Guest blog: Direct Payments changed my life

Guest blog: Direct Payments changed my life

After many years of being a DJ, Courtney is now working on disability rights, advocacy, and mental & holistic health care for people with disabilities, with a particular focus on Sickle Cell Disease. He is chair of a Voluntary Association called Health 360º, and is in the process of making it a hub for these activities.

I started getting direct payments about 3 and a half years ago now as a result of becoming visually impaired due to retinal complications. I knew a little about DP’s from some workshops I attended put on by Equals Training, and pushed to get a social worker to assess me to see whether I qualified or not. This involved getting a social worker, and applying through an interview type of process. Happily the borough (Haringey) decided that the combination of visual impairment, sickle cell issues, and ongoing depression, warranted this payment. It’s important to note that this a something that is dependent upon your borough, and has no links to DWP, DLA/ PIP etc.

When I started to get the payments, I was given info on meals on wheels services, and how to go about getting a cleaner to help with my house work (which I actually did do for a while), and other things like that. Thing is, I decided that I wanted to help myself in a more holistic manner, and try to take care of myself in a way that was preventative, and proactive rather that reactive. I wanted to help myself, while I was well rather than get help for myself when I fell ill.

The payments have made a huge improvement to my quality of life in a variety of ways:
-It has enabled me to improve my mental health immeasurably, through counselling, and music therapy (learning an instrument, is a huge tool for improving depression).
-It has given me access to nutritionists, (did you know that if you take omeprazole, or lansoprazole (many of us do) that the folic acid you take will be suppressed? Therefore extra spinach or kale daily to top up the pill…)
-I have been able to get acupuncture to help with pre and post operative stresses and pains.
-I have been able to afford tai chi, and yoga lessons, that have increased my inner strength and flexibility greatly. The way these practices focus on breathing is something that has had a huge impact on my day to day living, in terms of dealing with stress, but also on the way I handle pain when in crisis.
-I have been able to purchase a large screen to use a monitor, and a Kindle so I can still access books, and an ipad for reading magazines, and newspapers.

The results of these tweaks to my lifestyle, diet, and activity, have led to no hospital admissions for crises in the time I’ve been doing this, increased energy, an increasing ability to deal with my depression on a day to day basis, and a happier more fulfilling life in general…

Now when I look at these things that I am using my direct payments for, the thing that strikes me most, is that apart from the visual aids I have bought with the payments, the bulk of the problems I have tried to deal with all stem from my sickle cell disease. Yet I know that if I were not visually impaired, that these payments would (probably) not be made available to me. To have to lose most of my vision (through sickle cell) to get help with my disability (sickle cell), seems somewhat cock-eyed (see what i did there??  ) to me, and I wonder how amazing direct payments would be to others in my position.

I am now looking at ways to extend the types of things I use my budget for to other people with sickle cell disease, through a voluntary association called Health 360º, and hope that in a few years we can all experience a diverse range of ways to help our health and quality of life.

Learn more about Direct Payments