Making independence and inclusion a reality

Post from Scope’s Chair Alice Maynard.

The anniversary of the Paralympics has sparked a nationwide debate about being disabled in 2013. The Government’s hope that the games would improve attitudes to disability has rightly come under scrutiny in the media. I’m just one of a diverse bunch of activists, experts, writers and sportspeople who’ve been touring the studios warning that the divisive scrounger rhetoric undermines any positivity from 2012.

In this blog I wanted to pick up on something that hasn’t had quite the same air space over the last couple of days… the Government’s ambition to get more disabled people involved in sport and the community more widely.

The Government’s independent evaluation points to small increases in participation in sport and the community. But there’s a bigger picture here. As Tanni Grey-Thompson argued recently if you can’t get out of bed or get washed in the morning, you can’t take part in sport and you are not going to be involved in the community. In 2013 there is a crisis in living standards for disabled people. Nearly one in five (16%) disabled people say they cannot keep up with rising costs of living. Disabled people are three times more likely to take out high interest, high risk loans to pay the bills. Yet the Government has stripped away £28.3 billion of financial support for disabled people. Meanwhile 100,000 disabled people are being pushed out of the social care system, with many struggling to get support they need to get up, get dressed and get out of the house. That’s why our Britain cares campaign is calling on people across society to tell the Government they really are concerned – they care – about this issue.

It’s not just adults. At the same time parents across the country tell Scope that too often local services segregate rather than provide support for greater independence and inclusion. The Government must take the lead. And it has two big opportunities: the Care Bill and the Children and Families Bill (which has been the focus of our Keep Us Close campaign), both of which are being debated this autumn.

If the Government wants disabled adults and children better included in sport and the wider community, it needs to end the squeeze on local care and place duties on councils to make local services more inclusive. Scope is one of many organisations making the case for a tougher legislation. But legacy is not just a job for Government, though they have a crucial leadership role to play. We all have to play our part in helping to realise a world where stereotypes and attitudes don’t hold disabled people back, and where inclusion and opportunity is a reality for everyone. Our actions must speak at least as loudly as our words; not always something that comes naturally to charities.

People rightly ask what we’re doing on the ground to create a society where disabled children and adults are better included in their local community. We’re proud of some our new services that are doing just that. Scope is running a pilot where parents of disabled children are supported to pool personal budgets from the council to buy accessible activities within their communities. And we’ve just brought out a toolkit for teachers to support them to better include disabled children in mainstream education.

At the same time we are transforming the more traditional local services we run so that they promote greater independence and inclusion. For instance, we have changed or closed a number of residential care homes in the last few years. This is absolutely crucial, but it’s not something that can be done without a great deal of consideration as it is often hard for the disabled people, families and staff involved. So when we make changes like this, we do our best to do it sensitively and respectfully, supporting everyone affected to understand what the changes mean and what choices are available to them. Where it is no longer appropriate for us to provide support for people, we want to work with the relevant authorities to help ensure that those people’s needs can be properly met elsewhere. We know that many disabled people find the pace of change frustrating and we know that a number of groups will be making this point as part of the ‘Reclaiming our futures’ week of action from Monday. But for organisations like Scope, there’s a real balance to strike between taking the time to manage change properly whilst not using this as an excuse to change too slowly.

To bring it back to Paralympics legacy. Although attitudes underpin everything, I hope we can debate how we better include disabled people in the community. The Government has to take a lead. But charities like Scope can’t simply shout from the side-lines. We have to make sure that we develop our services to embody inclusive education and independent living, however difficult that may be. When we get challenged on this, we must welcome that challenge and use it to help us make progress.

Film of the week: “Diagnosis for my children lead me to alcohol and self-harming”

One of the main services Scope offers is our Face 2 Face befriending scheme for parents of disabled children. For some parents, being able to talk to another parent who understands what you are going through and can offer emotional and practical support is a vital lifeline.

Alice Boardman is one mother whose life was turned around after she contacted Scope. Her two sons had been diagnosed as being on the austic spectrum and up until that point, she was really struggling to cope. You can find out more about her story in her own words by watching the film below.

If you’d like to find out more about contacting a parent befriender in your area, please visit the Face 2 Face pages on our website.

Have the Paralympics improved the daily lives of disabled people?

To mark the anniversary of the Paralympics we wanted to know if disabled people thought London 2012 has improved their lives.

Lord Coe says legacy is a ten year task, but this is a useful point to ask how things are going.

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

Two well-known former Paralympians – Ade Adepitan and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – have recently had their say.

But the views of ordinary disabled people are missing from the debate.

Over the last month we’ve been gathering their comments and opinions – through a poll of a thousand disabled people, through social media and also by looking at what they’ve been telling Scope recently about their lives in 2013.

We think this provides pretty compelling evidence that the Paralympics Legacy hangs in the balance.

There’s lots of ways to tackle the issue of legacy.

But we thought we’d take as our starting point, what the Government said it was hoping for: a change in attitudes and improvements participation in sport and community engagement.

We review these ambitions below and also on the Scope blog publish a collection of quotes and comments from the disabled people we spoke to.

Changing attitudes

Disabled people feel strongly that what’s said publicly is crucial in shaping attitudes. Behind this is the shocking fact that 90% of Britons have never had a disabled person in their house for a social occasion.

So it’s no surprise that disabled people, charities and the Government all saw the Paralympics as an opportunity improve hardening attitudes.

And – in the short term at least – most people think it did just that.

Surveys in the aftermath of the games pointed to an improvement in public attitudes. Lord Coe declared that ‘we’d never view disability in the same way’.

Scope’s new poll backs this up. Some 70% of disabled people think that the coverage of the Paralympic games had a positive effect on public perceptions.

Scope’s chair Alice Maynard describes the Paralympics as “a breakthrough moment”. She says: “Disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly”

But where are we one year on?

Recent Government figures show that over half of a sample of the public (regardless of whether they are disabled or not) said the Paralympics gave them a positive view of disability.

There have been moments when – like in 2012 – positive disabled role models have had a high profile in the media. Channel 4 brought back the Last Leg. Comedian Francesca Martinez hailed comedy as the new Paralympics following disabled comedian Jack Carroll star-turn on Britain’s Got Talent.

British double leg amputee and Paralympic Gold medalist, Richard Whitehead, is running a marathon a day this summer from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

But our new poll suggests that despite all this, disabled people remain concerned by public attitudes to disability.

81% of disabled people say that attitudes towards them haven’t improved in the last twelve months – with 22% saying that things have actually got worse.

Of the respondents who have experienced a decline in people’s attitudes over the past year, 84% think media coverage of benefit claims and the welfare system has had a negative effect on public attitudes.

That last point is crucial.

Despite welfare fraud being 0.7% of the benefits budget, the Government regularly contrasts the hard working person gets up early for work, to his benefits claiming neighbour’s whose blinds are pulled.

Cabinet members have had their wrists slipped for misusing welfare statistics. But people continue to think benefit fraud is worse than it is.

Tanni Grey-Thompson recently summed up the impact of the myth that most people who claim benefits are scroungers: “I’ve lost track of the number of letters from disabled people who have been spat at in the street…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.”

The Government’s own analysis of 2012 legacy raises this as an issue. Against this back drop, it says: “How long the uplift in public attitudes will last is more questionable”.

That’s why Scope is using the anniversary to call on the Government to halt the scrounger rhetoric once and for all.

Participating in sport and engaging in the community

One important fact first: the 2012 had a huge impact on Paralympics sport. As the head of the British Paralympics Association recently underlined, its profile and its funding are both greatly improved. Paralympians go to Rio with huge confidence.

But for ordinary disabled people the jury’s out.

The Government says “Participation in sport and recreational activity by disabled people increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2012 from 2005/06”.

Sport England says 362,000 more disabled people now play sport than in 2005, but it is estimated that only 18% of disabled adults undertake physical activity for more than 30 minutes a week, and those with impairments are still around half as likely to be active than their able-bodied counterparts.

This is echoed in Scope’s poll, which reveals only 10% felt that the Paralympics had inspired them to take up a new sport or re-visit a sport they once did.

Meanwhile when it comes to volunteering, the Government says: “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.

But Research by Disability Rights UK and Community Service Volunteers has found evidence that many people with disabilities are experiencing a surprising level of difficulty in finding volunteering roles.

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.”

Disabled people have three big challenges before they even get to the sports club or volunteering centre: getting the basic support from their council, getting about and paying the bills.

Getting the basic support

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 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. According to the London School of Economics (LSE) this will leave 105,000 disabled people outside of the system.

Paying the bills

Life becomes more expensive if you’re disabled and you’re more likely to be on a low income if you are disabled. Living costs are spiraling and income is flatlining for everyone. But recent research showed just how tough things are for disabled people.

One in ten disabled people have used doorstep loans, compared to just 3% of the general population. Fifteen per cent of disabled people – over double the rate for the public (7%) – use loans to make ends meet.

Here’s Susan from Ealing talking about her financial predicament.

What’s the Government’s response to the financial crisis facing disabled people? 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 spectacularly failed to support disabled people into work.

Accessibility

There was an ambition for the 2012 Games to be the ‘most accessible ever’ and TFL in particular took measures to improve accessibility. But in 2013 it remains a fact that 66 of the 270 Tube stations are step-free. ONS data shows that nearly half disabled people have had issues access leisure activities.

Scope polling suggests the real issue when it comes to accessibility people’s willingness to do something different or be flexible to accommodate a disabled person. Last summer 76% of disabled people told us they have experienced people refusing to make adjustments or do things differently. We regularly hear from disabled people who talk about this issue. Buses don’t stop. You’re not let into a club or bar because you ‘look drunk’.

As Scope’s Tom Hall recently told Marketing Week, disabled people and their families represent 20 million potential customers. Both local businesses and big brands should be doing so much more to tap into the £80bn purple pound.

5 unexpected tools for the keen campaigner

Petitions, letter writing, provocative slogans on t shirts…the essentials when campaigning on social change. Throw in a few media stunts with over-sized props and you’re looking at a campaign win. Maybe…? Here at Scope we’ve been trying out some tactics that aren’t as common when campaigning – and learning a lot along the way.

As we’re recruiting for a National Campaigns Officer, we’ve been reflecting on some of the unexpected tools we’ve used so far…

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1) Glitter

Arguably a useful resource to have around whatever you’re doing, last Christmas we proved that glitter can also be a powerful campaigning tool.  Also essential was glue, and over 1,800 stars with wishes for better support for disabled children. In December we found that glittery wish stars could be the magic ‘thread ‘ so often sought by campaigners – tying together a key policy ask with a media- worthy action that resonates with the public and all while catching the attention of decision-makers.

It was all part of the Keep  Us Close campaign, aiming to ensure that disabled children and their families  get the support they need close to home. The Wish Stars were displayed on a 20ft Christmas Tree at a Parliamentary reception, and then sent onto MPs afterwards – from whom we got many positive responses: “the stars have pride of place in my office in Westminster”. They even made it onto the Guardian.

Why it works: Creative delivery and meaningful messages, together with a clear destination for campaign actions (a Parliamentary Christmas tree, say) should never be underestimated.  Neither should the power of glitter.

Exmouth cropped photo

2) 236 till points

Charity shops. Great places to pick up a bargain, and maybe leave with a warm glow knowing you’ve donated to a good cause. A place to lobby influential decision makers? To learn about key issues affecting disabled people today? Surprisingly yes – the charity shop till point ranks highly as one of the most important tools for a Scope campaigner.

In the past year, Scope customers have sent over 43,000 campaign postcards to MPs on key campaign issues. The shops dedicated a month each to Scope’s key campaigns in October and again in May, with posters throughout the shop and staff and volunteers encouraging their customers to sign campaign postcards that were sent to their MP – and they did, in their thousands. And with the card-signing came valuable conversations. MPs also visited the shops, showing their support for the campaign and encouraging local media coverage.

The response from Scope customers to the campaign issues was overwhelmingly supportive. Speaking to our customers about our priority campaigns makes sense – it allows them to learn about the issues facing disabled people today, and how they can play a role in improving the situation.

Why it works: MPs often need to hear about an issue from a large base of people, and shop staff want a way to engage with their customers and share more about the work that Scope does. The perfect match. And there’s potential to do a lot more.

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3) 300 flat pack boxes

Searching for reasonably priced flat-pack ‘fold at home’ gift boxes online is a tricky business. There is a surprising array of colours, dimensions and sizes available.

Why was I searching for a suitable ‘memory box’? It was January. We wanted a campaign action that wasn’t ‘make a new year’s resolution for change’. MPs needed to hear a strong, memorable reminder that family time together was precious. The Children and Families Bill was about to go into Parliament, MPs had already received emails, shop-postcards and wish stars on the issue.

Asking people to share a fond family memory with their MP turned out to be a good decision. We had a brilliant response in just three weeks (even in January!) and the memories people shared were heartfelt and meaningful – from sandwiches on the beach with Nan to long car journeys and Christmases together. Some people even shared photos. We packaged these memories into the freshly-folded boxes, tied them up with string and hand-delivered them to MPs.

Why it works: Often supporters have meaningful messages to add to a campaign, you just need to ask. Create an interesting space for people to make their actions unique and then do the message justice with creative delivery. And remember that MPs want to hear personal stories.

4) “Hi, my name is…”

Okay this one seems tentative, but bear with me. Meeting other people isn’t that radical – but finding campaign allies can often be overlooked as a priority. In the past year, we’ve had great success building relationship with others – across Scope departments, and with other organisations – and we need to keep at it.

Scope donors now regularly support our key campaigns. They’ve received emails, postcards, and even their own pre-made wish stars – so they can support Scope not only with their generous donation, but also with their influencing power.

We’ve worked with our Scope service Activities Unlimited on the Keep Us Close campaign (involving a Fun Day with a LOT of glue and glitter). We’ve introduced MPs to parents of disabled children via our Face to Face service. All of these activities depended on building a good relationship – and making an effort to understand the aims of others and how working together can strengthen them. And there’s always more to do.

Why it works: Working with others isn’t new – but is it essential. Our supporters won’t pigeon–hole themselves – so neither should we. Shop customers, parents, donors – they can all take part in a campaign, so it’s our job to work together and make it possible, and keep learning to make the partnerships better and better.

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5) A bar of soap.

The social care soap may take the prize as the most unusual tool so far. But if you’re intrigued, there are plenty of soap bars still being decorated to send to MPs as part of the Britain Cares campaign. And socks. And cards.  So you can join in! Again, it’s about being able to show MPs that this is an issue their constituents really care about. But this time the creativity doesn’t come from Scope – it comes from the crafter themselves – who adds their ‘I care’ message in their own way. While they’re busy stitching, gluing or carving into soap, they automatically invest time in their message, and can contemplate what they’re saying and why. Increasingly we hear that MPs need to know the messages they receive are meaningful– so creative campaigning seems to have a very important role to play.

Why it works: It’s fun, it can be therapeutic, it creates a personal message and catches the attention of MPs with its uniqueness. What’s not to like?!

There are plenty of tools that didn’t make the final 5 – telling a story with animations or compelling case-study films, working with partners from large corporates to local groups. And there are still more tools to be discovered for the next, and most ambitious campaign that Scope has planned. The possibilities are open.

Maybe you could be the one to create them…?

You can apply for the Scope National Campaigns Officer role here.

Disabled people and their families debate 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?  Disabled people, their friends and family have their say on whether the Paralympics has made the country a better place for disabled people.

#ParalympicsEffect


Sophie Christiansen OBE
, London 2012 Paralympic Games triple gold medal-winning equestrian, said:
“During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Great Britain saw what disabled people could do. It was a turning point in perception. However, it was just the start. Just like not every able bodied person is not going to run as fast as Usain Bolt, not every disabled person is going to be a Paralympian. The challenge is now bridging the gap between the disabled community and Paralympians. The government’s initiative for role models is key to this to show that you can achieve in anything, whether it be in business, the arts, sport, academia, media, even if you have a disability.”

Richard Whitehead MBE, London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medal winner, said:
 “The 2012 Paralympics sent a powerful message that a disability shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals. We hopefully inspired disabled people. We hopefully made the public think differently about disability. For me it’s not about looking back. We need to look forward. You don’t have the Paralympics every day, so how else can we show the world what’s possible once you start living a life without limits?”

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 judgmental. 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.

Alice Boardman from Lancashire is the mother of two boys with autism aged six and seven. She said:
“I feel frightened for the future with the budget pressure on all services.  It seems we are in a fast accelerating downward spiral with being able to care for disabled people. But the Paralympics has given me huge confidence that disability is slowly becoming more socially integrated and celebrated in a positive way.  It felt like the first event that truly combined the able and disabled worlds in joint appreciation of the talents of disabled sportsmen and women, and I hope this will continue to ripple in a positive way though other areas of society.”

‘Could do better’

Alison Walsh, Channel 4 disability executive, said in response to what more the media should do:
“My answer is just do it. Less talk more action. Be prepared to take some risks with new talent – find people who are right and work hard to develop programmes that are right for them. The Paralympics gave Channel 4 a vehicle for disabled sports presenters but they can’t just be dusted off every four years, and they shouldn’t be confined to presenting disability subjects; they must be developed on as presenters who can work across different sports and all sorts of genres.

“Cast disabled actors in roles not written as disabled characters. Don’t forget to cast disabled contributors wherever you are featuring general public in reality or factual entertainment shows. Stop airbrushing us out! Behind the screen the same – take risks, make an effort to attract the talent. And disabled people – bash down our doors…”

Speaking on the link between comedy and attitudes, comedian Francesca Martinez said:
“I bet Jack Carroll’s jokes helped a few people think differently about what it means to be disabled. Like me, Jack uses humour to challenge attitudes to disability, much in the way that Britain’s Paralympians did with their amazing achievements last summer. A year on from the games, it’s got me thinking: could comedy be 2013’s Paralympics?

“I think disability is normal – it has always existed. It’s not abnormal because it’s part of life. Of course it brings struggles, but many of those struggles come from society’s inability to deal with difference.

“Comedy lets us tackle ‘difficult’ subjects in a light-hearted way. It lets you by-pass the discomfort that bubbles up when people worry too much about what to say. I try to turn people’s fears into jokes, because I find that people are more receptive if you make them laugh. And, do you know what? Disability can be funny! Some people think I’m talking about an issue, but I just talk about my life, which is what every comic does.”

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”

Lizzy (via Facebook): “The Paralympic Games really excited my son he wants to compete but in our area there are 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.”

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

Angela Murray is a disabled former volunteer of the year from Luton she said:
“There’s no middle ground in the way the media think about disabled people: we‘re either lazy benefit scroungers or people to be pitied. I don’t want the public thinking I’m sitting at home demanding benefits but neither do I want people to be sympathetic to the point of patronising.”

“I’ve had people look down on me and say stuff like ‘do you think you can’t work just because you use a wheelchair?’ But at the same time I’ve had people say ‘of course you can’t work, you’re in a wheelchair.’ Neither attitude is helpful.”

“I remember one interviewer being really impressed with me. He practically told me I’d got the job before the interview was over. But I saw his face change when I asked him to help me get out of the building because I couldn’t get through all the doors. That was it. I knew I had no chance.”

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

Meet our new Director of Communications

Mark Atkinson
Mark Atkinson

Mark Atkinson, who’s currently Director of External Affairs at Ambitious about Autism, is starting as Scope’s new Director of Communications and Marketing in October.

Mark has worked at Ambitious About Autism for three and a half years where he has led the introduction and development of a new brand and identity. Before that Mark worked at the Youth Sport Trust,Citizens Advice and the Local Government Association.

Here he explains why he’s excited to be joining Scope and some of the important lessons he’s learnt in his career.

What was your big break?

I spent four years working for the Citizens Advice service and was asked to lead the charity’s response to a review of its statutory funding. It was known as a ‘zero based review’ – meaning that you start from position of the charity receiving no financial support from government and work upwards until you reach a figure where the charity could ‘function reasonably’.  There was a huge risk to the organisation and the network of bureaux. I managed to protect the money that came from Government into the Citizens Advice service by demonstrating the reach, impact and overall return on investment. It was a great campaign and I learnt a lot about how to influence, manage relationships and the importance of keeping focused. The experience helped me to get my next job at Citizens Advice – which was to lead a large communications team.

What’s one important lesson you’ve learnt?

I’m a firm believer in trusting your instincts. That’s not to say that evidence doesn’t matter because clearly it does, but I do believe that your first assessment of a situation or opportunity is often reasonably accurate.

What excites you about Scope?

I have been a long-time admirer of Scope having worked in the third sector for much of my career. The opportunity to join the organisation as it works to embed an ambitious strategy is one that could not be missed. I can’t think of a more exciting communications and marketing challenge than changing society so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. I looking forward to joining the team and supporting Scope to grow its brand and influence over the coming years.

Have you had a notable mentor?

I’ve worked with some incredibly talented people throughout my career. I learnt a great deal from Phil Swann when we worked together at the Local Government Association. He was the Director of Strategy and Communications and was the brains behind the LGA’s policy and campaigns effort. He is massively creative, thoughtful and, importantly for me, he has a great sense of humour.  Working with Phil was a real highlight of my career and, more than anything, I learnt that you have to keep resolutely focused on the end goal and not get too distracted by the tactical issues that come along.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing disabled people?

I’ve worked for a disability charity for the past three and a half years and so I know that life is really challenging for many disabled people. There is a toxic mix brewing across society which is fueled by a significant reduction in public expenditure, meaning that local services are harder than ever to access, combined with a deeply unpleasant narrative around those who rely on the welfare state for support. Disabled people and their families are disproportionately paying the price and, more than ever, Scope has a critical role to play in changing attitudes across society.

Read the press release from Scope

Film of the week: “Leaving a gift in our will in our daughter’s name”

Scope have been promoting the importance of legacies (gifts left by generous supporters in their wills) over the past couple of weeks. The gifts left to us make up almost a third of the money we raise each year so they’re a vital source of income for us as a charity.

We went to visit two of our pledgers, Gordon and Sheena Halcrow, to find out why they thought it was such an important thing to do.

If you’d like to find out more about leaving a gift in your will to Scope, then visit the Legacy pages on our website.

Have you been on the end of scrounger abuse?

It’s now almost a year since the Paralympics started and we’ve been asking disabled people and their families if they feel the games made a difference to their day-to-day lives.  
There’ll be a lot of discussion next week about legacy. Scope is going to be urging journalists and the Government to listen to disabled people’s views.

One issue that keeps coming up is “benefits scrounger rhetoric”, and how this leads to people being abused in the street and being trolled online.

We asked on Twitter and Facebook for people to share their own experiences:

Bullying and abuse

Some people responded with shocking stories of unprovoked verbal and physical abuse:

“Just the other night one twitter account dedicated to highlighting the abuse of blue badge bays has decided to shut down because of the abuse it gets. One of my friends is seeking a judicial review and they tried to use his twitter use against him. I have a specific troll who tells me I am just lazy, I could work if i tried and so on. Any time there is a documentary style TV programme featuring sick or disabled people it stirs up a lot of abuse and general ignorance.” – Ema via email

“I’m leaning on my crutches by the broccoli when a lady in her late 50s walks up behind me shoves me hard into the broccoli box – face first – and calls me a disability scrounging unrepeatable in front of my children. My most embarrassing moment.” – Tinna on Facebook

“Someone walked into the back of my wheelchair whilst in supermarket queue, which apparently is my fault as “your sort shouldn’t be cluttering up the shops”.” – Teddy on Facebook

And it’s not just from strangers:

“I’ve had ‘friends’ explain how I just have to accept and expect romantic rejection because disability is ugly.” – NQ videos on Twitter

“I was told by a ‘friend’ that I shouldn’t be allowed a mobility car for my wheelchair using son with CP.”  – Naomi on Twitter

Hidden disability

Many people spoke about the problem of impairments that aren’t immediately obvious:

“I was once accused of stealing a disabled persons bus pass. It had my name and my photo on.  I am partially sighted. You can’t see the damage I have to my optic nerves, nor how much I can really see….I’ve had someone tell me I shouldn’t be on DLA because there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t feel the need to broadcast every single medical problem I have.” – Sofie on Facebook

“People seem to think that ‘disability’ means a missing leg, or using a wheelchair/crutches; it can be, but sometimes a disability affects people more subtly and they still need assistance.” – Caitlin on Facebook

“I have epilepsy and hold a bus pass because of it – I’ve had some dirty looks off people for using it in the past.” – Kath on Facebook

Unashamed and fighting back

Some disabled people told us that they refuse to be ashamed of the money they receive and are fighting back at the bullies:

“I’m not ashamed of having claimed out of work benefits and I refuse to be ashamed of my DLA.” – Natalya on Facebook

“If anyone abuses me they get far worse back. I am sick and tired of being abused because of something that is no fault of my own. I will not be bullied or abused by people who believe the rhetoric” – Ian on Facebook

Parents told us that they didn’t care what people thought – the well-being of their children comes first:

“I have a two year old with CP. There would be no way I could take him to his physio without the extra help we get through DLA. If that makes me a beggar then so be it. I really don’t care as long as my son gets the best possible care and start in life !” – Darren on Facebook

“My daughter has CP. I listen to people going on about benefits and get fed up with listening to the constant moaning. I only want what is best for her and for those that do complain about disabled – stop and think – how would they feel if it was them?”  – Val on Facebook

Whilst some parents are taking more extreme measures!

“My son has severe CP. Rules we are working on when he is in his electric chair are

  1. If someone stares, smile at them – if they still stare, run them over.
  2. Three “excuse me”s from Mum and Dad and if they still wont shift – run them over.
  3. Three honks on his horn then …… yup, run them over” – Wag on Facebook

How to find an accessible campsite

Guest post from Catherine Johnson, the founder of Family Camping Reviews, she gives her top tips for finding an accessible campsite.

Finding an accessible campsite is getting easier. Not just in the UK, but in many parts of Europe as well, campsites are providing better access for disabled people. However even sites which say they are accessible aren’t always suitable and we frequently hear from disabled caravanners and campers that although campsites are listed as having disabled access, this is not always the case in reality.

Here are some top tips for choosing a great location for your next holiday:

Search online

The best place to start when looking for a suitable campsite is with an internet search. This should return a long list of results – campsites that have disabled facilities – there are over a thousand of these in the UK alone.

The Camping and Caravanning Club website has a great search with icons that show whether a campsite has Full Disabled Facilities, Part Disabled Facilities or No Disabled Facilities.

Another great way of finding campsites that are progressive enough to provide the type of facilities you’ll need is to visit some online forums and speciality blogs. Join in the discussion and ask for advice from others – this way you will learn from the experience of others about which sites provide fully for the disabled.

We’ve also put together our choice for the five best disabled friendly campsites in Europe.

Know what to look for

When you’ve found a site which looks good there are some important considerations:

  • What sort of facilities does the campsite have (e.g. swimming pool) and are all these facilities accessible?
  • Does the campsite provide a pick-up service from public transport terminals, is this accessible?
  • Can you take your dog with you?
  • Most holiday’s will be self catering – so are the local shops accessible?

Discuss your requirements

Once you’ve chosen some campsites that you like the look of try contacting them by phone for a chat. Speak to the campsite owners/management and describe your particular requirements. This way, you’ll be able to check that the campsite will be suitable for you.

I hope you have a great holiday!

Inspiring women to follow on Twitter

On Tuesday we asked:

We had a fantastic response. Thank you to everyone who got in touch with their favourites. We’ve passed these on to the journalist so maybe we’ll get to see one of them featured in the magazine, we’ll let you know!

Here are all of the great suggestions we received:

@suey2y – Passionate Leftie & Health Warrior. Writer. Will tweet about politics, welfare, & disability disgraces A LOT. Also loves Elvis & Jammy Dodgers

  • “In spite of an illness that is painful and debilitating she writes and speaks for the disabled.” Vicky
  • “What a woman” – Charlotte
  • “The obvious one” – Penelope

@Bendygirl – Life in a broken bureaucracy with a bendy and borked body.

  • “Without a doubt” – André

@EverydayAbleism – Highlighting the everyday experiences that can come with disability, MH, illness.

  • “Giving a voice to disabled people 🙂 ” – Isla

@bmdonna – Have EDS as do my children. I am passionate about services for people with EDS. EDS = Validate, educate before you can rehabilitate anyone

  • “without you the HMSA would fall to pieces, the charity helps so many” – M

@janeccolby – Run The Young ME Sufferers Trust, was headteacher. Had severe ME from polio-type virus but can play golf now, even with my handicap.

  • “she has been a lifeline for us” – 625elf

@halfabear – Fierce ginger.

@fibro_girl – Fibromite, thrifty foodie, disability rights campaigner, friend, chatty passionate about many things.

@ZaraBain – Philosophy teacher/advocate. Yoga enthusiast. ME/CFS Warrior.

@SchizophrenicGB – Writing under a pen name as the stigma of schizophrenia still scares me.

@IslaBoag – PhD research student at the University of Strathclyde & librarian. Radical opinion-haver.

@stickmancrips – Cartoonist, Creator of Stickman Communications.

 

Have we missed someone? Let us know and we’ll add them to the list.