This is the first of two posts about U.K disability benefits DLA (Disability Living Allowance) and PIP (Personal Independent Plan). It is an article explaining what mobility is, the changes with PIP and what the benefit means to me.
So what are DLA and PIP?
They are very similar benefits, except PIP is harder to get, especially if you have a hidden disability such as Autism, Mental Health issues or Epilepsy, but it is harder to get if you have a physical disability too. PIP also gets rid of the lifetime award for disabilities that will never change for the better.
Both of the benefits are broken down into two parts – this part is about mobility.
The Mobility Component
Mobility is the component that is to help with transport and movement. It is broken down into two rates. Lower rate and Higher rate. Higher rate enables someone to be entitled to a mobility car as long as they
Most people probably take it for granted that if their car breaks down, or transport is late and their destination is a 20-30 minute walk, they can easily do it.
I would love to have that luxury. I can walk, but from one day to the next I don’t know if I am going to be able to walk for five minutes or twenty minutes. Occasionally, I have a really good day or a really good period and I am always surprised when that happens. In April 2017 I went to New York with my Dad and it was great, my right leg was playing ball and apart from stopping at a cafe and sitting down on the subway every now and again I managed the whole day – the whole week, but it could have gone a completely different way.
I could have had to stop every 20 minutes and rest for long periods of time, we’d probably not have seen as many things we did see and I may have had to sit on the floor if it got too bad. There are times, particularly if I am by myself and my legs have started to feel tired that the only thing I can do is sit where I was previously standing.
The week before I was due to go back to university, my right leg had decided it’d forget how to move. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t move at all, what it means is that when I moved I was in pain, my leg wouldn’t bend. Have you ever broken your leg and had it wrapped in a cast? I always assume that it’s like that when it happens. My left leg then has to carry the whole of my weight and the weight of my right leg, tiring me out quickly. I was glad it sorted itself out when I had to pack all my stuff into the car and move it to my new uni halls.
Then there is shopping. Oh, what an annoyance shopping can be if I am by myself – when I am at home, I tend to go shopping with dad so I don’t have to worry about it, but at university, mostly in my first and second year, shopping was difficult. This year, my flatmate (also disabled) and I do the shopping together and there was the occasion where we both just ended up sitting on the floor for about five minutes even though we’d only been in the shop for about 20 minutes.
The trouble I have with shopping is that I cannot carry heavy bags.
Let me define a heavy bag in my world:
- 2 points of milk
- 2 bags of frozen food
That is the limit as to the amount of weight I can carry semi-comfortably to a car parked a short distance away, and I only have the one hand to do it, but I know from shopping with my family that people don’t carry only one bag in one hand. Usually, people have two or three bags between each hand, each roughly equal to the amount in the list above or heavier. This means that my flatmate and I have to shop more regularly, topping up our food stock on a regular, but small, basis.
Finally, there is the weather. Every time I say to able-bodied friends or friends who can walk without issue that I hate the snow, they always ask why. So I explain that I cannot walk in it. The comments I tend to get back is that everyone struggles walking in snow. That may be true, but most other people don’t have problems with balance, anyway. I have known to trip down the tiniest pothole while crossing the street, or over a crack in concrete tiles and when my leg plays the “I cannot move you have to drag me” card, I lose what little balance that leg would have given me too.
Let’s think of the leg in a cast again, would you want to walk in the snow with a broken leg? I just … no, it’ll always be my nemesis. Thankfully, if I do need to go outside in the thinnest of snow falls, my family help me maintain my balance.
This means that I am entitled to the higher rate mobility component while on DLA and am able to use this money to buy a car. That is all of my mobility payment gone, all on the car and the adaptations that I have to have.
However, with the new change from DLA to PIP, it is harder to receive mobility.
In the new system, there are only two boxes for the whole of the care component. How far can you walk aided? Can you complete a journey without using an aid? The second category also states that not completing a journey because of psychological stress (in other words – because of a mental illness) is not valid, although this is soon to change.
As you can see from the mobility issues I have, those categories are not enough. If I have a good day of walking on my assessment, I will lose my car. That for me will be losing my independence. It would make getting to and from uni difficult as I am unable to use public transport, it would prevent me from being able to shop at all, it would basically make me housebound. That is how much I rely on my car.
I have to be honest, I am terrified of being moved to PIP. I sort of want the assessment to come so I can get it out of the way but I also don’t want it to come in case I lose my car. The fact that lifetime award no longer exists also means that I am going to have to go through this process every three years and the worry that every time I am going to lose my car.
You might think to yourself, why should I get a benefit for a car when you have to pay from your salary, but here’s the thing, I am currently a student, trying to get an education (that gives me more debt than an abled student) so that I can work, pay off my student fees and pay taxes. My taxes would help fund my own benefits but to achieve that I need support so that I can have the independence to manage and pay the system back.
I use that benefit to essentially lease a car, I don’t own it but it is adapted for me so that I can drive it for three years.
The above is the reason why, if someone able-bodied parks in a disabled space without showing a blue badge, anyone who does have a blue badge gets annoyed. You may say to yourself, “well, I’ll only be in there for five minutes,” or “I have a young child” or some other excuse but we have no way of knowing that and you may have forced us to park somewhere further away from our destination, making it harder. Yesterday, I was out shopping with dad and someone was parked in a disabled space without a blue badge – when politely challenged the person apologised and offered to move.
I appreciate the person apologised but they shouldn’t have parked there in the first place. It was snowing and as already mentioned, this is hard for me to walk in so this was the worst day for someone to abuse the space.
By the time they offered to move, I had parked across some chevrons close to the store, which I know you are not supposed to do but I figured if that person wasn’t going to get fined for parking without a blue badge and other people park on the chevrons so why shouldn’t I? But I don’t like breaking the rules and I shouldn’t feel forced to because a space that was designed to make entering the shop easier for me was taken.
This is more about awareness than people themselves. I don’t know the reason why people abuse the space, it could be anything from thinking five minutes wouldn’t make much difference, to not realising how much difference that space can make to someone or it could be someone being a complete jerk. Personally, I think there are more people out there that don’t realise how much that space is needed than someone being a jerk for no reason, but whatever the reason it needs to change.
Two ways this can change:
- Build awareness
- make it so that it is a legal requirement to pay a fine in a private carpark if a person parks in a disabled space without a blue badge, like they do if the car park is run by the local council.
As the law stands, if you park in a private car park, you cannot be forced to pay fines and that is why most car parks do not issue them. However, I do not see this happening anytime soon, so please help me spread awareness.
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