You can prove anything with statistics….

George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar. He once remarked “It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.”

Sadly this confirms that my intelligence is not what I might have hoped. It’s very rare that I find statistics anything other than dull.

But perhaps I need to think more about what lies behind the statistics.

As part of our monitoring the Our Generation project, we use questionnaires and look at numbers of people engaged with the project. Even though these tools give us a good overall picture of what we have achieved, for me they never really capture the personal impact our project has on the people who take part.

One of our volunteers was referred to us some time ago as someone who could potentially benefit from our service. She was matched to a mentor and together they worked on building up her confidence.

To begin with she was apprehensive about leaving her home. Initially we worked towards the goal of her being able to travel to our office for meetings and then progressed to meeting other service users and volunteers. Over time, her confidence increased to the point where she completed our volunteer training course and became a mentor for others.

Now she is now able to travel independently. She enjoys weekly aqua-aerobics, is a committee member with her local social club as well as volunteering for our project, supporting other people to improve their lives.

In an email she recently wrote to us, she wrote:

“I was at the eye clinic last week and unfortunately they have changed my status from partially sighted to severely sight impaired/blind. The doctor says there is nothing more they can do. I will gradually lose sight in both eyes due to cataracts and can’t be operated on due to the glaucoma but thanks to all at Scope I’m able to take each day as it comes because im now in a much better frame of mind and feel much stronger. I just wanted to say thank you so much for being there for me.”

So next time I see in a report that “service users expressed an improvement in Life Satisfaction from an average of 4.5/10 to 7.5/10” maybe I’ll be able to see past the numbers to the real stories that lie behind them. Those can be genuinely moving.

Autumn Statement – what’s in it for social care?

Guest post from Megan Cleaver, Parliamentary Officer at Scope.

Today’s Autumn Statement was the last big political announcement of 2013. But what was left out of the Chancellor’s speech this morning was just as revealing as what was included.

The A&E crisis has dominated the headlines over the past few months, with investment in social care seen as one way to ease the pressure on hospitals. But despite rumours overstretched social care budgets would be given a boost today, on this the Chancellor was silent.

Such a commitment to extra funding would have been especially welcome given the second reading of the Care Bill in the House of Commons was also announced today. The Care Bill contains the biggest ever reforms to the social care system, and its debate on 16 December will be the first opportunity for MPs to debate changes to social care which will affect over half a million disabled people.

And providing good quality social care can bring huge economic benefits. George Osborne spoke at length in the Autumn Statement about the need to get the benefits bill down and get people working. For disabled people, social care is the cornerstone of their independence- the support they need to both seek and stay in employment.

Indeed, recent research by Deloitte has shown that investing in social care for disabled people with ‘moderate’ care needs – who the Government have stated they intend to shut out of the social care system by tightening up eligibility for care – creates considerable savings for the public purse. Deloitte found that for every £1 that is spent on moderate social care needs, £1.30 is saved through increased tax revenue to the Treasury and a reduction in welfare spending as a result of disabled people and informal carers entering the workplace, not to mention the significant savings to local authorities and the NHS from ensuring disabled people’s needs do not escalate to crisis point and therefore require more expensive medical treatment at a later date.

And when George Osborne states that the job of getting rid of the deficit ‘is not yet done’, these are financial savings that cannot be ignored.

Cap on over £100 billion of welfare further threatens disabled people’s living standards

Today, The Chancellor announced details of the planned cap on Annually Managed Expenditure (AME). Currently, the social security budget has the flexibility to respond to the needs of the economy and the people within it. In the Autumn Statement today we learnt this may no longer be the case.

At the beginning of each Parliament the Chancellor- with support from the House of Commons – will place limits on social security spend. Set in 2014 for the four years following, the cap will cover more than £100 billion welfare spending.

The basic state pension, Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and JSA-pass ported benefits will be excluded from the cap. But all other benefits – including Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Tax Credits and the majority of Housing Benefit – will still be in the cap.

What does the cap mean?

Raising the stakes

A breach of the cap will trigger a debate and vote in the House of Commons. This will further raise the stakes for policy-makers who want to ensure they can provide the right support for disabled people.

Welfare trade-offs

Housing Benefit and tax credits are counter-cyclical –they may rise sharply if the economy falters. If the economy takes a downward turn, ministers bound by the cap will be forced to pitch them against disability benefits in their decisions to bring down social security spending.

Today Osborne argued that including state pensions within the cap would mean “cutting pensions for those who’ve worked hard all their lives because the costs on, say, housing benefit for young people had got out of control.” Meanwhile, disability benefits which help many disabled people work and live independently – appear to be fair game.

Short-termism

The cap installs yearly limits to social security spending. Instead of tackling the drivers of it, ministers will be compelled to make quick, top-down cuts wherever they can.

Scope have long-argued that continued investment in social care, better employment support and proper support to cover the extra costs of being disabled would all be more effective in meeting disabled people’s needs and driving down costs than any cap on AME.

This autumn, the Chancellor has celebrated growth and responsible recovery. But it is a recovery that will not benefit disabled people. Instead disabled people will face yet another squeeze on living standards, and further exclusion from local communities and the wider economy.

A day in the life of an iPad

Guest blog by Margie Woodward, Scope Empowerment Officer

As part of my consultation work with users of Scope services, I have been using an iPad with disabled people who have had little access to technology before.

New technology has the power, literally, to open doors. I believe it can enable disabled people to exercise more choice and control in their daily lives.

To show what I mean, here are some examples of how an iPad can be tailor-made to an individual’s abilities and interests across a normal day…

7.00am The iPad’s alarm call wakes you up.

7.05am A light bulb moment…

It’s possible to use the iPad to control your light switches using the Wemo app.

8.00am Communicate with your support worker

Grid player is a very exciting application that enables disabled people to use symbols to get the app to speak what has been entered. By personalising the grid player, this has the potential to be a low-cost communication tool.

Speech therapists are enthusiastic about using iPads and have been assisting service users to create boards for their preferences. One person at Drummonds abandoned his much more expensive communications aid for an iPad, which he uses to communicate both in person and on Facebook!

9.00am With assisted technology from Perrero switch open door for support worker

One of our biggest breakthroughs was the discovery of a scanning switch to operate the iPad apps that uses voice over. Quite a lot of apps including music and media are accessible using the device. It is called the Perrero developed by RSL Steeper. The device is used with a single switch button.

11.00am Study

12 people at Drummonds are using the iPad to search the internet for history about Scope’s service and the artist John Constable’s relationship with the old rectory.

12.00pm Play chess

A game like Pool offers the chance to play a game that might be inaccessible otherwise. One person is playing chess independently in his own room and doesn’t need to go to the computer room to do this now!Man using iPad

1.00pm Order a taxi to go into town for shopping, a trip to the cinema or a doctor’s appointment

Someone used the Pages app to read GP’s handouts and prepare for a medical appointment. It also helped them create a one-page profile detailing their support needs and preferences.

2.00pm Shop online

The ladies at Laverneo needed new curtains for their bungalow and have been able to see what is available and what it looks like in the room. It would not be possible for all the ladies to go out together to choose but by using the iPad they are all involved in the decision of what to have.

4.00pm Skype family or friends

People in Scope services are now able to stay in touch with friends using Skype. Being able to see each other’s faces really helps those with speech impairments and people who use signing like Makaton.

5.00pm Bake a cake

An iPad can help with sequencing a task such as baking a cake. You can use switches to operate food processors too (very messy but quite fun!)

6.00pm Play Catchphrase!

At Sully day service, people are using the iPad and Apple TV for group activities like playing Catchphrase in teams. They are also experimenting with blue tooth technology for switches.

7.00pm Catch up on the news

The news group at Chester Skills Development Centre used a HDMI to IPad cable to view what was on the IPad on a TV.

Apps used by the news group are:

  • BBC Sport app
  • Coronation Street Spoiler
  • BBC Weather app
  • BBC News app
  • Stock Tracker
  • BBC Radio 1 app
  • Trading 212

9.00pm Watch a film

People can choose from a variety of online movie and TV services.

11.00pm Time for sleep…

At Rosewarne in Cornwall one person has been using the Sleep Easily meditation app, which enables her to have a restful night’s sleep.

• As part of BT’s Connected Society programme Scope, BT and the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Inclusive Design wrote a report, Enabling Technology. The report found that the key to creating enabling technology is, wherever possible, to support disabled people to create their own solutions.

What can cats teach us about digital campaigning?

The game changers

ben furberBen Furber is Digital Manager for Asthma UK.  He writes here in a personal capacity. 

All charities come about because of great injustices that either no one is doing anything about or not fixing fast enough. We have a raw and emotional desire to do something about it and want everyone to feel that too.

So to get everyone to take these injustices seriously, we bombard them with constantly serious and emotional stories, stats and figures. While our goals are always serious, do the messages have to be?

The digital world shows us another side of ourselves. The success of Buzzfeed shows us that to be successful online we don’t have to constantly be serious.

Buzzfeed’s core is cats. My problem is that cats ARE serious for Asthma UK. Pets are a trigger for 56% of people with asthma.

So we turned that on it’s head and asked our supporters to make the problem visual.

Asthma 1

Humour can also be part of big campaigns. Twenty-two people die from asthma every week, most of these are preventable (up to 90%). So we’re launching a campaign to do something about it. The first stage of Stop Asthma Deaths had a simple message. There are risks you can take, is not having your puffer one of them?

We’re not the only ones. Think Comic Relief, Movember or Greenpeace’s still amazing Volkswagen campaign.

For Scope there’s loads of potential. With so much misinformation around about disability, a witty and cutting response to an opponent can do wonders. A 20 stat infographic might be successful on Facebook for a day but what about a series disinfographics showing the lunacy of the UK government’s position? Or explaining the latest policy changes to a young child, filming their response.

Of course the final message is serious, but big campaigns are long – do they have to start with a frown?

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a UN-day. The theme for this year’s is: “Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all”.

It’s an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and abilities of disabled people, with activities taking place around the world, from Gateshead to Australia.

Here in the UK, the past year has given us much to celebrate.

British double leg amputee and Paralympic Gold medalist, Richard Whitehead, highlighted just what could be achieved when he ran a marathon a day this summer from John O’Groats to Land’s End, to raise money for Sarcoma UK and Scope.

Holly Greenhow, a seven year old with cerebral palsy, continued to break down barriers by starring in the new Boden advertising campaign.

And five disabled campaigners won their Court of Appeal bid to overturn the Government’s decision to abolish the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which currently enables 20,000 disabled people in the UK to live independent lives in the community.

2013 has also been a tough year

But away from the successes spiraling living costs, and cuts to welfare and local care are leaving many disabled people in a critical situation.

Recent research by Scope found that disabled people are three times as likely to draw on doorsteps loans than the general population.

On ITV Daybreak this morning, Scope’s chief executive Richard Hawkes warned of a crisis in living standards facing many disabled people, with 1 in 3 older and disabled care users getting in to debt to pay for essential support to get up, get dressed, and get out of the house. Ahead of the Government’s Autumn Statement on Thursday, Scope are calling on Chancellor George Osborne to improve the standard of living for disabled people.

The WOW Petition

Comedian Francesca Martinez was interviewed by ITV Daybreak sofa this morning, explaining her support for a campaign calling on the Government to find out the total impact of all welfare cuts on disabled people. The WOW Petition has now been backed by over 100,000 people – which will enable it to trigger a debate in Parliament.

Francesca Martinez, who has cerebral palsy, has used comedy to challenge attitudes towards disabled people, and to fight for a fairer system. She believes that humour can be used to break down barriers.

Share your examples of people breaking barriers and opening doors this year – in the comments below, on Twitter or on Facebook.

‘Snowstorm’- the story of our Christmas ecard winner

Every year we run an ecard competition, and we receive some true masterpieces from disabled children at our schools. This year was no exception. We asked you to vote for your favourite entry and the winning four designs are now ready for you to send from our website.

Sadly, after entering this year’s competition with his painting “Snowstorm” our winner Joel, aged 12, passed away quite suddenly. Joel was born with cerebral palsy and his parents were eager for him to attend Scope’s Meldreth Manor School in Cambridge so he could reach his full potential whilst receiving specialist care.

Painting of a snow storm
Snow Storm by Joel

Joel embraced life at Meldreth. Teachers and pupils close to Joel describe him as a ‘shining light’, a happy, popular boy with a really warm personality who was incredibly giving and rewarding to be with. He is sorely missed.

The teachers and support workers at Meldreth are on hand to make sure all the children have fun while learning, playing and trying new things. The staff can also offer support to families when a child’s life is tragically cut short, like Joels.

We are really proud that Joel won this year’s competition and we can continue to celebrate his life by sharing his painting with you and everyone who will receive his card this Christmas.

We always love to see the artwork our children and young adults create and never tire of hearing their stories. We think you’ll agree this one is a little extra special.