When David Sims passed his driving test with a near perfect performance in 2017 he thought he would be on the road pretty quickly. David had only been having lessons for 10 months but he passed with just two minor faults.
David, 32, had a stroke when he was five and then received brain damage nine years’ later following a heavy fall at school. Despite his disability, which has deteriorated in recent years and has resulted in falls both at home and in public, David has proved to be a first class driver.
He learnt to drive in one of Welwyn Garden City-based charity Herts Ability’s fleet of specially adapted cars with the help of a Lodgesons lollipop to help him steer and a panel of remote control switches, operated by his left hand.
But learning was the easy bit. The hard part was persuading the DWP to acknowledge that he was severely disabled and therefore entitled to a higher rate PIP (Personal Independent Payment). This would mean he could buy his own adapted car and gain some independence. The DWP twice refused David’s request, the first time in January 2017 and again at the beginning of 2018.
David, who works as a receptionist at HA, was told in person that the reason for refusal was because he was able to use public transport and that he could walk between 50 and 200 metres. “It seems it was far easier for the DWP to say no rather than help me”, David explained.
However help was at hand. David was accompanied by Jonathan Hill, an occupational therapist at the charity. “Unfortunately the system is designed to make it as difficult as possible for people who desperately need assistance to get the help they are entitled to”, Jonathan said.
After being refused for the second time David wrote a letter appealing to a Tribunal. He stated that he can only walk up to 20 metres at any one time owing to his balance, gait and general health.
“Walking is really exhausting and can cause my legs to get weak. When I do fall, either due to my balance or because I get very tired, I am unable to support myself or fall correctly”, David explained. “As my condition was caused by a brain injury in the first place, you can imagine how worried I am about not being able to protect my head”.
The letter did the trick and the tribunal reversed the original decision. David is now the proud owner of a Ford Ecosport four-wheel drive ST-Line SUV, leased through the Motability scheme. The car has been adapted by local company Brig-Ayd and has made his life much easier as he explains: “The journey from my home in Stotfold, Bedfordshire by public transport used to take 90 minutes, I can now do it in half that time in the car”.
So it seems it was third time lucky for David and his determination paid off in the end.
In conclusion, Jonathan Hill had this to say: “I just hope that David’s patience and perseverance and his eventual success will inspire other people not to give up”.
Herts Ability’s fleet of adapted vehicles has recently expanded with the addition of two new cars, a Vauxhall Mokka and a Ford Focus Estate. You can find out more about HA’s driving centre by phoning 01707 384263.