Ben was injured in 2013 at the age of 26 following a motorcycle accident which resulted in him being paralysed from his chest down. He approached Aspire’s Welfare Benefits Advice Service because he needed support with the transition from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Before my injury I was into everything; I was always on the go. I used the gym at least four times a week, played football, loved fast cars and motorbikes and going on holiday with my mates.  I was always doing something.

Ben in his wheelchair playing tennis

The day before my accident I had just got a brand new bike. I was leaving the gym to see a mate, to show off my bike, and just as I turned on to a road there were roadworks and for some reason I just came off my bike and went under a car. I’m lucky to be alive. I broke so much; my femur, arm, three ribs, punctured my lung and broke my back.  I was air lifted to hospital. I don’t remember any of what happened, just waking up and not being able to feel my legs.

The first time I was told I had a spinal cord injury I was so drugged up that I didn’t really understand.  It wasn’t until after I woke up after the first surgery that it really sank in, when I realised I couldn’t move, couldn’t feel my legs.  I cried loads, that’s what I can remember doing, crying.  Looking back, I think I was crying not only because I couldn’t walk but because I thought my life would be worthless, that I wouldn’t be able to do anything.  

I know it was hard for my friends and family, but I only got to know how my mum really felt when she was in Aspire’s It’s Our Lives book.  I have a big family and my mates were really good.  I always had loads of people visiting and got a reputation as the guy who had parties in the evening!

Ben with family and friends

Before my accident I worked on the roads repairing the crash barriers for one of the TFL contractors. It was very physical and obviously I couldn’t keep doing it after my injury, but my company was really good. They made a job for me in the office.  I went back to work with a phased return about six months after my accident and was back full time after about a year.  I’ve applied for other roles within the company over the years and I now work with the supervisors programming the work that needs to be done on the roads.  They let me start earlier in the day so I can leave earlier which enables me to spend more time out of my chair in the evenings.  My spasms tend to kick in in the afternoon, so I’m able to get home before they get too bad.

A friend recommended Aspire to me when I needed help with the transition from DLA to PIP and their advice was really helpful. The whole Welfare Benefits Advice team is great; Nicola talked over my answers on the phone and emailed them to me.  I relaxed because I could tell that she had done this loads of times, she knows her stuff.  The team settled my nerves because they weren’t stressed out by it, so I knew I was in good hands and it should be alright.  

I would have found the PIP form hard to do on my own because I hate thinking about the stuff I have to do differently

When my award came back and I was only one point short of getting the enhanced for the daily living part, I was disappointed and annoyed.  I didn’t think anything could be done, but Nicola noticed that they didn’t award me any points for the Managing Treatments section even though I need help to use a standing frame and do stretches all the time. I’m not sure I would have noticed that and, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered with the stress. I was a bit reluctant to appeal because I didn’t know what I was doing and I thought it would be a lot of hassle.  But Aspire told me they could write to them for me and that it was definitely worth trying, so I agreed.  I’m glad I asked for their help and even more glad they helped me appeal the decision.

If I hadn’t had Aspire’s advice, I think I would have just accepted what they had given me because I couldn’t have dealt with the stress of trying to appeal it when I didn’t fully understand it.

I use PIP so I can have a Motability car. I’d be stuck without a car because public transport is always a pain in the arse.  I wouldn’t be able to get to work either.  I need a bigger car for extra space and there’s no chance I’d be able to afford the type of car I have, run and maintain it while also living where I do. No way.

Ben skiing

My DLA award helped me to secure a mortgage and my DLA helps me to pay it.  Most of my money from PIP goes towards paying bills and my mortgage.  I live in the flat I’m in because of its size; there’s enough room for me to move around in my wheelchair easily and a wet room, but it’s not cheap.

If we didn’t win I would have struggled and would eventually end up having to move to a smaller place or moving back in with my mum

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