One of the most high-profile disability rights campaigners in the UK is having to crowdfund for a new wheelchair for her son due to government cuts. But the fact she is having to raise money because the NHS can’t afford to pay for the equipment highlights a problem thousands are facing.
Linda Burnip is co-founder of disability rights group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). She has been at the forefront of campaigning against cuts to social care and security, and advancing the rights of disabled people in the UK. But now, her son is in desperate need of a new wheelchair. And Linda’s only option is to crowdfund for it.
She says her son’s wheelchair is 10 years old, and that it is now beyond repair. The firm she bought it from says the only option they have is to replace it. Because if they don’t, it could break down, which would leave her son completely housebound.
Linda’s son has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and a spinal curvature. This means that any wheelchair has to be particularly comfortable and usable. The chair would need a special seating system, a reclining back and a specially-shaped seat. Also, the new chair would need to be similar to his existing one, so it could fit in his motability vehicle. Which is crucial for his independence.
A struggling NHS
But the NHS is not able to cover any of these additional costs. Moreover, Linda says that even if the NHS would pay, the waiting list is months long, and her son simply cannot wait.
But Linda and her son’s story is sadly just one of thousands across the UK, as government cuts to the health and social care begin to bite.
Denied their independence
In July 2016, it was revealed that over 700 people a week were losing their motability vehicles. This was due to government changes to disability welfare payments. More than 300,000 people overall may lose their vehicles, meaning a massive blow to sick and disabled people’s independence.
Also, access to wheelchairs for disabled people is severely restricted. The NHS provides vouchers for people to put towards the cost of a wheelchair. The value of which is is generally capped at around £1,300. But Linda’s son’s wheelchair will cost at least £8,000. And as The Guardian reported, some users’ wheelchairs can cost up to £24,000. Making them completely unaffordable to many.
And if unaffordability wasn’t enough, if a person does want to get their wheelchair through the NHS, then they’ll have to wait. As NHS England admits:
- 70% of wheelchair users wait more than three months for their chair.
- 30% wait more than six months.
- 15% wait more than 12 months.
The tip of the iceberg
A wheelchair is one of the most basic independence tools for sick and disabled people. Yet health and social care services in the UK are repeatedly failing them. Linda told The Canary:
A full investigation into the provision of NHS funded wheelchairs is urgently needed. As this is yet another vital area where cuts and a postcode lottery operate, affecting disabled people’s right to take part in society. We already know that in many parts of the country the wait for an initial assessment can take up to 3-5 years. And people who need a chair outside but not in their homes are being refused them.
And the very fact that one of the most high-profile disability rights campaigners in the UK is having to crowdfund makes the situation even more saddening. Until the government’s cuts to health, social care and welfare are stopped, sick and disabled people will continue to be denied their most basic of freedoms.
– Support Linda’s crowdfunder, however you can.
Featured image via Flickr