Mum Fiona learned the benefit of benefits
Social security is an investment in everyone and is there to help people when they need it most.
Many people across Scotland will need support at some point in their lives but may be unaware of the benefits they are entitled to.
A change in life circumstances and life events, such as having a family, bereavement or becoming a carer for a family member, can mean they are entitled to benefits.
Fiona and Jonathan Fisher receive a range of support, including a Carers Allowance and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
They explain how this has helped them and how the support has changed over the years depending on their circumstances. Fiona said: “Jonathan has a genetic illness called Lowe Syndrome that has affected him since birth, causing physical, learning and sensory disabilities.
“We claimed for DLA when he was aged just three months and once we got it, I claimed for a Carer’s Allowance.
“When he turned five we were allowed to claim for Mobility Allowance and when he was 16 we applied for ESA as he is incapable of working.”
Fiona explains how the benefits have helped her and her son through the difficult times. She said: “It helps pay for extra costs because of his disabilities, such as heating, hot water and laundry, sensory and special play equipment
“When he got his Motability car that was a great boost to have a reliable car for getting him about, plus we needed help with purchasing a wheelchair and other postural equipment.”
Finding out what support you are entitled to can often be a challenge but there is advice available to guide you.
Fiona said: “Our health visitor advised us about DLA and subsequent Carer’s Allowance when Jonathan was just three months old.
“We learned from other parent carers about being able to apply for Mobility Allowance, but the Department for Work and Pensions also included information about it when we renewed Jonathan’s DLA claim at age five.
“We did a benefit health check-up over the phone through the charity Contact a Family at age 16 and they advised us to claim for ESA and give up our child allowance as you can’t claim them both at the same time, and the ESA was paid at a higher rate than child allowance.
“More broadly we also claimed children’s allowance for our three children and got child tax credits for a while when we were eligible for them – it depended on our work circumstances and income at the time.”
Fiona urges people to apply and points out there’s help available. She said: “Applying can be daunting and stressful if you don’t feel confident but there are welfare advisors to help you complete a form or help you to appeal if the decision goes against you.
“When I first applied for DLA they turned us down but when Jonathan was aged just three months we were doing physiotherapy, therapy for blind children and dealing with his contact lenses, while he was failing to thrive because he had difficulties feeding and putting on weight.
“I never did any of these things with my older daughter, so I wrote back showing the extra things we were doing over and above usually looking after a baby and they agreed and awarded him DLA.”
Often there is a fear of stigma with applying for social security but Fiona urges people to recognise that they are an entitlement. She said: “If you think you qualify – check the rules or ask someone if you qualify – the money is yours by right and can help your income improve. Claiming benefits can also be about getting your National Insurance stamp paid, or being able to claim a state pension in the future.
“Sometimes getting one benefit opens up a gate to entitlement to another benefit such as being able to apply for a blue parking badge, or funding to do an ILA course, discounted tickets or membership fees or a council bus pass.
“Benefits are not a handout and not charity – they’re set aside for the reasons you apply, whether it’s illness, disability, unemployment, housing or whatever reason.”