I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

8/30/2010 06:39:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 12 Comments

The above sight makes me happier than I can tell you*. Despite a bit of a miserable day (thank you hormones) where I feel like I could weep, the grin still spreads across my face whenever I remember - I have a bath! A bath, of my own. After 18 months of being a total bath scav wherever I went. My friends were great and all volunteered their baths, but trailing round to your mate's with your towel and sponge just isn't the same as having your own bath, especially as the times I need a bath the most are the times I'm least able to get out and about. 

The record so far is three baths in a day. 

Like I said, the bath makes me very, very happy. So does the rest of my new flat. It's clean, new and there is soundproofing. I love the soundproofing. I love ChildSlave but ChildSlave loves to hang out at the bottom of the stairs, which, in my old flat were the other side of a bit of flimsy MDF. 11 year old girls aren't known for being quiet, especially if they are safely out of their parent's hearing and into someone else's. 

The other bit of particularly good news is the slugs failed in their application for squatter's rights and have been left behind in the old flat. BendyCat is delighted as she feared the cat food loving slugs. She was however, less impressed with the move, although I wasn't sure if that was the actual moving or the fact that it was BendyVet and Ben doing the moving. I found moving, supposedly one of the most stressful life events, to be psychologically restful after several weeks attempting to fill out my DLA application.

 I'm not sure if the hormones or the knowledge that I have to go back to finishing off my DLA form tomorrow was the cause of the pity party I had myself this morning when I thought my mobility scooter had gone kaput. Lovely Carer rode the mobility scooter she'd been storing for me here this morning, and had to phone to say she'd broken down. We weren't sure if it was the battery, some wheel affecting levery thing GangstaGuy had given a lecture that neither of us retained on, or a combination of both that caused the breakdown, but fortunately next door's teenage boy has managed to sort it all out and the scooter works. Woohoo! It even works enough to have transported both the teenage boy and I on a test drive so I'm sure it'll be much happier with just my weight to drag about. It's a good job really as I got myself into quite the state this morning when I remembered it was three years to the day that I wrote about missing out on a local event due to lack of appropriate mobility aid, and had myself a weep about how nothing had changed. 

Then this afternoon as I sat in my front garden watching the Spitfire loop the loop I realised just how much things have changed in those three years. One neighbour passed by and offered to push me to the pub with them, another dropped in to see how I was getting on in the new flat, then the boy next door fixed the scooter for me. 

Oh...and I have a bath...a bath! Which is where I'm headed now....

*Photo is of a bath filled with hot, bubbly water and a clear bath pillow with decorative purple feathers inside it.


Where's The Benefit?

8/16/2010 05:59:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 7 Comments

I move flat sometime over the weekend/start of next week, still have DLA forms to do and it's August meaning the blogosphere is pretty dead, so while I'll still be tweeting I won't be blogging much for the next few weeks. 

A group of us UK based disabled bloggers have set up a new blog, Where's The Benefit to try and rally support against the proposed cuts to disability and sickness related benefits. We need all the help we can get so please head over there and check it out.


Helping Hands...

8/12/2010 10:45:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 22 Comments

As anyone who follows me on twitter already knows, I'm mired in the hell of re-applying for my Disability Living Allowance. On the upside this means I'm not remotely bothered about moving flats so soon, that's easy compared to benefits applications, although I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a way of dealing with moving related stress. Oh, and if you have to move on the cheap using only 'friend labour'....don't do it in August when everyone's on holiday!

I'm off to visit my GP this morning, his name will be on my DLA application so he needs to know what kind of issues I deal with on a daily basis. How often I fall, what help I might need going to the loo, preparing a meal or during the night are not subjects which crop up during routine GP consultations as they aren't strictly speaking medical issues, but they are the issues the DWP are interested in so TopDogGP and I have to have a chat. Despite the best efforts of lovely physiotherapist J, my ribs and spine are as directionless as any politician so it's also probably not a bad idea to be seen by a doctor, I tend to have a poor perspective on how well I am at the best of times, which abandons me altogether at times like this. I do know I haven't been so ridiculously lax for quite some time. 

It's difficult to get an understanding of what kind of questions and answers are required by the DWP for a DLA application so as I'm currently filling mine out I thought I'd publish part of one of my answers. It's an issue I didn't give much thought to on the occasions it occurred, other than a few minutes sulking about 'dirty, opportunistic, groping bastards' but for some reason having to write it down has been very distressing. The question asks;

Q.31 Do you need someone with you to guide or supervise you when walking outdoors in unfamiliar places? 

"Sometimes I have no choice but to ask complete strangers to help me. Mostly people are very kind and will go out of their way to help, but some take advantage and I have been sexually assaulted by strangers 'helping' me who have groped my bottom or breasts. It is difficult enough to fall and stumble in public and deal with the pain of multiple dislocated joints, which dislocate again while I'm being helped up, but being frightened that the person assisting me might use it as an excuse to sexually assault me makes it even worse.
I need someone I know and trust to be with me whenever I am outdoors so that they can help me when my joints dislocate, get me to safety and I wouldn't have to be worried that a stranger might harm me further"


No legged cat 'caught a mouse one time'

8/11/2010 09:03:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 1 Comments

The kripped up kittehs just keep coming! Meet Kelly Anne the cat who was chased up a tree by dogs, electrocuted, presumably not by the dogs, then had all her legs amputated. 


Bog Off - Exhibit 27 Bog of Beauty!

8/09/2010 02:22:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

This is an extra special BogOff sent in by BSS reader Sam McCallum, thanks Sam! 

It's special partly because it's the most distant BogOff from the UK, even further away than the previous holder of that title from Hobart, Tasmania

The other reason this BogOff is special is because the public toilets at KawaKawa in New Zealand are world famous, designed and constructed by the Austrian artist Hundertwasser

Sam made sure to point out that the lack of mirror in the accessible toilet was not an oversight, none of the toilets have mirrors-true equality! This may not be the best BogOff for access, but it is definitely the most beautiful and interesting. I particularly like Hudertwasser's philosophy that straight lines are evil and the toilet only contains crooked beauty.


Terminally ill man told 'go back to work'

8/05/2010 08:09:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 8 Comments

Click on thumbnail to view imageClick on thumbnail to view image
Click on thumbnail to view image
Published Date: 05 August 2010
A TERMINALLY ill man with a crippling lung condition has blasted Government medical tests after his benefits were stopped when he was declared fit for work.
Michael Walker, aged 58, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, incurable scarring on the lungs, in March and given two years to live.

He says he was forced to give up work as a landscape gardener and is now on eight steroids a day and an inhaler. But at a medical test in May he says medics ignored his condition, and recommendations from Rotherham hospital, and declared him fit for work.

His employment and support allowance, formerly known as incapacity benefit, was suspended.

Mr Walker protested and his payments were restarted pending a hearing at a date to be fixed - but he says he was told he must attend JobCentre interviews to discuss his 'availability for work' or it will be stopped again.

A tearful Mr Walker, of Walker Street, Rawmarsh, said: "It's humiliating and degrading at a time when I could really do without the hassle.

"I think they had already made up their minds in that medical because they had targets to reach. To top it all they refused to take the additional information, including letters from my consultant.

"As well as trouble breathing my weakened immune system means I have to stay away from work environments because an infection could kill me. I really feel bitter about it."

The new fit to work test sees people quizzed by a medical professional.

Government figures show that in the year to November some 76 per cent of people were judged fit to work, or likely to be, or dropped out of the assessment process.

Mr Walker says he ran a landscape gardening firm for 14 years - employing two people - before that he ran a taxi company for 10 years which employed four. He added: "I have always paid my taxes and have even created jobs, I'm no work-shy scrounger."

Mr Walker spoke to The Star's Action Desk and we contacted the Department for Work and Pensions on his behalf.

A DWP spokesman said Mr Walker's Employment Support Allowance claim had now been approved.

He added: "We have looked again at Mr Walker's claim and have made payments to him after taking into account some details which we were not aware of at the time of his assessment. "We have also contacted Mr Walker to look at ways of offering additional support."

Via @lisybabe


I Don't Understand Housing Benefit 'Reform'

8/04/2010 01:00:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 7 Comments

A Very British Dude and I have been debating housing benefit. The Dude and I often disagree, but he's a pleasure to debate with as he listens to the opinions of others, is willing to answer questions and, crucially, moderate his opinions if presented with evidence. Anyone who wants to join the debate here or over at The Dude's place please play by the same rules. 

The Dude directed me to his post and one by Wat Tyler at the Burning Our Money blog to support his beliefs that housing benefit is fundamentally distorting the price of housing in the UK. I agree with both bloggers that is the case, but don't share their faith that cutting housing benefit will automatically lead to cuts in the price of rental properties. I also agree with The Dude and BOM that the planning system is far too restrictive and needs to be altered. As The Dude details, this is a particular problem for people with disabilities as only a tiny proportion of available properties either in the private or social sector are actually accessible and most disabled people do not have the financial resources to build their own properties and battle with planning departments.

The rates of housing benefit and Local Housing Allowance* outside of London and limited inner city areas bear no relation to those quoted in the media. In my very pleasant, leafy and affluent Northern suburban area the maximum rate currently paid by LHA for a 5 bedroom property is £172.60 per week. That's a long way short of the maximum £400 a week limit Osborne is capping LHA to for four bedroom properties. Single claimants aged over 25, such as myself are already capped to a maximum of £90.90 a week for a 1 bedroom property. Despite the benefits of a grammar school education I can't add up past the number of fingers and toes I have, which is why I want to know what people who can do more complex sums, like, say long division think of the situation.  I'm wondering where the proposed savings of £4.2billion will actually come from if most of the country is not being provided with the kind of amounts of HB and LHA found in parts of London and beloved by The Daily Mail? That people should simply move to cheaper areas ignores the reality that moving is an expensive process, far beyond the means of most people on low incomes, and can overall be costlier to the state if, for example, I as a disabled person have to move to a different area I would lose all the informal support and care provided by various people within my community and be forced to turn to the local authority for a care package far more expensive than the potential savings in housing benefit. The same applies to working parents, particularly single parents who often rely on informal caring arrangements for their children and would be forced out of work and onto benefits should they move to new areas of cheaper housing.

The big problem from a tenant's perspective is that there are very few local authority owned properties available to rent. Even if changes are made to ensure LA housing is occupied by the appropriate number of tenants at the appropriate times the majority of tenants funded by the social sector will still be spending that funding in the private sector. Both The Dude and BOM are right in their assertions that the government should not be funding such high rental profits to private landlords, but I do not share their faith that cutting the rate of HB will alter that situation as dramatically or rapidly as will need to happen to keep private landlords renting to HB tenants. Whilst private landlords may well eventually come to understand they have to reduce their rents, it will only be after an initial period of evictions and homelessness, something which will ultimately cost the state more money as local authorities still have a duty to house those made homeless.

The majority of private landlords, especially those who use a third party such as an estate agent to manage their properties already refuse to rent to what they describe as DSS tenants. It's normal to see private rentals explicitly state No DSS when they are advertised, and the vast costs associated with renting through an estate agency mean it is prohibitive to the majority of HB claimants. In practice that discrimination doesn't always apply, I tend to find as a polite, well spoken disabled applicant a 'we didn't mean the likes of you' attitude from landlords. I'm not even going to comment upon the wrongs or rights of such attitudes as this debate about HB is focusing on the economics and practicalities, but it merits inclusion as such restrictions further skew the options of claimants to shop elsewhere for a better deal and drive down rental prices, which as I understand it is a fundamental part of the proposed reforms. 

Another issue I can't quite grasp is the desire to ensure tenants in receipt of housing benefit are all renting in particular areas. Whilst I agree that it is fundamentally unjust for those in receipt of HB to live in considerably more expensive housing than working people can afford, I don't understand how this fits with the desire to deal with the social problems already existing on large estates or in areas of cheap housing. Surely funneling more low income tenants into these areas will only add to the existing pressures and create a vicious cycle of slum dwelling and behaviour? 

I agree with The Dude that a move to simplify the benefits system and replace it with a universal benefit is a good one. I'd keep the existing system of Disability Living Allowance alongside any universal benefits as it's actually an excellent way of providing for the additional costs of disability, allowing those who can and want to to work and pay taxes whilst simultaenously protecting those who can't work. It is also vastly underclaimed with a fraud rate of below 0.5%, and overall rate of fraud AND error of only 1.9% so should not be an immediate priority for reform in the way that Housing Benefit with it's fraud rate of 1.5% and overall rate of fraud AND error of 4.9% should be. What I don't understand is how a system of universal benefits can be affordable. If an assumption is made that an adult over 25 receives approxinately £65 a week in Job Seekers Allowance and, for simplicity £100 a week in Housing Benefit and maybe £15 in Council Tax Benefit a universal benefit would need to be in the region of £180 per week, which would sound like a dramatic increase in benefits to the likes of The Daily Mail. 

But like I said...once I'm out of fingers and toes I can't add up any further, so what would I know?

*due I think to be scrapped under Osborne's reforms?


Disabled woman starves to death after her mother's death

8/03/2010 03:59:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 7 Comments

Mother refused council offer of help*

By Channel 4 News
Updated on 03 August 2010
The Hertfordshire mother who was found dead along with her disabled daughter in their home on Saturday had refused help from Social Services on two occasions, Channel 4 News has learnt.
Wheathampstead house where the bodies were discovered on Saturday. Hertfordshire County Council says it had offered help to the mother, locally identified as Stephanie Wolf, whose partially decomposed body was found along with that of her 29-year-old disabled daughter at their home 'Swiss Cottage' in Wheathampstead on Saturday.
"We were aware of the family but they had refused our offer of services," a spokesman for the council said.
"In August 1998, an assessment of need resulted in the provision of equipment and major adaptations to the property to provide disability access (ramps, rails etc). Following on from this, various offers of support offered by Adult Care Services were declined.
"We carried out a further assessment of Ms Wolf's needs in March 2006, and offered to provide day services and various other support which was declined."
Unconfirmed reports suggested Ms Wolf may have died several weeks ago, leaving her daughter unable to care for herself. Channel 4 News has since learnt the daughter had cerebral palsy and that the mother, who neighbours described as a "little woman" who "kept herself very private and to herself", to be in her mid- to late-60s and not 59 as previously reported.
Police enter 'Swiss Cottage' this afternoon. Photo: Channel 4 News
Kerry Goodwin, who lived next door to the Wolf's for 15 years, said: "I don't really know their names. They're very private people... We said hi when we were passing them, but they were very proud people and liked to keep themselves to themselves.
"They didn't like people getting involved in their business and it's quite a tragedy really as we could have helped if we'd known.
"She liked her lawn kept immaculate and hedge trimmed and they were the only times I saw her," Ms Goodwin said.
When asked if she knew about any involvement with social services, Ms Goodwin said: "I saw the daughter going out for day trips in the mini van but other than that, nothing really.
"As far as I know the mother always looked after the daughter really well. They went out on day trips, they always seemed like a happy couple together."
Initial results of two post mortems suggest there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths. Local police, who said they were not looking for anyone in connection with the deaths, said tests showed there were no external injuries

* PLEASE NOTE;  refusing council help/failing to engage is typically local authority speak for "wouldn't do what we (the local authority) tell them to do/accept substandard care packages, care providers or equipment"


Spoilt Rotten

8/01/2010 01:41:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 7 Comments

A few weeks back, or maybe days or even hours, my concept of time being about as accurate as my proprioception, an American facebook friend made some comments about their concerns of the consequences of a socialised medical system. I responded to say the NHS was the thing we British should be most proud of, then promptly forgot to give an explanation of why. 

It niggled away at me though, how to explain to people who've never had it's benefit, and to those of us who've had the benefits for so long we take it completely forgranted, what a wonderful, valuable institution the NHS and whole concept of health care, free at the point of need truly is. 

I'm under a great deal of pressure at the moment, having decided that the best option to surmount the difficulties with access to my current flat is to move to another flat without access problems. So, over the next month I'll be moving home and filling in my DLA application as my current award runs out later this year. Moving house is supposed to be one of the most stressful things anyone can do, but frankly it's a sunny stroll in the park compared to a DLA form. That stress has meant that when I found myself struggling more than usual to get basic tasks done, and finding myself short of breath I pushed it to the back of my mind and vowed to be a bit more careful about resting when I need to. 

On Friday I went to my physiotherapy appointment, and what had not been obvious to me, was fortunately immediately obvious to J my physiotherapist. I explained I was finding breathing increasingly hard work and exhausting, that I could only wear a bra for an hour or two before my ribs collapsed under it and breathing got even more difficult. When she examined me J found that my ribs were in various positions, none of which would be found in an anatomy textbook, that my thoracic spine was fixed and rigid, and that my diagphragm was stuck and unable to move properly. Half an hour later J had worked her magic, released my diaghragm and spine which meant I could take a full breath. Unfortunately all that inability to breathe properly had allowed my lungs to fill up with gunk at the bottom and as soon as I could move enough to breathe it was evident I had a chest infection and needed antibiotics. J and I agreed I needed to see a GP before the weekend and that if necessary she would be available to explain to the GP what treatment she'd had to provide. 

When I left J I went straight to my GP practice, and got there close to 1pm on Friday afternoon. Like most GP's they were fully booked, but the receptionists know me, like they do all the patients with frequent need to see the GP and knew I needed to be seen that afternoon so managed to fit me in for a couple of hours later. They'd have got me to sit and wait to be seen sooner but my GP was out on home visits. 

I went back a couple of hours later and saw TopDogGP. As it was my own GP when I started mumbling about dislocated ribs and shortness of breath he didn't require any explanation of how EDS could cause such problems, nor did he need to bother listening to my chest as the whole practice had been treated to my 'barking' as I waited. I left a couple of minutes later with a prescription for some Keflex, codeine linctus and instructions to use lots of steam and if possible take some of the leftover Oxycodone* to suppress my cough reflex. Half an hour later I had my prescription filled and was back at home. 

The NHS does acute care brilliantly. I was seen, diagnosed, treated and prescribed for all in the same afternoon. I did not have to pay to see my GP, nor for my prescriptions**. Had I needed it I would have been sent to hospital in an ambulance, admitted and treated all without needing to worry about how much it would cost me, whether any insurance policy would cover it, whether there would be any excess to the insurance, or whether I could access further specialist treatment. As the person who asked the original questions about the NHS is an organ transplant recipient, had I been unfortunate enough to be so unwell I needed I transplant, the NHS would pay for all my care, treatment, therapies, medications and if a suitable organ could be found, the transplant, the recovery and required medications. For the rest of my life. For free at the point of need. We're so used to that in the UK that we have no real idea what the rest of the world would give just to see a doctor, let alone have access to essential medicines. 

What the NHS does less well is treatment for chronic conditions. I have to pay for my physiotherapy privately because the kind of specialist physiotherapy for conditions like Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is not well provided. I could see a general rheumatology physiotherapist on the NHS but they would not neccessarily have any expertise or experience in treating EDS, or even generalised joint hypermobility. 

As someone with a relatively rare chronic condition I'm more exposed to the gaps in NHS provision than your average person. I have struggled with overly complex bureaucratic regulations governing who exactly can have what type of wheelchair and when, with limits on treatments such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy which make my life more difficult and the overall bill to the state in terms of benefits more expensive. Deficiencies in the system which need attention and thought to discern how to make them more accessible to those who need them at a cost affordable to us all. It can make my life, and the life of those with conditions like mine more difficult to navigate, but, frankly that is a small price to pay for the incredible privilege of being able to see a doctor whenever we need, without having to worry whether or not it's affordable.

*I ignored that part!
**prescriptions are dispensed free of charge to those in receipt of certain welfare benefits, otherwise there is a charge of approximately £7 per item.