Friday, 29 October 2010

Emma's Story

I’m a single woman in my late twenties who lives alone and dreams of being a writer. I have ten GCSEs most of which I got B grades for. I have three A’Levels and a degree. And I’ve never worked.

I have Cerebral Palsy (CP). That means I’m life long disabled and in my case I use a wheelchair most of the time. In 2003, I was also diagnosed with depression and I’ve spent most of the seven years since then on anti-depressants.

My income is Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Incapacity Benefit (IB). It’s not always easy.

When I was 16 my DLA was transferred from being paid to my Mum to being paid to me. I was asked where I wanted it paid and I named a specific post office. They arranged for it to be paid into a different post office to the one I asked for. Because the one they chose was my closest one (and presumably because it was where my Mum had it paid for years). Never mind that it was a tiny village post office with no wheelchair access!

When I went to Uni I wasn’t eligible for some means tested benefits I could otherwise have applied for – because I had the right to apply for a student loan. Even if I didn’t take it I couldn’t have the benefits. I took out the loan and now have a lot of student debt. I’ve been told that if I ever work it will only be part time. And based on my fatigue levels doing a few hours a week of voluntary works I agree with those who said that. Realistically (and I do hate to say this) I will never pay it back or even reach the earnings threshold where you must start repayments. Yet, every year the Student Loans Company sends me a statement. It’s a continuing waste of money. I try not to think about my student loans if I can help it. There’s no point. I’m not in a position to do anything.

Once, I was asked to provide a sick note long before the previous one was due to expire. I phoned and queried why and was told it was standard procedure to check if I’d got better. I replied that I have an incurable condition. The person from the benefits office told me “Well, you still might have got better.” Very upsetting! But at the time I had a wonderful GP who was also disabled. It really helped me to deal with someone who “got” being disabled. His response was very verbal and I can’t print it but basically he had a suggestion for where they should be told to go.

Benefits being stopped because of DWP mistakes has happened to me a few times. Once they couldn’t even tell me why it had been stopped, just that it shouldn’t have been.

My condition means I will always qualify for middle rate care and higher rate mobility on DLA. It won’t ever improve so I’ll never be able enough for lower rate care. And I don’t anticipate my condition deteriorating to an extent I need higher rate care. To get IB or ESA you need 15 points on the WCA. I once worked out my score on the scale they use. I got 15 points on the very first question alone. And overall I got enough points for more than three people to claim IB. Yet sometime in the next few years I face being reassessed and moved to ESA. This worries me a lot. I think it’s probably an expensive, stressful and pointless waste of time for someone in my position. And then a few years after that a move onto Universal Credit. Another worrying and expensive waste of time most likely. The government think differently. So in an attempt to save money they cause stress, worry and fear, making people’s conditions worse and possibly even ruining lives

I belong to a Sailability group. One of our boats is called Spirit of Ivan. We were given it shortly after Ivan Cameron died and it was so named in his memory (with the permission of the Cameron Family). The committee wanted to call it that to honour him as “a little boy who will never sail her.” It’s not quite as weird as it sounds, although the Camerons have never been part of our group, we are the closest Sailability to Witney where David Cameron’s constituency is. By naming our boat for him we were also showing our support for his family. For the loss of one of us.

Now David Cameron is Prime Minister. I thought he understood what disability and being disabled meant. But he and his party won’t stand up for us. I am proud to share my story and be a part of The Broken of Britain. If no one will stand up for us, we’ll stand up for ourselves (even if several of us can’t actually stand!).


Adelaide Dupont said...

It would have taken time for Mr Cameron to learn what disability meant, and not only through his own son Ivan.

(great way to honour him through the boat!)

And accessible post offices are very important.

(It goes without saying that standards must apply to public services).

Sue Marsh said...

Very moving story, I'm sure it surprises many to see that conditions like Cerebral Palsy are subject to the frustrations and doubts of ME or Mental Illness. I've lost count of the comments I've read that say "of course the REALLY sick and disabled should be cared for" but they're not and that's the point.