Post date: 
Tuesday, 10 April 2018
Woman using a large print calendar and calculator

Jill Allen-King, who has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of blind and partially sighted people for decades, shares some of her successes.

Accessible benefit communications

In 1991, I was appointed to the Disability Living Allowance Advisory Board by the Secretary of State Sir Nicholas Scott. The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) benefit was the first financial benefit to be paid to blind and partially sighted people.
In our meetings with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), all of the documents provided were in ordinary print. As I was the only blind person on the board, I continued to request my papers in a format that 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. 
Over the years, I continued to campaign for all financial benefit communications to be provided in all formats. In the various committees I sat on about DLA and Personal Independent Payment (PIP), which is replacing the DLA, I raised this issue. It wasn’t until October 2016, when Penny Mordaunt became Minister of State for Disabled People, it was agreed that this should be standard practice for the Department.
I therefore was delighted in January 2018 when the DWP announced that all communications would be fully accessible. But I am sorry it took 27 years.

Safeguarding password scheme

Another recent success is the password scheme to safeguard householders who are blind or partially sighted, or just elderly. Just after I had joined the National Federation of the Blind of the UK in 1970, and six years after I had gone totally blind, we campaigned for a password scheme to be started.
In 1974, gas and electric companies started using the scheme. As soon as the Department for Work and Pensions began to hold meetings to discuss DLA (and subsequently PIP), this was one of the topics I always raised. I had heard of blind people being targeted by people pretending to be the Department and getting personal information from them.
Last year the DWP agreed to start a trial in Wales. The pilot was a success and it has now been rolled out nationally. Once again, thank you to the Department for Work and Pensions – but why did it take so long?
I hope that now these two campaigns have been achieved, blind and partially sighted people will make sure that when responding to the Department they request the format they need and also that they contact either their utility company or the DWP to arrange a password for their safety at home.
If anyone has any problems with either matter, please contact me:
Mrs Jill Allen-King, O.B.E.
59 Silversea Drive
Telephone: 01702 477899.

Other articles you might like