Attitudes meet actions: how does Britain feel about disability?

The game changers

joeJoe Hall is National Campaigns Manager at Scope

As part of developing our next campaign, we’re trying to build a clearer picture of what’s happening in Britain in 2013 and how it’s affecting disabled people’s lives. We’ve just completed two pieces of research to begin finding the answers to some big questions.

1. What are the public’s attitudes to disabled people in Britain today?

One of the main aims for our campaign is to shift negative attitudes. Disabled people have told us for a long time that this is a problem. Last year, around the time of the Paralympics, surveys pointed to an improvement in the way the public thought of disability. But you don’t change attitudes in a fortnight and a year on, disabled people and their families say we need to challenge ignorance, prejudice and especially the belief that many disabled people are ‘benefit scroungers’.

We recently worked with Opinium to run a survey of more than a thousand people, gauging their knowledge of and attitudes to disability. There’s some sobering reading in the early results.

  • Most people believe disabled people face some prejudice. It’s thought-provoking that there is awareness – and could be useful as a basis for getting the public behind campaigns for change.
  • Nearly half the respondents said that some or most of the time they have a negative view of disabled people – whether it’s feeling disabled people are ‘getting in the way’, ‘not as productive’ (linked to the idea of ‘benefit scroungers’) or feeling ‘discomfort and awkwardness’ around them. It’s striking as people often tend to give more positive answers in surveys – answering what they think they ‘should’ say, not being this blunt.
  • Dig a little deeper and people admitted to being especially uncomfortable around learning difficulties and mental health issues.

The results show that not everyone thinks the same, and this could tell us where we need to focus our efforts.

  • The initial findings indicate that if you’re younger, a man, better off and / or live in urban areas in the Midlands and South-East, you tend to have the most negative attitudes towards disabled people.
  • Conversely women, older people, those less well off, people in the North and Scotland, are all more likely to have more positive views of disabled people.

What shapes people’s attitudes?

It’s likely to be a mix of things that influence each person. But it’s revealing that the vast majority of people had little or very little knowledge of disability and many said they didn’t have a close relationship with a disabled person.

Hold this evidence about public attitudes in your head as you get the flipside.

2. How does this fit with disabled people’s experiences?

The other main aim of our campaign is to influence the next Government to improve disabled people’s standard of living. That means the things we all need and expect, like:

  • being supported when we’re young
  • having a decent education
  • having a good job
  • making our own decisions
  • having enough money to live and being able to save for our future.

If you’re disabled, too often you don’t get a fair shot at these.

Why do disabled people think this is happening?

We recently surveyed disabled people and family members on their experiences in major areas of life. What do they feel is holding them back?

What looks likely is that people’s attitudes are having a direct impact on disabled people having lower living standards. They aren’t two separate issues; they’re interrelated. Here are a couple of areas where it came out strongly.

  • In mainstreams schools, half of disabled pupils said the greatest barriers to their learning was feeling self-conscious about their disability and feeling there was nobody that they could talk to. Things like physical access were an issue too, but some of the greatest obstacles they faced were about the social environment: can their teachers and their peers relate to them? Is it ok to talk about disability at school?
  • In employment, the two changes disabled people most wanted in the workplace were modified working hours and modified duties to allow for their impairment. But only a minority of those who wanted these changes could get them from their employer. Could this be partly due to negative attitudes about what disabled people could achieve in the workplace and / or a lack of understanding about the support disabled people need? Are there parallels with what disabled people say about their experiences in schools: is it ok to talk about disability at work?

What this adds up to – and hope for change

It’s not surprising that there seems to be a link between society’s attitudes and disabled people’s experiences. Individuals make up institutions, whether it’s schools, companies or political parties. The attitudes of your teachers and colleagues affect your experiences of education and work. And broader public attitudes shape Government decides policy. It works the other way round too ‒ the institutions, systems and communities we’re part of shape our attitudes.

We don’t yet know enough to say how we can conquer these challenges. How can negative attitudes, discomfort and awkwardness be overcome? A few other initial findings from the survey of the general public give cause for hope.

  • The better you know a disabled person, the less likely you are to feel uncomfortable or awkward around disabled people in general. Finding ways to broker or strengthen personal relationships could be a powerful route to change if done in the right way.
  • The more people know about disability, the less likely they are to think negatively about disabled people.
  • People who value equality, freedom and independence tend to be more accepting and more comfortable around disabled people. Appealing to these values in what we do and say could shift deep attitudes.

These might not sound like earth-shattering insights, but it’s all too easy to overlook  that there are ways to break down barriers.

What do you think?

We feel there’s an important picture beginning to emerge from these findings. We have further to go to work out what it means for our campaign – and we’d love your views. Contribute to the thinking ‒ please leave a comment below.

Please note, this is just the summary of a rich study. We can’t share all the results at this stage as we want to keep some back for possible media work next year – as we said we’d have to do sometimes in the community guidelines. But we’d love your take on these initial findings.

New mentors

Here at Our Generation we have just completed our fourth Mentoring and Befriending training course! So we now have five new mentors who are raring to go.

Mentors feedback from the course has been really positive. Here is how one new mentor described their experience.

“A fabulous course – interesting, informative, supportive, the course tutor is very approachable and makes things easy to understand”

Of course, it’s not all praise as we encourage feedback that will allow us to make improvements to our practice. Two of our latest mentors expressed that they felt the course would have benefited from more video case studies and so we are now planning to expand this area in our next training course.

The new mentors have also expressed that they are keen to meet with the experienced mentors who already volunteer for the project. So we have invited them to our next steering group meeting where they will have the opportunity to meet existing mentors and begin to participate in the management of the project.

I will leave you with a quote from one of our new mentors:

“Woohoo! I actually finished my Our Generation training today. This is a huge achievement for me. I was informed about this project through my job centre advisor, who knew what I wanted to do with my life.

This came at a time when I was feeling very low and despondent. Since then I have met some great people, done some brilliant training and am looking forward to making a positive difference to peoples lives when I start mentoring and befriending.”

Find out more about the Our Generation project, and read our previous blogs.

Do you believe in ghosts?

Guest blog by Trendsetter Connor who is 16. Trendsetters is a project run by Scope for young disabled people. As it’s Halloween this week, he’s written a blog to tell us why he wants to be a ghost hunter.

Trendsetter Connor

I want to be a ghost hunter because I am interested in the paranormal. When I was three years old, I was walking into the bathroom and looked back and there was a figure stood in my bathroom. Then I looked back again and it was gone.

I definitely believe in ghosts because every house I’ve lived in, I’ve had strange experiences.

I’m really interested in the history of ghost hunting, scientists started trying to record ghosts as far back as 1933.

Halloween is on the 31 October and is the perfect time to do some ghost hunting.  You could use things like a torch or a camera to try and see a ghost.

This Halloween why don’t you try and get into the spirit of things?  How about these fun ways to get involved:

  • Get dressed up.  You could try a spooky costume or a costume you think is fun.
  • You and your friends could try telling each other some scary stories with a small prize for the scariest.
  • Ask an adult to help you make some super-scarey food.  Put some gummy worms in jelly for some ghostly ectoplasm (that’s the stuff ghosts leave behind).

Let me know what you are doing for Halloween in the comments box.

Tips for running a great campaign

The game changers

Joe SaxtonJoe Saxton is the Founder and Driver of Ideas at nfpSynergy. In 2007 and 2008, he was named one of the 1,000 most influential people in London by the Evening Standard.

We asked Joe for his top tips for running our next campaign:

1. Campaigns need to be clear on how they will deliver change.

Spending money is easy. A few posters (on the CEO’s route to work), some nice advertising and a good slogan. Hey presto, Scope has got itself a campaign. Well no.

A successful campaign needs to have a clear theory about how it will change things. It needs to be clear on target audiences and it needs to be clear on how it will reach them.

2. Remember the inverse law of change against size of audience.

The biggest audience who is the target of any change, the harder it will be to change their attitudes. So changing the mind of MPs, who number in the hundreds, is much easier than changing the minds of GPs who number in the thousands.

3. Under-promise and over-achieve

Scope is in the habit of claiming it is the UK’s leading disability charity. I admire the aspiration, but worry that Scope may start to believe its own propaganda. Scope simply doesn’t have the resources to be the charity for all disability. Is it really claiming that it has more to say to blind people or those with arthritis, than the specialist charities in those areas? Is Scope really clear what its statement of intent and strategy is behind its bold claim? I don’t know. Any campaign needs to avoid falling into the same trap.

4. Changing attitudes takes a long time.

Changing attitudes is the most difficult campaign task in the world, and disability is no exception. While we have seen massive changes in attitudes to disability, sexuality, race and a host of issues over the last 50 years, change is measured in decades not months. So how long will Scope run its campaign – 6 months, a year?

5. Learn from your history.

Scope’s campaign Time to get Equal was a great example of how to appear aggressive and threatening to the general public, rather than insightful. While a strapline like that may have played well with some disability audiences, it has more of the whiff of a vigilante mob, rather than a broad-based inclusive ethos.

6. Time it right.

Carefully consider ways of saving yourselves extra work in your effort to reach people by having campaigns piggyback on the publicity of any relevant awareness days or news stories. If disability is an issue currently hitting the headlines then you can save yourselves time trying to bring it to public awareness in the first place and the message of your campaign can filter through more efficiently. The same goes for not releasing an expensive campaign which is likely to be drowned out by media activity in other areas; for example, releasing a full scale campaign during the November Poppy Appeal is only going to be competing for people’s attention and you may find yourselves shouting into the wind.

7. The Snowball Effect; Get stakeholder-savvy!

There are hundreds of different stakeholders in a campaign but they can be very broadly split into two groups; the people you want to influence and the actors the people who help you get there.

Actors are frequently thought of as ‘the people behind the scenes’; but realistically, you should be aiming to turn your target audience into instrumental actors who help the campaign ‘snowball’ and gather momentum once they become engaged. For example, if you have a poster on a train (see point 1) and you have used the power of the personal story; can you have your commuters then follow a link to somewhere where they can share their personal stories too? Draw people in to your campaigns and they are more likely to chat about it to friends and family and things snowball.

8. How will change be measured?

Campaigns can often be better at producing the feeling of action, than real change. A campaign isn’t there to produce a rosy glow internally, its there to change the lives of disabled people. So before a campaign is begun, the methods by which it is to be measured (to prevent wiggling and revisionism once the campaign has become).

9. Steps are what is sliding downhill.

Any campaign needs to have stages or steps, which not only better measurement, but also make it easier for people’s attitudes to slip. However, few people have a revolutionary change in attitude, so it is unlikely they will move all in one go. So change takes place in steps. For example, somebody may with good arguments and gentle persuasion believe that first civil partnerships are ok, and then gay marriage, and then gay adoption.

If you would like to submit your story or find out more about the Game Changers community, visit the Game Changers website.

A year after the Paralympics, are disabled people still invisible?

BBC News have created a short video asking if attitudes towards disabled people have changed since the Paralympics:

“In London in the summer of 2012, disabled people were suddenly in the spotlight during the Paralympics. But a year on, have they gone back to being invisible?”

Watch the video on the BBC News website

The video features comedian Francesca Martinez, we spoke to Francesca last year about attitudes towards disabled people and how she uses comedy as a platform for change:

An essential foundation

Guest post from Martyn Sibley – blogger, entrepreneur, and co-editor of online magazine Disability Horizons

Did you recently read or hear about David Weir and his housing situation? Despite his huge success he still lives in an awkward and inaccessible house. Imagine, if a 6 time gold Paralympic hero struggles, what is life like for an everyday disabled person?

In general the cost of living is rocketing, incomes are falling and then there’s the fact that life costs more if you are disabled. Then let us take a more specific look at social care. Getting out of bed, getting dressed, preparing food and showering are basic, but necessary actions for us all. Many disabled people are being denied access to this very crucial support.

Richard Hawkes explains this exceptionally well in his New Statesman article. On a personal level, I’ve just travelled the length of this great country and seen some of the most amazing sights of Britain. With my wheelchair, adapted car and 24/7 care support; I’m independent, run my own business and travel the world. However in the past I have had issues securing the funding for these essential foundations to my life.

Of course, this problem is wider than my own experiences. The care system is in crisis, local authority budgets can’t cope and two things are happening: The bar on who gets care is rising, and those lucky enough to get care are seeing their services squeezed and rationed. Furthermore, with an ageing population, this effects everyone of us!

On a political level the Care Bill will be debated by MPs in the commons in late October. The government is attempting to sort this mess out. The big question is who is in and who is out of this system. I fear they are going to set the bar at a very high level.

From government to the general public, from businesses to disabled people; we all have basic needs and deserve to have them with dignity. I just hope we all wake up and act before we reverse the great progress of disability rights in recent years.

Whilst David Weir fights for accessible housing, Hannah Cockroft is fighting for our social care and our future. Earlier this week she supported Scope at a Britain Cares event in Parliament, where MPs could see how important social care is to their constituents.

So #WhatDoYouDoWithYours? Are you similar to me, living your life with some social care support? Let’s get sharing our stories and help people understand why this is so important.
Post with the #WhatDoYouDoWithYours hashtag on Twitter and share the story of what you use social care to do in their lives.

Check out what other people have been saying or find out how to get involved.

Behind the barriers of disability

The game changers


Lee Adams is an activist and author of the blog, Touching Elephants.

Campaigns have the power to change the thoughts and feelings of individuals and nations alike but the subject of disability within them is, through no fault of its own, becoming a barrier to itself. My own personal challenge with disability is not unique but finding myself behind the barriers of disability is. There has been some fantastic work done to highlight the challenges of disability and more importantly the stigma that disabled people face, but there is much more to be done. Disability is becoming a buzzword without any real understanding attached to it and, in my experience, it is left to social media to provide a better understanding of it and a space in which individuals are considered, understood and valued.

Perceptions of disability

Personally, I have really enjoyed the media coverage surrounding mental health and disability, but its objective is not demonstrated in everyday life. We use many terms and words associated with disability and partially due to the 2012 London Paralympics, we have seen a major shift in how society acknowledges disability and in particular mental health. I have started to see debates about depression and illness, about the term disability and about who is considered disabled. It has stopped being about the individual which for disabled people, charities, organisations and campaigns has become a huge barrier towards eradicating the stigma that such interpretation causes. Discussions on disability shouldn’t be focused on what we can’t do, but on what we can do as individuals. Campaigns that achieve this will ensure disabled people have a voice and deserved sense of belonging in society.

‘Live Aid’ for disability

We need to think carefully about our perception of disability and the words we use to describe it. The more we negate a true understanding of disability, the more challenges charities will face in their quest to reduce the stigma surrounding it. I remember watching ‘Live Aid’as a teenager. Looking back, we couldn’t have envisaged the longevity and success that such a campaign has had in increasing our awareness of the challenges and suffering that third world countries face. It is somewhat confusing then, that we are not able to apply this shift in attitudes towards other areas of society and in particular, towards disability. Stigma is a barrier that comes from a lack of understanding and is arguably more debilitating than disability itself. It isolates people and creates an unrealistic society with no appreciation for individuals.

Disability in the media

Areas of the media sometimes create or add to this stigma. We often find ourselves watching a programme featuring topics that rely on an impactful headline without giving any real substance to the story. This leaves the audience to come to their own conclusions and may lead to a misguided view of a very serious problem. Even with the availability of communication outlets such as TV, radio, written media and social media, campaigns and organisations still face a huge battle to communicate the awareness and acceptance of disability. The term disability should not be a buzz word; it is a term that represents a part of society. All it takes is some knowledge and understanding to remove these huge barriers and to make progress. Let’s embrace the motivation of campaigns and allow individuals to enjoy their lives without judgement or stigma.

Have a great campaign and above all have some fun!

Right now, we’re creating plans for an ambitious new campaign. It’s a game-changing long-term campaign that aims to influence the next government, raise living standards for disabled people in Britain and change attitudes. We need you to help us shape it.

10 tips for a stress-free day out this half-term

Netbuddy have created a fantastic pack full of tried and tested tips from parents and carers who are supporting children and adults with complex needs this half-term. Here are just 10 of the great tips from the pack:

  1. Prep for outings – When attempting a new activity or outing, e.g. horseriding, theme park etc., prepare in advance by showing pictures, books, leaflets & talking about it. We have found YouTube invaluable as most venues & activities are in video form. Also many attractions have apps you can use.
  2. Take a camera – We went to Nymans Gardens recently and my son Toby walked so quickly that we couldn’t enjoy the beautiful surroundings. In his head, a walk means a walk to somewhere. Half way round we gave him our digital camera and he slowed down to take loads of photos. We will now always take a spare camera with us!
  3. Separate outings bag – I keep a separate outings bag always packed and ready to go with a change of clothes, pads and wipes etc. I just need to add snacks and off so then I’m not flying around at the last minute when going out.
  4. Reserve a parking spot – Lots of places have reserved disabled parking in their staff car parks. Phone ahead and try and book yourself a spot.
  5. Just ask! – Most attractions offer disabled discounts, special access, carers-go-free solutions, but carers often don’t ask for it. Please do ask whenever you are visiting any facility as it can save you a small fortune.
  6. Remembering days out Make it easier to communicate about days out – use a camcorder or camera phone and scrapbook to record special moments that you can look at together at the end of the day. Use a scrapbook to tell other people about favourite days out.
  7. Planning ahead – I think it’s important to always have little snacks and toys when you go on an outing. John loves his special Mary Poppins back pack where we keep his favourite things which I use to comfort and calm him if it all becomes too stressful or noisy for him. I put in his Nintendo, a toy, a book, drink, snack/treat and also a walkman so he can listen to a story or music.
  8. Transporting medication – If we are going to be out of the house when my son’s evening meds are due, instead of taking the bottles with us, we measure the meds out in a syringe and pop them in one of his old glasses cases to transport them (it holds 2 syringes perfectly!)
  9. Radar key – Get a radar key. These cost just a few pounds and are usually available
    from town halls and tourist information centres. They save us from queuing at public toilets, and are often cleaner and of course more spacious.
  10. Getting lost – If you are going to a theme park, and are worried about loosing the person you are caring for, when you get there take them to the guest services and introduce them. Also write your contact details on a piece of paper and put in their pocket.

We hope they will help you plan a harmonious half-term holiday!

Download the complete pack

What are your top tips for caring for children and adults with complex needs this half-term? Let us know in the comments below.

How can we change attitudes?

The game changers

Guest post from Jo Davies, who is Campaigns Lead at Mencap.

Most campaigning organisations want to change society’s attitudes in some way or another. For an organisation like Mencap – which is working towards a society where people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to and included – it is one of the main things we want to do. Our reasons are simple: most people don’t know much about learning disability – or any kind of disability – and this lack of knowledge leads to all sorts of misconceptions, uneasiness and prejudice.

Let me give you an example. I was telling some friends of mine about going to my colleague’s hen do, without much intrigue, until I mentioned that the hen had a learning disability. This group of well-educated, open-minded (and also very nice) people was totally unaware that someone with a learning disability would want to, or even could be allowed to, get married.

It’s no wonder that so many people lack awareness or understanding of what having a disability is like – the ‘average’ person will not go to school, work, or live alongside someone with a disability. So there is no reason why they should know, or want to know, much about these people who are invisible in their world. And this invisibility makes it possible for huge numbers of disabled people to be victims of hate crime, to die needlessly in the NHS, and to have their financial and social care support stripped away, without much opposition from most people.

So what can we – as an organisation, as a sector and as a society do to change this? There is of course no easy answer to this question, and no simple solution to this very complex problem. While we must focus some of our efforts on long-term change, part of our job must also be to challenge attitudes towards disabled people that aren’t what they should be in the here and now.

At Mencap we recently found ourselves responding to two separate incidents of vitriolic anti-disability sentiment from one would-be and one current local councillor, both advocating that disabled children should be killed – or not allowed to be born – because they cost taxpayers too much money and were a burden on their family and the state. As you can probably imagine, it was hard to put into words just how we felt at hearing such hateful views. But rather than fight fire with fire and spread the hate, we encouraged people to respond on social media with messages of love and strength: parents sharing stories of how much joy and pride their disabled children bring to their lives, adults with a learning disability writing blogs on the contribution they make to their families, workplaces and communities, all using #notaburden. Thousands of people took part in the discussion on Facebook and Twitter, and potentially hundreds of thousands of people saw the tweets and posts.

This was such a powerful way to refute the uninformed and hugely insulting comments, putting real disabled children and their families at the heart of the outrage. It also gave us the opportunity to give uninitiated people an insight into the life of a dad, aunt or sister of a disabled person, with one clear message: ‘I wouldn’t change it for the world’. While this alone may not have had a big impact on society, it is an example of how negative attitudes can be challenged and positive attitudes instilled. All it took was people with real experience of disability – disabled people, their family and friends – to give others a glimpse into their lives, and let them see for themselves.

If you would like to submit your story or find out more about the Game Changers community, visit the Game Changers website.

The Care Bill is back and politicians are starting to listen

The Care Bill returns to the House of Lords tomorrow.

Social care has been a major focus of Scope’s collaborative campaigning work in the past year because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform a care system in crisis.

We know that thousands of disabled people are struggling to get the support they need to live independently, without access to basic care to help them eat, wash properly and leave their homes.

Now 83% of councils have set the threshold for care at a higher level and they expect things to get worse.

We have tried to be as vocal as possible on the issues we know that disabled people care most about – changes to Disability Living Allowancethe impact of the cutsthe flawed Work Capability Assessment, support for disabled children, attitudes to disability – to create public pressure and hold the Government to account.

With the Care Bill back in the Lords, social care is back on the agenda. We have been working closely with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and the Care and Support Alliance, a coalition of over 70 organisations, to make sure that the system supports those who need it.

The good news is that politicians are starting to listen to us.

In the summer, the Chancellor found £3.8bn in June’s spending review to start to tackle the crisis. When nearly everything else was being cut, social care was one of the only areas to benefit from additional funding.

We have been campaigning hard so that those who need it most have access to an independent advocate. Again, the Government has listened to and acted on these concerns.

Other welcome changes to the Care Bill include the requirement that assessments must be carried out by people with specialist expertise in certain circumstances, and that councils must take on board the importance of promoting well-being when commissioning services.

We have all fought hard for these wins.

It has been an incredibly difficult climate for charities of all kinds to campaign effectively – not just disabled organisations, but all those affected by cuts.

We still have a long way to go on the Care Bill. But the wins above show how powerful it can be when disabled people and organisations large and small come together to get behind focused campaigns, which will result in real, tangible change.

But we know that the more people there are campaigning, and the bigger range of voices, the more likely we are to achieve change.

It doesn’t just have to be big charities – it can be people like Angela, whose one-woman Save Social Care petition has been supported by nearly 50,000 people and led her to Downing Street. Or the WOW Petition campaign challenging welfare reform which has been backed by over 60,000 people. It’s about the power of our combined impact.

There are many experienced, talented and innovative people out there, who we know we can learn from – and who don’t necessarily agree with us on everything.

That’s why we recently launched the Game Changers community, to crowd source the best ideas for our ambitious next campaign.  We want to hear people’s views and be challenged constructively.

So come add your voice and let’s get the much bigger change we all want – together.