Student forced to use loan to buy own wheelchair

Student forced to use loan to buy own wheelchair

 I have copied and pasted the following article from the BBC News website, as it highlights an important issue facing disabled people across Wales. You can access the original article by clicking here. 

I am facing similar challenges, as even though I have been lucky enough to access a wheelchair through the NHS, I feel that the chair that I have been provided with is  not fit for purpose at all. In addition, I do not feel that I was listened to when consulted about the new chair.

I will make do with the wheelchair for the time being, as I have bigger fish to fry with my battle against the local council, and Florida to organise. I should not be casting envious eyes towards England, but on the face of it their system of giving disabled people a personal wheelchair budget, seems to put disabled people in control. It would also save disabled people from being talked-down to by so-called professionals, without any experience of the lived lives of their clients.

I always say that my PAs know me the best, as they are with me 24/7. There is no way that someone who only sees me for thirty minutes, once in a blue moon, can assess my needs adequately. Something definitely needs to change, and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further with Mark Isherwood MS or anyone involved in the campaign.

Please find the BBC article copied below:


A woman was forced to use her student loan to buy her own wheelchair after being told she did not meet the criteria for an NHS one.

Bethany Handley, 24, faced a choice between that or being stuck in her student house.

She is now campaigning for wider criteria for people to get publicly-funded wheelchairs and more choice about the type they get.

The Welsh government said its wheelchair services were “clinically-led” and offered a “wide range of equipment” to meet individuals’ needs.

Bethany, an activist and writer from Monmouth, said she was told she did not meet the “narrow eligibility criteria” for an NHS wheelchair when she was a student.

She said, in order to get one, people had to be able to only walk a few steps or not at all, whereas she could “walk a little bit indoors and needed to use one outdoors”.

Bethany said she had been “lucky” to have the money from her student loan to pay privately but wants Wales to have a similar system to England.

Last year the disability campaigner became a full-time wheelchair user and recently got her first NHS chair.

“The NHS chairs are fine, but if you want to be really independent, you ideally need a better chair, so there are lighter chairs on the market and that means it’s easier to lift it into the car… to self-propel, you don’t get as tired or get as much pain,” she said.

The All-Wales Posture and Mobility Service is responsible for the provision of NHS wheelchairs.

People’s needs are assessed and can be provided with a range of mobility aids, including wheelchairs.

About 70,000 people use the service and need equipment ranging from standard wheelchairs to specialised or powered chairs.

In England, people can access a personal wheelchair budget and top it up themselves in order to buy chair from an NHS or private service.

Tina Evans, from the Gwendraeth Valley in Carmarthenshire, is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie.

The 38-year-old blogger and motivational speaker hand cycled from Cardiff to Paris last year to raise money for adaptive sports.

She was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia, external at 16, a condition that progressively damages the nervous system.

“It’s really important to have a suitable chair to live every day like normal, just to get out and about and do the things I want to do,” she added.

The disability advocate said the NHS wheelchair she got in 2022 meant she needed help with “simple things that people take for granted, like going to the toilet independently” .

She added: “At the moment, because my chair is not suitable, I’m not always able to do that… it’s not much to ask for, really.”

Her friends and family raised £3,000 towards a new electric chair, with Tina paying an extra £2,000.

She said it would have been “really useful” to have a personal budget scheme when she was getting quotes for her powered chair.

It is an issue that was raised in the Senedd last year by the chairman of the cross-party group on disability, Mark Isherwood.

“It isn’t about more money. It’s about using the money that’s available smarter and giving people the dignity, the respect and the freedom to access, in this case, the wheelchairs they need,” he added.

The Member of the Senedd believes the current system is “in breach of” the social model of disability, external the Welsh government has signed up to.

It recognises that people are not disabled by their impairments, but by barriers to access and inclusion.

The Welsh government said the wheelchair service assesses “people who have a permanent physical impairment or condition that affects their ability to walk, and need a wheelchair for more than six months.”

It added that its service offered a “wide range of equipment options, which can be augmented to meet individuals’ needs” and was identified from an agreed range and chosen on “clinical appropriateness, ease of maintenance, value for money and availability.”

It said it could approve an Individual Patient Funding Request, external if someone’s needed equipment outside this range.

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