I thought I’d cover the subject of the benefits I receive from being disabled. A few of these, I have just stumbled across – so maybe they’re not obvious or maybe I’m just not tuned in to the system.
Dealing with the state benefits first, these are in the form of cash which goes into my bank account every couple of weeks. These are PIP (Personal Independence Payment) and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance). The PIP occurs because of the stroke. The ESA (which is finite in length) occurs because I closed my company, which made me unemployed. Both were difficult to apply for, in the sense that the application form was very long for both. They advertise it as very easy to apply, you can do so by phone, but in reality the phone call is just a precursor to them sending a lengthy form out. All of this falls under the umbrella of the DWP, although when you speak to them, you get the impression that it is two different departments. If you do want to speak to them, be prepared for about an hour’s wait on the phone – as far as I can tell this is pretty regardless of day or time of day.
I’m not sure about ESA, but PIP is granted on a points-based system, which is documented on the web, and which is worth understanding before applying.
I had no trouble at all in terms of being granted these benefits, no assessments whatever, although there seem to be a good few horror stories out there.
As regards local council benefits, the very first thing I applied for was a blue Disabled Parking badge, which we are allowed to use when I’m out in the car with my wife. This was immediately after I left hospital, a time which is very blurred in my mind – I know it was from the council but I have no recollection of the application process, it is likely that my wife filled the form out, and I just signed it. My impression, though, is that getting this first benefit was important in the council’s eyes, since other council benefits have been straightforward once they know that I have a blue badge.
A second useful benefit, from the council, was a disabled bus pass. This is a little smartcard which, I think, is identical to a pensioner’s pass. It is supposedly valid throughout the UK on local services (basically, valid on things like the No 1 bus, but not on things like National Express), although I’ve only used mine locally so far.
Probably also worth mentioning that I don’t get any help with my Council Tax. Again, this is sorted through the local council, although this is means-tested. Our local council has a “what if” calculator, and the question that trumps all others is “Have you got more than £10k in savings?” If you answer “yes” to this question, then no help is available (they stress that this is not their call, but parliament’s). On the “what if” calculator, I toyed around with this and tried a scenario where I didn’t have any savings, and I would have got my Council Tax paid completely.
One last thing – not a benefit as such, more of a convenience now that mobility is limited – is a Postal Vote. Council again. Just means that if I ever need to go into hospital, for example, I can still vote. I was in for a few days at the Brexit referendum and got very miffed, firstly that I couldn’t vote as intended, and secondly that jobsworth doctors didn’t want me to leave the ward, even for a half-hour.