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Managing disability and illness

Our physical health can have a big impact on our overall wellbeing. Use this guide to explore the different aspects of your body’s health. From disability to illness, we’ll help you uncover the right support for your needs.

Person in a wheelchair and person on crutches working

Living with a disability or long-term illness

Get the right kind of support for your own disability or illness by learning what’s out there and how to access it.

A disability is a lasting physical or mental impairment that greatly affects daily life. Conditions like multiple sclerosis, visual impairment or cancer are automatically recognised as disabilities under the Equality Act. Others, like Crohn’s disease, autism, learning disabilities or depression, may be considered disabilities based on their ongoing impact.

Disabilities can happen from birth, develop over time, or be temporary. Either way, support is out there. You just need to explore what’s most appropriate for you.

Adjusting to a disability can take time, and new symptoms can feel challenging. It’s OK to take time to grieve for your previous abilities, independence or sense of self.

A big change to your physical wellbeing may have an impact on your mental wellbeing, too. Feelings of stress, anxiety and even depression are all common, but with time and the right support you’ll be able to adjust.

Your rights may vary depending on how severe your situation is. There are laws in place to protect you from discrimination, and additional support for carrying out daily tasks.

Direct discrimination is unfair treatment based on your condition. Indirect discrimination is when rules or policies are put in place which seem to apply equally to everyone, but actually put you at an unfair disadvantage because of your condition. Both direct and indirect discrimination are illegal when it comes to work, education, supply of goods or services, or buying a home.

Get assessed by your local authority to find out if you and your family can receive support carrying out daily activities, like washing and dressing. These may be free or come with a price, depending on your needs and income.

Find support at work if your condition is preventing you from doing your job properly. Your employer will help by exploring necessary adjustments, including:

  • Workspace adaptations
  • Special equipment
  • Transferring you to a different role
  • Flexible working or time off

Parenting can be extra challenging if your condition makes taking care of your child more difficult. Luckily, help is out there, with needs assessments that look at your personal requirements as a parent. If they’re carried out before your child is born, you’ll have support in place when the baby arrives. Explore GOV.UK for more.

Caring for someone in your family can be overwhelming. You may be providing emotional and physical support on a daily basis. Each case is unique, but as a carer you do have your own rights, too. Explore the benefits for carers with this NHS guide, and discover our guide to caring for ways to help make caring a rewarding experience.

Long-term illnesses are conditions that currently have no cure, and are normally managed with medication and other treatment. Examples include cancer or diabetes.

If you’re unable to work or need daily help because of a disability or long-term illness, financial support may be available. Benefits, Tax Credits, payments and grants are all possible, and assessed based on your condition instead of income. You just need to find the right option for you.

Try our helpful benefits calculator to see what you may be entitled to. And remember, benefits are designed to help us when we need it.


The Bank Workers Charity has been extremely supportive. I could not have done the forms by myself with my current health problem, they took away all the stress for me. Thank you

– from our client

Steps to stay ahead

Follow the steps below to find the right kind of support at home and work for disabilities and long-term illnesses.

Get additional support by arranging a care needs assessment from your local authority. Support may include:

  • Carrying out daily activities like washing, dressing, or moving around your home
  • Minor aids and adaptations for maintaining independence
  • Small or large equipment to help with day-to-day life

Assessments are free, but a specialist will just need to check if you’re eligible for free home care or if you’ll need to pay towards it:

  • You may be entitled to a means-tested disabled facilities grant, providing major adaptations
  • Small equipment may be provided free without the need for a financial assessment
  • If you do need to pay for support, it’ll be based on your income and where you live

Read more about what a needs assessment entails.

Use our helpful benefits calculator to see what you might be entitled to, and explore our guide to benefits and grants for the financial support that may be available for your specific needs.

You may also be entitled to other benefits to help make life easier:

  • A Blue Badge for parking in accessible parking bays. Apply here if you live in England or Wales, here in Scotland and here in Northern Ireland
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to help fund a specialist vehicle through a motability scheme
  • A Radar Key to open accessible public toilets found in shopping centres, pubs, cafés, department stores, bus and train stations and more
  • A ‘can’t wait’ charity card to help you use the bathroom in places like bars or restaurants
  • A Disabled Person’s Railcard for £20 a year, with 33% off train fares for you and a friend
  • A disabled person’s bus pass from your local council
  • A community transport scheme, supporting door-to-door transport and trips to shopping centres
  • A CEA Card to get a free ticket for someone to join you at the cinema
  • A prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) if you’re not eligible for free prescriptions. It’s a cost-saving ‘season ticket’ for more than 11 prescriptions per year

Find out if you’re eligible for a charitable grant, designed to help with everything from education to household essentials and respite for carers. Explore the guide to our grants, or visit Disability Grants to search for grants specific to conditions or situations.

Share your experiences with those around you to get emotional support when and where you need it most. From friends and family, to colleagues or support groups. A helping hand is never too far away:

  • Find a charity that supports your specific condition and join it. Some even have online forums for digital support. You may have to pay a small fee, but they’ll provide guidance and advice around dealing with your condition. Try starting with:
  • Talk through your health with your line manager at work to help you cope with juggling your condition and your day-to-day responsibilities. If you have a disability, you may even be able to join an employee network, or request awareness training for your whole team through HR
  • If you just need someone to talk to, or immediate support, PAM Wellbeing’s emotional support line counsellors are also available 24/7. The PAM Assist wellbeing app also provides digital support at your fingertips, with practical advice and a webchat service

Speak to your line manager or HR if your condition is affecting how you do your job. They may be able to help with reasonable adjustments or flexible working, especially if you have a qualifying condition under the Equality Act.

They may also help you get back to work if your condition has meant you’ve been away, with an ‘access to work’ grant to ease you back into travel and work conditions.

If you’re worried about having the conversation, give us a call first and we’ll figure it out together.

Explore support from the NHS if you’re struggling with pain because of a disability or long-term illness, or visit The British Pain Society.

Make a few small lifestyle changes to help improve your physical and mental wellbeing. The healthier you are, the more likely you’ll respond well to treatment:

  • Plan and stick to a healthy diet. The NHS has some helpful advice, plus a useful healthy weight calculator
  • Quit smoking with help from Smokefree
  • Drink less alcohol with support from friends, family and the NHS
  • Start being more active with help from the NHS
  • Attend screening appointments when they arrive in the post
  • Speak to your GP as soon as you notice any physical changes
  • Stay safe when you’re out in the sun with guidance from Tenovus
  • Explore our mental wellbeing guides for adults and children to help manage any overwhelming feelings

Book an appointment with your GP if you’re unsure about any changes with your body, both mental and physical. Before you go, think about:

  • Writing a list of what you want to ask
  • Requesting a double appointment if you’re hard of hearing or speak a little slower
  • Taking a friend or family member with you for support, or to note down what your doctor says
Illustration depicting a mental health matters.

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