Mum Fiona learned the ben­e­fit of ben­e­fits

West Lothian Courier - - Info.. Info.. Info -

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.”

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