Annual sports day at Orchard Manor

Orchard Manor sports day

Flat 2 were the team winners at Orchard Manor’s Annual Sports Day last week. The event was part of a themed Sports and Science Week this year, which proved very successful and interesting for everyone involved.

As in previous years, sports day at Orchard Manor was a great success. It is now a much anticipated annual event that both staff and the young people enjoy.

Following a fun, science-filled week, the sun shone on sports day making the home-made ice creams during the breaks very much needed and enjoyed by everyone.

With nine events in total, the teams competed against each other in a variety of activities from a sensory star hunt, which involved delving deep in wobbly jelly and slimy spaghetti, to joining together as a whole team to complete a relay lap of the Meldreth grounds in the fastest time, as well as volleyball, football and cycling.

All competitors in the games came away with a medal, sticking with the Olympic theme.

However, this year’s champions were Flat 2, now proudly in possession of the Orchard Manor sports day trophy, which is to be engraved with their name and stay within the flat until next year when they will be offered the chance to compete to win again.

Thanks to staff and volunteers for their support in this event, which helped make it a success, and the creative teamwork of the therapists and skills staff in coming up with some great events!

Scope CEO Blog: Watching the Dispatches undercover footage

Undercover filming

Coming out of a meeting on Tuesday morning, one of Scope’s press officers was waiting in my office, telling me that we needed to leave immediately to go and do some filming for Channel 4’s documentary series Dispatches.

Dispatches had filmed undercover footage of what happens when doctors are trained to deliver the Government’s Work Capability Assessment. They wanted me to watch the footage and give a reaction to it.

The Work Capability Assessment is something Scope has been campaigning on for a while now. This test was introduced to determine which disabled people would be eligible for out of work benefits, who would be eligible for specialist support to help them find a job and also identify those disabled people who would be expected to get a job straight away.

It’s a test Scope has had deep reservations about. We’ve been deeply worried about the implications of using a medical tick box assessment that ignores all the other barriers disabled people face in finding work, being used to identify who can go out and get a job.

Work Capability Assessment tests

Within 15 minutes of coming out of my meeting, I was sitting on a sofa in a studio watching something absolutely outrageous.

Disabled people would have been shocked and appalled as I was to see the reality of the way doctors were effectively being trained to leave behind all their years of medical training and deliver a test that even the trainer claimed was “almost unachievable”.

The Government has said time and time again that this test is fair, appropriate and not driven by targets. Yet quite clearly the doctors are being told to achieve targets of how many people they find fit for work or who need support and that they will be held to account if those targets aren’t met. This is a flawed test and it is being implemented in a damming way. How can decisions that can have a profound and devastating effect on disabled people’s lives be made in this way in Britain in 2012?

These are real people being assessed, up to 10,000 every week. We know that disabled people want to work but many need the right support to do so. And by being subjected to this flawed test they may be denied the very support they need to get a job.

Dispatches reveals a “toxic” system

The trainer in the film even said she felt the test was “toxic”, that it was “frustrating” that someone cannot have the benefits and are expected to find a job when she knew they didn’t stand a chance. For me, the footage didn’t just show that the test that was toxic. It showed that the whole system is toxic.

Yes this programme has to raise serious questions about how the test is being delivered, but ultimately the Department for Work and Pensions is responsible for ensuring that disabled people get a fair deal.

Many disabled people, Disabled People’s Organisations and disability charities have been trying to work with the Government to improve the test. There can be no more finger pointing or blame between the DWP and ATOS. They both have a responsibility and duty of care towards disabled people.

They should both be ashamed for allowing this to happen. And they need to take serious action immediately.

Take action now by emailing your MP

Launch of Face 2 Face scheme in Solihull

Solihull befrienders

On 9 July Face 2 Face officially launched its service in Solihull. The event was held at the Renewal Family Centre and was a combination of presentations to inform professionals how the service works and what the volunteers can offer local families, as well as moving and inspirational talks by both Solihull and neighbouring Birmingham befrienders.

The event was well attended by over 50 professionals who were keen to hear about what the service could offer the families they support in the borough. Their feedback was extremely positive and has resulted in a number of referrals following the launch.

Face 2 Face Solihull is now up and running, with half of the befrienders  befriending local parents and utilising the skills honed on their 10 weeks of training with a number more referrals being received all the time. All of the befrienders are themselves parents of disabled children and are passionate about being able to provide a unique support that they felt was not there for them when their own children were younger. Solihull Befriender Jan Quinney said: “Professionals are there, but at the end of the day they have not been through what you have. The reason the volunteers are uniquely placed is because they understand what the families are having to deal with.”

The Rt. Hon. Lorely Burt MP attended the event and presented eight newly qualified volunteer parent befrienders with their training certificates. She said that the service would be “wonderful” for Solihull.  She continued by saying, “What I have heard today is just how powerless and frightened people can feel when they get this awful news.”

The event was also a great opportunity to celebrate the partnership between Face 2 Face Solihull and Sainsbury’s Solihull (Poplar Way). Face 2 Face was chosen by the local Sainsbury’s branch to be their charity partner for the next 12 months. The store have been very enthusiastic about Face 2 Face and the service provided and are coming up with lots of ways to not only raise funds for the service but also raise awareness of the service locally to ensure as many parents of disabled children can be supported as possible.

In the first month, activities such as a cake sale, till point collections and an Olympic-themed colouring competition have been held in store. Sainsburys very kindly donated a cake to the launch event and Face 2 Face is very much looking forward to working with them over the next year.

Face 2 Face Solihull is now taking referrals. For more information please contact Co-ordinator Jo Bussey on 0121 444 8584 or by email joanne.bussey@scope.org.uk

My Olympic Torch experience

Guest post from Anne Barnes, Face 2 Face Birmingham

Anne Barnes representing Face 2 Face Birmingham

My bearing experience with the Olympic torch on 30 June has to be one of the most memorable days of my life, mainly due to it being totally surreal and bizarre!

I was honoured to have been nominated to carry the torch, for the voluntary work I do for Face 2 Face in Birmingham. It was great to see a troop of loyal befrienders there on the day with banners and flags, supporting and encouraging me.

On our leg of the relay, Smethwick to Cannon Hill Park (Via Birmingham City Centre) we were surprised to find that we had Sir Cliff Richard joining us! He was great, really friendly and generous with his time.

The actual run/walk of 490 yards seemed to fly past and was over too soon. I felt immensely proud and very emotional, it really is a “once in a lifetime” experience and I felt very lucky to have been picked to do this.

 

Financial pressures put strain on the strongest of partnerships

Charities and councils – whether it’s as givers and recipients of funding; commissioners and deliverers of services or campaigners for change and defenders of policy – have always had a love hate relationship.

But at the moment – with everyone feeling the pinch – you get the feeling there’s a bit more hate than love.

The challenges of making relationships between charities and councils work in the current climate were summed up in the provocative title of a recent Guardian roundtable that was asking whether or not it is really worth charities taking on the risk of contracts with the public sector.

This sentiment was echoed by the think tank New Philanthropy Capital at an event to launch their recent report “When the going gets tough: Charities’ experiences of public sector commissioning“.

At both events I argued that now more than ever we charities and councils need to be focusing on solutions rather than problems.

It would be easy to spend our time finger pointing, accusing reckless councils of cutting budgets without considering the impact.

But councils, like charities, are about improving people’s lives.

Working with the public sector gives us the opportunity to shape and create the innovative services that can make this a better world for disabled people. Charities have a tremendous ability to engage with and understand the needs of communities, so by working together with the public sector we are able to help shape the commissioning environment for the better.

But how do we do it?

I think that charities need to take a long hard look at themselves. How many charities are really clear why they provide services?

In many cases I think charities keep doing things because they always have. There was a time when vast residential services were both profitable and seen as the right thing to do – that’s both unrealistic and wrong these days. I suspect many run services because they’re trying to “help their beneficiaries” – but that’s such an old-fashioned way of looking at charities and over the years it’s an approach that has done as much damage as good. And apart from anything else, just because you’re a charity does not mean you are automatically capable of providing better services.

Why is Scope here?

At Scope we’ve really forced ourselves to ask why we run services. Scope does not exist to run services. Scope exists to bring about change in society – to make this country a better place for disabled people. We don’t have to run services. We actually don’t have to exist. We choose to exist because we want to bring about positive change. And we choose to run services because we believe that running services, the right services, can play a huge role. .

We have also forced ourselves to be clear about what we will spend our charitable income on. We’re not here to subsidise the state, and we must not play a part in taking society backwards to a place where people’s basic rights become dependent solely on the charitable benevolence of others.

I don’t think enough charities think like this.

Enormous challenges

There are clearly enormous challenges in this area at the moment, the unprecedented cuts to public spending above all. Local authorities are bearing the brunt of these cuts, which is obviously impacting on the fees paid to providers like Scope. And according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies only 6% of the cuts to Local Authorities have kicked in. With austerity set to continue until 2017 this means continued pressure on fees. Councils will have to innovate when it comes to providing services. They will have to re-design services de-commissioning redundant models to allow investment to go into those models which deliver the best possible outcomes for a lower price.

Partners

The charity sector should be at the heart of setting the agenda. We should recognise that we can get more done if instead of complaining, we respond positively to the changing world.

We are seeking to work as a ‘social partner’ with local authorities. Our Activities Unlimited programme is a new way to provide support to disabled children and their families seeking respite care or a short break to contact a range of opportunities from providers in Suffolk. Families are allocated a voucher that they can use on a range of activities. A dedicated Scope team identifies potential new suppliers, supports provider organisations to improve their performance based on feedback from users and signposts families towards services that are most appropriate to their needs. We designed and piloted the service in partnership with Suffolk County Council, sharing our mutual expertise and experience.

New horizons

We must also look at new ways of bringing money into this world. At Scope we are actively developing new, innovative, ways of raising money to allow us to generate investment capital, which will pilot new ways of providing services before we take them to local authority commissioners. Our £20 million social investment bond is will finance the expansion of our retail operation which will enable us to generate more unrestricted voluntary income which we can invest in creating new services.

I believe there are opportunities for charities to work collaboratively with the public sector to develop services that support disabled people to live their lives way they want to. We just have to be bolder, more confident and more creative – and seize this agenda now before it is too late.

My Moment to Shine by Jhon Bateman

Guest post from Jhon Bateman

Jhon, Olympic torch bearer

On Tuesday 3 July, in Loughborough, I carried the London 2012 Olympic Torch for 440 metres as part of its 70day relay across Great Britain before arriving at the Olympic Stadium on  27 July. I was runner 34 of the day, which meant that I was quite early on in the day – I had to be at the Collection Point for 8:00 ready to carry the torch at 10:42! The experience was amazing but over so quickly – the road was packed with people watching me go past, cheering me on and taking lots of photos. I loved it – I felt like a celebrity! I saw people I haven’t seen in years who had turned out to see me and young schoolchildren from the surrounding area all out ready to cheer me on.

After my leg of the relay, I got on to shuttle bus 2 at the back of the second convoy with all of the torchbearers who had already carried the torch. We were all so excited! Our bus was full of torchbearers waiting their turn but I was only the third on the bus, so I had a long wait afterwards. After travelling through three more towns after finishing Loughborough, we headed back to Loughborough University where our torches were decommissioned (this is where the gas canister is taken out) and given back to us.

I was quite a lucky torchbearer, as I was selected through the Coca-Cola selection campaign called Future Flames. Coca-Cola is one of the 3 presenting partners of the London 2012 Olympic Torchbearers alongside Samsung and Lloyds TSB/RBS. Future Flames are “exceptional young people who have been nominated by their communities”. As a Coca-Cola Future Flame, the Olympic Torch was purchased for you, you were given 2 VIP tickets to one of the Coca-Cola Special City Celebration events and photos are purchased for you!

Overall, I have really enjoyed the whole experience of being a London 2012 Olympic Torchbearer and will remember my Moment to Shine forever.