Living with a disability brings fresh challenges every day. If you are newly disabled you may not know whether you are entitled to any type of support to help you live more independently and easily.
This guide will help you find and access the right information so you can become more knowledgeable about your individual situation. We’ve provided links, advice and input on a variety of options for support, so you can easily get to exactly where you need to be.
Are you adjusting to a disability?
Some people are born with a disability whereas others develop one during their lifetime. Both situations throw up their own challenges with regard to making the best of life. A disability may not necessarily be physical either: there are plenty of mental disabilities that can affect your quality of life. Yet again though, there are means of support that can enhance the life you live, regardless of whether you have a mental or physical disability.
No two people are the same in life – and that applies just as much to disabilities as it does to everything else. That’s why it is vital to start by finding out what kinds of support you might be entitled to, so you can start planning ahead with more confidence.
The good news is there is plenty of information available to help you work out what you are entitled to. Much of this information can be found online. The Citizens Advice Bureau has an advice guide specifically for sick or disabled people and the people who care for them. Make sure you select the country you live in as benefits can be different depending on whether you are in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
It’s not just about financial support
Before we launch into this guide, it is worth taking a moment to point out that support means more than just the financial kind. There are of course many financial types of support offered by the government today. However these are just a bare few of the kinds of support you can claim.
That’s why this guide covers far more than just the obvious, so you know where to begin and which kinds of support will be good for you. However if you are looking for urgent advice on the types of benefits that are available for disabled people, you can visit the carer and disability benefits section of the official Government website to find out more.
Where should you start?
Perhaps the best way to begin is by considering your own individual needs. If you have been affected by illness or injury you will have a good idea of the things you can do easily and the things you struggle with. You might find it useful to make some notes at this stage. Jot down or record notes of the areas you are likely to need help with, or get someone to help you. If you have a carer they might be able to suggest positive changes and areas of importance too.
Disability Rights UK has a helpful website with information on benefits of all kinds. You can select the situation that best applies to you and find out the most relevant information from there.
How can you find out about services in your local area?
Remember that while many services are provided on a countrywide basis, others are provided locally. Dial is an independent network of local disability information, and is a good place to start. If you have a carer or a parent who cares for and supports you, they might be able to find out more about local services on your behalf. Don’t be afraid of using all the resources that are available to you: it’s a positive way to move ahead and to ensure you can get the most from your life in every way.
What kinds of support are available?
There are lots of different types of support available today. They have all been designed to focus on individual areas of life. For example while financial support is one of them, there are also a variety of advisory services that can provide practical support and advice when you need it most.
Here is a list of the types of supportive services you might come across or have cause to use:
- Equipment to help with every day tasks
- Financial support
- Adaptations to your home
- Carer support for those who typically care for you
- Advocacy, information and advisory services
- Home help or help provided in a care home
- Support from within your community, including activities
- Day centres
- Residential care
- Other types of care and support
Some people with disabilities might find just one of these areas provides them with all the support they need. Others may be able to take advantage of more than one. It all depends on the individual and the nature of the disability. No two people – even if they both have the same disability – will be the same. Let’s focus on the first of these benefits now.
It’s amazing how much difference one or two relatively simple pieces of equipment can make to an individual’s life. For example, if you have trouble with your hands you may struggle to open jars or to lift the kettle to make a drink. There are all kinds of gadgets and pieces of equipment that are specifically designed to make these tasks easier for you. That’s why it is good to create a list of your problem areas, so you can find the most appropriate solutions – and equipment – to make them easier.
Not all equipment is small though. Some equipment is large and is designed to take the weight of a person, perhaps when moving from a chair to a bed, or from a bath to a sitting position outside it. By assessing your needs and determining the areas you need the most help with, you can gauge which items of equipment will prove to be most useful for you. Remaining in your own home might seem like a challenge when you first experience disability, but the simple addition of equipment of all kinds can make it a reality.
Financial Support for People with Disabilities
There is a lot of support out there for disabled people, not least of which is financial support. This doesn’t just apply to people who are unable to work either, so whatever situation you may be in it is worth spending some time researching the possibilities.
What are the main forms of financial support available for disabled people?
There are several main forms of support you may be entitled to. Firstly there is the Disability Living Allowance. This will eventually be replaced by the Personal Independence Payment. The switchover is taking place now; all new applicants will automatically be entitled to apply for the new Personal Independence Payment. If you already receive the Disability Living Allowance you will eventually be switched over to the Personal Independence Payment.
If you are over the age of 65 you may be entitled to claim Attendance Allowance. This may be payable if you need someone else to help look after you.
The third main form of support is called ESA, or Employment and Support Allowance. Not all disabled people are able to work and not everyone can work to the capacity they would like to. If you are in this position you will have to attend a Work Capability Assessment. Different people will get different amounts of financial support in this area, so there is no firm weekly or monthly sum you might receive. It all depends on your personal situation, whether or not you are able to work and how severe your disability is.
However there are two rates broadly applicable. One is an assessment rate which is payable for a 13-week period from the date you make a claim. The second is the actual ESA payment which is payable from the time you are accepted for it. This is higher than the assessment rate, which varies depending on age. One final point to note is that ESA can be paid in one of two types – a contribution-based payment or an income-related payment.
Remember: nothing is automatically given to you
This is the most important thing to bear in mind if you are newly-disabled and you are wondering what you might be entitled to. It is up to you to find out what you might be able to claim, so make the most of the information that is out there. The official government website (www.gov.uk) lists all the benefits that might apply in each case. You can read through them and identify the most likely benefits you may be entitled to in your situation.
Financial support for getting out and about
Some disabled people may be able to get an exemption from paying for their tax disc. If you receive the Disability Living Allowance you must be on the higher rate. Similarly if you receive the Personal Independence Payment you must be on the enhanced rate. This form of financial support is also given to those who are receiving the War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement.
It might also be possible to get a Blue Badge, which enables you to park on single yellow and double yellow lines if need be. You can do this for a maximum of three hours if you are in England or Wales. If you are in Scotland you have an unlimited amount of time to park. You can apply for a Blue Badge online via the official government website. You’ll need a few personal details to hand before you do so, but once you have applied your application is considered by your local council. You’ll either be granted a Blue Badge or you’ll be told why they are not giving one to you. If the latter is the case you can ask them to reconsider their decision.
Pay No VAT on some things you buy
Disabled people often require products that help them get more out of life. For example if you cannot walk unaided you may need a wheelchair for daily use. Other people might need an adjustable bed to help them get in and out safely if they have a different type of disability.
Whatever the case may be, these kinds of products can be bought free of the VAT charge if you have a qualifying disability. Generally speaking you must have a disability that means you cannot carry out activities other people would normally do each day with no problems at all. This could be mental or physical in nature. This type of financial support can also be claimed by those who have certain types of chronic illness.
Low income? You might be entitled to receive additional income from the government
Many disabled people find it hard to either work at all or work at a full-time job. If this includes you, you may be able to apply for Income Support. This is worth applying for even if you do have some income, because you may receive Income Support as a top-up payment. You cannot be signed on as unemployed if you wish to apply for this payment.
Another form of additional income you can get is called Working Tax Credit. Again this is paid as a top-up to the income you currently get. The government website has a calculator (Tax credit calculator) for this type of tax so you can assess how much you might receive if you qualify for this payment.
As you can see there are plenty of forms of financial support out there. The best way to proceed is to check out every single one of them, even if you think one or more of them may not be suitable for you. Don’t discount a particular payment unless you have already checked it out and you know it is not applicable to your situation.
Whether you have always had a particular disability or you are adjusting to one you now have, it is good to know there is support out there. Being financially secure can be more challenging for disabled people but there are ways of getting more financial assistance and support.