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In 1991 I was appointed to the Disability Living Allowance board by the Secretary of State Sir Nicholas Scott.
The DLA benefit was the first financial benefit to be paid to blind and partially sighted people. All the documents for each meeting were in ordinary print. as I was the only blind person on the board, I continued to request that i should have my papers in a form I could read. Although the Department for Works and Pensions did agree to pay for a reader for the six years I was on the board, it was not ideal. I have continued over the years to campaign for all financial benefit communications to be provided in all formats. On various committees I have sat on about DLA and PIP I have raised this issue with a number of Ministers and civil servants. It was not until October 2016, when Penny Mordaunt became Minister for the disabled, and agreed that this should be the practice for the Department.
I therefore was delighted in January 2018, when it was announced that all communications from the Department for Work and Pensions will be fully accessible.
So well done to the Department for Works and Pensions, but I am sorry it took 27 years.
Another success this week is the password scheme to safeguard householders who are blind and partially sighted, or just elderly. Just after I had joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1970, and six years after I had gone totally blind, we campaigned for a password scheme to be started, and in 1974 the gas and electric companies started the scheme. I have used it ever since. As soon as DWP started to hold meetings to discuss DLA and PIP, this was one of the topics I always raised. I had heard of blind people being contacted by people pretending to be the Department and getting personal information from them.
Last year the Department agreed to start a trial in Wales after I told them how the password scheme had worked over the years. As the pilot was a success it has now been rolled out nationally. Once again thank you to the DWP, but why has it taken so long?
I hope, now that these 2 campaigns have been achieved, that blind people will make sure that, when responding to DWP questions, you request the format you need. Also that you make contact either with your utility company or the DWP to arrange a password for your safety in your home.
If anyone has any problems with either matter, please contact me.
Mrs Jill Allen-King, O.B.E.,
59, Silversea Drive,
Tel: +44 (0)1702 477899.