Making the UK’s 999 system more accessible

Guest blog from Chris Channon, founder of Pegasus. On Monday Chris received an award from the Home Office for his work on Pegasus.

I have cerebral palsy and have lived independently in the community for over 30 years. During this time I’ve needed to call 999 on several occasions, often to report anti-social behaviour, but my calls were not always dealt with properly because I’m speech-impaired. I either couldn’t say what I needed to say or I was mistaken for a nuisance caller.

When I asked what was available to assist me to make these calls, the only options were to use TypeTalk or Textphone services. Neither of these were of any use because of my dexterity problems. So I came up with my own solution to the problem – Pegasus.

The Pegasus database

People who, like me, find it difficult to give this information using spoken word in a time of crisis can register their details on the Pegasus database. This can include names, addresses and other information which could be useful in an emergency.

They are then issued with a Personal Identification Number (PIN). To use the system, a person has to say Pegasus (or something that sounds similar) and their PIN. The emergency call operator will then immediately have access to the individual’s information and can quickly get on with dealing with the situation. The Pegasus PIN can also be shown or told to a police officer or other emergency service personnel when help is needed person to person. Pegasus is available for use in this way by those who are unable to use a phone.

The information on the database is not used for any other purpose other than assisting the individual.

Pegasus in Nottinghamshire

I started working with Nottinghamshire Police in 2005 on Pegasus and the scheme went live in April 2008. We now have over 500 people registered in Nottinghamshire and the control room receives about 15 calls a month from people using Pegasus reporting crimes and incidents.

Users include people with learning and physical disabilities, deaf people – who use it via the textphone service, those with mental health issues and elderly people.

We conducted a survey of users and 80% reported that Pegasus improved their confidence in calling 999. They also shared their thoughts on the system:

“I was impressed with how quickly somebody arrived, I found it easy to contact and report my incident.”

“Since being a member of Pegasus I now feel someone is at my hand when I need help. I am in my late eighties, almost housebound; Pegasus is always there – thank you.”

Plans for the future

Pegasus is now in use by:

There are two other police forces looking at the possibility of adopting Pegasus in their areas.

If you wish to register with Pegasus that’s currently operating in your area, please contact – or get someone to do so on your behalf – your local police force.

If Pegasus is NOT running in your area, ask – or get someone to ask on your behalf – your local police force what they intend to do to make their 999 call system more accessible.

It has been without doubt the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life and it’s only now after almost 10 years of work that people are beginning to see its value.

Watch a report on ITV News about Pegasus.

A new approach to tackling the extra costs faced by disabled people

Life costs more if you are disabled. From buying specialist equipment to facing higher everyday expenses, disabled people face extra costs in almost all areas of life.

Last week the Public Accounts Committee reported that the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), introduced from April 2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), is facing major problems. As a result many disabled people are experiencing unacceptable delays in receiving these crucial extra costs payments.

From having to buy assistive technology, spending more on heating, buying more expensive transport, to paying more for insurance – as a disabled person you will face around £550 in disability related expenditure. PIP is intended to help cover the extra costs that disabled people face.

Delays in access to the fundamental support provided by government to offset these costs puts disabled people more at risk of financial difficulty. This is especially worrying since disabled people are three times more likely than non disabled people to turn to doorstep loans.

Later today I am speaking at an IPPR North event – ‘Cost of Living Crisis: are disabled people being forgotten?’ – where I will be highlighting the importance of both protecting extra costs payments and tackling the root causes of the extra costs that disabled people face.

Protecting extra costs payments

In the Priced Out report Scope calls for crucial extra costs payments to be protected by a triple lock guarantee, and from the overall cap on social security spending. We set out principles for an improved PIP assessment that ensures that disabled people who need support get it when it is needed.

When we talk about living standards in the UK we often think of growth, wages and prices. The most recent Labour Market Statistics showed that the cost-of-living crisis may be easing – average prices did not exceed average wages for the first time since 2010. But this will not be the case for disabled people who face lower incomes, higher costs and diminishing or severely delayed support. The issue of extra costs is one that predates the recession for disabled people, and without the right support to offset these costs, a recovering economy will not improve disabled people’s living standards.

But as well as making sure the support is there, where extra costs can be driven down, they should be. Some things can be very expensive for disabled people, and we want to find out why.

Commission on Extra Costs

Huge progress has been made in opening up opportunities for disabled people over recent years. Advances in technology have brought big improvements in independence and participation but all too often these come at a high, sometimes prohibitively high, cost. The inaccessibility of infrastructure and gaps in public service provision can also cause considerable extra costs for disabled people.

Political parties and the commercial sector have begun to recognise disabled people’s collective spending power but Scope, BT and the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Inclusive Design found that there are still gaps in the market between mainstream and disability-specific technology which – if tapped – have real potential to drive down disabled people’s costs and raise living standards.

This year, Scope, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, will be launching a major Commission into the Extra Costs faced by disabled people. Over the course of a year, an independent panel of experts will consider the ways in which the extra costs faced by disabled people and families with disabled children in England and Wales can be driven down by both business and government.

We will be asking disabled people for their experiences of extra costs, and looking for organisations and individuals to submit formal evidence to the Commission. We also want to work with experts and practitioners across all sectors to find innovative solutions that drive down extra costs.

If you would like to get involved in the Commission or want to know more about it, please get in touch with us by emailing commission@scope.org.uk