Children and Families Bill debate

Scope has been inundated with support from across the country for our campaign for better local services for disabled children and their families.

Thousands upon thousands of emails, letters, postcards, wish stars and memories have been sent to MPs calling on them to take action as part of our Keep Us Close campaign. And they have a real opportunity to do so with theChildren and Families Bill, poised to enter Parliament in a matter of weeks.

However, the impact that this support is having inside Westminster is not always so easy to see.

On Wednesday this week, a debate is being held in Parliament specifically on why the Government must improve local services for disabled children and their families. Tabled by Angela Smith MP, this gives MPs who have a strong interest in supporting disabled children and their families a chance to quiz the Government on their proposals – and tell them why they must be strengthened.

Local services for disabled children

Scope has been calling on the Government to improve inclusive and accessible local services for disabled children and their families by strengthening something called the ‘local offer’ which is contained in the Government’s proposals.

Currently, the ‘local offer’ is too weak to really make a difference. We want to see a ‘local offer’ that gives parents with disabled children a clear promise of the support that they can expect to receive locally – and the right to hold their local authority to account so that they receive this support.

The families we speak to have to battle too hard, too often, to get this support – and when they do, they have to travel far too far away to get it. That’s just not right.

Children and Families Bill debate

The debate is being held in the ornate Westminster Hall, and will be one of the final chances that MPs have to ask the Government Minister, Edward Timpson MP, what he is doing in the Bill to improve local services for disabled children and their families. The Bill is due to enter Parliament imminently at the start of its passage to become law, and we know that MPs from all across the House of Commons – and from all political parties – feel very strongly that the Government must get the reforms right.

But main reason they feel strongly that this must not be a wasted opportunity is because they know how important an issue this is for their constituents – the people they represent. For months now, their postbags and inboxes have been filled with Scope supporters telling them they can’t let this opportunity pass.

Alongside the support of all our campaigners, we are working with MPs to turn up the pressure on the Government to make sure they get the reforms right, and Wednesday afternoon gives them a real chance to do so.

You can watch the debate at 4.30pm on Wednesday 20 January.

Dog therapy

The Sun has published a story with the headline ‘See your Dogtor: Mutts who save lives and provide therapy’ – it’s a round-up of some of the great work that medical assistance dogs do. The centre piece is the story of Alice Boardman, her son Alex, six, and brother Tom, seven, and the impact Labrador-Retriever cross Lucie had when she joined the family. They live in Chorley, Lancs, with Alice’s engineer husband Dave. Read what Alice says on The Sun’s website.

But Alice has also had support from our parent support group, and here is what she had to say about Face 2 Face:

“I was a bit guarded at the beginning but Julia from Face to Face said she would just come along for a chat, so I decided to go for it. It was the best decision I’ve made and I am forever grateful to Julia. By the time you’ve made your first Face to Face appointment you’ve taken a huge step: you’ve admitted you’re not Superwoman! Julia introduced me to a lovely lady who has two disabled children. To meet another parent who has no agenda other than to support me, well, it was just wonderful. I needed someone to say: “I’ve been there.” Some of the sessions were emotional, some weren’t. For me, the sessions looked at where I am now and where I want to be in the future.

“The most empowering thing was voicing my deepest, darkest thoughts and knowing that I wasn’t being judged. Julia told me to open up and be honest about my feelings. After years of putting on a brave face it was such a relief. Julia was the first person to say to me it was ok to talk about all the hard parts of my life. Nobody had ever said that to me before. It felt like being given permission to be selfish for an hour or two and just think about me.”

Find out more about Support Dogs, the charity that provided and trained Lucie

Out and about

This blog entry is from Scope’s Our Generation project in Wakefield.

A Happy New Year to all our colleagues, mentors and mentees and stakeholders. Despite the snowy weather here in Wakefield giving us all the urge to hibernate, January has been a busy month so far and is due to get even busier. Having eaten too many chocolates at Christmas, the Our Generation mentoring team are now getting out and about, visiting groups and organisations to recruit new mentors and befrienders for our first accredited training course in February.

We are excited that the referrals are starting to come in and looking forward to welcoming new people into the project.

The Our Generation project has also had a visit from Scope’s new Executive Director of Services Carol Tozer, and we were really pleased that two of our mentors and one mentee popped into the office to meet her. They were able to give Carol a great insight into what motivated them to become involved in the project and what difference it has made to their lives.

The next course begins on 7 February here at our office at 10.30am. It aims to cover a wealth of information about being a mentor or befriender, and gives an insight into the support you will receive as a Scope volunteer. Travel expenses and other support expenses will be paid, and lunch is provided.

For further information please call 01924 256999 or email ourgeneration@scope.org.uk.

Lords debate support for BME disabled people

The research team here at Scope has been working with the Equalities National Council (ENC) – a charity run by and working with black and minority ethnic (BME) disabled people – to find out about the lives of BME disabled people, and to find ways they can be better supported.

Our research findings – published last year – were shocking:

  • There are at least one million disabled people from BME background in the UK and this figure is growing.
  • One in two BME disabled people live in poverty.
  • Only two in every five BME disabled people have a job.

Last week the House of Lords recognised the importance of this work, and held a two and a half hour debate on the report. The debate was tabled by the former Minister for Disabled People, Lord Paul Boateng.

The challenges BME disabled people face

The debate gave lifted the lid on the challenges BME disabled people face. Over 15 Peers spoke powerfully and movingly about issues ranging from the importance of translation services for BME disabled people, to the need to fix the social care system so that everyone who needs care and support can get it.

Many of the Lords echoed our recommendations. Scope and ENC found that many disabled people are falling between the cracks of Government departments – an issue that the Government Minister Baroness Browning argued needed to be resolved.

Disabled children from BME communities experience deep and saddening barriers to the support they need. Baroness Tyler recognised this in her contribution to the debate, and asked the Government to consider the recommendation of Scope’s Keep Us Close campaign to ensure that BME disabled people can access the right services in their local area.

Our report also found that the best way to provide services is to support small, user-led organisations like ENC to provide local services, a point Lord Addington made in his speech.
Although the debate successfully raised awareness of the challenges BME disabled people face, it is important to recognise that this is just the first step in a longer journey of change for this often overlooked community.

In the words of Lord Boateng, when introducing the debate: “To be black, a member of an ethnic minority or disabled is to know what it is to be invisible – to be there but somehow not be seen, or to be heard but simply not heeded.

“You suffer a double whammy of neglect and disadvantage. All too often you find yourself between a rock and a hard place.

“When we take action to enable and empower all of us in our God-given and precious diversity, then we really will have something to celebrate.”

You can find a transcript of the full debate in the Lords here.

Great Donate time again! Recycle your wardrobe

Time again to have a good clear out after receiving all those nice new Christmas presents and help us replenish the supplies of Scope charity shops with some clean, quality goods.

Can you help us? Every bag you fill up is worth about £20 to Scope. Ladies handbags and belts bring a lot of money in and any brand named clothing items.

We do this several times a year from Meldreth and take our bags to our local Scope charity shop in Cambridge. We would like to ask parents and friends to participate this year. If you are coming to visit residents in the next few weeks please drop off your bags in reception as close to Friday 18 January as possible.

Our residents will deliver the bags to the Cambridge store on Wednesday 23 January.

Thank you for your continued support.