Even for those of us who are not keen gardeners, just having the option of sitting outside in our garden on a sunny day can do wonders for our mood. However, it’s a far less inviting prospect if your once beautiful (or even just tidy) garden has been neglected for months or even years.
This was the reality for our client, Charlotte, who describes herself as “a gardening fanatic”. On her laptop, she retains hundreds of photographs of her garden as it was; a beautiful panoply of colour. That was before the accident at work which resulted in her developing CRPS in her right hand and forearm.
When Charlotte instructed us, it was almost two years since her accident. Physically restricted, unable to work and funds almost exhausted, on top of everything else her once stunning garden had become overgrown to the point where it was almost inaccessible.
Although liability (fault) for her accident had been admitted swiftly by her employer, her previous solicitors had made little progress with her claim and, amongst other things, they had not requested any interim payments. Among our first steps was to arrange an Immediate Needs Assessment (INA) from an occupational therapist. One issue highlighted in the INA was the condition of Charlotte’s garden, with a recommendation that a gardener be engaged to clear and then maintain the garden. Funding for this, as well as a variety of other steps, was agreed by her employer’s insurance company.
Charlotte says “it’s difficult watching somebody else doing the work and it’s probably more satisfying sitting in a garden that you’ve created yourself, but at least I can sit outside now and I’m not ashamed at the state of it; it was a total jungle! He’s a great gardener and he really does listen to me and do what I ask him to do.”
But what if you’re not in litigation?
For Charlotte there was at least a route to obtaining funds for some gardening assistance as well as other help. For many people though, often their only option would seem to be the goodwill of family and friends.
However, there are a limited number of other routes to obtaining gardening-related assistance, including specialist advice, hands-on help and financial assistance.
Some local authorities will provide garden maintenance services for both elderly and disabled people, but only if they are tenants of the local authority. If you are a local authority tenant, check your local authority’s website to see whether they offer this service.
For both tenants and owner occupiers, if there is a problem with access to the garden as a result of disability, then a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) may be available from your local authority. The suggested work must be “necessary to meet your needs” and the work must be “reasonable and practical“. For example, this might include widening doors, installing a ramp or other work to improve your access to the garden.
If the person with the disability is a tenant, the landlord may make an application for a DFG.
There are also a couple of charities which may be able to provide assistance in a number of ways.
The Gardening for Disabled Trust makes grants towards tools, raised beds, paving, wheelchair access and greenhouses, as well as providing practical information. They also run a gardening club with an online forum for members.
Thrive is a national charity that helps people with a disability to start or continue gardening. They provide practical information to make garden jobs easier, advice on taking care of yourself in the garden, useful hints and tips and details of the equipment and tools which will be particularly helpful to you.