Hairstylist and business owner Lana Gale offers first-hand advice for people struggling to navigate the government benefit system. The hairdresser faced a long battle to secure her child’s payments and decided she didn’t want anyone else to endure a similar fight.
As a carer of a young person with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), she understands the difficulties and has made it her mission to help others. As well as completing hundreds of applications for Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Lana recently started supporting adults applying for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) and successfully secured £70,000 in cash at the course of the last year.
Lana said she tries to help as many people as possible and usually has three application forms at a time. It’s important to her that other families don’t have to go through the same hardships she went through, reports BristolLive.
“Being a full-time carer is the hardest job in the world, so you just need someone to lose weight. It’s a good feeling when you win a case for someone because you know you’re taking a big weight off them, that’s why I do it,” she added.
“I try to help everyone I can and I teach my children to do the same. Everything I try to do is based on my own experiences, sometimes life throws me into certain situations and then I try to turn a negative into a positive.
“That way I don’t feel like it’s in vain and I don’t feel like some people who carry a lot of hate and bad vibes. There were times when I had l felt like I couldn’t even go on but now I’m in a happy place I was confronted with a child who I knew had a hearing loss but didn’t know he had a hidden disability I didn’t know anything about kids, I didn’t know what kids were like, I didn’t have young kids in my family at the time.”
The soaring cost of living is putting household budgets under pressure, with some having to choose between heating and food.
Here are some resources available if you need help.
Advice to citizens
Citizens Advice is an independent charity providing free, confidential assistance with legal, consumer, housing, debt and other issues. His website details what help is available and where your nearest office is, for face-to-face advice.
Helpline : 0800 144 8848 in England / 0800 702 2020 in Wales (open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday)
The Trussell Trust
The Trussell Trust supports a national network of over 1,200 food banks, providing free emergency food to those in need. You can use his website to locate support wherever you live.
Hotline: 0808 208 2138 (open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday)
Turn2us is a national charity that provides practical support for people in financial difficulty. His website includes a benefits calculator and details about programs and subsidies in your area, including energy and water bills.
Hotline: 0808 802 2000 (open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday)
She had to give up a full-time job because the pressures of her child’s health put her in a situation that prevented her from continuing to work. Lana added: “It was crazy, I remember going to the GP and they said a week later after doing a scan that he had a serious brain injury.
“Up to this point he was just seen as a naughty kid at school, he was being abused at the time and I was struggling to get an education, health and care (EHC) plan. The main teacher [at the time] wouldn’t accept that he had a disability.
“After a very difficult morning, I filmed a video and posted it on Facebook. I had never done anything like this before but I didn’t know what to do because I was at my wit’s end. I I said at the time, ‘I have this child with all these disabilities but he doesn’t qualify for an EHC plan, he doesn’t fit into a regular school but without a plan I can’t put him in a special school. .’
“It was really hard, I posted the video and it went viral. Two weeks later I had an EHC plan. I didn’t know I was entitled to benefits for him at that time. I had a baby and it was a real financial struggle, I couldn’t work and I was a single mother.
“It’s a minefield to apply for benefits, it’s so difficult. After a year of hardship, I managed to get him the rewards to which he was entitled. I realized that I didn’t want other families to struggle this way.
“I know it’s really hard for parents to write and speak up in meetings, so I like to try to step in when I can and help people do that, because it takes the weight off them.
“If there’s something going on in the community that I can help, I try to put myself out there and do it in my spare time. My hobby is making DLA forms, I’ve done hundreds of them and they’ve all been successful.
“All I ask of people when I make a form for them and teach them how to make these forms is that they pass that knowledge on to someone else, I always get people saying that they made a form for someone and it takes the weight off me.
“I have had a meeting with the deputy mayor and will start running workshops to help others fill out these forms and identify children who are unaware they have additional needs.”
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