Working age stroke survivors struggle most to make ends meet

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE STROKE ASSOCIATION.

Stroke is having a drastic impact on the finances of stroke survivors and their families according to a new report, published today by the Stroke Association. Those affected the most are working age stroke survivors who, unable to return to work, are coping with a fall in income, increased household bills and a benefits system that fails to fully understand the impact of stroke.

Short-changed by stroke, is based on the findings of a survey(i) of over 2,200 people affected by stroke and in-depth interviews with stroke survivors on their experiences of applying for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and undergoing the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

Findings from the survey found that of those aged between 25-59 (ii):

  • Almost two thirds (65%) reported an increase in household bills and expenses. The same percentage reported a fall in their income.
  • Over two thirds (69%) of people whose income went down reported that the main reason for this is because they are now unable to work.
  • More than a third (38%) cut back on food.
  • The majority (80%) are worried about their financial future.

In addition:

  • Almost 60% of carers report that caring for their loved one had affected their employment. Carers are faced with the stark choice of reducing their hours or giving up work to support the stroke survivor but still requiring an income to pay the bills.

Further research with 120 stroke survivors(iii) brought to light problems when applying for ESA. Their experiences revealed that staff conducting WCA often failed to understand the impact of stroke beyond that of physical disability, leaving some ineligible for ESA (which is worth up to £105 a week) and struggling financially.

Peter, who was 36 when he had a stroke, comments: “I don’t have many physical disabilities but I suffer with lots of things you can’t see, like migraines, motion sickness, seeing flashing lights, poor concentration and problems with my memory. The assessors just don’t get it. Being assessed for ESA left me feeling humiliated and I spent a year fighting for the support I’m entitled to from the benefits system.”

Jon Barrick, the Stroke Association Chief Executive says: “Stroke is often thought of as an older person’s issue, yet about a quarter of strokes occur in people of working age. There are over 300,000 people under 60 living with the effects of stroke in the UK(iv).  Our report shows the heavy financial impact of stroke on families who may face a dual loss of income at a time when financial commitments are likely to be at their most stretched. Not only are they struggling to make ends meet on a day to day basis, but they are unable to plan for their future financial security.

“Stroke survivors face additional problems when seeking Employment Support Allowance telling us that too often the wide ranging impact of stroke is not understood by those who are undertaking assessments. Having a stroke is bad enough, but too many stroke survivors have to fight for financial support when they should be focussing on their recovery.

“Stroke is the leading cause of severe adult disability in the UK and it is inexcusable that the DWP processes are being carried out by undertrained assessors with a view to restricting support rather than enabling help.”(v)

The Stroke Association is calling on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to make sure:

  • The benefits system is fair and respects the dignity of stroke survivors and their families.
  • All assessors and DWP staff are trained to understand the impact of stroke and recognise the range of the disabilities it causes.
  • The guidance that assessors use in the WCA is clear and accurate on the hidden effects of stroke.
  • DWP learn from the mistakes that have been made with ESA and the WCA and do not repeat them when the Personal Independence Payment replaces Disability Living Allowance.
  • Click here to download the report

Find out more about the Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke Campaign or sign up to show your support by visiting www.stroke.org.uk/campaigns

For more information please contact the press office

Ends

Notes to Editors
Short-changed by stroke is the second chapter in the Life After Stroke campaign.

i.) Daily Life Survey conducted by The Stroke Association. 2,200 stroke survivors and carers completed the survey Sept – Dec 2011.
ii.) 520 respondents were aged between 29-59.
iii.) Stroke Association survey of 120 stroke survivors and 10 in-depth interviews on WCA and ESA through external agency (BCD Care Associates) 2012.
iv.) Approximately a quarter of strokes happen to people under the age of 65. Reducing brain damage: Faster access to better stroke care National Audit Office Report. Department of Health 2005
v.) The disturbing truth about disability assessments, Margaret McCartney, BMJ, 08 August 2012

  • A stroke is a brain attack which happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain. Around 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK every year and it is the leading cause of severe adult disability. There are over one million people in UK living with the effects of stroke.
  • The Stroke Association is a charity. We believe in life after stroke and we’re leading a community of people to change the world for people affected by stroke. We work directly with stroke survivors and their families and carers, with health and social care professionals and with scientists and researchers. We campaign to improve stroke care and support people to make the best recovery they can. We fund research to develop new treatments and ways of preventing stroke. The Stroke Helpline (0303 303 3100) provides information and support on stroke.
  • The Life After Stroke campaign is proudly supported by IPSEN. Ipsen Limited is the UK subsidiary of Ipsen, a specialty pharmaceutical company. Ipsen’s ambition is to become a global leader in the treatment of targeted debilitating diseases supported by franchises in neurology, endocrinology, uro-oncology and haemophilia. Our extensive Research and Development programmes are focused in peptides and toxins with an active policy of partnerships.
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