As a counsellor, Claire Jennings has always been there for other people. But she is one of hundreds of disabled people caught up in a contractual dispute between a county council and a firm that provides payroll services. And they all have the same question: “Where has our money gone?” Claire Jennings is registered blind and has scoliosis, a spinal condition that causes her “constant pain”.
In April, she lost all hearing in her right ear, which has affected her balance. She is entitled to 29 hours of support every week, which includes help to get up, wash, dress and take medication, as well as preparing meals to make sure she does not eat food that could be out of date.
“In the most recent budget we were told that disabled people should work,” she says. I do work, but I can’t sit in front of my clients if I’m still in my pajamas.”
She says it is these little things that others might “take for granted” – but give Claire “dignity, and offer meaning to my life”. Claire says that, at that time, she had almost £2,000 in her account because she had been advised by Purple to keep a “buffer” for emergencies.
But since July, she has contacted both Purple and Essex County Council a number of times to find out where her money is and why it has not been paid to her, or transferred to the new provider. She says she was told her outstanding balance would be returned in August.
Five months on, she has still not received a penny. The situation has left Claire extremely worried. There’s no transparency, no communication about where it’s gone,” she says. She feels it is “unfair” that disabled people are caught in the middle of the dispute, likening the situation to a child of divorcing parents. We are collateral damage to something I’ve got no comprehension of,” she says.