Friday, 29 April 2016

Friday – Wallet M.O.T

“Look after the pennies…”

You are looking at (nay, reading the words written by) ABBA’s #1 fan. Not really. I am probably not even in their top ten (million) fans and really my regard for anything other than their biggest hits is lukewarm at best. But gimme, gimme, gimme an ABBA song after midnight and I’ll take a chance on being the Dancing Queen… You know what I mean? 

When the film Mamma Mia! came out, I saw it twice. Ok, I saw it three times. Meryl Streep is just the absolute best, and although it got mixed reviews, I LOVED it and it is still my go-to rainy day pick-me-up. Bit of red wine, bit of duvet, bit of shameless sing-a-long. When Meryl sings “Money, Money, Money” amidst the washing, outside her glorious B’n’B atop a shining, Greek hamlet surrounded by beautiful people and sandy beaches in the middle of a sparkling ocean, it throws a couple of things into sharp relief. One, that I too will own a rundown B’n’B on a Greek island where everyone will sing everything rather than having actual conversations. And, two, that this will actually never happen because Money, Money, Money spends all of a day in my bank account before mysteriously disappearing. I can’t budget.


They say that admitting your problems is half the battle won, so I will readily admit that I live week to week, financially speaking, and I always get that guilty feeling when I buy something. I don’t spend money frivolously - even my mum will tell you that I’m pretty frugal. No, my problem is that I don’t plan ahead – I don’t work out what I need and allocate what I have so that I free myself of the care and worry that so often attends money matters. The care and worry is multiplied ten-fold when your money matters are complicated by a big change in your life, a hundred-fold when these changes stretch on ahead of you, uncertain and unquantifiable. 

Money, like sex, politics and religion, is a taboo topic for the dinner table. But we aren’t at the dinner table. Revive’s role is to help our clients get through the nitty gritty and the financial changes that come with a diagnosis of MS certainly qualify. And seeing as we’re trampling all over table-top etiquette, we should brave the most complicated and little-understood topic of benefits. The MS Society is currently promoting a campaign to defend disability benefits, the ‘MS: Enough’ campaign. Benefits should allow people to manage the extra costs of living with MS, to stay in work and to go on living their lives as close as possible to the way they were before. 

The MS: Enough campaign seeks to address the flaws in the proposed change in disability benefits from the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). PIP will apply to people who were born on or after 8 April 1948 and are 16 and over, and the rate (between £21.80 and £139.75 per week) is based on an assessment of how your condition affects you, not what it is. The campaign draws attention to the inability of face-to-face assessments to address fluctuating conditions such as MS. Also, those with long-term, progressive conditions would not require constant review. The campaign criticises the complexity and lack of transparency in the proposed scheme, as well as the underlying aim to cut government costs.

Revive offers its own benefits scheme, overseen by our Welfare and Benefits Adviser, Alan Steven. Were any indication needed that the benefits system is beyond confusing, Alan’s services are fully booked for the next two months. If you have MS, or another condition that qualifies you for benefits, you should have access to support in order to understand your rights under the new system, not to mention the 40-page form and the process for appeals. At Revive, we are doing our best to give you this support, but the fact that Alan is fully booked so far in advance speaks volumes about a system that should be user-friendly.

For now, the changes will go ahead as planned and soon those affected will receive letters to that effect. But change is always brewing at a policy level and it may not be long before the issues inherent in PIP will be addressed. In the meantime, you will find me battling my inner budget demons, dressed in billowing, vibrant fabrics, firmly fixed atop a bus somewhere in rugged, outback Australia singing Mamma Mia at the top of my lungs, ever hopeful.

(That was a Priscilla, Queen of the Desert reference, an Australian cinematic classic in which ABBA features heavily. My beloved hadn’t heard of it [!?] but I’m sure you will have…)


Useful Links:
Information about Personal Independence Payment - https://www.gov.uk/pip 
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Hello and welcome to a very special MS Awareness Week! This is the fifth and final in a series of guest blogs, with which the author hopes to entertain or, at the very least, spark such lively debate that it breaks the Internet. 

Our theme: mobility. Our aim: to raise awareness of the challenges of living with MS and managing its symptoms. These pieces will tie in with the various events Revive is running throughout the week so make sure you check out the Group and Classes Schedule as well. The author invites any and all contributions, and wishes you a very happy, active week.

For more information about Revive MS Support, check out our website. Also, please remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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