Excursion

I went out for my first post-lockdown coffee yesterday. We went to the coffee shop, a friend and I, in a nearby village. I had not seen the friend since pre-lockdown.

Outdoors. Apart from having 10 or 15 people within 10 or 15 yards of me (nobody too close, not even my buddy), I figured that the risk was no greater than having friends come sit in the garden. It was even better for me, because I didn’t have to go into the shop to order – my friend did so. Although I suppose if he picked something up in there, he’d likely have breathed it in my general direction afterwards. We didn’t wear masks – we are only mandated to wear them here when we go into a shop.

So we followed the UK’s rules. I’m not too sure, how closely the UK’s rules match the science, so I wanted to be happy for myself. Before I agreed to meet him, I satisfied myself about the state of the virus locally. In the last available figures, week ending mid-July-ish, there were 11 deaths in our region. The week before that, there were 7. The week before that, 17. All in the same ballpark. Our region is the south west of the UK – probably 10-20,000 square miles? a big number. If you imagine dividing the UK into about 8, that’s us. And me and my space is, what, a square yard?

My friend… Well, my friend is an old cycling buddy. Up until corona, he was a director for a well-known, UK charity. In charge of all new development, nationally. At the very start of this, he figured that for the next few years, new development would be a thing of the past, so figured he was living on borrowed time. He’s roughly retirement age anyhow.

But they kept him on through lockdown, even though he was at home, and they only made him redundant last week.

We had a weird conversation, about my own mobility. As we both love cycling, he suggested an electric bike, or trike. I said that they were good ideas (I’ve thought about this a lot) but that the holy grail would be a new car, an automatic (uncommon in the UK). And with anything, I would not be prepared to spend any cash until I was bringing money in.

– will the state not buy you a car?

– You’re joking, aren’t you?

I told him that instead of receiving the thousands (GBP, USD, EUR, any currency you care to choose) to pay for a car, immediately after the stroke I was awarded GBP 10 per week because I could hardly walk. When the state assessed me a couple years ago, they decided I must be walking better by now, so reduced that portion to zero. I still get additional benefit because I can’t use my hand, but we’re in the same ballpark.

My friend knows somebody, apparently, up in Yorkshire, a long way from here, who has terminal cancer, and needs to travel around 20 miles (presumably a few times a week) for treatment. They are probably pretty rural, they probably have no public transport – outside of London, it is not good in the UK. Anyway, he says that the state awarded them a car.

I mean, if this is true, there are probably discrepancies between this other case and mine. I never really got any treatment once I left hospital, so there is no ongoing relationship between me and the health service.

But I thought it was interesting that even my friend, who as a charity bigwig will have seen hardship cases, believes that when something happens, the state will come to the rescue.

Anyway, I took a few photos yesterday, it was a lovely day.

Nice People

Story on TV this morning. An altercation in a car park. A dad parks in a Disabled space with his son. Dad is not disabled, but son is. Invisible disability, was it hypomobility? They display all the correct documentation to be in the space.

You don’t look disabled, wades in Mr BigMouth, to the father.

What the nice people did:

  • He tries to explain that they have used that particular space because of the son
  • He tries to explain that the son has a Blue Badge.
  • He tries to explain to the guy about the son’s disability
  • When the father gets home, he tweets about the incident.
  • It is subsequently picked up by media outlets, and the story broadcast, including on the Breakfast News. There are all sorts of spurious things brought into the debate – what is wrong with the child, that he also happens to be autistic (the public possibly (very possibly) has a vague understanding of autism, but not a clue about hypomobility) why that particular ailment warrants a Blue Badge, that there were other spaces in the car park, etc. etc.

What I’d have done:

  • F*** Off, you ignorant *******.

I’m sorry, but in such a situation I lose my normal, suave (????), mega-composed self. I’m not going to be nice here – people will afford me my rights with good grace, or I will simply take them anyway. Good grace is optional. By any means necessary. That somebody displays a Blue Badge is the only criterion required for them to use a Disabled space.

I had to jump through hoops (or rather, to show that I couldn’t jump through hoops 🙂) to qualify for my Disability Benefit. This boy will have had to do the same. Every recipient of the benefit has to do the same. We all have to prove that we get this benefit in order to qualify for a Blue Badge. If we then subsequently park the car in a Disabled Bay, then as long as we display the badge, it is nobody else’s business. I’ve done all the explaining I am required to do already.

I apologise for the rant. I expect that by posting on here I am already preaching to the converted, and I appreciate that things might not have happened exactly the way the Dad recounted. But this post might one day be found by search engines.

Blue Badge Renewal

I was quite surprised. My Blue Badge runs out at the end of the month, I queried whether I would get some kind of reminder, as the disability following the stroke is pretty-much permanent.

I got a reply from the Blue Badge people, who in my case are Wiltshire Council, containing a URL on the UK government’s web site, which I could use to re-apply. The thing which surprised me was that, if I hadn’t have been on the ball, I reckon things would very likely be left just to run out.

I know when I first applied for the Blue Badge – I was a couple of weeks out of hospital and, basically, didn’t have a clue what was going on. My wife applied for the badge on my behalf. I can quite easily imagine disabled people who, for one reason or another, don’t/can’t keep on top of these things, and don’t have anyone to keep on top of things for them. There are many ways in which I’m grateful because, despite what I’ve lost, I still have 99% of my brain power. (except it is 110%!)

But it kind-of surprises me that a process aimed specifically at disabled people is so not geared toward disabled people.

PIP

It has been so long, I’d just assumed my PIP had been sorted and would continue as before. But I got a letter yesterday from the DWP saying they would no longer grant the mobility part of the benefit. I still get the main chunk but the mobility part is about 20%.

I hear of lots of appeals against PIP decisions, and I read that there is something like a 70% success rate. So the moral is that the DWP often get things wrong.

I’ve been busy these last couple of days, but will need to look at this tomorrow and maybe Thursday. First things first, their scoring system is out there in the public domain, so I can quite easily run through their assessment questions and see, foremost, whether I have any grounds to appeal. I suppose, after that, (assuming I do have grounds to appeal) I’ll need to contact someone to help me through the process.

All grief I can do without.

Blue Badges

Therewas a news story a few days ago. It wasn’t mega-news but enough to make the BBC’s web site.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-46115444?fbclid=IwAR36mirBhNbmnu9hV-SqHsiN6w75TajYHBzFixEIRKTTuF1BVul1XmgC6rg

The story is basically a woman, who has a small son who’s disabled, got a rude note on her windscreen for using a blue-badge parking space. Apparently, she was displaying a perfectly-valid permit in the vehicle.

I’ve seen this from both sides. Often, people don’t appear to be disabled, and I think people must just assume because of that, that they aren’t disabled. Some of my stroke buddies, say, have problems with their eyes – of course we don’t see this when we see them. It highlights how looks can be deceptive.

On the other hand, we sometimes go to the supermarket at lunchtime, and I will see a white van parked in a disabled bay, the van has no badge on display and the driver invariably turns up 5 minutes later, sandwich in hand. So I do think abuse takes place.

For me, the badge is the key. I got mine by virtue of having PIP, so I already jumped through the necessary hoops to get that, although it was granted by the local authority not by the DWP. I think my permit lasts until 2019, although I still (today) receive PIP (I had an assessment a few months ago), so there’s no reason to think that the renewal won’t be straightforward. The badge lives in the glove box of the car, so, in theory, it is always with us.