Rights & Benefits for Disabled People: Where to Find Help

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There are more than 11 million people in the UK who are registered as having a disability or impairment that affects their day-to-day life. These disabilities and impairments can be related to sight, hearing, mobility, or mental health. Fortunately, in the UK we have a reasonably good system in place, not only for supporting disabled people with aspects of daily living, but also for actively encouraging them to maintain strong roles in the community, by seeking employment, for example, or travelling independently. However, it can sometimes be difficult for disabled people to fully understand exactly what assistance they’re eligible for (either through their local authority or via independent organisations), and where to find help. This guide covers rights, benefits and support for disabled people.

Support with Aspects of Daily Living

There are three primary forms of support with aspects of daily living that are available for disabled people in the UK. Two of these are finance-based, offering payments to help disabled people improve their quality of life. The third is care-based, providing disabled people with an extra pair of hands when required to undertake activities of daily living which could prove difficult with certain conditions.

1. Disabled Facilities Grant

The government-funded Disabled Facilities Grant provides disabled people with financial assistance in adapting their home to better meet their needs, and to provide a safe living environment. These adaptations could include widening doorways to facilitate wheelchair use, lowering countertops in the kitchen or bathroom to make them more wheelchair-friendly, installing stairlifts, or installing new heating or lighting controls to make them easier to operate. There are many home adaptations that are covered by the grant.

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The amount of money you will be entitled to as part of the Disabled Facilities Grant will depend on your income and capital. Depending on where you live, you may be able to claim up to £36,000, which will be paid either in instalments, or as a lump sum following completion of the work. To apply for the Disabled Facilities Grant, contact your local authority for an application.

2. Personal Independence Payments

Personal Independence Payments have replaced the old Disability Living Allowance for the over 16’s, although it’s important to understand that they are not exactly the same benefit. Personal Independence Payments are assessment-based, and are available to people aged between 16 and 64 who require financial assistance to ensure they are able to live in a safe manner. If your Personal Independence Payments include a mobility allowance, this can be used for the Motability Scheme which allows you to lease an adapted car, scooter, or powered wheelchair.

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3. Care in the Home

If your disability makes it difficult for you to undertake activities of daily living in the home safely – such as getting dressed, bathing, or cooking food, for example – you may be eligible for help in the home through a care agency. Contacting your local authority is the first step, as care through the NHS often has very strict eligibility criteria, and is usually only offered to those with very serious, degenerative health conditions. Your local authority can arrange for an assessment of needs, and can work with you to determine whether care in the home is right for you.

Support in the Workplace

The government’s Access to Work scheme aims to help disabled people to seek employment, earn a living, and build a career. The scheme offers financial assistance – either to the individual or to the company that they work for – to enable the individual to work safely and productively. The payments can be used to cover alternative travel expenses, such as taxi fares, if public transport is difficult to access. They can also be used to purchase specialist equipment or adapt the workplace as necessary to enable disabled people to undertake their duties in a safe manner, in a safe environment. You may be eligible for this scheme if you’re already in employment, if you’re due to start a new job, or if you have an interview. 

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While discrimination in the workplace was once a very prominent issue, today the problem is much more infrequent. In fact, it’s reported that 13 percent of non-disabled people experience ‘unfair treatment’ in the workplace, compared to just 9 percent of disabled people. However, discrimination and unfair treatment does still take place. It is against the law for your employer to discriminate against you based on your disability, and they are legally required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace to ensure your safety and well being. Your employer is permitted to ask questions about your disability if these questions are directly related to your ability to do your job and perform certain tasks.

Support when Travelling

The Blue Badge Scheme is, perhaps, the most well known form of assistance for disabled people. The badge permits you to park in disabled parking bays (either as a driver or as a passenger), and enables you to park in some restricted car parks for longer without incurring a fine. You can apply for a blue badge through your local council. Disabled parking bays outside your home are free for holders of the blue badge, although you need to prove you have no available off-road parking – a garage, for example.

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In terms of public transport, many disabled people are entitled to the Disabled Person’s Bus Pass, and it’s also possible to purchase a Disabled Person’s Railcard which, for a one off annual fee, provides one third off the cost of train fares. It’s reported that around one fifth of disabled people in the UK have trouble accessing and using public transport due to their disability or impairment, which is why it’s important to learn more about Passenger Assist. This scheme allows you to book assistance at your departure and/or arrival train stations at least 24 hours in advance. This could include help with luggage, as well as simply getting on and off the train.

If you have trouble with mobility, travelling to new places can be worrying, especially when it comes to using the toilet. Many toilets in pubs, restaurants, and cafes are located upstairs, which can create an issue for those who struggle with movement. It may be worth purchasing a Radar key, either from your local authority, or from selected charity organisations. The Radar key costs around £5, and can open more than 9000 disabled toilets all around the country which are located on ground floors, and are typically larger in order to accommodate a wheelchair. The Radar key itself is large and chunky, making it easy for those with arthritis or other dexterity problems to accurately manoeuvre the key to open doors.

Support with Reporting Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are illegal, and yet there are concerns that many disabled people may feel too frightened or embarrassed to report abuse. There’s also a common misconception that a hate crime has to involve physical violence. It doesn’t. In fact, a hate crime is considered to be any sort of abuse, including verbal abuse, and even threats of abuse or violence. Disabled people aged 16 to 34 tend to be greater targets for hate crimes, with 39 percent of disabled people within this age range claiming they have been the victims of abuse, compared to 28% of non-disabled people within the same age category.

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Hate crimes can be reported in a number of different ways. If the crime is physical or potentially very dangerous, call 999 to report an emergency situation. 101 can be used to report less urgent crimes to the police. Third party reporting is also taken very seriously. This enables you to report a hate crime to a trusted organisation you’re a part of, who work with you to transfer this information to the authorities and provide support and assistance during the process. However, you can also report the crime directly your local police force via the web at http://www.report-it.org.uk/your_police_force.

This article was written by Harold Rigby, a health and lifestyle writer with a focus on the issues faced by disabled and elderly people in the UK.