Opinion: Worth the struggle

After a battle trying to gain independent living fund cash, success has brought Anna C Young fulfilment

I became aware of the independent living fund (ILF) in 1983. It was being talked about as a way of helping disabled people live independently. As this has always been my aim I thought I would qualify. But it appeared that I wasn’t eligible. Demotivated and feeling cheated, I put it aside. I suspect this is what many people feel when they realise they do not match the eligibility criteria and it added to my sense of isolation and despair.

Having made progress recently, I investigated further. Speaking to social services about the eligibility criteria, it appears that I have 17 hours of support a week and the cut-off for ILF funding is 18 hours. Actually, I thought I had the necessary 18 hours but it seems the calculations are made in such a way that the total is reduced. It was frustrating, but I felt ready for a battle, so I decided to fight – and, at the second attempt, an extra hour was granted. The calculations seem complex and confusing and no doubt many people give up the struggle.

But for me it was worth it, as the door to ILF was opened.

In June this year I was granted ILF support and in a few months it has transformed my life. I have more money and that, of course, means more options and power to decide what I want and how to get it.

Not only am I more able to live independently – the ability to pay for my special transport is a critical factor in getting out and about – but it has given me the freedom to make choices and decisions about what I want to do with my time. I have been able to explore more employment opportunities, getting on to acting agencies’ books as an extra, I’ve taken up horse riding and become a supporting member at my local theatre. These are things I would never have thought of doing before ILF or had the choice or opportunity to do.

They’ve given me enormous confidence and energy, and my improvement has been noted in my therapy sessions. Before ILF I needed to budget carefully for my personal assistance and my other basic requirements, and my life was limited.

I hardly travelled away from my immediate area unless I knew I could reclaim the costs and this felt quite limiting. Since receiving the fund I can plan ahead knowing I have the money to make choices and lead a fuller life. Mental health problems are often isolating and I’m aware of the need to make friends and try to integrate into society. The fund is helping me to do this, and I’m already planning many more social activities. These will create the chance to meet people and, in this way, I hope to develop a supportive network of friends. Having more freedom and the opportunity to pursue interests will energise and encourage me to do more, and I see this already happening.

It’s early days but I feel the ILF has already given me dignity and freedom, two vital components of a civilised and independent life. 

Anna C Young uses a wheelchair and has mental health problems

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