Soldiering is a dangerous business and people get hurt. Servicepeople that experience serious disabling injuries will almost certainly find themselves at a major crossroads in their lives.
The initial response to becoming disabled is not unique to Servicepeople although the manner in which it happens is usually peculiar to the battlefield. Elsewhere, figures have been put together by the UK’s favourite disability lifestyle publication, Able Magazine, show that around 64% of disabled people were not born with their disability.
The important thing to remember is that becoming disabled, which can happen in the blink of an eye, such as in a car crash or by other accident or illness doesn’t mean that the newly disabled person suddenly becomes an expert on disability – or more importantly, living with disability.
The second point to raise is that although there are more disabled people around than you might imagine – with figures again suggesting that around one in five people in the UK live with some form of disability – that no two disabled people are the same. The differences are likely to be small but important even where two people have similar injuries or disabilities. Age, gender, fitness and mentality will all play a part in their ongoing life.
This is an important point since these are the things that will indicate the level to which you recover. In terms of functional recovery, the restoration may only be minor with few if any people making a 100% recovery from serious injury. The best aim is to attempt smaller victories that accumulate to larger differences in the new way in which you’ll lead your life. It’s about small gains. The notion of recovery is, in many cases, much more about a psychological recovery from the trauma of becoming disabled and accepting that things have changed.
Clearly, accepting disability is a big ask, and there’s also another distinction to be made here. Accepting disability is not the same thing as surrendering to it. Lots of newly disabled people understandably feel fear, anger, loss, frustration and grief. It can be a dark time and as already mentioned, it’s an individual journey and despite support, it can be very lonely. Nobody will understand quite how you feel and nobody has the right to rush you into ‘feeling better’.
As the physical and mental scars begin to heal, you’ll need to start to look around for options regarding how you want to live. What you choose to do or decline will be linked to your disability and how you live with it. Your disability may be physical, sensory (visual or hearing etc) or mental – and injury can sometimes cause brain injury which sometimes leads to intellectual disabilities.
Recovery Career Service (RCS)
The RCS is linked to the Career Transition Partnership which helps Service-leavers with their resettlement post Service. The RCS specialises in offering a range of vocational opportunities such as work or voluntary experience to Service-leavers who are wounded, injured, sick and likely to be discharged on medical grounds from the Armed Forces with the aim of preparing them for their resettlement.
RCS works along very similar lines to CTP and endeavours to help Service-leavers to find out about the type of career they’d like to pursue post Service.
A special information portal can be accessed via your career consultant where you’ll find more about employment opportunities and of course, all individuals being medically discharged can also access RightJob for employment opportunities.
Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)
The Ministry of Defence (MOD), in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), introduced a new benefit called the Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP) in April 2013. The benefit is designed to provide financial support to Service personnel and veterans seriously injured as a result of Service to cover the extra costs they may have as a result of their injury.
AFIP eligibility does not extend to those in receipt of compensation from the War Pensions Scheme but those who receive compensation under the War Pensions Scheme will have access to other additional War Pensions supplementary allowances. These continue and won’t be changed as a result of the introduction of AFIP.
Service personnel and veterans who are entitled to a Guaranteed Income Payment (GIP) of 50% or higher through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) are eligible for the payments.
More details at: www.gov.uk/benefit-cap
If you are eligible, AFIP is paid at a rate of £134.40 per week and will be subject to annual uprating. This payment is the equivalent of the enhanced rates of both daily living and mobility components of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit.
Veterans will receive a claim form. Your AFCS award letter will confirm if you are in receipt of a GIP of 50% or higher. If you are not sure of the rate of your GIP you can contact the Veterans UK Helpline on: 0808 1914 2 18 for confirmation.
Whilst there are no deadlines for making a claim, a delay returning your claim form may affect the date on which it becomes payable.
The Motability Scheme enables disabled people to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair, using their Government funded mobility allowance. If you receive the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement (WPMS) or the Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP) you may be eligible to join the Motability Scheme.
Currently, Motability lists around 2,000 different models of vehicle and these can be adapted to the eeds of disabled people, perhaps through fitting hand controls and the like. Disabled people may even choose to select vehicles that enable them to travel or even drive from their own wheelchairs. These are known as Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles or WAVs.
Motability is a genuine success story and has helped over four million disabled people retain their mobility.
Guaranteed interview scheme and legislation
Newly disabled people in particular, can feel nervous about approaching potential employers, fearing that they’ll be rejected because of their disability. In fact, lots of employers have policies in place to encourage applications from a diverse range of people – and in any case, the Equality Act (2010) means that disabled people cannot be discriminated against or disadvantaged as a result of their disability.
Disabled people approaching employers should certainly look out for the guaranteed interview scheme – otherwise known as the ‘Two Ticks’ scheme (so called because the logo is two blue ticks). It’s a further indicator of an organisation’s commitment to employing disabled people and guarantees an interview for all applicants with a disability who meet the essential criteria on a person specification and consider them on their abilities.
Furthermore in order to get the accreditation, an organisation needs to ensure there is a mechanism in place to discuss, at any time, but at least once a year, with disabled employees what can be done to ensure that they develop and use their abilities.
Adaptations and equipment
In recent years there has been a positive move towards enabling disabled people to live as independently as possible within their own homes. Adaptations then, are a popular method of making sure that the homes of disabled people remain suitable.
The nature of adaptations will dictate the level to which a property is adapted. Whilst some adaptations mean wholesale change, especially in the bathroom or kitchen, small tweaks coupled with new habits can make a big difference.
Adaptations can be expensive; fortunately, help is available.
Daily living equipment
If you feel that you or someone you care for requires specialist equipment in order to manage more safely and easily around the home, you can request a needs assessment by contacting the social services department of your local council. They will be able to identify any help that is available to you and point out equipment suppliers (and discuss any financial assistance that you may be eligible for).
The Assessment Process
Because you have a legal right to be assessed, your local social services department is duty bound to investigate your needs, though a letter from your GP or your nurse outlining some of the challenges you’re facing might help to speed up the process.
‘Eligible’ equipment must be provided free of charge by social services. If your assessment confirms that an item of (eligible) equipment is necessary as part of your community care service, and for which the individual is eligible, it must be provided free of charge.
All ‘minor’ adaptations costing £1,000 or less (including the cost of buying and fitting) are also required to be provided free of charge. Councils retain the discretion to make a charge in relation to minor adaptations that cost more than £1,000 to provide.
Larger, more expensive items may be classed as ‘major’ adaptations. They will then be the responsibility of the housing department through Disabled Facilities Grants but the initial assessment is generally carried out by an OT, again through social services but the two departments are likely to be linked together.
Recovery is about living and part of that will be about pushing yourself forwards on a daily basis. Mountain Trike is just one example of many organisations that provide equipment and services to enable disabled people to keep active and have fun.
Rick is a former Infantry Platoon Sergeant from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and after losing both his legs to an IED in Afghanistan back in 2010 mobility has been a massive issue for him. Rick has a very good lightweight wheelchair which is great on smooth surfaces but anything even slightly uneven or soft becomes impossible to cross.
Rick says: “I hired the Mountain Trike for five days but if I’m being honest after day one I knew this was going to change my life dramatically. I could negotiate pretty much any off-road surface and not only that, it was great for fitness – finally a type of exercise I could enjoy again, this is something I’ve also struggled to find since being injured. I tested the Trike on soggy grass, sand and many types of uneven paths including getting up and down large curbs. It passed easily on them all. I can now get anywhere I want to go. Having a dog I can now take him anywhere without worrying about a battery running down. Don’t get me wrong it takes arm strength to use but I’ve progressed to over three miles very quickly.”
Ricks run a Military charity called A Soldiers Journey and has already put in place buying two Mountain Trikes for other injured veterans who he believes will benefit just as much as him.