A UNIQUE service which provides support for disabled people – including help getting their disability benefits – opened in Redditch town centre last week.
Disability Support Project (DSP), started by Alex Powell, and Disability Action Redditch (DAR), chaired by Redditch Councillor Anita Clayton, joined forces to open their new super-group in the Emmanuel Church Ecumenical Centre on Friday.
Redditch MP Rachel Maclean, who says she is delighted with the project, was also in attendance.
Volunteers at the new hub will help people apply for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – a benefit which many find hard to obtain using the current system.
Coun Clayton and Alex Powell, who are both disabled themselves, are very passionate about making sure each client gets the benefits they need.
To get ESA for example, you must attend a face-to-face medical assessment with a healthcare professional.
Coun Clayton said: “We can help you with your application and prepare you for when you go and see someone.”
The Department For Work and Pensions looks at each individual case before finally making a decision on whether to award the benefit.
Coun Clayton, who uses a mobility walker everyday, said: “I went to see someone and I scored zero points.
“Knowing this couldn’t possibly be correct, I took the matter to court and came away with 15!
“It’s disgusting that people with disabilities have to go through all that stress just to get what they should have already been given.”
Alex, who is paralysed from the waist down, said he will head to court “two or three times a week,” to try and overturn decisions made against his clients.
“The problem is the system. It’s not about diagnosis anymore it’s about how much they ‘think’ it affects your life.
“We take each case seriously and spend a lot of time getting to know our clients so that we completely understand the person’s individual needs before deciding on what to do.”
The Evesham Walk service does much more than just helping people get their benefits.
Volunteers at the group are also on hand to speak to anyone who is feeling lonely and needs a chat.
Alex added: “I want people to feel confident and know that if anyone needs us, we are just on the other end of the phone.”
Mrs Maclean, who admits the system needs to be looked at, said: “I acknowledge the issues and that’s why there is a real need for this group.
“It will improve Redditch and the wider community massively, so thank you very much Alex and Anita.”