A picture of blind and patrially sighted campaigner Jill Allen-King OBE

Jill Allen-King OBE, has been to Buckingham Palace seven times, written books, a well-received autobiography available on Amazon and found time to run for local council for the Libdems in 2019. Jill has helped Perito create two new podcasts for Our World. Without Boundaries, which you can listen to here, and the transcript is below. Thanks for reading. Perito

 

Hello everyone, I’m Jill Allen-King OBE and I’m a totally blind person and up to the year of 1992 there was no financial benefits for blind people. I had gone totally blind at the age of 24 and I was working as a cook in London earning a good wage and we’d just bought a house, had a mortgage and so when I went totally blind I lost my job, I lost all that income and so for the first 20 years of my married life we were really, really poor.

And so in 1992, for the first time ever as a blind person, we were going to be awarded a financial benefit and this was called the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).  Many of our organisations had campaigned for a blindness allowance because people with physical disabilities had always got a financial allowance, Attendance Allowance it was called.

 

But blind people had nothing, not in this country.  In other countries like Germany and Italy they had very good financial provision for blind people but we had nothing, so when the Disability Living Allowance was passed in 1991 and came into practice in 1992, fortunately, I was appointed as a Member of the Board and five blind people were nominated.

 

I sat on the Board for 6 years and I was only the blind person at that time as a member of the Board all the other members had physical disabilities, none had learning difficulties and there wasn’t even anybody who was deaf or hard of hearing, very dominated with physical difficulties and I was also at that time appointed to the Appeal Service which was the independent service that was going to help people when people were turned down for the benefit they could go before a Tribunal Panel which was made up of a Judge who was a Magistrate or a Solicitor, a Doctor or a Consultant and somebody who knew about disability was either a disabled person or worked within Social Services or the Care Service and so I was appointed to that.

 

I did that for 21 years and all the way through I was on the DLA Board I thought it was so unfair that blind people and partially sighted people were eligible for the lower rate of the mobility allowance and the lower rate on the middle rate of the care component. But it was the mobility component that I felt strongly about and still do.

In 2011 the Regulations were changed. We had done a lot of campaigning to say that blind people have got as many, if not more mobility problems, than somebody with a physical disability because many people with physical disabilities can actually drive their own cars.  And so they were receiving about £50.00 a week and we were, and still are, only getting about £12.00 a week, it’s probably a little bit more than that now but that’s roughly the cost and the comparison.

In 2011 after this campaigning the Regulations were changed so that blind people would be entitled for the higher rate of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) , Mobility Component, which was good and that’s what we’d campaigned for but unfortunately what has happened it was only awarded to people up to the age of 65 which, okay, in one way, that was a good idea but in another way it wasn’t.

 

It’s complete discrimination because what has happened is that those people, those blind people that were awarded that higher rate of the PIP benefit can keep it even though they are over 65 now, so I have got friends and colleagues that are 68, 69 and even coming up to 70 now that have got that higher rate mobility allowance that although I, because I was already over 65 in 2011 I am not entitled to it. So you’ve got a lot of people that are receiving this higher rate of mobility allowance and an awful lot of us that can’t receive it and it’s really very unfair and I’ve gone right through to the upper tribunal and the Judge that judged my case said it is unfair and really the regulation should be changed.

I have been writing to my Member of Parliament and I’ve raised it with different Ministers at various times about how this is discrimination between blind people of different ages and even though you have got this Equal Opportunities Commission, it’s not fair we’re not being treated equally at all and in fact I need that higher rate more now, when I was younger I never used taxis, I travelled on the underground, on public transport all the time, I wouldn’t have dreamed of using a taxi unless it was to a venue where I just didn’t know where it was, whereas now I use taxis all the time because I’m older, I’ve had falls on trains, I’ve had falls on pavements, I’ve had arthritis in my knee and I’ve got Tinnitus in my ears so I don’t hear so well and I’ve just lost a lot of confidence with travelling on public transport and therefore I need to use taxis and taxis are very, very expense now, whether your local or in London.

I just feel that the Government should be considering more so the needs of those of us that are older as well as the benefits that are paid to younger people.  I’m not saying younger people don’t need those benefits yes they do but older people need them as much and in fact even more than we did before.  So that is a current campaign that many of us feel very strong about and my MP, Sir David Ames, did raise it in the Commons on the 25th July and hopefully we will have a debate as soon as it is possible on the benefits and how they affect the lives of blind and partially sighted people because really does affect you.

 

When you are blind you have so many extra costs. (Check out the Extra Costs Commission Report by clicking the link)

You can’t like walk around a supermarket and pick up all the cheap buys you have to depend on people to tell you what there is, I mean my husband and I we do go shopping on our own and we can do that but my husband’s vision is very restricted and so you lose out on seeing, you know, the different brands, and it’s only if I go shopping with a sighted person that I realise all the things that, there’s different costs, and you can buy cheaper things in other places, you can go to markets if you see whereas it’s really difficult if you’re blind to get around a market and pick out good buys and cheaper things.

I always say that being blind does cost an awful lot.

You have to pay for cleaning to be done, you have to pay for your garden to be done, I know some blind people can do their gardens very well but I don’t know which is a weed and which is a flower and it’s more difficult like to do household jobs, although I can clean things you can’t see like stains in cups and things like that, even though we’ve got a dishwasher and you can put them through the dishwasher it doesn’t always get those cups clean so that’s why you have to pay out for people to come and help you and get stains off of paintwork and dog hairs that need coming off of carpets when you’ve got a guide dog. There’s just so much extra expense you are blind.

I hope that has given people an idea of why blind and partially sighted people do need financial benefits improved as soon as it’s possible to do so.

 

Thank you for listening.

 

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