Our Generation – volunteers needed!

Disabled man and mentor

Our Generation is a free mentoring and befriending service that offers one-to-one support for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions over the age of 50 who live in the Wakefield area. Our Generation is a Scope service funded by The Big Lottery Silver Dreams Fund in conjunction with the Daily Mail.

Our Generation – volunteers needed!

Our Generation recruits and trains disabled people over 50 to offer support to their peers. We hope that because you have been there you will have the experience and empathy to support those that have not quite got through the maze yet or have lost the confidence to get out and about in the community.

By accompanying someone to a social event, supporting them to learn a new skill or even just being there to talk – you can make a lifetime of difference.

Volunteer a couple of hours a week

We are looking for disabled people who can give us a couple of hours a week to meet, support and encourage people with similar issues to themselves but who need some extra support to get going again.

In return, we will give you some great training, all the support you need when working one-to-one with someone, regular group meetings to share information and coping strategies and we will even pay your expenses!

So if you are disabled, over 50 and really want to make a difference to disabled people in the Wakefield area, why not contact us and find out about what we can offer you?

Volunteer open day – 13 November

We are holding an open day on 13 November so if you are interested in finding out more about becoming a mentor or befriender why not come along, meet the team and ask all the questions you may have?

A new training course will start in December and last seven weeks – at the end of it you will have a qualification accredited to the Open College Network but more importantly you will have met similar like-minded people who all want to offer support to other disabled people in the area.

We’re waiting to hear from you!

Email ourgeneration@scope.org.uk or call 01924 256999.

Scope shop customers call on MPs to Keep Us Close

As I write this I am surrounded by postcards, piles of envelopes and spreadsheets with long list of numbers, the aftermath of a busy three weeks of campaigning in our shops.

The numbers on the spreadsheets are unexpectedly exciting, telling me that over 15,000 petition postcards have already been sent to MPs, asking them to guarantee better local services for disabled children and their families. The postcards come from Scope customers, who have been hearing all about the Keep Us Close campaign from the hardworking staff and volunteers in our shops.

The Keep Us Close campaign aims to get better local services for disabled children and their families. Families have been telling us about the huge amounts of pressure they’re under. Disabled children often need extra support, in addition to education and health care. But parents are struggling to find the services they need for their disabled child, such as speech therapy or suitable playgroups. Even if families can find good support, it will often be miles from home. Frequent travelling to appointments and often having to fight hard to get the appropriate support is putting pressure on parents.

Children and Families Bill

We hope that if we can show MPs how much support there is for the campaign, they can use the upcoming Children and Families Bill to make life easier for families. And Scope’s customers have certainly proved that the campaign has a lot of support, and have got Keep Us Close off to a flying start!

Spending a day with the wonderful staff at the Scope shop in Nantwich confirmed the rumours; Scope shop staff are very skilled campaigners. Few customers left the shop without signing a petition postcard, and were pleased to find out more. And while Marian, who has been volunteering for Scope for years, worked hard to persuade them of the value of their signature, I did my best to persuade customers how photogenic they were. (Which was actually more difficult!)

For those who could be persuaded, their photos will go alongside messages of support for the campaign in an album, that will be handed into Edward Timpson, the Minister responsible for the Bill, who is also the local MP for Nantwich.

Jo and Marian told me why they were so keen to support the campaign:

MPs’ visits to Scope shops

In the past three weeks, many shops have actually hosted a meeting with their MP. The staff in Alton, Beckenham, Bromley, St Albans and Wimbledon did a fantastic job of telling their local MP how their customers supported the campaign, over a cup of tea. Many shops also gained some local media coverage, promoting the campaign even further.

The Eccles shop took the cup of tea to a whole new level when they put on an entire tea party, complete with eccles cakes of course, for the Shadow Education Minister Sharon Hodgson, Scope supporter Sarah Kiley, who has a disabled son and was keen to share her experiences, and Richard Hawkes. The day proved to be a great success, and gave Sarah the chance to talk about the difficulties she has faced as the mother of a disabled child.

She explained that ‘the frustration comes from the possibility of services being made easier. The facilities are already there, such as local children’s centres. Specialist facilities, such as hydro pools, are there, but are out of my reach.’

The hard work and enthusiasm from Scope shops over the past three weeks is a crucial step along the journey to making sure that mothers like Sarah no longer have to deal with such frustrations.

You can support the campaign by emailing your MP today.

Face 2 Face at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool

With effect from April this year Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool agreed to pilot our Face 2 Face parent befriending service from within the Hospital Trust. Fantastic news and ground-breaking too as we are the first Face 2 Face service for parents of disabled children developed within a hospital setting.

The University of Central Lancashire is evaluating the service to measure the impact of parent-to-parent emotional support and this will provide robust evidence and hopefully help to sustain the project.

Currently there are seven trained parent volunteers and all are parents of disabled children who are accessing the trust. Every parent has successfully completed the training course and together with their lived experience of having a disabled child, is ready to offer free and confidential emotional support to parents whose child has additional or complex needs and is attending Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

If you are a parent/carer of a child with additional or complex needs and are accessing Alder Hey, whether that be as an in patient or outpatient and would like the opportunity to meet  a trained parent volunteer befriender or would like more information about the service you can call Vicky Harris on 07843 467588 or via email at vicky.harris@scope.org.uk

If you are a parent who would like to take part in our next training course due to start at the end of February 2013 we would love to hear from you too.

Keep Us Close campaign update

After almost a month, our Keep Us Close families campaign is continuing to go from strength to strength. Scope supporters have been busy emailing their MPs, calling on them to ensure that disabled children and their families have better local support.

Hundreds of emails have been sent, adding to the thousands of campaign postcards and petitions that have been sent from our shops in England and Wales. Our customers have been so keen to support the campaign that many shops ran out of campaign postcards!

Six MPs have visited their local Scope shops to collect the postcards and hear about the importance of the campaign. The Labour Shadow Minister for Children and Families has supported Keep Us Close, as well as other organisations, including Save the Children and the Family and Parenting Institute.

Online, our new Keep Us Close animation is still very popular, and the campaign has been a hot topic on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The campaigns team is busy planning the next stage of the campaign, so look out for how you can get involved next month.

In the meantime, please don’t forget to email your MP, and tell all your friends about this essential campaign for disabled children and their families.

Meldreth Manor School and The Skoog

Guest post from Petrina Lodge, Head of Education at Meldreth Manor School.

What is a Skoog?

See a Skoog below, and then read how we are using Skoogs at Meldreth Manor School to enhance our students’ communication and IT skills, their self-awareness and sense of control over things in their lives (cause and effect) and, importantly, to have fun!

This is a Skoog.

This is a Skoog. It’s a completely new kind of instrument. But it’s not just one instrument, it’s lots of instruments in a multi-coloured box of technology.

The Skoog is an exciting new musical instrument designed to empower those unable to play traditional instruments. The Skoog is a soft, squeezable object that simply plugs straight into your computer or laptop’s USB port. By touching, pressing, squashing, twisting or tapping the Skoog you can play a wide range of instruments, intuitively.

Simply touch, press, squash, twist, or tap to play the Skoog using any part of your body!

Designed to adapt and fit with your own natural movements, the Skoog sets you free to explore sounds and music in your own way.

By adjusting the Skoog you can challenge yourself and grow as a musician. Whether you have very limited mobility or bags of agility, you can make your Skoog fit your style.

Meldreth Manor School and skoogs

I think this is one of the most exciting technological developments for disabled children and adults of any age, for some time. It has been designed for accessibility for even really severely disabled children and adults, challenging each user at their own level.

At its most simple, this is a touch/sound response user-friendly cube, with different settings of sensitivity: the whole of the side of the cube, the button and area around it, are sensitive to touch of different types and pressures. It can be set to produce one sound per touch or multiple sounds depending on where it is touched, and how hard. It requires a USB connection to a computer – which doesn’t have to be sophisticated though it doesn’t work well on small computers such as notebook. It needs a long USB cable so that the PC or Laptop doesn’t end up on the floor, though The Skoog is very durable – it can be thrown or dropped or bounced and it will simply respond with sound.

Add to this that it can be used with a MIDI interface for as many sounds as you would want, and any sound-effect can be included in this, the fact that’s it’s recordable and can be programmed to suit any child or adult and played at any level, and you can see how exciting it is.

Playing with backing music

Students can play their own sound or play along with any backing music or other students: the musical key of the Skoog can be changed to fit whatever music is being used. All files can be saved using ‘Wave’ as one of several options.

More able students can use scores which consist of blobs of the colour of the face of the cube, linked to length for duration. Interactive scores are available which fill in the circle when the note has been played.

Lastly, but by no means least, the Skoog can be used to record sound – of any sort, from voice to vocalisation, to instrument: the sound file can be amended, so the Skoog can be used to help with Speech and Language therapy for working on vocalisations, and adapting them with students for greater clarity and understanding, or in articulating two separate sounds into one – such as blending sounds.

Words (and tunes) of songs can be pre-recorded for one word or phrase on each face of the cube and the student can repeat the song by getting the sequence correct.

The touch can be adjusted from very sensitive (so the sound is easily produced) to much less so, where there is much more control about producing the sound, whatever it is.

We are seeing really encouraging responses from students with very varied abilities.

Notes written by a music technologist

“I think there is a lot of potential for Tony to become a terrific Skoog player. He (then) played some distorted electric guitar by pressing and rocking the Skoog backwards, forwards, and to the sides. I opened a video on YouTube of Jimi Hendrix and Tony played along with the electric guitar. One of Tony’s favourite bands is The Rolling Stones, so we found a video of a live performance from them and he thoroughly enjoyed playing along…”

Tony is a teenager who has a life-limiting condition which is causing a gradual decline in his mobility and use of hands. Creating a sense of achievement is vital to Tony’s well-being, as well as helping maintain his fine motor skills.

And another excerpt, this time about our student called Kieran:

“I found him a clip from YouTube of David* playing saxophone for Van der Graff Generator and gave Kieran a trumpet sound on the Skoog. Kieran used his left hand mostly but also the right hand when encouraged to do so. He clearly enjoyed the session…”

* ‘David’ is David Jackson, our Soundbeam specialist who runs Soundbeam sessions at Meldreth Manor School for all our students.

The opportunities for using The Skoog are endless, watch this space!


Does he take sugar with his tea?

Paul Jenkins

Paul Jenkins is a public speaker with cerebral palsy. He works to change society’s attitudes to disabled people.

Paul grew up in large institutions where it was hard to feel independent. In 1996, he moved to his own home in Milton Keynes, which he describes as a big step in gaining independence: “It was the first time I’d had my own front door,” says Paul. “That was the best feeling.”

A few years ago, Paul was a victim of hate crime. One day in his home town he was approached by two people who asked the time, then took his helmet and stole his bag and £100. Paul feels certain they targeted him because he is disabled. “I didn’t know what to do, I felt so angry and upset.”

Sharing experiences of disability

Feeling frustrated, yet inspired to talk about his life and share his experiences, Paul decided to put together a presentation. “I had all these thoughts in my head that I wanted to get out. My aim was to give people an insight into my personality and teach them about disability,” he says.

He started by taking his presentations to local schools. “At first I was really nervous. I just remember a lot of kids looking at me! But slowly I began to get used to it.”

Paul produced more presentations and now gives his talks to people in Scope too. He trains new staff when they arrive, helping them understand how to work with disabled people. He also sits in on interviews to help recruit new staff. “Scope involves disabled people and listens to us,” he says. “We have been shut away from society for too long.”

Disability trainers in every service

Paul now works with Karen Fairbrother, our service manager in Milton Keynes, to help other disabled people give talks about their lives and raise awareness of disability. His vision for the future is to have a trained speaker in every Scope service.

For Paul, it’s about giving people the opportunity to ask questions about disability and break down the barriers which exist in society. “All the feedback so far has been really positive,” he says. “I feel like the work I’m doing is making a difference.”

The one thing Paul stresses time and time again is to talk to disabled people directly. “Don’t look at someone I’m with and ask if I want sugar in my tea; ask me! There is a tendency for people to treat me like I am a child, like I don’t have opinions. I know many other disabled people feel like this too.”

Paul says becoming a public speaker has given him a renewed sense of purpose. “Afterwards I feel like I’m on an up, it’s a real rush! My ultimate goal is to change society’s attitudes to disabled people. It is my hope that, one day, disabled people will be treated equally. I don’t think that day is too far away.”

A new direction

At the end of September, our Board of Trustees approved a new strategic direction for Scope – one that will transform what we do as an organisation.

Scope was set up more than 60 years ago by three parents and a social worker who believed in a better society for their children. That spirit of change has always defined us. The way we are run, the services we offer and the ways we influence others have all shifted over the years. But too often, big charities like us get stuck in a cycle of doing the same things they’ve always done. We have been guilty of this. Charities have to be brave, ask difficult questions and challenge themselves. And that’s what we’ve been doing at Scope.

We spoke to service users, staff, volunteers, members, supporters and disabled people. We looked at the research and reviews we have carried out. And we thought about where our strengths are and where we can make a real difference.

The result is this strategy, which is designed to give us real clarity about what we are here to do and why. In one sense it’s simple. We exist to create a better society for disabled people and their families. But that’s a huge aim – and we have to recognise that we can’t do it all. So the strategy concentrates on six key areas where we want to make change happen.

From 2013, everything we do will be aligned with these six key themes. We have to make the biggest difference we possibly can – for our service users, beneficiaries, donors and supporters. I believe this strategy will help us do that. It promises to be a hugely exciting journey for Scope – and one that will see us change the world for the better.

Thank you, as always, for your support.

A great big fat garden stuffed with love…

Guest post from Emma Goddard – Life Skills Tutor at Scope’s Roman House

Roman House garden makeover

So, what do you get if you take, six medical scientists from Eli Lilly, a weekly volunteer called Steph, one Life skills tutor, a Employee Volunteer co-ordinator and a bus full of plants? A great big fat garden stuffed with love, that’s what.

On Thursday 11 October 2012 we kicked off the day with a big goal to transform our bungalow gardens.

It was great, all the tools were ready, thanks to employee volunteering who provided, forks, spades, shears, loppers and enthusiasm.

And off we went, in the lashing rain, chopping and lopping, like an episode of Edward Scissorhands. By lunchtime the plot was cleared, and our damp crew were off down the chip shop for well-deserved carbs. I love lunchtimes with volunteers, because that’s when the connections happen between our customers and the outside world. Also, when else do you get to ask a medical scientist if they have watched Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein…

In the afternoon it was planting up, we have chosen many light reflective plants to brighten the patch up, and over 700 spring bulbs were buried into the ground. It’s going to look amazing in February, March and April with so many tulips and daffodils.

But the highlight of the day was when our customer Jon Conway, came back from his day in town and his eyes popped out of his head! I have never seen a bigger smile.

Volunteering in Scope, Roman House, doesn’t just mean a beautiful garden, it gives our customers and staff a legacy of self-esteem and confidence. Someone thought of us, and we were worth the effort.


Why go to party conferences?

As a new political year gets underway, another season of party conferences comes to an end. The effects of three consecutive weekends away from home and the combination of too many late nights, meetings and caffeine begin to take their toll. But why do charities go to conferences in the first place? And why a charity CEO?

There’s a whole host of reasons for people to attend conferences. Some may want to use it as an opportunity to stake their claim for party leadership, or to apologise, others may choose not to go for fear of becoming a distraction from the key issues at play.

For me, party conferences have a real buzz around them and as a neutral observer, I find it fascinating to watch them unfold; from the excited new party intake soaking up their first conference, to the name-dropping competition amongst old hats and especially the collective swivel of heads as a high-profile minister casually wanders by.

But it’s not just as a casual observer that Scope attends these conferences. These are extremely difficult times for disabled people and their families. They are being hit by a double whammy of seeing their financial support and local services falling away at the same time as the cost of living spirals out of control. And if we want to realise true social change on these issues, we need to be influencing decision makers.

That’s why my colleagues have the season blocked out in my diary as soon as the dates are announced and they are right to do so. The opportunity of new introductions, spontaneous discussions and chance encounters make it a crucial part of my annual calendar, so that I no longer need convincing that it’s worth the time away from the office (and home).

Conferences present a unique opportunity for us to talk to a whole host of influential people, from MPs and Councillors, to journalists and bloggers, to hear their views about what’s important to them but equally to tell them about the crucial changes taking place now that are affecting disabled people and their families.

They provide us with a unique opportunity to test and refine our arguments from all angles and learn what resonates with different audiences. What makes them lean forward, and what sends them resting back in their chairs with their arms crossed? Who are our allies on the issues we feel are important? Who will oppose us and why?

It’s the type of intelligence that you can only obtain when you have numerous conversations, with countless different individuals with different beliefs, backgrounds and interests about the same issue in a short space of time.

Keep us close – our focus this year

This year our approach tied in with the launch of Keep us close, our new campaign about getting better local support for disabled people and their families.

This is a huge issue for families with disabled children. Currently we know many families have to fight long and complicated battles just to find an appropriate school or therapy for their disabled child and in many cases, the support can often only be found far away from their home; this has a huge impact on family life.

Crucially, there is currently a piece of legislation beginning its passage through parliament with the intent to overhaul the support families with disabled children or special educational needs (SEN) receive. Yet despite this being the window to make real changes to this bill that would enable families to be better supported, it’s not really at the top of the political agenda.

From our perspective, it needs to be higher up the agenda. It has the opportunity to make an enormous difference to families’ lives and for us there is quite a simple solution that politicians of all colours can get behind.

And so our conference journey starts and ends with conversations about families; with myself and my colleagues grabbing every available opportunity to talk to existing and new contacts, at all levels, about the problems that families with disabled children face and why it’s so critical that we seize this opportunity to make a genuine difference.

We gather intelligence along the way that allows us to ensure we are ready and can take advantage of every opportunity available to us to make a real and genuine difference to the lives of thousands of families with disabled children.

The power of a charity shop

And finally, my most memorable moment during this year’s conference season ironically wasn’t even in the conference but five miles down the road from the Labour conference.

It was the two hours I took out of a packed conference agenda to take Sharon Hodgson, MP and Shadow Minister for Children and Families, to the local Scope charity shop in Eccles so she could meet the mother of a young disabled boy and hear about her everyday experiences and the real challenges her family face getting the right support they need locally.

It was about taking time out to talk to our shop volunteers who between them talk to six million customers every year about the issues we want them to get behind and how they play a crucial role in helping us spread the word.

And ultimately it’s about recognising that real social change can equally take place in a charity shop as it can from the platform of a conference hall.

Join our campaign and help get better local support for families with disabled children.

Financial advice is changing

The Financial Services Authority (FSA), which is the Government’s financial services watchdog, is informing everyone that the advice given to us by finance providers, including banks is changing. You can read about the changes to financial advice here.

Making decisions about mortgages, pensions and savings is tough enough and we must have complete trust in the advice we get. However, many people have been let down and this is why FSA’s financial advice is changing.

The changes being brought in by them will help you better understand what you’re paying for and to have more confidence in the people advising you.

From 31 December 2012 they are making three key improvements to how you get financial advice.

1. You will know how much financial advice will cost you

Advice has never been for free. You would have been paying for advice that you received from your adviser, through a process known as “commission”, this is where your adviser was paid by the company which provided the investment you bought. We believe this encouraged advisers to recommend products based on what they could earn rather than what’s truly best for you.

So, from 31 December 2012 you will now agree a fee directly with your financial adviser upfront. Therefore, you will know exactly what you are paying for, where your money is going and also that the advice is not being influenced by how much your adviser could potentially earn.

2. You will know exactly what you are paying for

Your adviser will have to explain to you what type of advice they providing you, be it ‘independent’ or ‘restricted’. Advisers who provide independent advice will be able to advise on all investment options that may meet your needs. Advisers who choose not to do this will be offering restricted advice – this is where they are restricted by the companies they can offer you investments with, the product type, or both.

3. Improved professional standards

Investments can be tricky things for us all to understand. So we need those who help us to have the necessary skills. Therefore, we are making financial advisers meet higher professional standards, keeping their knowledge up to date so that they are aware of latest developments in the marketplace for you and sign an agreement requiring them to treat you fairly.

They will be monitoring firms to make sure they keep to these new standards.

They have published a guide to help explain these changes to you. It is free and available to download from the FSA website. Or you can call our Consumer Helpline to order your free copy on 0845 606 1234.