worked paying jobs one of them was between college and university so as a student I got my tax payments back a year later. However being entitled to the money, why should I not take it, I need the money to live on. I have tried very hard to get paying work and feel that it is not my fault I can’t pay tax into the system when no one will hire me.
Last year is the first time I stopped receiving Disability Living Allowance in twenty years. My mum first claimed it in my name when I was eight or nine. I got it mostly for my Perthes Disease as I could not walk well, but later on she also got a care component for a few years due to my mental health issues as I was more work than a child of that age should have been. When I turned eighteen I started to get the money myself. I was by then just getting the mobility component, but found the money very handy. I certainly needed it when I went away to university to pay for taxis to places some people might have considered walking distance. For example at one stage I was having weekly physiotherapy sessions at the hospital and it would cost me £5 a time to get the taxi there, as it was too far to walk to the bus station in town and then from the bus stop to the physiotherapy department. When my old hip became too much to bear I purchased my own crutches as I knew the hospital waiting list to see physiotherapy about them was long and being in my final year at university I could not wait for them. I got them online and they came with a small delivery charge as well. I think I got them at a very good price, but being a student without much money, I was glad of my DLA to help with the cost. After my total hip replacement surgery they left me on DLA during the recovery period as it was not like I was instantly up and walking without any problems. They leave you on DLA for about a year or so until the doctor signs you off to say it was successful, as that is about how long it takes to fully recover. By this point I did feel like I was no longer entitled to the money, my circumstances had changed, I was walking much further and doing more for myself.
Claiming DLA was not an easy task. As with most benefits the form is a full on booklet with many questions. I am glad they are thorough, I don’t like the idea of people falsely claiming benefits anymore than the next person, but they do ask some questions which are very hard to answer. In the old DLA forms they used to ask how far you could walk, but in my case but varied from day-to-day. Many disabilities change daily and many of the questions assumed that it stayed the same all the time. I just put in my worst case days as although I might have been OK sometimes, if on the day I had to go out was a bad one, then I would need the money. DLA has now changed into Personal Independence Payment which I gather are just as hard to claim for as DLA if not harder. These forms are so hard to fill in as part of her job my mum has been on courses on how to fill them in. They no longer give anyone life long benefit awards, everyone has to be re-assessed, even if you have something you can never recover from such as a missing limb or total blindness, yes because limbs just grow back magically and eye sight just recovers! I was on low rate mobility which is now called mobility standard, which currently gets you £21.55 a week, which is not very much when you consider the average price of a taxi anywhere these days. The most anyone could get on PIP now is £138.55 per week, but that includes both the enhanced mobility payment and the enhanced daily living payment. This might at first sound quite generous, but there are extra payments some very sick people need to make such as using more central heating as they get more cold from not being able to move as much or more electricity to charge up their wheelchair.
Right now I reviving just the one benefit, Employment Support Allowance. This is the replacement benefit for Incapacity and some types of Income Support. I am only on it now on a temporary basis as I managed to go and break a bone in my foot. For about two months I will get a little over £66 a week. I get a little less than some due to the amount of savings I have, so the more you save up the less ESA you get. People on benefits are often penalized for being careful with money and having managed to scrimp some savings together over many years,which is not easy to do on such a low-income. I have been on ESA before after my hip surgery for a few months as I clearly could not work. Some years ago whist at college I was also on Income Support because due to my hip I had the stamina to either go to college or work, but not manage both. Some would say I should have worked instead of going to college, but how is a disabled person supposed to better themselves and get even a semi decent job if they can never get an education. Why should I not get the same opportunities to learn as everyone else. Whilst on ESA you can work and earn up to £20 a week in addition to the benefit, which for some people who have not worked in a very long time or ever, it might be a way to slowly get used to the world of work again. However £20 would not cover the transport costs for a lot jobs let alone make you ant profit.
I will soon be back on Job Seekers Allowance yet again,which is a bit depressing as I never seem to get off it for very long. I been off and on Job Seekers since I left college aged twenty-one. I have come off it a few times, twice for temporary seasonal work and for University. I think of all the benefits that I have been on Job Seekers gets me the most flack. I have been called too lazy to get a job, been told there are jobs out there if I really wanted one, asked why hard-working people should fund my lifestyle and worst of all been called thieving scum. I would be the first to admit I am somewhat of a lazy person, but I have tried very hard to get a job. I fill in application after application, attend every interview I get, go to all my job support courses and meetings when I can and keep an eye out for jobs when out and about in shop windows and on notice boards. I am not that fussy about the type of work I will do, I have applied for shop work, cleaning, basic office jobs and even once as a litter picker. There are jobs out there, but there are also hundreds applying for each job in some cases. Since I am entitled to the money and fit the required criteria how does that make me a thief? Job seekers gets me £71.70per week, which I find perfectly OK for my circumstances, but if my parents were less generous and made me pay a lot more rent, or even made me move out I know I would struggle on that amount.
My advice for anyone who needs to claim benefits, if you have any doubts about how to fill in the forms go to your local Citizens Advice Bureau as they have advisers trained in benefits and can help fill it in correctly with more of a chance of getting a successful claim. They can also tell you if you can claim for any more types of benefit. I hope to one day get a job that means I can stop being on any benefits for longer than a few months. I do not like the fact I have to claim benefits, but without it I would have no income what so ever. People can not live on nothing.