DLA – doesn’t just affect the disabled.

There are huge amounts of blogging and tweeting and reporting happening all over the country today regarding the future of the Disability Living Allowance. I myself am not disabled. I don’t claim DLA. However the future of this benefit affects me directly, as my husband claims it.

I work part time, not through choice, but because I work in the public sector who are also being hit hard by cuts. I supplement this with freelance work. J, my husband, is a full-time student. He receives a student loan, like any other student. J is, however, a disabled student. You wouldn’t know this unless you saw him out and about either on his crutches (which he bought himself) or on his electric powerchair (which he had to use his student loan – meant for books and other studenty things – to buy). His joints dislocate easily, he can have extreme pain and his energy levels fluctuate. On good days he can clean the house, come shopping and we can go for days out. On bad days, he finds it hard to get out of bed.

J is going to find it difficult to get work. He’s very intelligent, and he’s working towards a degree, but the fact that some days he can’t move mean that people are going to find it difficult to employ him. This means we live – and will be living – on one income plus whatever we’re able to claim, for the near future.

Disability is expensive. We’ve already had to pay for a wheelchair that’s given J a new lease of life – he can catch the bus into the city, he can get to uni, he can go shopping. Before this he either had to wait for me to drive him there (when I’m at work a lot of the time, this is difficult) or not go at all. His chair has given him independence. We have to buy a lot of prescriptions – he takes strong pain medication, plus he needs medication to help with other symptoms of his disability – digestion problems, for example. He sees specialists in London and Bath – these places all cost money to get to. Our car is paid for through the Motobility scheme. If we didn’t have that, I don’t know if we would be able to afford to run one.

J’s DLA is a lifeline for us. In a family that has a low amount of income plus has to pay for extras, the money means we can afford J’s medication and the support he needs.   Without his meds? He would be in pain, he would be ill and he wouldn’t have the energy to complete his university course. Without his chair? He wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. At all. He can’t drive under medical orders, so he would be effectively housebound. Then of course, no DLA would mean no car, so he really WOULD be stuck.

J is my husband, and I don’t see him as a disabled person. Yes, he has to rely on help from others and extra support more than I do, but that’s through no fault of his own. He didn’t choose it to be that way and neither did I, but it’s the way he was made. He’s a happy person, he’s sociable and funny and clever. He’s not a…I would say walking disability, maybe I mean a rolling one…he’s J. Who happens to have arms and legs that have a mind of their own. And because of that, something he has no choice in, he would be told he’s not allowed to go out and have a life like anyone else.

Because, y’know, everyone who lives on government handouts is lazy. I guess if everyone had to pay £1,000 for an electric equivalent to legs, they wouldn’t call it lazy.

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