Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries

Benefits and concessions for acquired disability

Following life-changing injuries people’s financial circumstances can change. Some people we interviewed were financially secure because they had private health insurance or compensation payments for their injuries (see ‘Insurance and compensation when injuryed in an accident’). But for others who were unable to return to work and living on benefits, a reduced income meant they never felt financially secure. Some related this to the cost of living in London.
Some people claimed benefits, including Disability Living Allowance (DLA, now replaced by the Personal Independence Payment PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit and Carer’s Allowance. Some received Direct Payments which enabled them to buy in support and care, while others had council organised care. Grants are also available to make adaptations in the home (although these are often means tested), and people are entitled to wheelchair vouchers, which go towards the costs of new wheelchairs. People could also be entitled to a reduction in Council Tax, Blue Badges to allow them to park in disabled bays and other transport concessions, such as Freedom Passes and taxi card schemes, which give free or reduced price travel across London.

Currently, the enhanced rate of mobility component of PIP can be used to lease or buy cars (with adaptations if necessary) through Motability and these cars are exempt from VAT and car tax. In London this also means exemption from the congestion charge (for more information see our 'practical matters resources').
ESA (formerly Incapacity Benefit) provides financial support for disabled people who can prove they are unable to work. Access to Work is another employment-related benefit, which supports people to work in their current jobs by providing equipment or support staff.
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Armed Forces Independence Payment - AFIP is an alternative benefit to PIP for service personnel and veterans who have been seriously injured during military service since April 2005. AFIP was introduced on the 8th April 2013 and none of the people we interviewed had received this benefit.
Claiming benefits

At the time of the interviews 2012-13 the main benefit people were claiming was Disability Living Allowance (DLA) which has been replaced by a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Many of the issues discussed below refer to DLA but are still relevant to the current benefits.​

People were often unsure whether they were eligible to claim benefits after injury. They also did not know what benefits were available. This uncertainty was worrying because people were unable to return to work and some had financial commitments, like mortgages. Jack described feeling reluctant to class himself as disabled but, at the same time, felt he wasn’t getting the benefits he was entitled to. Other people also described wanting to work but currently being unable to. As Daniel said, “I don’t like just sitting there and getting money for nothing. I can’t wait to go back to work and do my stuff”.
Information about benefits usually came from staff in rehabilitation hospitals, charities and from talking to other people who had experienced a life-changing injury. Other survivors were an important source of information and younger people seemed to be more informed about benefits than older people. People got help applying for benefits from family, advocates, staff or volunteers in rehabilitation hospitals, council specialist advisors and charities. Help is also available from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The application process for benefits was not easy. People said the claim forms were long and included complicated questions. Some questions seemed to be repeated, but worded in different ways, which made Jack think the forms are “designed to catch you out”. Aiden said it was like having to “jump through hoops”. Jack also felt that listing all the things he couldn’t do was quite an ordeal. Focusing on the negatives was depressing and people described feeling frustrated by the process and angry that they needed to provide so much detail. At the time of interviews no one we interviewed was yet claiming the Personal Independence Payment PIP but many were aware of the changes and worried about the implications. Brian said:
‘I know they will make the criteria far harsher than DLA criteria because I’ve seen the PIP criteria. I think there will be a focus on not awarding money to people who they believe can get around independently. So they will not take into account the extra costs that people have to enable their independence. I think there’s going to be a focus on denying as many people as possible, and I think that they storing up trouble for themselves in the long run. Because I think they are then going to have lots of people with mental health problems, lots of people who can’t actually survive on the amount of money they’ve got. Lots of people who gradually do less and less and so don’t become part of the community, and yeah, I think it’s going to be problematic.’
When their difficulties were permanent, people were sometimes awarded benefits without a reassessment date. Others were reassessed at different times to see if they were still eligible. People who recovered from serious injury gradually had their benefits reduced on reassessment, as they regained the ability to do some tasks again. They described feeling pleased to regain some independence. It is possible to appeal against a decision about benefits.
Some people felt that DLA was primarily there for people with physical impairments and was difficult for people with brain injury to get and were not sure what impact PIP would have. After brain injury it can be hard for people to recognise what they find difficult. This could be because of the effects of injury, but also because people want to be better again and focus less on their limitations and more on what they can do. But it is important that when filling in benefit claim forms people think about things they can't do.
It can be difficult for people to manage their finances after a life-changing injury, especially after a brain injury which can cause problems with planning and understanding.  
People expressed concern about current cuts in welfare provision and proposed changes in the future. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has been replaced by a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This change applied to everyone aged 16-64 including those who had been given a lifetime award of DLA. Some people were unsure and worried about how this will affect them.

Last reviewed May 2019.
Last updated May 2019.


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