Because government’s a pretty shit way of doing most things

One of my abiding childhood memories was being given my first wheelchair. Until I was six, I had to resort to a large buggy, a mass of translucent plastic frames and ugly grey wheels. It was through the charity Whizz-Kidz that I finally got my first wheelchair, a streamlined seat in midnight purple. I remember taking my newfound freedom to my local Morrisons, home of the shiniest floor in town. I had gone from being trapped in plastic to sitting in a rocket ship, throwing myself down the crisps and snacks aisle.

A decade later, I had outgrown the chair and my family were back to working out how we would pay for a new one – this time a pricier, electric wheelchair that cost at least £5,000. My mum wrote to the board of local charities, we saved what we could, and Whizz-Kidz again filled in the rest.

As an adult, two things have stayed with me: gratitude to the organisation that gave me my independence, and a niggling question. Why in modern Britain do families of disabled children have to turn to charity for help?

From our series of Questions In The Guardian We Can Answer.

The basic problem is that a bureaucracy set up to—–well, that’s it really, a bureaucracy isn’t interested in what it does, only that it exists and remains as a bureaucracy. C. Northcote Parkinson and all that……

6 thoughts on “Because government’s a pretty shit way of doing most things”

  1. my mate has been diagnosed with mnd. Got a manual wheelchair straight away and an all singing and dancing one within 6 months.

  2. “I routinely speak to disabled people who are having to use an outdated wheelchair after being turned down by the NHS – a wheelchair that can cause them pain, fatigue and muscle damage. Others have even bought a cheap one via Amazon – not equipment suited to their disability provided by medics but a £50 punt sourced on the internet.”

    I’ll bet they solve 95% of cases and cost less than the NHS assessment does. You could just give everyone a basic wheelchair who asks. OK, you’re going to get some scams, but it would be cheaper.

  3. Aren’t State provided hand-outs charity?

    The only difference between State charity and private is donation to the latter is voluntary, to the former by coercion.

  4. DLA and now PIP pay enough to get a wheelchair.
    My wife priced one up recently, custom built was £2500. Her existing wheelchair which isn’t custom but is from the local mobility shop was £140, Beriatric I think is the term, the smaller chairs were cheaper.

    Is this like the period poverty where people cannot afford the small amount for an item?

    Oh and the price of converting an existing wheelchair (which could be £2500 to buy initially) is from a few hundred pounds for the additional wheel up to about a grand for the motor, battery and new main wheels. So say £3500. Paying £5k can get you a very nice electric wheelchair that does the same as cheaper versions.
    I’m after a £15k electric wheelchair. There’s always going to be people selling for a particular part of the market, need and want are very different.

  5. @Martin,

    There was an interesting article about an off-road wheelchair in Eureka magazine a year or so ago, mostly to do with the drivetrain.

    iirc also one about one that raises occupant for eye to eye interaction.

    What (off-road) top speed would your 15k wheelchair have?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *