Are you limited by your challenges or are you challenging your limits?

When Team Scope member Mike Jones contacted our events team and told us he is taking part in the Ironman Sweden at Kalmar in August for Scope, we were blown away by his determination. Over the last two years he has attempted Ironman Wales but has been unsuccessful – any competitor will tell you that the exhausting event will bring out your weaknesses and for Mike it did just that. 

After enduring foot pain throughout the event, and following discussions with his GP, Mike was referred to a Neuromuscular Consultant who confirmed a long-standing problem that has been masked since child-hood, only materialising in his early 50’s. Mike has kept his own blog over the past few months as he trains for the event whilst searching for a firm diagnosis of his condition – he has recently had tests for Cerebral Palsy and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease – but here is an extract from his most recent post as he reflects on his latest endurance events.

From LLanelli to Eton, Nottingham to Port Talbot

I think my theme for the last few weeks must be “Another Town, Another Train(ing) race”. This has seen me travel from Llanelli to Eton, Nottingham to Port Talbot to take part in three endurance events in 13 days, some would say “burning my bridges” but it was something I needed to do. The first of the three was at Eton Dorney, this was for the Human Race Open Water Swim Series, the 10K swim. Looking back I was so glad that my open water training had started two months ago in North Dock, as even I would admit on the day it was cold.

Mike Jones

A six day turn around and it was off to Nottingham for the inaugural Outlaw Half, a Middle Distance Tri based in and around the National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont. There were a few areas of my preparations that I wished to try out ready for Kalmar. So time was not a goal for the day, completion yes. The swim, which was a simple loop, went without a hitch. The bike leg went as expected and again the plan was to pace myself and not get carried away with speed / time if I was feeling good. The course was good, not flat but with only one part that could be classed as a hill. So on to the half marathon, well what can I say –  it started off well! However after about four miles the problems with pain in my feet returned so it was in to the familiar survival mode to ensure completion, which has been the normal now for a few events. This continuous stopping was (is) causing problems with me getting into any sort of rhythm. The positive is that I now know something about the medical condition that is causing this problem, so all I need to work out is a plan of action for future events.

A potential solution

One consideration is to change the way in which I tie up my laces, at present the use of elastic laces with my Pes Cavus feels that I am wearing an elastic band around my feet so not getting any relief. It was due to the number of times I was taking my shoes off to rub my feet that this style of laces where introduced, so going to replace with normal laces using a non-traditional method to lace up. Also what I am now considering is instead of pushing on until the foot pain becomes a problem is to build into my run plan stops to self-massage my feet before it gets to the unbearable pain level, this may mean a short stop at regular intervals no matter how I am feeling.

The Future

At present I am still confused over the results of the medical tests over the last few months, as all I am getting is the observations from these tests. What is confusing me is there is no definitive condition being diagnosed other than a “Neuromuscular Condition” which is long-standing – this term is so general it seems someone is afraid to put a tag on the condition. So the saga of “Atrophy of the Thoracic Spinal Cord” along with “Upper Motor Neurone” signs goes on and on and on. The wait for further appointments continues and it feels at present a race against time for me to plan for the future, but as the mantra goes “you’re never a loser until you quit trying”, and guess what my plan is. It is at this point I start wondering what and where the months will take me – I have a dream.

With little over 4 weeks to go Mike is clearly determined to take part in the event and give it all he can, firmly following the Ironman’s mantra “Anything is Possible.” We wish him all the best as he is also fundraising and running for Scope in the Great North Run this September.

If you’ve been tempted to take part in a triathlon or endurance event then make sure you check out what we have to offer.

Paralympics Legacy – how do we keep on the right track?

I’ve just spent the weekend watching the Anniversary Games. Clare Balding and Ade Adepitan in the commentary box, Richard Whitehead’s amazing win, and Hannah Cockroft on the front page of the Metro on my commute today – it felt like a small piece of last summer all over again.

I’ve looked back at a rather excitable blog that I wrote last year, after spending the day at the Olympic Park.

I was full of Paralympic buzz, and as chief executive of a disability charity, it felt amazing to see so many people talking about and watching disabled athletes.

Research showed what we had all hoped – that, looking beyond sport, the Paralympics had the power to change attitudes towards disabled people.

But away from the euphoria of the Olympic Park and there’s another side to the story. We’ve been asking disabled people over the last few weeks to tell us whether they think the Paralympics change their lives for the better.

Many contrast the positivity of the Paralympics with how tough their life is right now.

The Government hoped more disabled people would play sport.

The jury’s out on whether this happened.

The Government points to small rise in the number of people taking up sport. But independent research shows just a handful of sports clubs had facilities for disabled people.

Disabled people we speak to echo Tanni Grey Thompson’s point, which is that if you can’t get out of the house or pay the bills, it’s not easy to play sport.

You can’t separate Paralympics legacy from the squeeze we’re seeing in local care and support. And you can’t separate legacy from the financial difficulties facing disabled people right now.

Parents of young disabled children tell us a lot that they really struggle to find fun things that their kids can do – sports or arts clubs, for example – with other children who aren’t disabled. Lord Coe, speaking on 5Live, said there was more work to do when it came to disabled children and sport in schools.

At the heart of legacy is the idea of changing attitudes.

“Visibility” is a word that I kept using last summer. The best thing for me about the Games – beyond the adrenaline and the excitement – was the sheer visibility of disabled people.

The Paralympics achieved record ticket sales, and record-breaking viewer numbers on Channel 4. Many people visiting the Games were struck by the number of disabled spectators.

The fact is that shockingly few people actually know a disabled person. So what is said publically, and in the media, is shapes attitudes towards disability.

Jump ahead one year from London 2012 and open a newspaper. We are sadly now more used to reading headlines about disabled people which include the words “benefit cheat”, than ones celebrating success.

This is even acknowledged in the Government’s recent report into legacy, which highlights that any positive shifts in attitudes during the Games are likely to have been undone by the debate over welfare reforms.

Triple gold winner Sophie Christensian has called the Paralympics a “turning point in perception.” I love this description. But now we have turned, how do we keep on the right track?

Last summer was a breakthrough moment. But many disabled people think that the buzz of last summer is well and truly over.

Legacy is a long-term project. But we need to start by making sure disabled people can live independently, can make ends meet and can live in a society that doesn’t write you off just because you’re different and need a little support to get on with your life.

I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts – tell us on Facebook or tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

Disability in 2013

The Government hoped the Paralympics would improve daily life for disabled people.

But one year on disabled people have been telling Scope that daily life is really tough.

Here are some reasons why:

Basic care

Disabled people rely on support from their councils to get up, get dressed, get washed and get out of the house. But councils have been upping the bar for eligibility, with 83 per cent of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system. Support for those in the system is also being squeezed. A Scope survey found almost 40 per cent of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs. Angela from Luton talks about the impact this has on her:

The Government recently committed to investing £3.8bn in social care and its Care Bill reforms are introducing a cap on costs and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care. But the Government has also said the plans will set as standard the higher level that most councils have moved to. Experts say this will leave 105,000 disabled people outside of the system.

As Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said recently: “If you can’t get out of bed or get washed in the morning, then you can’t change the way people think, you can’t take part in sport and you are not going to be involved in the community.”

At the same time parents of disabled children have also been raising concerns about the difficulties they face when it comes to finding the right kind of support, services and activities for their children.

Paying the bills

Life becomes more expensive and you’re more likely to be on a low income if you are disabled. Living costs are spiralling and income is flattening for everyone. But recent research showed just how tough things are for disabled people. Fifteen per cent of disabled people – over double the rate for the public (7%) – use loans to make ends meet.

What’s the Government’s response? It is taking away £28bn of financial support, sticking with both the broken system for deciding if disabled people are entitled to out-of-work support and the discredited Work Programme, which has failed to help disabled people find work.

Attitudes

Most non-disabled people don’t get a chance to speak to disabled people, so disabled people feel strongly what’s said publicly is crucial in shaping attitudesDisabled people, charities and the Government all saw the Paralympics as an opportunity improve hardening attitudes. Scope’s chief executive Richard Hawkes describes last summer was as “a breakthrough moment”.  He says “disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly”. Surveys in the aftermath of the games pointed to an improvement in public attitudes. But, as the Government’s own report found, there are increasing concerns that this is being undermined by negativity around benefits.

We want to know what you think. What is your life like in 2013? Respond below, on Facebook or tweet us @Scope.

Disabled people discuss the Paralympics Effect

What difference did the Paralympics make to the lives of disabled people? Did it change attitudes? Did it increase opportunities to play sport or volunteer?

We’ve heard from famous former Paralympians Tanni Grey-Thompson and Ade Adepitan.

Scope’s also been asking disabled people, their friends and family to say if they thought that the Paralympics has made the country a better place for disabled people.

#ParalympicsEffect

Martyn Sibley, co-founder of Disability Horizons, is travelling in his wheelchair from John o’Groats to Land’s End to celebrate the Paralympics effect. He said:

“I was spellbound by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it wasn’t just the sport… it was the electricity in the air, it was the collective community consciousness and for me it was about the big bright light put on disability never before witnessed in the four corners of the UK.”

Marie Andrews, 30, from Milton Keynes volunteers two days a week at a centre for integrated living where she gives advice to disabled people. She agrees that the Games changed the way people think:

“I’ve noticed a shift in attitudes since the Paralympics. People in the street are not staring as much, they’re not as judgemental. I think the Paralympics helped the public realise that just because someone is disabled, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve. They are seeing disability in a new light. Don’t get me wrong, I still get looks but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.

John (via Facebook):  “Yes, I strongly agree. It’s great how much things have improved for us”

Shaun (via Facebook): “I think it’s definitely improved and people are actually offering more opportunities.”

Siobhan (via Twitter): “Loving that since the Paralympics, I know all the athletes performing at #Lyon2013”

‘Not sure’

Jane Jones from Cornwall, is the mother of a Jacob who is disabled:

“I feel that while the Paralympics gave families of disabled people hope and inspiration, since then the steady decline of funding and respect for disabled people from many places has made it harder to cope.”

Mandy (via Facebook): “I feel it did make a difference at the time but the attitude is swiftly changing back due to poor reporting making people with disabilities look like ‘scroungers’, or worse. Is this what the government wants?”

Pauline (via Facebook): “the attitudes of many have changed I think on a practical level access, facilities etc there has not been a lot of change and there needs to be more done”

Jenny (via Twitter): “Paralympics showed us great achievements but #ParalympicsFail as gov and media give  -ve  scrounger image”

Lizzy (via Facebook): “The Paralympic Games really excited my son he wants to compete but in our area there is no sports for disabled people let alone disabled children. Our local swimming pool is not very accommodating either.”

#ParalympicsFail

Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now:

“The thing about the Paralympics always was that they happened in this bubble of hyper reality.  Real life for disabled people was never going to be like that again.  So now here we are with people under threat of losing their social housing homes, others left stranded on a work programme which doesn’t work for them, people dreading the all-too-real eventuality of losing a disability benefit.”

Pauline (via Facebook): “No decent member of society can possibly agree with what is happening. It is undoing all the good that the Paralympics did to change attitudes. Life is so difficult for everyone it should not be made even more so for some members of our society who need and have a right to financial help.”

Helen (via Facebook): “Any positive attitudes the games produced has disappeared because of how the Government and the media are portraying disabled people as benefit scroungers and workshy within their welfare reform hype.”

Rebecca (via Facebook): “Rubbish – and given the fact that many Paralympians will face losing their DLA over the coming years, their “opportunities” are likely to decrease, rather than increase. And as for public perceptions – seeing superhuman paralysed people or amputees running/swimming etc, just made many people say “well if HE can do that, why can’t you…?”

John (via Facebook): “My sons special needs school has lost its sports field don’t get me started in this subject, I only have to walk into Starbucks to find teenagers mocking my 13 year old son with regards to his disability.”

Paula (via  Facebook): “No definitely no improvement. I was told by someone that being disabled I should look to the Paralympics to see what I could achieve if i tried. My husband can ride a bike but he’s no Chris Hoy…..”

Loretta (via Facebook): “No attitudes haven’t improved. Sport is still extremely exclusive. My son has no provision to play tennis competitively as he has cerebral palsy and autism. Advice from the LTA is to put him in a wheelchair so he can play wheelchair tennis as they don’t cater for other levels of physical impairment!”

Scope wants to know what you think. Leave a response below, let us know on Facebook or tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

Bradford shows its support for Scope’s Britain Cares Campaign

“I’m scared about my future. I don’t know if the support I need will be there when I am older.”

Bradford group pictureThese were the words of a disabled woman who attended the Bradford Cares launch. She echoes the concerns of many disabled people throughout the country who receive social care support and who have experienced reductions in levels of support or increased charges in recent years.

Bradford Cares was held on July 15 in the Bradford East constituency of David Ward MP, who organised the event:

The event was inspired by Scope’s Britain Cares Campaign which has attracted from the backing of people up and down the country eager to support the campaign by posting over 1000 “I care” photos onto our website and show how much they value the vital role good social care plays in the lives of millions of disabled people. By coming along to the event, the people of Bradford showed that they cared too.

The Bradford Cares Summit was attended by over 100 disabled and older people and representatives from DPOs. Participants had a chance to discuss their own experiences of social care and their concerns for the future. Guests were also able to browse the various stands for advice and information, and many took the opportunity to visit the Scope stand to find out more about Britain Cares and to have their photograph uploaded onto our website.

During the event there was a panel session offering the audience the opportunity to put forward their concerns on social care. I was there, representing Scope as the Community Campaigns Manager, along with David Ward, Paul Burstow the former Minister for Social Care and Keith Nathan, Chief Executive of Bradford and District Age UK.

There were many probing and difficult questions put to the panel on the future of social care. Some focused on funding, whilst others were concerned about tightening eligibility, fearing they would no longer qualify under the proposed National Eligibility framework.

As a wheelchair user I was fortunate to be able to speak of my first-hand experience of social care and as someone who has worked over a number of years on policy and campaigns to improve care provision.

People should be concerned about the future of social care but they should also welcome the fact that the topic is higher up the Government agenda than it has ever been before.

We need to engage more in effective dialogue with politicians and care providers. We need to use less of the jargon of ‘eligibility criteria’ and talk more about the difference the right support makes to someone’s life.

Why not hold your own Britain Cares event to show how much good social care means to your community? Contact us at hello@britaincares.co.uk

The starting gun has been fired on the Paralympics Legacy debate

Did London 2012 change the lives of disabled people?

Last week the Government argued that the “Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”.

Yesterday two well-known former Paralympians and good friends of Scope – Ade Adepitan and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – had their say.

Ade
Ade Adepitan – Actor, TV presenter and Great Britain wheelchair basketball Paralympian

Ade, who’s forging a career as a presenter on C4, thinks the games has changed perceptions of disability.

In a great interview with Nick Curtis at the Standard, Ade says he hears “people saying: ‘I’ve suddenly seen more disabled people on the streets: where do they come from?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, the bastards, they’ve been hiding underground. Who let them free?’”

“I always thought that as a disabled person I was cool, because difference is cool. Me and my friends were pioneers, going out in the street and playing wheelchair basketball, a sport no one knew about. In 2010 people had an idea about disability sport but didn’t know the characters. It was our job to tell the public who the stars were, give ’em nicknames like ‘the Weir-wolf’ and get them to fall in love with them.”

Although he’s mostly upbeat, Ade drops in a cautious note.

He says the lack of access to public transport “prevents disabled people from playing an active part in society” and the Government’s review of the welfare system “gave the impression that many people with disabilities are lazy, and created a ‘them and us’ mentality”.

It’s this last point that Tanni – the Paralympian who’s now making a name for herself in the Lords –   majors on in a hard-hitting interview with the Mirror.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (Photo credit: NCVO)

She contrasts the feel good factor of last summer – “Which exceeded all expectations” –  with a hardening of attitudes to benefits claimants.

“I’ve lost track of the number of letters from disabled people who have been spat at in the street. Instead of the deserving and undeserving poor, we have got deserving and undeserving disabled people.”

“One letter I received described how a disabled person was in a bus queue and someone came up and started asking them how many thousands in benefits they were costing. This was a working disabled person who takes nothing in benefits.

“There is suddenly a massive ­mismatch between how Paralympians and everyone else with disabilities are viewed. The irony is that of course there are Paralympians who are losing benefits under welfare reforms.”

Scope wants to know what you think. Leave a response below, let us know on Facebook or tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

In-depth research shows that disabled people are financially excluded

New research published today looks beyond the welfare debate, and at the untold story of disabled people’s financial exclusion.

Disabled people’s finances are being hit from all sides. Earlier this year, research found that 3.7 million disabled people will lose £28 billion worth of support through the welfare changes – some being hit by six reforms at once. And in the Spending Round earlier this month, the Chancellor announced that there will be an overall cap on social security spending– including the amount spent on disability benefits.

A quarter of disabled people live in poverty, even before the extra costs of being disabled are factored in. The coalition’s cuts and caps will have an acute impact on disabled people and risk pushing more disabled people below the poverty line.

But there is another, largely untold part to the story of disabled people’s finances. In-depth research conducted by Ipsos MORI (PDF 1.2MB) published today examines the financial inclusion of disabled people.

Being financially included means having access to appropriate, affordable financial products and services – and knowing how to use them effectively without incurring costs. It means being able to build a financial safety net through insurance and savings; smooth fluctuations in income perhaps by drawing on credit; manage money and plan ahead. Most of all it’s an essential part of people living independently and being able to partake in all that society has to offer.

The research (PDF 1.2MB) shows that the story of disabled people’s financial inclusion is a complex one. Some disabled people are in a very poor financial situation.  Half have relied on credit to pay for the everyday items needed in life, while a similar proportion are struggling to pay their bills. For these, being able to save even occasionally; pay insurance premiums; or make credit card repayments, is unrealistic.

But for disabled people, financial exclusion is about more than just lacking money:

  • One in eight (12%) disabled people cannot physically access their bank.
  • Some want to protect themselves against financial crises, but feel they are turned down for insurance (8%), or are forced to pay higher premiums, on the basis of being disabled (22%).
  • Most (84%) are confident in managing their own money, but do not have access to the right advice, and may be completely in the dark about the welfare changes that will affect them – in 2012 almost half (45%) had never even heard of Universal Credit.
  • Some could afford to save a bit each month (17% agreed strongly that they could), or make credit card repayments but without knowing all of the options available to them choose to borrow off family and friends (38%) or ‘do without’ instead (48%).

For these disabled people, it is the role of the government, industry and regulators to ensure equal access to the right financial products. In a series of pamphlets published today, Scope outlines ideas for ensuring financial inclusion for disabled people in three main areas: Credit and Debt, Savings and Insurance and Information and Advice.

The Government wants people to be financially independent – to manage their own money and live their lives with minimal state support. The delivery of these aims so far has involved hastily removing the social safety net from beneath disabled people, without putting in place structures to build up their own financial resilience. For those disabled people who will always need some state support, drastic changes in their benefits mean that poverty, and spiralling debt are a more pertinent risk than benefit traps. For others, becoming more financially resilient is a real possibility – one that could be achieved through access to the right products and advice, and through policies which promote financial independence – and one that the Government would be unwise not to recognise.

View the pamphlets here: Financial SituationCredit and Debt, Savings and InsuranceInformation and Advice.

View the research: Disabled People and Financial Wellbeing

View the data tables

Government reports on Paralympics legacy

Paralympic Opening Ceremony
Paralympic Opening Ceremony (Photo credit: MegMoggington)

The Government has today published its assessment of the financial and social impact of London 2012.

The £9.9bn boost for the economy has grabbed the headlines.

But the report also looks at Paralympics legacy.

The Government previously outlined the three things it wanted the Games to do: change attitudes and improve participation in sport and community engagement.

The report says in big letters: “The Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”

David Weir
David Weir (Photo credit: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

But the Telegraph spots a note of caution in the detail: “While the Paralympics improved public attitudes to disabled people, this has been undermined by the debate over the government’s welfare reforms, the evaluation suggested.”

Meanwhile the Sun asked Paralympian David Weir what difference the Games made to his life. “I live in the same council house with three kids,” he said.

These concerns echo points made by Scope Chief Executive Richard Hawkes in the Independent yesterday: “If the Government really wants to honour the legacy of the Paralympics and change things for the better, it has got to stop fuelling that narrative and demonising benefits claimants… you can’t have the Paralympics every day. But we should aspire to make the atmosphere of positivity towards disability a part of everyday life”.

Over the next couple of weeks Scope will be bringing together disabled people to say what they think about the Paralympics Effect. Watch this space.

So what exactly does the report say about the impact of 2012 on disabled people?

Here are the key points

The report says the Games “were a unique opportunity for sharing positive messages about disabled people, which led to an up-swell in positive public attitudes and perceptions of disabled people”.

There are some good stats on Channel 4’s coverage:

“More than 500 hours of coverage were broadcast across all platforms, 350 hours over the stated target and four times more than from the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. It included 16 hours of live coverage every day and 1.3 million live streams online. The coverage reached an unprecedented share of the audience, and achieved record viewing figures. Almost 40 million people – more than two thirds of the UK population – viewed the Paralympic Games on TV.[1] Overall, 25% of all TV viewers watched Channel 4’s coverage every day. Peak viewing levels reached 11.6 million for the opening ceremony – Channel 4’s biggest audience in more than a decade – and 6.3 million watched Jonnie Peacock win Gold in the T44 100m, the largest rating for a single Paralympic event. Channel 4 also ensured that 50% of on-screen talent for Paralympic broadcasts were disabled people.”

A name-check for Scope research:

“Research by the disability charity Scope found that 62% of disabled people believed the Paralympics could improve attitudes towards disabled people. Independent media analysis showed a major improvement in the way disability was covered in the press in the year of the Paralympics, with a peak in the level of coverage of disabled people which used positive and empowering terminology.”

But the report offers a bit of reality check too:

“How long the uplift in public attitudes will last is more questionable. Stakeholders broadly agreed that the improvement in attitudes was at risk of being a relatively short-term improvement and that developments and press coverage since the end of the Games, especially in early 2013 around the context of benefit reform, had affected public perceptions. Encouragingly, rolling survey evidence still being collected[2] shows that even by March 2013 a quarter of people were still saying that the Paralympic Games caused them to have a ‘much more positive view’ of disabled people.”

It then looks at volunteering:

“The Games also opened up a range of volunteering, cultural and sporting opportunities for disabled people that did not exist before. Participation in volunteering by disabled people increased year-on-year to 2012, compared to 2005/06, and 4% of Games Maker volunteers had a disability.

And sport:

“Participation in sport and recreational activity[3] by disabled people also increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2012 from 2005/06. This was in part driven by legacy programmes such as the Inclusive Sport Fund, which is investing over £10 million of National Lottery funding into projects designed to increase the number of disabled young people and adults regularly playing sport, along with opportunities offered by the School Games, Sportivate, Inspire projects and Legacy Trust UK. The School Games national event in May 2012 in the Olympic Park involved 167 disabled athletes (11.6% of the total) and all the facilities in the Olympic Park have been designed to be accessible to disabled participants and attendees.”


[1] Channel 4 (2012) The London 2012 Games. Brought to you by Channel 4. Based on three minute reach of TV coverage over duration of the Paralympic Games.

[2] Games-related questions commissioned by Department for Work and Pensions were asked in five waves of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey from November 2012 to March 2013.

[3] Based on 1×30 minutes of moderate intensity sport in the last week including recreational cycling and walking as measured by Taking Part.

Fabienne’s Story

Guest post from Fabienne who is a mentor at Scope’s Our Generation project.

A few years ago, I made the brave decision to leave my job of many years as a classroom teacher. Without realising it, I had gradually developed a range of negative and self-destructive thoughts and feelings about different aspects of my work. It took time and effort to acknowledge the outcome of my decision. I was unable to see my situation clearly and I found myself engulfed in a storm of unhealthy emotions: anxiety, fear of the future, guilt, worthlessness, an overwhelming feeling of failure and my inability to find any good, positive achievements in my life.

I knew deep down that I had to try to be proactive, so I requested from my GP, and received some outside support, which showed me some positive ways to start moving forward. One of the professionals told me about the work that the Our Generation Project and suggested paying them a visit.

After talking to one of the coordinators, I decided to register with the service as mentee. I felt that this was an opportunity not to be missed, something I had not tried before, and something which fitted well with my aim of keeping an open mind.

Over the course of year, I received regular support from two different mentors. They both gave me a listening, understanding and empathetic ear. Every meeting, I was encouraged to talk freely and at my own pace, without judgement or pressure. I was encouraged to develop my own coping strategies and to acknowledge my on-going progress. I received support in identifying my short-term and long term-goals, as well as workable ideas for self-development and relaxation techniques, run by the WEA, and both courses played an important part in my progress. I was able to practice and apply a range of the techniques in my daily life.

As I write this, I have managed to continue to develop some private tuition and to rebuild my confidence in teaching. I am working as a church volunteer in the community café in the village where I live and have really enjoyed being involved in something entirely new while meeting new people and making new friends. And I am currently in the process of completing a mentoring/befriending training course for Scope’s new project called Silver Dreams – Our Generation.

I would like to be able to give something back to a wonderful service and I would like to express my grateful thanks for all the guidance and support I have received from my mentors and from the coordinators who have helped me to start believing in myself.

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.

One man, one bike, no sleep!

We can’t help but be proud and shout from the rooftops about the achievement of our 230 cyclists who made it from London to Paris last weekend in 35 degree heat, raising a fantastic amount for Scope’s work.

Four weeks ago, Team Scope athlete Paul Thompson suffered an almighty blow when he hit the tarmac on a training ride. Paul documented his (and his bike’s!) road to recovery with some pretty graphic images on his own blog and on our London to Paris 24 forum.

"Ouch! 7 months and 1800 miles of training, just undert 70 miles into a 150 on Sunday, the last 'big' ride before L2P, averaging just over 17 mph, feeling good...  1 sec, 1 sunken drain cover hidden in shadows, a newly surfaced road and ... bang!  6 xrays (shoulder/collar bone, ankle, elbow, 3 x fingers) all OK; Op wednesday to fix hole in elbow (worn through to bone) - cleaned up and stitched, no need for a graft fingers crossed!  On the mend and so's the bike.... 4 weeks to go and firmly focused on July 6 and 7, I'll be there..."

PT in hospital

With a lot of support from the other riders on the forum (and of course the NHS) Paul began his recuperation.

"Thanks for all the messages of support - they really help. NHS have been brilliant, seeing specialist tomorrow to find out how the elbow is healing after the op - fingers crossed (sort of)!"3 weeks later, he was already back in the saddle and looking forward to the event – as Paul put it “Body courtesy of NHS, Bike courtesy of Owens Cycles, Petersfield.”

"Back in the saddle!  See post of June 7 - but delighted to report stitches are out of my elbow and I got back on the (mountain) bike today for some serious off road hill climbing.  Road bike should be back from LBS this weekend (or Tuesday next at the latest) - ironic that it's taken longer to get back up and running than me but I wanted to source the original forks that have had to be shipped in from France.  So all should be back together in time for July 6th - see you all then."

Paul Thompson 4On Saturday 6th July, Paul had made a fantastic recovery and was at the start line.

“Arriving at the start and sensing the quiet determination across the participants you knew this would be something special. My objectives: get to Paris before 1:00pm local time and enjoy the ride.”

PT 10“Into the ride and there was never a moment of disappointment, steady cycling, plenty of camaraderie and support for each other and soon the drear of London gave way to the rolling landscape of Kent.

Cycling solo I hoped to meet up with a few like minded and similar paced individuals whom I could team up with and settle into the right tempo without getting caught up in the frenzy of a larger peloton.  First I joined up with Scott Elliot, who lived in Paris and so was cycling 271 miles home (how cool is that?) and then Mark and Martin Hinchcliffe (of single speed fame) and with occasional others we cruised down to Dover.  The only discomfort a wasp sting in the thigh at 30 miles (nasty at this time of year) and with a fleeting glimpse of the Battle of Britain memorial on top of the famous white cliffs we descended into Dover.

Coming off the ferry pretty much last Scott and I settled in for the night shift with 50 minutes to make up because of the ferry delay.  I think everyone will remember those first miles in the dark on French soil, the tarmac feeling smooth as marble under wheel after the lumps and bumps of English highways; the pace, the smells, the excitement.  By first stop we had almost caught the front peloton a snake of red seen cresting each hill a couple of minutes ahead.  We joined them for the next 20 miles until we were split by a mad lorry driver and soon found ourselves back as a twosome, sailing through the night.

By breakfast  the 50 minute deficit had become a 15 minute buffer to 24 hour pace and we could first start to think of making it to Paris within the time (albeit we still had 100 miles to go!)  Given the heat it was a surprise to get hit by the cool and damp before dawn but it didn’t last long and a beautiful dawn unfolded, accompanied by the smell of fresh bread, the bark of farm dogs and the crowing of French Cockrills.  We powered on, gazing out across the countryside that next year will look back 100 years to a time of a less welcome invasion, a chill to think of all those who suffered and died on this land.

With the big climb out of Amiens behind us it was time for the final push to Paris and with some help from Ruslan raising our tempo in the morning sun the French capital came within touching distance.  Onwards, ever nearer and into the heat and traffic of the suburbs.  Roads deteriorating, red lights never quite in sync and city traffic all stood in our way until at last we crossed the Seine and flew into central Paris.  One right turn and there, at the top of the rise, framed by brilliant blue sky – the Arc Du Triomphe, almost there!

PT 11Down the Champs Elysee (how does Le Tour race on those cobbles?) and finally round to the Tour Eiffel and the finish; 15 minutes to spare, 16 hours and 35 minutes in the saddle, a moment to realise we had done it and for me to reflect on 5 weeks earlier being wheeled at that very time into A&E Chichester with multiple injuries and a suspected broken shoulder/collar bone having just emptied my first bottle of gas and air…”

Paul’s just one example of the unbelievable grit and determination in all of our L2P24 riders. We’re pleased to report that Paul was under the Eiffel Tower within the 24 hour target and has already fundraised a fantastic £2100!

“L2P24, can you really described it – no you have to experience it; and we were lucky enough to do it in fantastic conditions with the magnificent support of Scope, Action Challenge and their support teams, and of course a great bunch of like minded cyclists…..”

If you think you’re brave enough why not sign-up now take on the event next year? Could you cycle from London to Paris in 24 hours?