Bromley Council refuses to reverse textile bank decision

As a campaigner, I am often left with a mixed feeling of pride and disappointment. Leaving the Civic Centre in Bromley, after the Council meeting, was no exception. I felt extremely proud of the Scope charity shops staff and volunteers who led a local campaign to a meaningful conclusion, ensuring the significance of the issue came across, both in Bromley and more widely. But I found it difficult to shake off the feeling of disappointment that despite our efforts, Bromley council is maintaining a decision that could cost Scope £360,000 a year.

Since March, I have had the privilege of supporting the staff and volunteers from Scope charity shops in the Bromley borough. They have been encouraging their customers to sign a petition calling on Bromley Council to reverse their decision to evict Scope textile banks from council land, and to show other councils considering the move how unwelcome it is.

Campaign to save textile banks

The communities affected by this decision have launched an impressive and passionate campaign to save textile banks that act as a vital lifeline for their Scope shops. In only three weeks, the Bromley borough stores collected over 1,400 signatures from angry residents, opposed to the decision, and already we have heard that other councils are now wary of such a move.

The campaign came to an exciting close on 25 June, as we went along to  the Bromley Council meeting, to witness key councillors attempt to justify their decision, in front of the full council and residents.

The council chamber was full of spectators, and as Alex, Scope’s area manager, and Julie, the manager of the Petts Wood store spoke, the atmosphere in the room was tense. The overwhelming support we have received for this campaign was echoed by the loud applause Julie received as she finished her speech.

How loss of donations will affect disabled people

Despite this support, and the questions raised by opposing councillors in the debate, Councillor Smith, who is responsible for the decision, stood his ground. The removal of the banks in Bromley would dramatically affect our donation levels, and consequently impact on our work with disabled people and their families. This was clearly in the minds of all spectators as the councillor continued to explain why he felt Scope’s ‘privilege’ had now ended.

The support from the Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, who requested the decision be referred back to the original steering group, was very welcome. There were questions raised on the transparency of the decisions made, and the true benefit to the community and other charities under the new plans. It was positive to hear our points be raised in the debate, and go a small way to reflect the outrage felt by Scope customers.

Despite this, the council voted to reject Scope’s petition.

Scope charity shops reaction to Bromley’s decision

Wendy Howden, manager of the Bromley Scope store attended the meeting, along with Julie.

I share Wendy and Julie’s disappointment at the decision. However, I remain positive that the support shown for this campaign is something we should be proud of. Bromley council were mistaken if they thought this change would happen without a response from Scope or the Bromley community. If we can join together to create such a brilliant, personal campaign in such a short amount of time, I have no doubt we can support the Bromley shops to be as successful as ever, and ensure this council decision does not impact on Scope’s essential work. We already know that other councils considering this type of contract have changed their minds, which is a fantastic achievement for the campaign and the future of Scope’s shops.

If you would like to support the shops affected in any way, please contact them directly: BromleyPetts WoodOrpington and Beckenham. I’m sure they would be grateful for your continued support.

We would like to thank everyone who signed the petition, and demonstrated an enthusiastic interest in this campaign. Your valuable support has sent a strong message to other London councils, who may be considering a similar move, of the strength of community support on this issue and the value of donations to charity shops.

We are always looking for enthusiastic campaigners to join us as we campaign on important issues such as this. Please join our campaign network here.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Olympic torch stars from Beaumont College

Jessica smiles broadly as her Olympic torch is lit, the flame bright against the grey sky. Despite heavy rain and flood warnings, thousands have lined the seafront in Morecambe to support Jess and her fellow torch bearers.

“It’s a moment she will remember forever,” says Jess’s mum, Louise. “I couldn’t be prouder,” she wipes away a tear and gives her 19-year-old daughter the thumbs up sign. Jess throws her head back and laughs – too excited to care about the rain which falls relentlessly, soaking everyone.

Jess is one of five disabled students from Scope’s Beaumont College – an educational service rated outstanding by Ofsted – who took part in the Olympic torch relay across Lancashire on 22 and 23 June. All were nominated for their commitment to giving disabled people a voice, their work spans everyday matters like more choice in the college restaurant to campaigning on national issues including cuts to legal aid.

“Since I’ve been at Beaumont, I’ve learned to be independent,” says student Tom Green, 21. “I like helping people get involved. I give talks in schools about being disabled and I do a lot of fundraising. When I was told I was a torch bearer, I just thought ‘wow!'”

Taking the torch from Morecambe to Preston

Tom is taking part in the relay in Preston. As he waits to take the torch from his friend and fellow student, Dan Crowe, 20, both families look on nervously. “This is such an exciting event,” says Tom’s dad, Peter. “We are exceptionally proud.” Moments later, Tom’s torch is lit and fitted to his wheelchair to loud cheers. “How are you feeling?” shouts a voice from the crowd. “Happy days!” responds Tom.

Vicki with a statue of Eric Morecambe.It wasn’t just Beaumont College students who took part in the Olympic relay. Vikki Brier, 53, a learning support worker at the college, was also a torch bearer. “It’s such a buzz that we’ve all been chosen,” says Vikki who is a tireless fundraiser for Scope and local charities. “To me, Beaumont College is all about creating opportunities. Taking part in the Olympic relay is, quite literally, an opportunity of a lifetime. We are making history!”

Vikki’s torch relay included a pit stop at the statue of Eric Morecambe, the comedian who changed his last name as a mark of respect to his home town. As she balances on the top of the memorial Vikki holds the flame aloft, so it appears Eric is holding the torch. “I think it’s going to be a couple of weeks before I come down from my cloud,” she jokes.

Unlike most torch bearers, who have a well-earned rest after their moment in the spotlight, Vikki, and Tom are now touring local mainstream schools with their torches (which cost £215 to buy!) to talk about the relay. “It’s also a great confidence boost for the young people. They were chosen as torch bearers for their achievements, not because of their disabilities. We are so proud of each other.”

Find out more about Beaumont College.

Birchwood artists

Disabled artist

The Birchwood Painters are a group of disabled artists living at Scope’s residential service in a semi-rural location in Chesham. Their work is being showcased at the Bucks Open Studios 2013 alongside the work of other artists and makers in the county.

Bucks Open Studios

Birchwood Painters Open Studios are an opportunity to make public the talent of the residents and acknowledge them in a wider arts community. The goal is to carry on producing extraordinary work and place the work of these artists in a contemporary arts context.

Art classes

Four years ago, community artist Anita Osborne was invited to come to Scope’sBirchwood service and give an art class. In exploratory art sessions, the residents tried various painting techniques. The first year was characterised by introducing art materials that best suited the needs of the artists. For that, the Jonny Rhythm Foundation has been supporting the group with funding initiatives in covering their art materials as well as other fees that have allowed the group to be part of a wider arts community.

“With the painting came this extraordinary outpouring of themselves and they have just been amazing,” Anita Osborne

The right equipment

There have been other institutions that have contributed to this initiative with equipment. The prototype easel, in Tina’s picture above, is fantastic piece of kit that has improved the access that the artists have to the canvases. Tina was drawing with it lying across her tummy so that she could get to every corner. Another great thing is that with this easel the artist can still have their talk boards on their laps so that they don’t lose their voices whilst they are painting. This easel enables and empowers the artists. With the right equipment in place there are no boundaries.

The art sessions

Disabled painter

At the moment, there are three people that facilitate the weekly sessions. Their role is to run around mixing paint, washing brushes while the artists are doing entirely individual self-motivated focused painting. Brian is one of the most recent residents to join the group. He has been with the service since he was 18 and he just turned 80. He didn’t want to paint, so he requested some pencils. His first piece, a drawing that he produced in his room, took him eight weeks to complete. Another artist, Mark Urwin, has developed a great interest in History of Art. The patron from the Jonny Rhythm foundation, an artist herself, has been providing him with tutoring sessions on Tuesday afternoons.

Orchard Manor talent show

Singers

June saw weeks of hard work and practice pay off as Orchard Manor‘s very own talent show took place in the hall in front of a live audience. Twenty-two residents took part, some on their own and others in groups and pairs, performing a wide range of talents: including singing, stand-up comedy and storytelling.

The winners were voted for by the audience as they cheered, waved their arms and shook instruments to show their support for their favourite acts.

In joint third place came:
Rahil Kunwar: Playing DJ sounds and chimes to Skrillex – Bangarang

and

Orchard Daydreams: Performing Gary Jules – Mad World (Lewis Brooks on Eye Gaze/Vocals; Becky Parkin on Keyboard/Violin and Jake Thorley on Chimes)

In second place came:
Georgie Archer and Elizabeth Chung: Singing and sharing with a microphone to Spice Girls – 2 Become 1

And, last but not least, in first place came:
Thomas Elvin: Reading ‘What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf?’

A huge thank you to everyone who took part and helped to make the whole day a success; it was enjoyed by both performers and audience.

Supporting parents of disabled children

Guest post from Jackie Logue – Scope Early Years Training Manager and the author of Working with parents: Of Children with Additional Needs (Inclusion).

At the Kidz South conference, Scope Early Years Training Manager Jackie Logue gave a presentation called Parent Support to help professionals who work with disabled children to:

  • understand the needs of parents and the wider family through diagnosis and beyond
  • learn more about breaking down barriers between parents and professionals
  • recognise the importance of valuing the child

Through diagnosis and beyond

Jackie, as the mother of a daughter with complex needs and as a Portage worker, has seen the relationship between parents and professionals from both sides.

What parents mean when they say they are “fine”

  • Fed up
  • Insecure
  • Neurotic
  • Emotional exhausted

Breaking down barriers between parents and professionals

Parents and professionals, Jackie said, often want the same things but sometimes they are at cross-purposes.

  • Turn up on time for appointments
  • Cancel if you can’t attend
  • Ensure family understands what is said at meetings
  • Do you check parents understanding of your role and what you can do?
  • Do you always pass on information you promised to get them?

Tips for professionals working with families of disabled children

  • Keep an open mind
  • All children are unique
  • Share information sensitively and honestly
  • Carry out your promises
  • Little things count
  • Encourage parents to ask questions
  • Be prepared for conflicting views
  • All parents/carers are different and will want different things
  • Ask what information they want to know and in what format
  • Take time to listen
  • Don’t judge
  • Be honest, be positive

 

Behind the scenes at a Scope charity shop

Guest post by Katie Adams, Scope media officer

I had never worked in charity shops before. In fact I have to admit I’d never actually experienced working in any kind of shop before this week. So I was excited.

Part of the induction into my new role as a Media Officer for retail at Scope was to find out more about how our charity shops are run, as well as meeting the key people behind them.

Looking forward to my two days at the Stamford Hill store, I arrived as the shop opened for business and just as a whole host of volunteers were also beginning their day at the busy branch.

My first few hours were spent with manager, Shallini, and head volunteer, Barbara, who explained exactly how clothes spend a certain amount of time on the shop floor before moving on to other Scope branches.

I got to take down the old stock and put out the new, which included the creative task of dressing the mannequins with what I thought would attract passing shoppers and help make more money for Scope.

It was evident that Shallini knew her customers’ needs well and crafted her shop window displays to attract people she said loved their designer brands, as well as eye-catching colours and trendy accessories.

Meeting the volunteers

Chatting to the volunteers gave me an interesting insight into why they give up their own precious time to help Scope and many find the experience a way of giving back to society or a chance to meet others.

One man who had once worked in a pressured office environment told me volunteering had made him realise he wanted to find new employment focused on helping people, rather than making someone a profit.

These volunteers are key in making sure things run efficiently at the store through the sorting of donations, manning of the till, security and cleaning of the shop floor.

Donations are so important

The shop was constantly busy during my two-day visit with scores of shoppers trying on outfits, buying new bags and browsing through the books, CDs and DVDs on offer.

Because of the popularity of the stock it was clear to see just how important regular donations from the public really are.

Without people’s bags of donated goods and clothes, the shop wouldn’t be able to keep up with the high demand of its consumers.

Spending time with the team at Stamford Hill was an interesting, fun and eye-opening experience and I would encourage people to volunteer if they can, or at least donate some unwanted items and help our shops keep up the good work.

Become a volunteer for Scope.

The best toy we ever bought

Guest post from Rose-tinted World – a parent of a family affected by Irlen syndrome and dyspraxia. She blogs to raise awareness of these condition and to share information with others affected.

The best toy we ever bought is also the simplest. At first glance you might even struggle to see that it is a toy at all. The toy that has helped my children so much is an unassuming, plain and empty black tray.

The tray itself fits easily on top of my children’s small playroom table and can be easily stored behind a cupboard when not in use. However, this amazing toy has rarely been away in the five years we’ve had it.

Irlen syndrome and specific learning difficulties

Both my children experience symptoms of Irlen syndrome. This is clearest in my seven-year old daughter who experiences discomfort when reading and writing. She is a reluctant writer who will use the minimum of text to finish any task that she cannot avoid by other means.

What this toy has allowed my children to do is to develop their understanding of narrative form throughout their childhoods. This would be good for any child, but for a child with a specific learning difficulty this can be essential.

The empty black tray has been many things over the years; a seascape, a farm, a zoo, a pre-historic scene and even space-world. The tray can be made into anything the children imagine it to be: Sometimes scientific, sometimes fantastic and on occasion downright absurd. Most ‘worlds’ are created out of the children’s existing toys and require no expenditure or trips to the shops.

Creating worlds and storytelling

What the creation of worlds enables children to do is to build up stories using the building blocks of storytelling. First there is a setting (ocean with shells and sand, farm with trees and fields, pre-history with rocks and stones, space represented by shiny aluminium foil). Next the child can add features which denote this setting (boats, barns, fir trees, rocket) and then finally the child can add the ‘subjects’ of their story or inhabitants of their world (pirates or fish, famers and cows, dinosaurs, astronauts or aliens).

By building up this world the child is creating the story of this world and its inhabitants. This is a tangible version of the process children undertake when writing a narrative (‘On a dusty lunar surface a rocket stands surrounded by aliens. An astronaut peers out of the window…).

The child can also create their world starting from the ‘subject’ of their story by then building the environment around their main character (‘The farmer wakes up, walks to his tractor and drives over to milk the cows’).

Once the world is created then the scene is set for the story to develop any way the child’s imagination chooses it to. Moving the characters around to interact with their environment allows a child to build up more sophisticated plot and narrative. Long storylines can be developed which would simply be impossible if the child were reliant on their ability to write.

This can free a child up to experience the joy of storytelling and plot creation. My daughter used to cry if I asked her to write a sentence. She quickly became frustrated and uncomfortable when confronted with a blank page of white paper. This same child could create a world of fairies that would occupy her and her brother for two hours.

Developing narrative skills

What our empty black box has done is to enable both of my children to develop their narrative skills in a fun and meaningful way. Yes, it has taken them both longer to build up the writing skills to do this on paper. Fortunately, their language skills were already developed, simply waiting for their writing ability to catch up. This has prevented them from falling behind too far and has ensured they are growing up with a love of language in all its many and beautiful forms. This allows them to transcend their frustrations and discomfort they associate with pens and paper. It enables them to flourish and evolve into not only confident and happy storytellers but also into the potential natural historians, physicists and anthropologists of the future.

Our square tray measures 60cm x 60cm and it 7 cm deep. We bought ours five years ago from Hope Education.

This comes as a ‘Creation Station’ on sale for £6.59. This can be bought from Hope Education with along with a number of ‘mats’ with the base of different scenes designed on them.

Before we had our wonderful empty box, we cleared a shelf on a secure bookcase. This shelf was at the children’s height and they used to create ‘scenes’ on it.

Regular stars of ‘scenes’ and ‘worlds’ are dinosaurs; farm animals, zoo/safari animals, fairies, dolls house families, ocean animals/fish, aliens, insect and dragons. Props include cars, dolls house furniture, bath toys including boats, rocks, shells, miniature farm buildings, rockets and lunar craft. All of these come from my children’s own toy boxes.

Volunteers bring sensory garden to life

Scope gardening volunteers

A group of 11 volunteers from the Hatfield Job Centre in Hertfordshire have battled their way through a forest of nettles after all the rain and glorious sunshine we have had in the past month, to bring our beautiful sensory garden back to its full glory. They are only one of several groups of people who have donated many hours to help us bring this vision of a parent into full fruition.

The residents of Orchard Manor transition service and students of Meldreth Manor School can now seek respite from the sun and enjoy the smell of lavender and thyme as those plants flourish in the garden.

Our young people have made bird houses and a large watering vessel for the birds who visit the garden and these will soon be in place.

The garden would not be here without the dedicated groups of volunteers who have helped us throughout the year and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their hard work.

Volunteer for your local Scope service now!