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Personal Budget: a personal adventure.

By Graham Tucker

One day I woke up and started a whole new phase in my life. I was a newly divorced sixty something overweight guy who happened to have a visual impairment and a list of medical ailments as long as your arm. There I was now living alone, somewhat socially isolated and pigeon holed as a “vulnerable person” in need of help.

There were many hoops to jump through with social services and it seemed like a circus; the assessment process was a nightmare. I was told that Tesco did some very nice microwave dinners – not what I wanted to hear given my desire to eat more healthily and lose some weight. In the end I was given a massive four hours a week support, which I eventually got increased to six hours a week.

I discovered by chance the Personal Budget scheme. Back in the circus ring, with more hoops to jump through, I eventually I gained control over how I used my six hours a week. So, with help, I employed a Personal Assistant (PA) and became an employer. It sounds – and was – challenging, but the finances and payroll were looked after by a charity who took all the worry out of it. All I do is complete a time sheet for my PA every four weeks. My local authority pays my direct payments to the payroll company and I, with more help, arrange the all-important public liability insurance.

The downside is that six hours a week was never going to be enough. I joined a gym through a local scheme called Fresh Start which involved a referral from my GP. It was a 12 week course targeted at my needs and ability. Best of all it was free! The downside was it used nearly 50% of my PA time, but it was beneficial. I decided to invest the money I would spend on a gym membership on my own cross trainer which now sits in my living room and is used most days

Having a PA enables me to make better choices. She helps prepare fresh vegetables, meals and acts as my eyes when shopping, constantly checking those “traffic light” indicators on the food labels. I have a great PA however before I got her, over a year ago there were several bad experiences with others. Six hours a week is nowhere near long enough but it has led me on to better things.

6 thoughts on “Personal Budget: a personal adventure.”

  1. Hello Graham,

    I work as a rehabilitation officer for vision impaired, but am also a VI myself.
    It sounds like you have been through the ringer of assessments and am glad to read that you are coming out the other side more positive.
    To pick up on some points, a rehab officer could enable you to be more independently mobile vis a vis your sight impairment, subject to other medical issues that may also be a barrier, he or she could also help you to be more independent in the kitchen with food prep techniques, marking you cooker to enable you to set it more independently, shopping could be done by using a shop assistant to help you around the store locating the items you want and reading labels, prices etc, thereby enabling you to maximise your time more effectively with your PA. As you say, 6 hrs a week is not a lot.
    Your local authority should be able to help you get in touch with the Rehab Officer in their sensory team, I know it might involve another assessment, but this would be looking at how you can maximise your independence and choices and bring back more of the locus of control to you.
    Good luck.
    Kind regards
    Tracy

  2. So pleased to hear you were allowed to spend your Budget on something that suited you. My local authority gave me extra hours at my last review, but then stopped me spending any of my Budget on things that I would class as improving my wellbeing, such as gym membership and massage. Odd that it was in 2014, just after the Care Act came in!

  3. Would this GP referral – to obtain free gym use and membership, be available for me, a DLA recipient? How come there’s not been a link to this put in the Disability Rights U.K. newsletter?

    1. I think these can often be made available to patients by GPs independent of any benefit status. Some areas recognise just how cost effective exercise access is. It’s worth asking your GP and or local leisure centre if they kniw of any schemes. Birmingham council for example has a Be Active scheme for all residents that doesn’t even require a prescription. When in Cambridge years back I got a GP prescription so I could try to swim and this was without benefits.

      Good idea to put in dusability rights news letter though. Especially as things available without benefits become more important with the increasing cuts :/

  4. Hi there, are you able to share which charity or charities can help with setting up payroll for personal assistants? Thanks, Emily

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