Monday, 13 September 2010

Thanks, but don't kick away my crutches!

Well, in the end we've gone for a SEAT Altea XL. Following our son's advice we avoided a light colour "because they look fat" and chose dark blue. The car met all our criteria (such as adjustable height on both front seats), except for passenger seat arm-rests, but it felt gemütlich, as far as a car can, I suspect because it has resonances of our favourite Skoda Fabia. And certainly Jane enjoyed test-driving it, nice and smooth. Above all, it's about as green as you can get with an MPV at the moment - which gives an illusory sense of virtue about what remains basically a polluting activity.

By the way, we're able to consider a car like this as an option because my Disability Living Allowance - which is a non-means-tested allowance for the severely and moderately disabled. I receive the middle band living allowance - which helps fund the extra heating and care costs (like clothing) which being disabled necessitate - and the top band mobility allowance from being unable to walk on my own. That all goes on the excellent Motability scheme, which is a three-year lend-lease arrangement, where the allowance is used up to finance everything except fuel. When I began to receive it, it felt like a real blessing, some compensation for the increasing restrictions that come with being disabled. I'm grateful  not to have to wrap up under blankets with my mittens on, because I'm worried about putting on the fire. And I'm grateful to be able to choose and run a car which I can still use.

There may be some malingerers taking advantage of the benefits' system. But it would be a major blow for the genuinely disabled if this were taken away under the "inevitable austerity measures" for which public opinion is being softened up. It feels a bit like those fabled schoolmasters who, as they raised their cane high above their victims, promised, "This is hurting me as much as you, boy, believe me!" We didn't believe them. It's patently not true.

Today the post brought the first taste of things to come. As you may remember, I have a through-floor lift which enables me to go to bed upstairs. As I recently commented, thanks to my wonderful Occupational Therapist I joined the County Council's lift service and maintenance contract free of charge. And thanks to that I have been rescued a couple of times and been able to sleep in bed at night. The letter is headed: "Re. Proposal to discontinue Oxfordshire County Council's Servicing, Maintenance and Repair Contract for Stair Lifts, Step Lifts and Through Floor Lifts" (Why so many capital letters, I wonder?) You can see exactly where this "consultation" is going.

What the so-called County Council cabinet won't see is the number of disabled and elderly people who get stranded either upstairs or downstairs, out of reach of toilet, bathroom, or kitchen - because it's clear that it's a question of when, not if, they discontinue this service. One question in their document is "Do you think you would arrange a private contract if the council's was (sic) discontinued?" Note the word "arrange"! "Purchase", I think they mean. Two snags occur to me: some people simply could not afford it; and individuals with their own contracts can never have the same clout as a major client such as a county council. That means we get either no service or inferior service. I sincerely hope that the users, their carers and everyone who cares about them protest loudly - and that I'm wrong about it being a foregone conclusion.


  1. Sound advice from your son - clearly a wise young man!

  2. He is indeed! Knows his motors and has good taste - unusual combination (Unlike J Clarkson!).