One Month Before Heart Break

It’s a month before Valentine’s Day and a month before the end of the government’s poorly thought out consultation on Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Today, bloggers from all over the UK are writing to mark One Month Before Heart Break. Rather than love and romance, February 14th 2011 threatens to bring heartbreak and despair to many disabled people.

We’re describing the many ways the DLA enhances our lives. I particularly like an entry called To the Mainstream UK Media that highlights the damage these under-reported changes will bring to all of us. Its author points out that:

Lawyers and bankers and producers and columnists don’t have a special immunity gene. Their spines crush and their previously taken-for-granted bodies let them down just as easily as those of cleaners or shop-assistants.

I started claiming DLA relatively recently. It helped rescue me at a time when I was struggling. The rest of this entry is part of the testimony I wrote last week for The Broken Of Britain in support of their response to the proposals.

Without meeting me it’s hard for people to comprehend the impact that Tourettes Syndrome has on my life and the level of support I need to be safe and continue to work and contribute to society.

DLA has transformed my life and means that I can take the practical steps I need to remain safe, supported and in control. Without it I would not be able to lead an independent life and the risk of becoming isolated, depressed or getting injured would increase substantially.

The combination of DLA and Access to Work allows me to work fulltime and be actively involved in my community. It means I can afford to buy the practical items I need to keep me safe when I’m working, and that I have the help I need before and after work to ensure that I’m rested and prepared, not distracted or distressed.

Having Tourettes Syndrome can get expensive. Extra costs for me include: padded gloves and hats, plastic cutlery, carer expenses, replacing broken items and probably the biggest expense, taxis. The mobility component of my DLA has given me much greater independence because using taxis means that I’m less reliant on other people to support me.

Without DLA, Tourettes would have a much bigger impact on my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. It’s a condition that affects individuals in different ways and from my experience the DWP understood this and assessed my needs fairly.

I’m happy to have my needs reviewed regularly as Tourettes is a condition that fluctuates. However, it can be difficult to categorise and without a skilled, informed, assessor, I’m concerned that the complexity of the support I need could be missed. This would cost me my wellbeing and my independence.

I believe that disability benefits should always be based on a range of evidence including reports from the claimant, professionals, carers, and in complicated situations, face-to-face assessment. I cannot understand how two rates could ever effectively meet the wide variety of individual needs.

I have found the DLA application process easy to understand and current proposals for its replacement seem crude and poorly thought out. For me, DLA provides practical solutions and social support to do what the medical professionals haven’t yet been able to do – reduce the impact of Tourettes Syndrome on my life.

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