This is the first in a series of blog posts about my struggle to have my disability recognised and the appropriate support (financial, personal and emotional) provided. My ultimate goal is to raise awareness of some of the issues people with disabilities face, and reduce the stigma surrounding benefits. Although the events I describe are real, I won’t be posting them as they happen. I wrote the first article several weeks ago, when the battle for benefits had just begun. Quite a bit has changed since then, and the rest of the posts will be far more recent…
I’ve written about the general hatred expressed towards people on benefits before. About how many times I’ve heard strangers, family and friends complain about those ‘lazy spongers’ who are given money by the government for doing nothing while hard working Brits are still penniless. About how the government insists that disabled people need to become more adaptable and continues to make more and more cuts to our services and benefits, while MPs continue claiming huge amounts of money just to cover their breakfast expenses… Divide and conquer. That’s what they’re doing. Because as long as we’re constantly at each other’s throats, people who have jobs and people who don’t attacking one another, we won’t notice how much damage the government is doing to this country.
People on benefits aren’t sitting in an ivory tower, counting our money and laughing at you hard working idiots as we cheat the system. I’m on benefits, I work two jobs and live in a small house with my Dad and my sister. I’m eligible for the extra money because of an incurable disability that I was born with. Yet I’m criticised by so many people who assume that ‘lazy’ and ‘on benefits’ means the same thing, or feel that the “special treatment” I’m given because of my autism somehow gives me an unfair advantage. So in order to bust some myths (and vent some personal frustrations). I’ve decided to clarify for the internet exactly how much disabled living allowance I receive, why I need that money in the first place, and what it gets spent on.
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Dyspraxia (two invisible, yet profound conditions that effect every area of my life) when I was six years old. I also have a history of mental health issues, and receive three hours of support a week from Creative Support, who describe themselves as a secondary mental health service. Because of this, I receive the lowest DLA care rate (£21.80 a week) and the lowest DLA mobility rate (also £21.80 a week). My two jobs combine to create a 30-hour work week and the DLA goes towards additional disability related costs.
But that might all change, because DLA is gradually being replaced by PIP (personal independence payment). I recently went to a gruelling interview to assess whether I’m eligible for PIP. I had to go into a room with a stranger and describe all the worst things about myself… everything I’ve ever struggled with, everything about my brain and body that doesn’t quite work. I also touched on the worst experiences I had during my breakdown, things which my closest friends and family don’t even know about. Phrases like ‘self-harm’ ‘poor fine and gross motor skills’ ‘suicide ideation’ and ‘sensory overload’ were thrown around the room, while a stranger calmly sat back and assessed whether I was “suffering” enough to deserve additional financial support.
I’m still waiting for the results. When I received the letter summoning me to my assessment, I was warned that I might not qualify for PIP at all. If I do, I expect I’ll only receive the lower rate, since I’m already on low rate DLA. Low rate PIP means I’ll no longer qualify for the support I receive from creative support. (Apparently they base the support a person receives on how many benefits they receive, and as I’m only on the lower rate I can’t be that disabled). If I lost that support I’d be terrified, and my health would probably regress. I’ve been told I could continue to be supported with no benefits, but I’d have to start paying £15 an hour. Less money. More expenses. That makes perfect sense, right? It’s a warped system, and something needs to change.