What the Personal Wheelchair Budget means for disabled people in England

with Clare Dangerfield, Campaigning and Public Affairs Manager, Newlife charity

If you or your child uses a wheelchair, you will know how expensive it can be to try to get a wheelchair that is a little more useful than a standard NHS wheelchair (like I have!) Often families have to rely on help from charities to access a suitable powered chair that will enable them to have any independence of mobility.

There are 70,000 disabled children who are in need of wheelchairs or specialist pushchairs in England, and today we're going to tell you about a new law that will replace wheelchair vouchers with Personal Wheelchair Budgets (PWB). They'll hopefully make it easier for wheelchair-using adults and children get about in comfort and do the things they want to do.

As a case in point, Renata's son Dominic is a wheelchair user and when he needed a new specialised powerchair, they had to fundraise like mad with the help of the charity, Newlife to get something that suited his needs. Here's what Renata said at the time:

Dominic in his powerchair
Dominic in his powerchair

This power wheelchair might, at the end of the day, only be a lump of metal and electronics, but what it represents to Dominic is the difference between sitting on the sidelines watching other children or being one of them. The power chair is freedom for Dominic. It gives him the freedom to play, the freedom to join in, the freedom to walk away and the freedom to live his life, no matter what his body is doing

Read the whole post about it here on Renata's personal blog

Newlife don't just fundraise, they have also been instrumental this recent change in law to give families more control over ensuring their child receives the most suitable wheelchair or pushchair after its Campaigning and Public Affairs Manager, Clare Dangerfield was invited to sit on the NHS national steering group that put forward recommendations for a more accessible system. The new legislation means that all disabled children and adults across England have the legal right to a PWB.

Clare's here on SNJ today to explain all...

New legal right to a Personal Wheelchair Budget by Clare Dangerfield of Newlife

Personal Wheelchair Budgets (PWBs) are replacing the wheelchair voucher scheme in England, and are part of the NHS’s Personalisation Agenda. 

The main differences between PWBs and vouchers are assessments, funding and the outcome of the equipment families will receive. Children will be assessed by the same team at wheelchair services and see the same clinical team and Occupational Therapist. Assessments will look at more than just the height and weight of the child, and whether they can walk or self-propel. Instead, assessments should see what families want to achieve with the equipment and the outcomes they want to meet, such as independence for the child, and provide them with the suitable equipment to do this. 

This will give disabled children and their families the opportunity to look at children as a whole to assess their needs, not separating equipment via home and school but providing them with the right equipment that will improve their quality of life overall.  

PWBs also provide a different way of funding that increases the budget size. Vouchers were money from the health service via the NHS; yet PWBs will bring funding from social care, access to work, education, and charity funding. This funding can be pooled together to provide the most suitable equipment. 

Add-ons for wheelchairs or specialist buggies such as weather protection that are assessed as required, should also be available through PWBs.

PWBs will bring funding from social care, access to work, education, and charity funding.

This funding can be pooled together to provide the most suitable equipment. 

personal wheelchair budgets

PWB = More choice and flexibility

Overall, PWBs will allow people to have more choice over the wheelchair or specialist buggy they are provided. This is a more inclusive and holistic system, which increases independence as people can ensure the equipment suits their individual health and wellbeing needs.

Newlife sees first-hand the impact on the families of disabled children, having to navigate what is an extremely complex system involving health, social care and education in order to access support and specialist equipment. We welcome the change in law and worked alongside NHS England and the Department of Health to support it. As the largest charity provider of specialist equipment for disabled children across the UK, we see every day the difference this will make.

Newlife's services

Newlife’s Equipment Grant Service helps to change the lives of thousands of disabled children every year, while its Emergency Equipment Loan service provides a lifeline for children whose lives and safety are at risk because of a lack of specialist equipment.  

Newlife’s free Nurse Helpline gives families confidential advice, and supports families in understanding their legal rights and campaigns to ensure that every disabled child has the right equipment at the right time. We'll continue to provide wheelchairs and specialist buggies and will continue to be the crisis provision.

Watch a Q&A with Newlife’s co-founder and CEO Mrs Sheila Brown, and Campaigning and Public Affairs Manager Clare Dangerfield, answering questions families had about PWBs

For more information visit: www.newlifecharity.co.uk

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Tania Tirraoro

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