Lifeline service I would have made use of ...

Dougie (right) and admin assistant Richard (left) with Dougie's children Chloe and Robbie. Pic: FPA

Dougie (right) and admin assistant Richard (left) with Dougie's children Chloe and Robbie. Pic: FPA

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Dougie Ovenstone has joined Enable Fife - an organisation which could been a lifeline when his own family had to face up to living with children with disabilities.

Fife families with children under eight with disabilities are being offered a financial lifeline.

Enable Fife, the charity which helps people with disabilities to live the lives they want to lead, is driving a Government-led programme to help young families access the benefits they are entitled to, offer help with money issues and find the best deals with things like travel and heating costs.

It has just employed local man Dougie Ovenstone as its project co-ordinator for the Fife Young Families Money Advice Project, and it is a role he is looking forward to getting stuck into.

Dougie has first-hand knowledge of just how much a challenge it can be to juggle care commitments of looking after a child with a disability and finances.

His son Robbie was diagnosed with idiopathic generalised childhood onset dystonia five years ago, and it was a development which plunged the family’s life into chaos as he was forced to give up work to become Robbie’s carer.

“You are so busy dealing with the day to day issues of looking after your child and ensuring they have the best possible care that things like paying the bills and looking for the best heating tariffs are things which just go out the window,” he explained.

“Then before you know it you are finding yourself in financial difficulties because you have limited income coming in. It can be quite a worrying time.”

Dougie wants to help other families awaiting a diagnosis or who have just been given one to look at the options available and to help them through the complicated procedures of benefits and funds they may be entitled to.

“I wish there had been something like this here when we were struggling to cope, and I think it could be a real lifeline for many people throughout Fife who may be facing the same challenges we did,” he added.

Dougie, who is being helped in the new venture by admin assistant Richard Osborne, is keen to hear from any families or carers who could do with a bit of help and support.

“This money has been allocated to Fife and we will be working with specialists from Citizens Advice and Rights Fife to help people with individual support which is relevant to their lives. I can go out and meet with the families and speak to them in their own homes or they can come here.”

Six decades of offering help to Fife families

Enable has been helping children and adults with a wide range of disabilities for 60 years.

It runs an extensive range of projects including Lend A Hand, a family-based respite care service which has been running for 21 years to give families a much needed break from their caring duties.

It also offers advocacy services to provide a voice for those with disabilities, a local youth forum to give young people with disabilities a voice, personal, employment and housing support services as well as regular workshops on a variety of issues and social events.

All services have been created from the wishes of those using it.

Enable Scotland’s Fife Young Families Money Advice Project can help families with many aspects of finances, including identifying benefits, seeking carers allowance, filling forms or getting equipment to help their child at home.

It can work with families to put a plan in place to help with budgeting, and if necessary consult with experts from Citizens Advice and Rights Fife.

Follow up appointments can be arranged through Enable’s dedicated field support workers a few months down the line to see how they are coping.

Over the next few weeks Dougie will be going out to visit groups, GP surgeries, nurseries and individuals in the area to let them know about the new service.

“We want to hear from families who may be struggling with financial problems to make them aware of the help which is available to them,” explained Dougie. “There’s no shame in looking for help and it’s completely confidential.”

To contact Dougie, email: douglas.ovenstone@enable.org.uk or call (01592) 659295.