With dance you’re free to move the way you want. You don’t think about being disabled.

It’s International Dance Day so we chatted to Jess, a 13-year-old dancer, who was born with Bilateral PFFD. In this blog she talks about how she got into dance, what she loves about it and shares a couple of her performances. 

I was born with a condition called Bilateral PFFD. It means that my thigh bones didn’t develop in the womb. I am also missing the fibula, one of the bones in the lower leg. I was born with feet but they were amputated when I was two and a half. I’ve also had a couple of other surgeries to fix a problem with the bone in my right leg.

I got into dance when I was about 11 because I’d been watching a TV show called The Next Step. I really enjoyed the concept of dance and how it impacted on people’s lives. So that was the start of everything. We have a dance hall at my school so during breaks and lunches I’d go in there. We also had dance classes in year 7 and 8, which I really enjoyed. I don’t have dance classes now that I’m in year 9 but on a Tuesday after school I go to a break dance club, then I go to a contemporary dance club. That’s really fun as well.

I don’t think about being disabled

With dance I like the way that you’re so free to move the way you want to and it’s just a really nice, free environment. I really like hip hop and break dance because that’s fun to mess around to. I like contemporary dance because you can show emotions through it and it’s easy to let your anger out or let your sadness out or whatever. I really like Candoco which is a dance company of disabled and non-disabled dancers. I’ve done a couple of things with them.

When I’m adapting my dancing, I just kind of figure it out as I go along. Like, when people are fully using their legs, I might mimic that with my hands or cancel that bit out and carry on with the arms. I’m pretty good at moving across the floor. Practice helps too. Once you’ve done it, especially when you’ve been at a club for a while and you know the choreographer’s style of dance, you can adapt the moves. A lot of my dance moves are improvised – I just move with the music.

I also do wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. When I find a sport that I really like or I find that I can move really well with it, I stick with it. It’s nice because you don’t think about being disabled, everyone’s just the same.

Jess Dowdeswell 2

Focus on what you can do

My school is pretty good in terms of inclusivity. They helped me get into sports and accommodated me. It might have been a little bit difficult getting involved in dance at first because I have to adapt it but all the people I dance with are really kind and nice so I’ve been quite lucky.

My advice for other disabled kids would be: focus on the stuff that you can do, not what you can’t do. I haven’t really experienced any negative attitudes but I’m sure there are people who have their doubts. A couple of years ago one of my friends from church, who’s a teacher, was having a conversation with her class about sport and the kids were saying “oh disabled people wouldn’t be able to do sports” that kind of thing. So I  went in with my mum and had a conversation with the kids. It was good to be able to give them a different perspective.

If you have a story you’d like to share, get in touch with Scope’s stories team.

How the next Government can make Everyday equality a reality

In just six weeks’ time voters will go to the polls to have their say in the General Election. 

Today we are setting out our calls for the next government – commitments and changes we are asking for so that by 2022 disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else: Everyday equality.

We know that in 2017, life is still much harder for many disabled people than it needs to be. Too often disabled people can’t access the support they need to at home, in education or work and face negative attitudes, extra costs and pressures on family life.

Action is needed in a range of areas which is why we would like the next government to take a cross-government approach to disability which tackles the barriers that prevent disabled people from participating fully in society.

Today we are calling for action in three main areas:

Improving disabled people’s work opportunities

Text on infographic reads: Disabled people are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people

Many disabled people want to work but continue to face huge barriers without the support they need to find, stay and progress in work. The disability employment gap – the difference between the employment rates for disabled and non disabled people – has stood at over 30 percentage points for over a decade and less than half of disabled people are in work.

We are calling on the next government to commit to halving the disability employment gap and report publicly on the progress it is making towards this target. We also want to see reforms to the support disabled people receive in and out of work, including the Work Capability Assessment, changes to sick pay and ending benefit sanctions.  It is vital that the government also provide better careers advice, work experience and opportunities for apprenticeships for young disabled people.

Ensuring disabled people have support to live independently

Social care plays an important role in supporting many disabled people to live independently, work, build relationships and be part of their local communities. However, we know that over half of disabled social care users aren’t getting the support they need to live independently.  We believe the next government should invest in social care so that disabled people of all ages get the support they need.

It’s also vital that the government tackles the barriers disabled people face getting online as just 25 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet compared to 8 per cent of non-disabled adults. The next government should commit to improving digital skills and increasing digital accessibility.

Improving disabled people’s financial security

Infographic reads: Life costs more if you're disabled. On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability related costs

Disabled people spend on average £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition. Extra costs may include specialist equipment or higher heating bills.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is vital in helping disabled people meet some of these costs. Many disabled people face difficulties when applying for PIP and the assessment decision is often overturned at a later date.

We would like to see the next government protect the value of PIP and develop a new assessment that more accurately identifies the extra costs disabled people face.

Disabled people often have negative experiences as consumers and receive a poor service from businesses. That’s despite disabled people’s households spending £249 billion a year. Therefore, we are calling on businesses and regulators to improve the experiences of disabled customers and give greater consideration to how they can support them.

There are 13 million disabled people in Britain – a hugely significant number of votes – and 89 per cent of voting age disabled people have said they will vote at the next election. We are calling on all candidates to listen to and engage with disabled people and for whoever is next in government to deliver that strategy which will achieve everyday equality for disabled people.

Throughout the election look out for opportunities to engage with your local candidates at events, hustings and talk to them about what everyday equality means for you.

Infographic with text: There are 13million disabled people in the UK - 21 per cent of the UK population

Find out more about how you can register to vote in this election in our latest blog and share on social media what everyday equality means for you by using the hashtag #Everydayequality. 

‘Tears were shed. Fun was had’ – What it’s like running the London Marathon as a disabled person

Jay and Nicky both ran the London marathon for Scope on Sunday. In this blog they talk about taking on the challenge and share their experiences of the day.

Jay, from Winchester

Head and shoulders shot of a man smiling with a blurred background

Jay, 36, was born without a lower left arm and he wears a prosthetic arm in public. He has just run the London Marathon for Scope without his prosthesis – something he would normally wear to help him ‘blend in’ and feel ‘normal’.

Throughout my life I have always done everything my friends have done, including playing sports – I have even mastered one-handed golf. However, I have always felt self-conscious and experienced people staring, as well as people noticing my arm and then quickly looking away, as if they were embarrassed.

My prosthetic arm is held on by a silicone liner which doesn’t allow perspiration out. If I sweat during exercise water builds up and the arm starts to lose suction, meaning I have to hold onto it while I run, so it made more sense to run without it.

Sunday’s marathon was a big personal challenge, but I hope it helped in highlighting Scope’s work and gave others the courage to be themselves in public. I wanted to show other people, especially children, that if I can do this race without my arm then they can have the confidence to go out and not feel self-conscious about their own disability.

Shot of Jay running in a Scope vest

I woke up on the morning of the marathon feeling nervous. Not only was I going to be running the longest run of my life, I was going to be doing it without wearing my safety blanket, my prosthetic arm. Even going to breakfast in the hotel without my arm felt strange and travelling on the Tube was something I would never have done before, until that moment when I had to make my way to the start line.

I felt great for the first 14-16 miles. I did the first half in 1hr 48 mins. The crowd were fantastic. I had no negativity, no one stared, all I felt was overwhelming support and encouragement. It was liberating running without my prosthetic arm — I felt much freer and the running felt easier by not having to carry the weight around. The real highlight, as for many runners, was that run over the iconic Tower Bridge. And running past familiar faces along the way and at the Scope cheering points!

The last two miles, although painful, were incredible. The ‘J’ was falling off my vest so people were calling out ‘Come on, Ay!’ or ‘Scope Runner’! and other runners on the Mall were trying to encourage me to get across the finish line. I basically collapsed at the end! But I had done it. And I was so pleased to have achieved my target time of sub 4 hours with a respectable finishing time of 3hrs 49 mins.

The marathon was one of the hardest things I have ever done but it was so rewarding. Scope’s support was fantastic – from phone calls in the build up to the race to the post-race reception (and birthday card!). They reminded me why I was doing this and I was so glad I did. I think I achieved my goal of showing the world that disability needn’t be a barrier and to raise awareness of this great charity.

Nicky, from the Netherlands

Nicky running in a Scope vest with her oxygen tank

Nicky, 29, has chronic lyme disease and persistent glandular fever. Due to her conditions Nicky wore an oxygen mask, attached to a 2 kg oxygen tank during the marathon, to allow a continuous stream of 98% oxygen to be pumped into her lungs.

Last year I decided I was just going to do it, and sign up for the marathon. I was on crutches at the time – my illness had left me barely able to walk. I’m a very determined person though and my running training progressed well.  I wanted to show others that nothing should hold them back from following their dreams.

I ran the marathon because I believe I have a choice. I ran for those who don’t have that choice, and those who aren’t yet aware they have the choice.

Photo of Nicky sat on a bench tieing her shoelace

Race day was there before I knew it. I knew I was getting sick because my body was showing symptoms the day before, but I was hoping I’d get to finish the marathon first. I was wrong. Seven miles in I spiked the highest fever I’ve ever experienced on a run. I was able to keep running for another mile, but then had to resort to walking. I threw up (sorry, spectators) and knew I should stop. Along came Jess, some stranger who was running for another charity. She walked with me for a while and got me running again. Just one foot in front of the other. The crowds were amazing. Running with oxygen is hard (I bruised two ribs) and the pain in my lungs was insane, but everyone was rooting for me. I may have cried a few times.

Two miles later it was Jess who had to stop. She was in more pain than I could imagine at the time. She kept telling me to keep going and not let her slow me down, but we were in this together and I wasn’t about to leave her behind. I managed to grab a sign saying “Go Jess” from her friends in the audience and spent a couple of miles getting the crowds to cheer her on the way they’d been cheering me on the whole time. Tears were shed. Fun was had.
She wouldn’t have finished without me. I wouldn’t have finished without her.

Whether you’re physically ill, disabled, mentally ill, or just going through a really rough time: bad days are a marathon. Just keep moving forward the best way you know how. Try not to give up on yourself. And when you encounter someone whose hope is about to slip through their fingers, try not to let them give up on themselves either. We can all do this alone, but we are all better together.

Fancy taking on a challenge yourself? Sign up for 2018 or check out some of our other challenge events.

General election 2017: Make sure your voice is heard

Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap general election to take place on 8 June. 

This week, with just six weeks to go until polling day, we’ll be setting out what we believe needs to be done by the next Government to achieve everyday equality for the UK’s 13.3 million disabled people.

Over the next six weeks we’ll share more information about the policies we think it’s important all political parties commit to, that we believe are needed to achieve everyday equality for disabled people. 

We also want to encourage people to register to vote, get involved and have your say this general election.

How can I get involved?

The next Government has an opportunity to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people and help deliver everyday equality by 2022.

It’s important that the voices of disabled people are heard in this election. Voting, as well as taking part in election events in your local area, gives you the chance to tell politicians what’s important to you and what you would like to see them do.

In the run up to the election there will likely be events and hustings in your constituency which you can attend. You can  ask the candidates questions about what they plan to do on the issues that matter to you, whether that’s about social care or making your local area tidier and safer.

Scope is encouraging everyone to register to vote in this election. Remember, if you don’t register or aren’t registered already, you won’t be able to vote in this election.

How do I vote?

 The deadline to register to vote is 22 May. You must register to be able to vote on the 8 June.

You can register to vote either online or by printing off the form (which is also available in Easy-Read and large print).

You can vote by post by registering for a postal vote online. Your ballot paper will arrive in the post and you’ll need to fill it in and send it back by the deadline on the papers.

You can also nominate a proxy to cast your vote for you. They will attend the polling station and mark your ballot for you. They will need to be a close relative and agree to vote on your behalf.

Find out more about voting by proxy.

Otherwise you can vote at your local polling station on 8 June. Your polling station should be open from 7am to 10pm. If you’re planning to vote on the day, find out where your polling station is and what you need to take with you.

Are polling stations accessible?

All polling stations should be wheelchair accessible and support disabled voters.  If you need to use a disabled parking space, these should be clearly visible and monitored throughout the day.

There are lots of ways you can be supported to cast your vote inside a polling station:

  • If you cannot mark your ballot paper, members of staff called Presiding Officers may mark your ballot paper for you. You may also attend the polling station with someone who you would like to mark your ballot paper on your behalf.
  • Polling stations should provide tactile voting devices. The tactile voting device attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered flaps (the numbers are raised and are in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.
  • Polling stations should provide large print versions of ballot papers.

Polling stations should be accessible for everyone wishing to vote. If for whatever reason your local polling station isn’t accessible, Presiding Officers should provide you with a ballot paper and allow you to vote outside of the polling station. Find out more information about what happens at polling stations.

If you visit a polling station and find it inaccessible, you can complain to your local authority. 

Why we’re taking on the London Marathon for Scope

Vicky, Louise and Nina are running the London Marathon for Scope – “a charity close to our family’s heart”. In this blog, Vicky, her sister Mell and her nephew Moss, all talk about why raising money for Scope means so much to them, and why they are excited to take on this challenge! 

“My little sisters have decided to run the London marathon!”

They are raising money for Scope – a charity close to our family’s heart.

My eldest son, Moss, has cerebral palsy. Thanks to Scope’s support, and against the odds (prognosis was that he would never walk), he took his first unaided steps when he was almost four. To hold your child in your arms and be told that life would not be the same for him as it was for his peers was the hardest moment in my life. Scope gave us hope.

To be able to walk into school on his first day and be able to stand up in a bar and look at people in the eye when he was older – that was my goal. My son is now more independent than any other lad of his age I know. With the use of sticks he walked into his first day at school and he walks into bars on his feet often! To say I am proud of him wouldn’t even ‘cut the mustard’ (if that’s a real saying?)

This, I know was down to the support of Scope at the beginning of our journey. I am mega proud of my little sisters for doing this. I hope Scope’s support for parents continues as I honestly don’t know what we would have done without them.

“I’m so happy that my aunts are running for Scope”

Scope had a huge impact on my life. If it wasn’t for Scope and the encouragement from my mum I wouldn’t be able to walk unaided now. When I was a kid I was told I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life but that’s not the case and that’s down to Scope and my mum.

I’m so proud and happy  that my aunts, Vicky and Louise, are running for Scope. I didn’t realise they knew so much about how Scope helped me when I was growing up, so it’s great they are raising money for Scope. I work at Scope now so I really appreciate where the fundraising goes and how important it is.

I really hope to be there to support them on race day. My dissertation is due though so I don’t know if I can make it, but fingers crossed I can be!

Head and shoulders shot of Vicky and Louise smiling with a field in the background

“I’m really looking forward to marathon day”

I started running last February as I wanted to get fit after having my two children. I started the ‘Couch to 5k’ on my phone. This developed into entering 10k races and a half marathon with my younger sister Louise. Then we decided we wanted a challenge as I was turning 40 this year and we entered the London marathon.

Running for Scope was a natural choice for us because our nephew Moss has cerebral palsy. Without being supported by Scope we really believe he would possibly be in a wheelchair, rather than having the strength and determination to walk with his crutches. Scope also offered my older sister Mell the support she needed when Moss was growing. We met other families who benefited from Scope’s service too and have family friends who have also greatly appreciated the service Scope provides.

I’ve loved training for the marathon with my sister and our friend Nina has been a huge part of it too. It’s been challenging and tiring at times but we have all pulled each other along. When my legs are stiff and tired at the end of a run I think of my nephew and this makes me more determined and motivated to carry on and more proud of him. He is one totally amazing person.

I’m really looking forward to marathon day and running for Scope. Although I’m feeling a little overwhelmed about how many people are going to be there! We really feel that Scope are an amazing charity and we’ve all been working hard to fundraise so that they can continue the great work they do.

Want to help Vicky, Louise and Nina reach their goal? Make a donation on their fundraising page.

If you fancy taking on a challenge, sign up for 2018 or check out some of our other events!

“Having a job is life-changing”

Felix is a post room assistant at Boodle Hatfield LLP. In this blog, he talks about finding employment, employers attitudes and why disabled people should have the same opportunities as anyone else.

My early experiences of looking for work were quite challenging. For most people on the autistic spectrum there’s the challenge of communication. I’m no exception. I struggled with communication myself. For a while my confidence was low because of an experience I’d had in a previous job where my role was abruptly ended.

I was unemployed for 18 months and I had the feeling that I wasn’t going to get a job. But, with the right support  and doing various work experience opportunities, I was able to get my confidence back and be where I am today.

When it comes to employment, whatever other barriers exist, I think confidence is one thing that’s overlooked. Confidence will improve your chances of getting into work. Employers want confident people, whether they’re disabled or not.

Tailored support is important

Tailored support is important because not everyone’s needs are going to be the same and they need a different approach to meet those needs. Scope helped me with the basics – cover letters, CV writing, how to conduct yourself at an interview – as well helping me get my confidence back. They also set up a work placement which was one of the highlights.

I feel that Scope’s employment programme was that major catalyst for leading me into employment. Meeting the right people who can help with your career goal is important. I would definitely encourage young people to get involved in Scope’s employment services. Before that, I didn’t think I was going to be able to work for all the companies that I have done – law firms, Costa, HSBC, a legal support company.

Felix laughing with a friend

Having a job is life changing

My job is quite action packed. I enjoy being on my feet and keeping myself busy. Another thing I enjoy is having a laugh and socialising with the people that I work with.

Having a job is life changing. When you have a job there are certain things that you can do. You can contribute, you don’t have to rely on your parents. You can also do things for yourself that you couldn’t do before – things like getting new clothes, music, football. It gives you independence. Having a job is important for my financial security and independence. It gives me a sense of freedom – being able to do things that I couldn’t do before when I was unemployed. It also comes with responsibility – budgeting and making sure that your money is spent wisely.

My life right now, I’d rate it 9 out of 10. Even though I don’t have a place of my own yet, I think my life is pretty good. I’d like to be able to move out into my own place. It’s been on the cards for some time but I feel that I’m closer to doing that now.

What I want to see in future

In 5 years’ time want to see more disabled people in employment, more disabled people being present in society and more visibility in terms of trying to create that level playing field between disabled people and non-disabled people.

I want to see Scope keep up their campaigns and influencing work but the one-to-one support is also really important. I think the Government should encourage more tailored support programmes to meet the different needs of disabled people.

There are 13.3 million disabled people living in Britain today. Amongst that are disabled people who are looking for work. I honestly believe, from my experiences, that being disabled doesn’t have to be a barrier to you finding work. It will take the right support and you working to overcome the barriers that do exist to get what you want – just like any other goal in life.

At Scope, we work to change society so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. There are 13 million disabled people in the UK today and life is still too hard for too many.

Our new strategy has been developed with disabled people and their families and sets out how we want to make this country a better place and drive positive, lasting change.

Disabled people still face extra costs of more than £500 a month, struggle to get into and stay in work and are not easily able to access financial support. Scope will campaign to make sure that more disabled people have the right to work in the job they choose and receive the support they need to manage the extra costs of disability.

Visit our website to find out more about our new strategy.

“We have a feeling that our family’s future is bright”

Aslam and Sadia live in London with their four daughters. They struggled to get the support they needed for their daughter Kinza after she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She went through many health problems and it was a very stressful time for the family. Aslam and Sadia turned to Scope for support and it turned things around, making them feel less isolated and stronger as a family. In this film and blog, they talk about why support is essential for disabled children to get the best start in life.

As my daughter, Kinza, was growing, we saw that she was not developing like other children. When she was six months old, we took her to a specialist. They told us that some children have a tendency to develop later and to wait until she was 9 months old. We waited but she was still the same so the specialist referred her for some tests and we found out that she had cerebral palsy.

Dealing with the diagnosis

The diagnosis made us feel very depressed. Kinza was our first daughter and we had plans in our mind about what it would be like. We took her to many places and specialists to get their advice. What were the options? Is there anything we can do for her? So many questions. Nobody could make any guarantees. We just had to wait and see. My wife was worried and she still asks me sometimes “What is going to happen?”

As she was getting older, we were finding it difficult to handle. We asked for advice about what you can do for this type of condition. They all spoke about physical things, but no-one talked about her mental development.

As life went on, Kinza started having a lot of health problems. It was a very difficult time for us. We didn’t know what was going to happen next. So many things were going through our mind and we were really upset.

We got in touch with Scope because I was struggling

We were given a number for Scope and a few other organisations. We called everyone. We couldn’t find help from those organisations but we found help from Scope. It was a great experience. We discussed our problems and got some advice and we started to feel better. Before that, we were alone and nobody was helping.

Without Scope’s support, we don’t know what we would have done. We’d be struggling more and maybe getting worse. The emotional support that they have given us has been fantastic. We’re feeling much better compared to previous days and we have a lot more strength now.

Without Scope, we wouldn’t have achieved everything so far for Kinza, which is a lot. She’s in less pain now, she’s concentrating, she makes noises to communicate. She feels happy, she laughs.

A man and woman smile with their disabled daughter who is a wheelchair user

The future is looking bright

Hopefully, we will reach that point where Kinza will be totally independent. At this point, Kinza will be happy and we will be happy. After coming out of these difficult times, we have a feeling that our future, especially for our kids is bright, they will get good education and succeed in life.

The most important thing is that you never lose hope. If you have hope, then you can achieve everything. Don’t be isolated and try and find the support you need.

At Scope, we work to change society so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. There are 13 million disabled people in the UK today and life is still too hard for too many.

Our new strategy has been developed with disabled people and their families and sets out how we want to make this country a better place and drive positive, lasting change.

We’ll support parents of disabled children get the support they need, so that all children can succeed at school and get the education they want. We’ll work to make sure that disabled young people are supported as they move in to adult life, whatever they want to do.

Visit our website to find out more about our new strategy.

Let’s stop disabled people being labelled “unemployable”

My name is Jodi and I am an Employment Adviser at Scope. It’s my job to support disabled young people into employment.

Right now, disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people, regardless of the skills, experience and expertise they might have. It’s unjust and unfair. With donations like yours we are working to change that.

A lot of things can stand in the way of a disabled person getting on at work – from difficulty travelling to and from work, to confidence issues or a lack of experience and qualifications – up until now.

Thanks to donations of supporters like you, we can work with young disabled people to find the right job opportunity or apprenticeship, help them with CV writing and interview practice and also support them in their jobs once they’re employed.

It’s rewarding work and I love it. But it can also make me sad and angry.

Misunderstanding and prejudice

All too often, I see misunderstanding, prejudice and even bullying in the workplace and a tendency among employers to think of disabled people only in terms of what they can’t do.

It can be frustrating and demoralising for young people to be overlooked or labelled ‘unemployable’ – to feel like the pathway to greater independence and financial stability is getting narrower and narrower.

For a young person struggling with the whole idea of finding a job, having someone to help them navigate the pathway is really important.

Breaking down barriers

I work with disabled people to understand what unique and valuable skills they have to offer. This may involve a volunteering role to build up confidence and self-esteem. In other instances, something like time keeping skills or the right preparation for an interview can make all the difference.

Employment Advisor talking to a disabled customer
Jodi provides one-to-one support for disabled people looking for work, like Nusrat

For employers, having Scope on hand to provide ongoing support is incredibly useful. By helping them to understand and meet accessibility requirements, we quickly break down barriers.

But for wider change we need to do so much more. That’s why we are also working to influence government policy aimed at closing the disability employment gap, as well as running campaigns to educate the public and address common misconceptions about disabled people and what they can and can’t do.

With your help, we can continue to work with disabled people to ensure they have the same opportunities to find fulfilling work and become more independent – both personally and financially.

Thank you so much for your support, it means a lot to me personally to know you are with us. If you can, please make an extra donation today so we can do even more to support disabled people into work.

“Everyone deserves to live a life of dignity”

Ricky is currently studying for a Masters degree in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights. In this blog he describes his experience of living independently while at university.

I worried about the support I’d get at university

As I did my A levels, I was encouraged to go to university and I knew I wanted to carry on studying. I’ve always had a passion for politics and I wanted to take it further. My concerns were that I had never been in a mainstream environment. I had always been to specialised schools and colleges before that point.

I didn’t know what to expect and how other non-disabled people learnt as, obviously, being blind means that you can’t learn in the usual visual way of learning. I was also worried about the support I’d be able to get in relation to my care and social support. It was always there in school and college, I just didn’t know what was going to be there for me.

I could be left in my room for 24 hours at a time

Originally, I had agency support for my care. I stayed with them for about a year and a half, then I went onto direct payments. I applied and got the maximum disabled students allowance DSA so I’ve always had academic support, people to take notes, scan my books and reading materials etc.

I really enjoyed the academic side of things and the academic department did everything they could for me. I don’t think they ever had a blind student before. Socially, academic support at Sussex was a total disaster in terms of being left in my room for 24 hours at a time. It really took its toll on me. I felt really lonely and I didn’t really get the student experience at undergraduate level.

My current support is so much better

I’m now at the University of Essex and I’m studying for an MA in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights. I have to say, the support is a lot better at my new university. There are some hiccups but overall, it’s going pretty well. The student support department actually really care about the students and they’re really on the ball, properly qualified and their expertise levels are a lot higher. They know what they’re doing.

I’ve been so well accommodated and I’m really grateful to my local authority for giving me those opportunities to live life as any other university student should. I have choice.

More hours means more independence

I’ve just had my support doubled to 41.5 hours a week. It has made such a tremendous difference to me. Previously, I only had just about enough support just to live, to survive. I could only have a daily meal cooked and have a sandwich made up for the following day. It also meant that I could only get washing and shopping done, there wasn’t any time for social activities.

The increase in hours has meant I can do so much more. I now don’t have to rely on carers to do things for me out of their good will as a friend. I now have people coming in twice or sometimes even three times a day. I have a great team and they support me to do so many things.

Two men share a coffee in a cafe

Good social care is so important

Bad social care looks very bleak; staff not turning up, miscommunications, random staff turning up. There was one occasion where my mum had to drive down to Brighton because the agency had no one available and I would have been without food.

The alternative to agencies is direct payments. The only problem is that you have to advertise yourself for carers but once you establish a good network of people who can help you recruit it’s a really is a liberating experience to be able to employ people who have similar interests to you. When you’ve got a good team, it can work really well.

Having the right support is really good for my emotional wellbeing. As well as being able to survive, it allows me to socialise, take opportunities and explore avenues that are available to other people at university. It is so important to have good solid, reliable and enjoyable social care. Everyone deserves to live a life of dignity, autonomy and to be themselves no matter what.

At Scope, we work to change society so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. There are 13 million disabled people in the UK today and life is still too hard for too many.

Our new strategy has been developed with disabled people and their families and sets out how we want to make this country a better place and drive positive, lasting change.

We want all disabled people to be able to live the life they choose. That’s why we are focusing on making living independently a reality. From campaigning for better social care to providing information, advice and support, we’ll fight to make independence and choice a reality for many more disabled people.

Visit our website to find out more about our new strategy.

Today we launch our new five-year strategy – Everyday equality

Today marks the start of an important journey for Scope as we launch our new five-year strategy – Everyday equality.

We’re setting out a bold vision for how we can reach more people than ever and continue our mission of driving social change to ensure disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

That’s because we know that life today is much harder for the 13 million disabled people in this country than it needs to be. Disabled people have told us the challenges they face are changing. So we’re changing to meet those challenges with them.

Our mission

Our mission is to achieve everyday equality with disabled people in Britain.

Everyday equality is about ensuring we all have the same opportunities in life. For us, it’s about ensuring that disabled people aren’t made to feel inferior, aren’t treated unfairly, aren’t overlooked because of their impairment or condition.

It’s about fairness, justice and rights – at home, at school, at work and in our communities.

Disabled people tell us that everyday equality can’t be achieved without a steady income, enough money to pay the bills and cope with life’s unexpected events. For many disabled people – although not all – everyday equality is about having a job.

For others it’s about feeling strong enough to cope with the hard times. It’s about knowing how to get support at times and in ways that are most convenient. It’s about finding people who are in the same boat, not feeling alone or isolated. It’s about being visible, being included and having a voice, going to school, feeling safe, making friends and enjoying life.

Our focus

We will focus our work in the areas disabled people have told us matter most, supporting them to:

  • Get the best start in life
  • Live the life they choose
  • Be financially secure

We will drive social change by influencing policy, attitudes and championing the rights of disabled consumers. We will continue to offer support, information and advice to disabled people and their families. And of course, disabled people will remain at the heart of everything we do. 

We want to campaign with everyone to change policies, laws and attitudes. We want to build a community of disabled people who support each other through life’s big moments and harness the power of digital technology to improve lives.

We’ll also continue to deliver direct services to disabled people and their families. The types of services we deliver will change but everything we do will advance our mission of securing equality for disabled people. We can only deliver this by reaching many more people. That’s why we have an ambition to directly reach more than two million people with our services by 2022.

This will only be possible with your support

Of course, all of this will only be possible with your continuing support. We know there’s a lot still to be done. We won’t stop until Britain is a country where disabled people can reach their potential and live the life they choose.

Visit our website to find out more about our new strategy and how you can get involved

Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.

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