Arthritis

Money and financial support

Living with a long term condition like arthritis can cost a lot. People may need money for things like transport to and from the hospital, medications, or home adaptations (such as adapted baths, walk-in showers, wheelchairs, stair lifts and ramps – see ‘Getting around, home adaptations and daily living’). Sometimes spending time in hospital can mean taking time off work which may result in a loss of wages. People may also struggle to work full-time and have to settle for part-time hours. These costs can affect the young person’s whole family if they are living at home.
As young people with arthritis grow up, they too have to live with these costs. It can be hard for young people to live independently if they are not able to earn enough to support themselves; some of the young adults we talked to were still living with their parents who supported them financially. Several people said that they couldn't afford to live independently while on benefits. Ruth described it as 'dehumanising' having to depend on state benefits. It makes her angry that she is always being checked up on to see if she qualifies, and having to explain that she may not look disabled but still needs support.
 
In this section we talk about the sources of financial support that young people and their families received. 
 
Information about financial support
There are several different sources of financial support available to families and young people, but people we talked to often thought it was a complicated system and found it difficult to know what they were entitled to. The lack of clear, coordinated information could be very frustrating.
 
People discovered what was available and how to claim it through various channels, including other people with arthritis and their parents. Charlotte Z’s parents talked about spotting people with Blue Badges in a car park and asking them how to claim one. Having the confidence to ask others about financial support and being “proactive” about it was something that young people and parents recommended.
Health and social care professionals like doctors, nurses and occupational therapists were also said to be good sources of information. Debbie got good advice from a GP, while Ruth got help filling out forms for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from a social worker who was himself disabled. Karen and Robert recommended contacting the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
 
Students at college or university could contact their disability support services about accessing funds which could be used to buy equipment such as laptops, specialist transcription software or special chairs (see ‘School, College and University’).
 
Sources of financial support
The type of financial support available to young people with arthritis will vary from person to person and depend on where they live in the UK. In this section we talk about the support that young people and parents applied for. If you want to read more about the types of support discussed here you can click on the links at the bottom of this page.
 
Young people with arthritis get free prescriptions up to the age of 18 if they are in full-time education. If people have to pay for prescriptions then buying a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) for a year is a way to reduce the cost.
 
Allowances and benefits
At the time of these interviews some people we talked with were receiving Disability Living Allowance DLA, a tax-free benefit for disabled people to help with the costs associated with having a disability. DLA for over 16s is now replaced by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), but Disability Living Allowance can still be claimed for a child under 16. This is called DLA for children. What people get depends on how their disability affects them. Attendance Allowance is money to help pay for personal care if people struggle to look after themselves. Carer’s Allowance is also available for people looking after someone with substantial care needs. Sometimes people applying for DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance need to have a medical assessment to determine how much money they are entitled to. 
 
The people who talked to us about benefits sometimes received DLA by itself or DLA and Attendance Allowance at the same time. Nobody talked about Personal Independence Payments.
The Motability Scheme is a private scheme that enables disabled people to exchange part of their DLA to obtain a new car, powered wheelchair or scooter. For this to happen people have to be on the Higher Rate Mobility Component of the DLA or the enhanced rate of the mobility component of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Dan got a new car through this scheme.
People with mobility difficulties can also apply for Blue Badges which lets them park close to where they need to go. They can use disabled parking bays and park on single and double yellow lines if it’s safe.
 
Some of the people we spoke to used Blue Badges. Others didn’t apply for one, either because they didn’t need one or because they didn’t believe that they would be awarded one. Ryan would have liked his mum to get one but she didn’t think it was necessary. Emma has never applied for a blue badge or other benefits and thinks it’s important only to get what you really need.
Occasionally people with Blue Badges said that the public didn’t always understand why they were using disabled parking bays if they were not in a wheelchair.
 
Local councils can sometimes provide parking bays in front of disabled people’s houses if they have no driveway. This lets people park on the road near their house.
 
Students in higher education in England can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs). DSAs don’t have to be paid back and are given on top of student finances (such as student loans and bursaries). Money is paid to the university and is used to by essential equipment and services to help people with their studies. Some of the people we spoke to received laptops, digital recorders, transcription software and chairs offering back support. Universities may provide additional financial support for disabled people on top of DSAs, for example to pay for transcribers and transport (see ‘School, college and university’).
Some of the people we spoke to received other types of financial support. For example, Charlotte Z. had a Disabled Person’s Rail Card which gave her and a companion discounted train tickets. She also had a Cinema Exhibitors' Association Card which allowed a carer to go to the cinema for free. When Jenna was on a clinical trial for a new drug the hospital paid for her travel expenses to and from the hospital. Tina was also able to claim back her hospital travel expenses in Northern Ireland.
 
Some of the people we spoke to received support from local authorities (local councils). For example, Ryan borrowed a bathboard and wheelchair, whilst Jessica had wheelchair ramp fitted to her front door. Dan was given an electric wheelchair from his local scouts group.
Local authorities can assess people to see if they are eligible to receive 'personal care services'. If they are eligible, the individual can choose to have the money for equipment and personal care paid directly to them from social services (using direct payment), or they may be able to ask social services to find and buy the equipment on their behalf (known as 'commissioned services' or 'direct services').
 
People who didn’t receive financial support 
Not everybody we spoke to received financial support. Sometimes this was through choice. Mary felt it wasn’t worth applying because it was too much hassle for too little money. Elly stopped claiming DLA because her symptoms had improved so she didn’t feel she needed it anymore. Some people gave up their Blue Badges when their mobility improved.
 
People sometimes asked for financial help but didn’t receive any (or not as much as they would have liked). When this happened they were sometimes frustrated or embarrassed and wondered why other people were entitled to support when they weren’t. Not being eligible for home adaptations such as stairlifts or bath equipment was a particular source of frustration and confusion. If they could afford it they would buy needed equipment using a credit card, but not everyone could do so. People were concerned both about lack of financial support for disabled people and lack of clear, consistent rules and advice.
Finding out about financial support
For more information on the types of support people talked about, visit our Resources section.

Last reviewed August 2015.
Last updated August 2015.

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