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BBC Radio 4
DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE
Guests: RNIB's Head of Policy, Steve Winyard; Minister for Disabled people, Anne McGuire
Peter talked to Anne McGuire, Minister for Disabled People about a review of Disability Living Allowance for visually impaired people.
Disability Living Allowance is a non means-tested benefit paid to people whose disability has a significant effect on their daily lives, and their living costs.
There are two main components to it; for care, and for mobility costs. Only those with severe movement problems qualify for the higher rate of mobility allowance, which is around thirty pounds a week higher than the lower rate
The RNIB and other organisations have argued that people with a visual impairment have a logical claim to receive the higher rate, and that their travel costs can often be as high, or higher, than some of those receiving the higher benefit.
BENEFIT ENQUIRY LINE
Telephone: 0800 88 22 00
Textphone: 0800 24 33 55
A confidential freephone service for disabled people and carers. You can call the Benefit Enquiry Line and ask them to send you a claim pack. They can send the claim pack in Braille if required.
The Benefit Enquiry Line is open 8.30 am to 6.30 pm Monday to Friday and 9.00 am to 1.00 pm Saturday.
Or visit website below to make a claim online:
DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE
Eldoret in western Kenya was the focus of much of the violence which followed the election at the end of last year. The country is slowly returning to normal, but its tribal divisions are proving hard to heal.
One man who is attempting to mend his fractured community is Reuben Kigame. Reuben has been blind since the age of three, and is now a professional DJ and musician.
The BBC went to visit him at his hometown radio station to find out more about his life, his music, and how Fish FM helps to bring the community together.
105 Judd Street
Helpline: 0845 766 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
The RNIB provides information, support and advice for anyone with a serious sight problem. They not only provide Braille, Talking Books and computer training, but imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges. The RNIB campaigns to change society's attitudes, actions and assumptions, so that people with sight problems can enjoy the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities as fully sighted people. They also fund pioneering research into preventing and treating eye disease and promote eye health by running public health awareness campaigns.
HENSHAWS SOCIETY FOR BLIND PEOPLE (HSBP)
John Derby House
88-92 Talbot Road
Tel: 0161 872 1234
Henshaws provides a wide range of services for people who have sight difficulties. They aim to enable visually impaired people of all ages to maximise their independence and enjoy a high quality of life. They have centres in: Harrogate, Knaresborough, Liverpool, Llandudno, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Salford, Southport and Trafford.
THE GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND ASSOCIATION (GDBA)
Tel: 0118 983 5555
The GDBA’s mission is to provide guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services that meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people.
ACTION FOR BLIND PEOPLE
14-16 Verney Road
Tel: 0800 915 4666 (info & advice)
Tel: 020 7635 4800 (central office)
Registered charity with national cover that provides practical support in the areas of housing, holidays, information, employment and training, cash grants and welfare rights for blind and partially-sighted people. Leaflets and booklets are available.
NATIONAL LEAGUE OF THE BLIND AND DISABLED
324 Grays Inn Road
Tel: 020 7837 6103
Textphone: 020 7837 6103
National League of the Blind and Disabled is a registered trade union and is involved in all issues regarding the employment of blind and disabled people in the UK.
NATIONAL LIBRARY FOR THE BLIND (NLB)
Far Cromwell Road
Tel: 0161 406 2525
Textphone: 0161 355 2043
Trustees from the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and the National Library for the Blind (NLB) have agreed to merge the library services of both charities as of 1 January 2007, creating the new RNIB National Library Service.
EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (England)
0845 604 6610 - England main number
0845 604 6620 - England textphone
0845 604 6630 - England fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)
EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Wales)
3 Callaghan Square
0845 604 8810 - Wales main number
0845 604 8820 - Wales textphone
0845 604 8830 - Wales fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)
EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Scotland)
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
0845 604 5510 - Scotland Main
0845 604 5520 - Scotland Textphone
0845 604 5530 - Scotland – Fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)
DISABLED LIVING FOUNDATION
380-384 Harrow Road
Tel: 0845 130 9177
The Disabled Living Foundation provides information and advice on disability equipment.
The Geoffrey Udall Centre
Reading RG7 2AT
Tel: 0118 9885688
Thrive is a national charity, founded in 1978, whose aim is to research, educate and promote the use and advantages of gardening for those with a disability. Thrive’s vision is that the benefits of gardening are known to, and can be accessed by, anyone with a disability.
Thrive has been supporting blind gardeners for over 30 years, and established the Blind Gardeners’ Club with RNIB in 2006 to help gardeners share information and techniques. Membership of the club costs £9 a year and includes:
The BBC is not responsible for external websites
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TX: 19.08.08 2040-2100
PRESENTER: PETER WHITE
PRODUCER: CHERYL GABRIEL
Good evening. Amid all the recent talk of benefit reform, whatever happened to the claim for an increase in benefit to compensate visually-impaired people for their higher travel costs? We'll be hearing from the minister in a moment. And from the Kenyan disc-jockey, who is trying to heal his community with his music.
Disability Living Allowance or DLA, as it's known, is a non means-tested benefit paid to people whose disability has a significant effect on their daily lives, and indeed their living costs. There are two main components to it; for care, and for mobility. Only those with severe movement problems qualify for the higher rate of the allowance, which is around £30 a week more than the lower rate. But the RNIB and other organisations, representing blind people, have argued that people with a visual impairment have a totally legitimate claim to receive the upper rate, and that their travel costs can often be as high, or higher, than some of those already receiving the upper rate benefit. And December 2006 saw one of the largest lobbies ever by blind and partially-sighted people of parliament to support that point.
But, the RNIB is asking: What's happened to the consideration of their case by the government? Well we'll hear from the government in a moment, but first I'm joined by the RNIB's Head of Policy, Steve Winyard. Steve, first of all, just remind us of the case you made to the government.
Well the case is overwhelming. It is that people who have the greatest difficulties with independent mobility can't claim the higher rate mobility component of DLA, it's a striking, unique and longstanding anomaly of the DLA system. It's a nonsense and it has to be addressed. And you mentioned the lobby back in 2006 - there was fantastic support at that time from blind and partially-sighted people. There were over 250 MPs who supported our arguments. And also very, very strong public support for change. And that's the time that the Department of Work and Pensions said to us - come on work with us to find a solution. And that's what we've been doing over the past 18 months; we've done a lot of detailed work with officials and a very workable and affordable solution has been found and that's what the officials sent up to ministers back in May and we had every expectation that this would be implemented and we were massively disappointed that nothing is being done.
Well yesterday I spoke to the minister for disabled people - Anne McGuire - and I asked her where your claim stood.
Since you and I last spoke Peter we have certainly worked closely with RNIB because it was never going to be a simple issue. Although I can fully understand people's pressure to access the higher rate of mobility. But our green paper - No One Written Off - has been published and I know the RNIB are not particularly happy that we have not included in that the issue of DLA. We are sympathetic to the RNIB's proposals and certainly are aware of the public and parliamentary support that they have garnered. But we had to make a decision about where we put our resources at this time and as well as the pressure for DLA, increasingly disabled people and those with a visual impairment, also tell us they want to get back into work and that's why we have dramatically increased - or will dramatically increase - our access to work budget.
But what I remember about our last conversation is that you were very sympathetic to the whole claim, you were particularly sympathetic to the point that transport costs were just as high for people with a visual impairment as they were for people with motor - physical - disabilities. So when you say it's complicated you're not actually saying then that the government doesn't agree with it, you're saying the government can't afford it?
Well I think the Secretary of State James Purnell was very clear when he spoke in the Commons and indeed when he's spoken to the chief executive of RNIB that he did give the proposals a great deal of careful consideration but decided that at this moment the funding would be best directed at enabling disabled people, including those with a visual impairment, to enter employment. And that's why we have decided to double the access to work budget over the next few years.
What about the people who aren't working though and who won't get a chance to work, surely for them the DLA would be extremely valuable?
Blind people do qualify for DLA ...
But on the lower rate.
Albeit on the lower rate - albeit on the lower rate. But in actual fact almost a quarter of those people who are receiving support from access to work have themselves either a visual impairment or are totally blind. So there is a significant additional support going in to those with a visual impairment as we increase our access to work budget. Now I appreciate that the RNIB will continue to campaign on this, they are disappointed. The Secretary of State has said that he wants to continue to work with the RNIB to look at the issues. There are still some things that we do need to look at, it is a consultation of course - the green paper - and I'm sure that both your listeners and the RNIB will respond to them. But on judgement - and it is a judgement, I fully appreciate that people might not understand it but it is a judgement - we think that the resources would be best used just now in doubling our access to work budget.
So what's your assessment then of the implications of that access to work, is it that individual claimants will get more, because of course as we know the equipment's very expensive, or are you saying that what you think is a lot more visually-impaired people will get into work and there'll be more smaller claims?
Access to work is very individually tailored to a person's specific support needs and some of those support needs may not be terribly expensive and other support needs are incredibly expensive. The judgement that our access to work assessors make is what is needed to maintain an individual in employment. And I think that's the way disabled people want it, they don't want a template coming down because the needs of blind and visually-impaired people might and indeed probably would be quite different from those perhaps with another disability.
So you would be predicting more visually-impaired people getting into work to put up this very static figure that we've had for decades?
That would be one of my aims. As I say our record on access to work in supporting blind and visually impaired people is good - a quarter of all our support goes to individuals or a quarter of the individuals who receive access to work support are blind or visually-impaired people and given the lag in the employment rate of visually-impaired people I would hope to see a dramatic increase there Peter.
The RNIB said they'd like an answer - a yes or a no. Is this a no?
Well it's a no at this time Peter, I mean I don't think I could be anything less than honest if I didn't say that. I mean it is a no at this time but we do want to continue to work with the RNIB. I think there are lots of things in our green paper which will support those with a visual impairment, those who are blind, into employment and as you and your programme are well aware employment issues for those with a visual impairment are crucial because they lag way behind disabled people in general ...
Yeah but at least those people who are working are getting a wage, as the point I made to you before the people who aren't benefiting from whatever you do in the work situation they aren't getting a wage and are quite dependent on that benefit.
Well the benefit is still there, I don't want anybody to think that there's going to be any change to the current benefit situation ...
But we're about £30 - £30 a week difference.
Yeah there is the lower rate, there is the care element of course and as I say I can understand the disappointment that there will be amongst your listeners but we think at this point that the extra resources should go in to supporting people through our access to work programme. And as I indicated earlier in our conversation one in four of those people gaining support through access to work are in fact either visually-impaired or blind.
Anne McGuire. Steve Winyard is still here. Anne said many times she's wanted to work with the RNIB but what's your reaction to what she said?
Well linking all of this to access to work is if anything something of a political fig leaf. The issues are quite separate and in particular it needs to be pointed out to the minister for every £1 million spent on getting people into work, supported by access to work, the government overall receives £1.7 million back. So access to work is in fact a spend to save measure.
You mean in terms of the tax that blind people pay?
The tax people pay and the benefits that they no longer receive. So it's extraordinary to say that we're spending extra money on access to work that could have gone on to DLA. What are these extra discussions that we're meant to have with the department? We know that the officials have put forward a very - a watertight case and the change would cost at around £30 million a year, this is less than 0.3% of the total DLA budget, it's a tiny amount, it's absolutely doable. Sadly, I think in the end this is the sort of decision that will have to be taken in Downing Street, it's a challenge that we need to make to Gordon Brown ...
So what will you do now, is that your next move?
Well the next move is to have a major lobby of parliament on October 15th and we hope that this will be indeed much larger than the lobby we held on December '06. Politicians and the government need to know that we are angry, that we aren't going to take no for an answer, that there should be a recognition of this anomalous situation whereby blind people who have the greatest mobility difficulties can't get the higher rate.
The claim seems to have been the victim of welfare reform and increases in access to work, would you consider an option which gave this added money to non-working blind people? I mean I kept pressing the minister on that, in other words an element of means testing?
No I don't think we should be thinking in these terms, it would complicate matters greatly, it would probably add poverty traps to the situation of whether you moved in or out of work. I think that as you said in your introduction DLA is a non-means tested benefit, it's there to meet - in the case of mobility - to meet the additional costs of transport and for blind people these are very, very high and they need to be addressed, whether you're in work or out of work.
Steve Winyard thank you very much indeed.
There is some good news and campaigns do sometimes work, this on the issue of large print books. Do you remember the Chichester bookseller, Rachel Huskisson, who got in touch with us to ask how come it was so difficult to find out about the availability of large print books which she was eager to sell, particularly large print books for children? She said that in particular she'd had trouble tracking down these books published by BBC Audio Books which weren't to be found on the regular listings.
Well, we gave the topic an airing on In Touch, and Nick Forster, Sales and Marketing Director of BBC Audio Books promised to look into it. And it seems he's been as good as his word; and we've just received this email from him.
Nick Forster's e-mail
I'm very happy to be able to tell you that BBC Audio Books Galaxy range of children's large print titles are now all listed on the Nielson database used by booksellers and are therefore available on special order from all bookshops up and down the country. We'll be doing the same in the coming months with our ranges of large print books for adults and we'll follow this with an information pack for bookshops explaining what's available and how to order from us. Needless to say in the meantime we would be delighted to talk to any member of the public or bookseller who'd like more information about how to obtain our books.
That message from Nick Forster of BBC Audio Books and our thanks to Rachel Huskisson for raising it in the first place.
And some more good news, from an area of the world which could certainly do with it. Eldoret in western Kenya was the focus of much of the violence which followed the elections at the end of last year. The country is slowly returning to normal, but its tribal divisions are proving very hard to heal. One man doing his very best to mend his fractured community is Reuben Kigame. Reuben has been blind since the age of three, and is now a professional DJ and musician. On a visit to his hometown radio station he talked about his life, his music, and how Fish Fm helps to bring the community together.
Clip from Fish FM
Well a very good morning wherever you're listening to 97.1 Fish FM. This is Reuben Kigame on the Fish breakfast and we're the only station, I reminded you earlier, that plays you the best of inspirational music this side of Sahara.
This is where I live with my family. The front porch there, you just walk right through. In the background there you can hear Fish FM - my wife is on air.
This is my recording studio, I do most of the music recordings and the spiel of our recordings from the radio station here.
I am just a regular talk show host, I love talk shows. My love for music, in particular, has grown out of a desire to just express myself, tell the stories about my life, my faith, my hope and also I desire to help, especially young people in society to live responsibly. Music is a language, I can tell stories about growing up, my emotions, my love for nature, my love for family.
This is the garden, beautiful, beautiful garden, you can sit here all day. This is like a serenity place for me, I just love being in this garden. This is simply Reuben Kigame. Born in 1966. Perhaps the most significant landmarks of my life is that when I was three I became blind. It's very rarely that I remember I'm blind, especially when I'm stuck in Europe or the USA and they're treating me as such, then I think oh okay I'm blind. But here I can take you anywhere, I can take you to town, we can have a stroll, it doesn't stop me. My wife - I mean it never occurs between us that I'm blind, she's not blind. My children treat me like they treat the best father in the world. I hardly remember that I am blind.
Clip from Fish FM
Yeah in a world that has no hope, no direction and we know that Eldoret was such a world in a few months back and we're here to remind you that all is not lost.
Being blind and being in radio I was particularly a major, major player here. Several times I was stopped by young guys who wanted to know whether I was carrying people from particular communities, they would force you to stop and they would inspect the car. Usually it would be my wife driving and I would do most of the talking to them. Once an attack on my home and station was actually thwarted. There was a gang of people coming from up the hill here that had had the wrong information that I was from a particular community and they didn't like the community and wanted to burn down my home and station. By God's grace we were protected and a colleague of mine spoke to them and averted the attack. One, had to be strong for my wife and children and continue reassuring them that it will be alright, with all these fires around, as the smoke every day, cries and gunshots and so on, I had to be a man to defend my family and protect them and pray with them and assure them that it will be okay.
We were in a very ambivalent state as a station, anything we said could trigger an attack and anything we said could have averted an attack. So what we did - and this I directed very specifically, in fact I did overtime, I sat in the studio for many hours ensuring that we played the right things - we carefully selected songs that called people to forgiveness, called people to hope.
Reuben Kigame, speaking and playing from the studios of Fish Fm; which also happens to be his home.
That's it for today; but you can call us with all your suggestions, comments and queries on 0800 044 044, you can also e-mail the programme; and there will be a podcast of it on the website as from tomorrow. From me Peter White, my producer Cheryl Gabriel, and the rest of the team, goodbye.
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