Early Summer 2006
I mentioned a week or two ago that, due to Bink’s having to turn down her first job in order to get hospital treatment, I had stumbled over her entitlement to financial help.
I’d never claimed benefits before, but the point of a welfare state is that when you can’t work through no fault of your own, you can get help from the rest of us. Which was how I discovered she was not eligible for Job Seeker’s Allowance, no: she was not seeking a job. But she should have been claiming Disability Living Allowance since she first got ill, at least five years earlier. And I, Carer’s Allowance, for my loss of income – which had been considerable.
“How could we have known this?” I was dismayed to hear of help we’d missed when we so needed it.
“Any professional your daughter ever came into contact with should have told you. Didn’t she have a GP? Or a therapist? Counsellor? Psychiatrist? Nurse? Any and all of them should have advised you: it’s part of their job.”
All the shrinks and quacks who had never done her any good. The consultant who referred her. The private therapist who went on to abuse her. The nurses in the Florence Nightingale Unit who lied to us about her being adult at sixteen, and said we couldn’t remove her.
Even our MP, called out when Bink went nuts while we were away...
Instead of locking her up and drugging her to the eyeballs and filling her days with pointless therapy, could have made a real, tangible and positive difference to our lives.
We could even have had a bathroom installed for her in our Vicarage, for a fraction of the damage it had cost the taxpayer to keep her in hospital for three months. And no damage to her at all.
The form Bink was required to fill in went on for over twenty pages. She agonised endlessly. Bink likes to get things right. “How long does it take me to get up? Do I need help in the night? Can I eat unaided?”
The benefits office sent someone to help her fill it in – without this, it would have been impossible – and after several visits over several months and a move from Cambridge to Oxfordshire, she finally had the forms completed, to claim the help she’d been eligible for, for so many years.
By now, she was coming home from the Royal Bethlem Hospital every weekend, changed a little more each time.
Never again quite as much as that first weekend, which stunned us all. But every week more, steady improvements. The blanket over the sky which had oppressed us for long, was beginning to lift and allow us to breathe.
Bink might be well enough for university in October after all…
After a two or three weekends home, she felt settled enough in the hospital to pack a huge suitcase of all the things she hadn’t taken before.
Favourite books. Clothes she was particularly fond of. The gorgeous tie-dyed sarong Serena had brought her from Thailand.
And of course, her over-twenty-pages-benefits-form, to be signed off by the hospital. She lugged her enormous case onto the train at Oxford and off again at Paddington. Up and down the escalators and on and off the tube. Next change, train for Croydon. Elbowing it into the luggage niche before settling herself for the journey.
Bink has never been very streetwise. She missed that vital part of adolescence when girls learn how to survive…