11:28am Friday 9th March 2012
By Helen Morton
A BASINGSTOKE couple were stunned when they were told they would have to fork out more than £100,000 before the borough council would help pay for a new £1,000 wheelchair ramp at their home.
Stephen and Sue Hicks say they are losing out because they both work.
Mrs Hicks, 27, suffers from Spina Bifida, a congenital defect of the spine which affects mobility, and compels her to use a wheelchair.
She was also diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2007 and had her bladder removed.
But, unwilling to live off benefits, she and her 30- year-old husband both work full-time, bringing in a combined income of around £45,000.
Mrs Hicks works as an administrator for a Basingstoke company and her husband is a fork-lift truck driver.
She explained: “We’ve both worked since we left school. I get a disability allowance but that goes mainly on a specially-adapted car. We don’t expect hand-outs and we’ve tried to do everything for ourselves.”
They paid around £200 for a metal wheelchair ramp but were told by Wheelchair Services, after they applied to the organisation for help with a new, heavier electric wheelchair, that a much sturdier ramp was needed, likely to cost up to £1,000.
The couple, of Hurne Court, Eastrop, say they often struggle to make ends meet and cannot afford the full cost of a new ramp.
So they applied to Basingstoke and Deane borough council for a disabled facilities grant to help pay for it.
But they were told financial assistance for a ramp would only be considered once they could show they had paid £109,980 towards adapting their home for disabled living. This could include installing a winch and special bathroom equipment.
Mr Hicks said: “We are trying to do things the right way by working, but we have accrued so much debt already. Being disabled is very expensive.
“We don’t want to be on benefits, I want to look in the mirror and feel proud, but it’s getting to a point now where we just think ‘what’s the point?’.
“It seems like the only answer is for both of us to stop work altogether and claim benefits.”
All applicants for a Disabled Facilities Grant are means-tested unless on certain benefits, including housing and council tax benefits. Applicants in receipt of these benefits will qualify for a grant to cover the full cost of approved works.
Councillor Cathy Osselton, Cabinet member for Housing, Health and Culture said: “The disabled facilities grant funding is extremely important to the borough and to those who benefit from it.
“We have limited resources and we need to make sure that we target the customers that most need financial support with disabled facilities in their home.” The borough council approved 197 Disabled Facilities Grants between January 2011 and January 2012.
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