Before I was referred for funding from the Independent Living Fund I lived without having my most basic needs met, spending hours unable to have a drink or go the toilet, without dignity and without any quality of life, existing between TV and hospital.
I received a package of 4 hours a day, one hour for getting me up, showered and breakfasted, one hour for house work and lunch, one hour for supper and one hour to do the “put to bed”. In between times I couldn’t get a drink or use the toilet- let alone do anything meaningful with my life. I even had one of the care workers bring her husband or (male) neighbour along as she was unable to get me in and out the bath by herself! I thought this was normal! I whiled away my days watching TV or falling asleep due to boredom. I used to be got up at 9 and put to bed at 9. I couldn’t even do shopping as it was quicker for the care worker to do it alone. I spent weeks at a time in hospital going from one health crisis to the next.
A chance meeting with a social care researcher led to me hearing of disabled people using “indirect” budgets to employ their own PAs. I was reassessed and awarded a 24/7 package partly funded by the ILF. I recruited a team of PAs who enabled me to actually have a life!
Through support from the Independent living Fund I have been enabled to go back to University and to enter employment, firstly through casual work as an “expert by experience” for the Care Quality Commission and to then go on to get my first full-time job in 20 years (as a Personal Budget Coordinator – the job of my dreams and my hobby to boot!).
I am paying into the system in 2 ways – as a Trustee of a charity – and as an economically active tax payer, thanks to my paid work. Additionally, 7 other people are economically active through their employment as my Personal Assistants.
In terms of saving money to the state you can also count on the fingers of one hand the number of hospital stays I have had since receiving ILF funding – and all but one of those stays were planned.
My ILF pays for a quarter of my care package – essentially 42 hours a week- and roughly the same amount of time that I spend at work, in education or taking part in leisure activities.
I can’t bear to think of a return to life without these opportunities.
Unfortunately in my job I see many people who are suffering the dreary lifestyle that I had once had as they have missed the chance to apply for ILF funding. One client says that she feels she is treated “worse than a dog – at least dogs get taken for a walk every day” – as she spends all but a couple of hours a week in bed. She doesn’t have a package flexible enough to have someone around to help her back to bed when her muscles no longer allow her to maintain her position in her wheelchair. The hour that she can spend in her chair, while the care worker is doing housework, she drives from room to room like a caged animal “just to make sure the other rooms are still there”!
I have no doubt that ILF funding would have made her life much, much better.
I am worried for the day that my 42 hours funded by the ILF disappear and I resort to driving from room to room, no longer able to pay for the support I need to lead the meaningful life I currently enjoy thanks to the ILF.