Wheelchair funding

I’ve talked about this before but I think it’s such an important issue it needs it’s own blog post.

Heeby, my beautiful wheelchair, who helps me leave my flat

Wheelchair funding is hard to access.  I had to use up my savings to buy my chair.  It cost me £7000.

The NHS varies from area to area but in so many areas, as far as I can tell, you don’t get NHS funding for an electric chair if you can walk around your home. Whatever size your home is.. Which means if you live in a mansion which you can’t walk around you’d get funding but if you live in a flat like mine where ten metres is probably your maximum walk in reality, you don’t get an electric chair.

I can’t have a manual wheelchair cos I can’t self propel and I can’t have an electric wheelchair because I can walk round my home. Except, if I hadn’t bought my electric wheelchair and had attempted to walk outside a little, I wouldn’t be able to walk round my flat. I can only get round my flat because my wheelchair gets me round the rest of the world. Without my electric wheelchair I could only go to the drs (it’s literally opposite my flat). I wouldn’t make it to the shops round the corner.

And think about what that would do to me. If i couldn’t leave the house, I wouldn’t have been able to work, shop, go on day trips or do very much at all. If i couldn’t leave the house, my mental health would have deteriorated significantly, costing more in services. All medical appointments would have to be in my flat or using hospital transport which costs money.  Without a wheelchair I would have taken far far more out of the economy than I put in. So if money is your argument, it doesn’t stand up.

We should not be in the situation where I’ve blown my savings on my wheelchair, where people are having to apply to charities for wheelchair funding or where people are fundraising for their wheelchair.

Wheelchairs give us freedom. And because of this, I’ve contributed to Vicky’s fundraising efforts. Like me, she has EDS and like me, she needs to use an electric wheelchair to maintain her independence but the NHS won’t help.  It’s heartwrenching that this is the third or fourth appeal for help this year that I’ve seen on my list of people i follow on twitter.

I’d strongly encourage you to contact your local healthwatch or your MP to ask them to raise the issue of wheelchair funding criteria.  To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a satisfactory response to why so many people are stuck in a place where they get no support because they are too disabled for one option and not enough for the other.

Paying for wheelchairs

Note: This is for the UK

If you are looking for wheelchair funding, start with your local wheelchair services.  If they won’t help and you’re working, try access to work.  You will probably be required to pay a proportion of the total cost if you go down that route.  This is on the basis that you will be using the chair outside work so you pay a bit, your employer pays a bit and access to work pay a bit.

If you get enhanced mobility PIP then you can explore that route.

If none of these are suitable, you are left with grants and fundraising.  In terms of grants, turn2us.org.uk is a UK search engine for grants.  There are a lot of very small pots of money out there for very specific people or causes.  A made up but based on experience of in depth searches for clients: if your dad was a miner who played the violin and you’re a single mother you might be able to get a grant for the cost of children’s Christmas presents.  There’s also a list of possible grants over on Disability Grants.