The Budget 2015 – The announcements we’ll be looking for

On Wednesday the Chancellor George Osborne will deliver the last budget of this Parliament with some commentators arguing that with this statement “the general election will kick off in earnest”.

There has been a lot of speculation about the Chancellor’s statement and here at Scope we will be following the Budget closely to see what it will mean for disabled people and their families. We’ll be looking out for announcements in the following three areas:

Halving the disability employment gap

A key theme of the Chancellor’s speech is expected to be jobs and growth.

We know that disabled people want the same opportunities to work as everyone else and nine in ten disabled people are in work or have worked in the past. But for the Chancellor to achieve his aim of “full employment”, more must be done to address the disability employment gap.

Access to Work supports disabled people to stay in work and progress in their careers. The Chancellor could strengthen Access to Work, to make sure more disabled people can benefit.

He could build upon the Minister for Disabled People’s welcome announcement last week about the introduction of personal budgets for Access to Work. This will give disabled people more control over how they access the support which enables them to work.

However, we are concerned about new proposals to cap the amount of funding each individual can receive through Access to Work. A cap could mean that disabled employees, such as those who require British Sign Language interpreters, could lose their support and would be unable to continue working.

We’ll also be looking to the Chancellor to use his focus on regional growth to create programmes specifically aimed at improving employment rates amongst disabled people.

Protection of DLA and PIP

Life can cost more if you are disabled. The extra costs faced by disabled people can have a significant impact on disabled people’s living standards, who spend on average £550 per month on costs related to their disability. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are payments that are designed to contribute towards these extra costs.

Welfare spending is also likely to be a key theme of the Budget. Last year the Chancellor announced in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference that a future Conservative Government would protect DLA and PIP in any freeze on benefits. We’ll be looking to the Chancellor to commit to this in the Budget.

This month’s Extra Cost’s Commission interim report highlighted the need to tackle the underlying drivers of the extra costs disabled people face. One area that the Commission identified was the need to improve online access for disabled people. Thirty per cent of disabled people have never used the internet, compared to seven percent of non-disabled people. This prevents disabled people accessing appropriate financial products and getting some of the best deals on goods and services.

Anything the Chancellor announces to improve digital inclusion should consider how to support more disabled people to get online.

Investment in social care

Social care supports disabled people to live independently, work and play an active part in the community.

With the Budget taking place just two weeks before the landmark Care Act comes into force, The Chancellor must take steps to introduce a sustainable funding settlement for social care.

Much focus has been placed on whether the Chancellor will commit to investing £2bn per year in the NHS, as set out in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View. However, investment in the NHS cannot be looked at in isolation from social care funding. Last week the Care and Support Alliance published the findings of a survey of over 800 English GPs which found that almost nine in ten believe reductions in social care services have contributed to pressures in their surgeries.

The Chancellor should use his final Budget before the election to prioritise investment in the social care system so that the ambition set out in the Government’s Care Act in this Parliament can be realised in the next.

Disability Innovations: How magic is helping children with hemiplegia grab life with both hands

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

Breathe Magic

Breathe Magic is a creative approach to traditional therapy which uses magic tricks to put the fun back into children’s recovery and rehabilitation. They run ‘Magic camps’ in the school holidays for children aged 7 to 19 with hemiplegia, teaching children specially selected and scalable magic tricks as part of a fun and effective intensive therapy programme. The two week programme focuses on learning to use two hands by combining magic, circus skills, costume design, fabrication and theatre production in a targeted way, to improve motor skills and hand function.

At the end of the two weeks the children have the chance to show off their new skills to family and friends in a performance at a professional theatre. After the camp the budding magicians attend a once per month Saturday club for six months to help sustain their new skills, provide an ongoing peer support network and ensure lasting impact of the progress made.

The Secret Behind the Magic

Breathe’s approach to intensive motor therapy is well-researched and has shown clear clinical benefits and improved outcomes for participants. delivers clear clinical benefits and improved outcomes for participants. The programme is also in line with the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for the management of spasticity in children, as it follows the HABIT (Hand-Arm Bi-manual Intensive Training) model which is a task focussed intensive bi-manual therapy.

Over the 10 days (60 hours) children work together with magicians, Occupational Therapist’s and physiotherapists on a one to one basis within a group setting, to learn and practice magic tricks which develop motor and bi-manual skills. Every trick requires the children to practise precise movements that incorporate the rehabilitation exercises therapists often ask children with hemiplegia to do to improve hand and arm function. Time old tricks such as the ‘cups and balls’ trick require the young magicians to turn a cup over in their hand and to pick up the ball using the thumb and forefinger. This helps to develop essential movements such as forearm rotation, grasp and release, and co-ordination. Similarly, rope tricks involve stretching movements and movements to increase dexterity.

The real magic is that these tricks can only be mastered with plenty of repetition – practice makes perfect! The repetitive nature of practising magic tricks helps to build up the child’s strength and dexterity in their weaker hand/arm. Every child has their own ‘Magic Diary’ to record the tricks they learn each day, and the tricks they should practice at home each evening. Although children know that the camp is designed to improve hand function, the real focus is always on learning magic and having fun, rather than doing the ‘boring repetitive exercises’ that children usually associate with therapy.

What are the results?

Turning the exercises into magic tricks helps children stay motivated and engaged, meaning exercises are no longer a chore but something children look forward to doing. And the results found are pretty impressive.

The programme shows sustained benefits across functional motor and psychosocial outcomes for the young people. The programme also addresses additional associated problems such as; parent/child relationships, psychosocial difficulties and self-esteem. 
The young people are often able to do daily living activities for the first time in their lives after completing the programme, such as getting dressed independently and cutting up their own food.  This increased independence resulted in parents and carers reporting a 50% reduction in extra time needed to support their child, equating to up four hours each day! The research results from the programme have been published in peer reviewed medical journals and presented at conferences around the world.

The performance skills taught as part of the camp are designed help to increase the children’s communication skills, self-esteem and general emotional wellbeing. Children and parents also reported increased confidence and a more positive outlook, which resulted in numerous additional benefits, such as improved performance at school.

Breathe Arts Health Research

Breathe Arts Health Research was founded in 2012, and is the social enterprise behind Breathe Magic. It is run by a small team of staff, which includes clinicians, academics, artists and business professionals.  The team work together with frontline staff, patients and their families to deliver new healthcare programmes which bring the arts and science into healthcare to improve health outcomes.

Breathe Magic has now been commissioned as a clinical service by the NHS Lambeth Clinical Commisisoning Group and NHS Wandsworth Clinical Commissioning Group, they are piloting adapted versions for children with mental health problems and adult stroke patients. Other Breathe projects include bringing music and poetry into hospitals, clinical healthcare settings and community centres, as well as putting on high quality performing arts programmes in hospitals in partnership with leading cultural organisations such as the National Theatre and the Royal Academy of Music.

Why we like It

We love how Breathe AHR combines magic and fun with therapy – words you rarely see in the same sentence! It not only has clinical benefits, but giving children magic skills also hugely boosts their confidence by teaching them they can use weaker limbs for tricks which even their friends at school can’t do! The magic camps ‘can do’ and fun approach to therapy focuses not on a child’s impairment but on talent and potential, teaching children to grab life with both hands!

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

To tell us about a Disability Innovation, please email innovation@scope.org.uk.

The system’s not about people, it’s about money – #100days100stories

When Kenneth moved into a care home, he imagined gaining independence and the chance to learn new skills. What he got was a very different situation. Kenneth shares his story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

Kenneth wearing a baseball cap smiling at the cameraI left home when I was 19. Like anyone else, I wanted independence and my own space. I wanted to choose what time to get up in the morning, what to have for lunch – simple stuff like that.

I moved into a bungalow with three other young disabled people. We had staff on site 24 hours a day to support us. I thought it would be great, I really did. My dream was to make friends and have a social life. Maybe go on holiday with my new housemates.

After a few weeks, I realised something didn’t feel right. For a start, everyone was in bed by 8.30pm. Why would you go to bed so early every night? It turned out my new housemates had no choice – they were being ‘put’ to bed early, even if they didn’t want to go.

Nobody was listening

I wasn’t getting the support I needed either. I wanted to cook my own dinners and to get out more in my car, but that wasn’t happening. I felt powerless because nobody was listening to me.

The days were long. I work so I could get out of the house but the others spent a lot of time watching TV. I remember coming home to find one of my friends, a girl who uses a wheelchair, sitting at the kitchen table with nothing to do. She’d just been left there on her own. Another time I came home to find two of my housemates with their wheelchairs facing the wall. I don’t know how long they had been like that – hours maybe.

A modern day institution?

When people think about institutions, they imagine these big old buildings with lots of residents sitting around doing nothing. But we were living in a brand new, purpose built bungalow and it was just as bad. It’s not how it looks on the outside; it’s how it’s run on the inside that matters.

Despite my mum and social worker getting involved, nothing changed at that place and I moved out. Now I live in another bungalow with 24-hour support. It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better.

In the future, I’d like to live on my own and have a personalised budget so I can choose the care I need. I’d like live-in support workers so I can do what I want, when I want. Personalised budgets are available where I live but disabled people are still getting stuck in homes because it’s the cheaper option.

Less choice over our lives

The system is so wrong. It’s not about people – it’s about money. Our social care and benefits have been slashed which means young people like me have little choice over our lives. Through my job at Change.org, I met Norman Lamb MP, the Minister of State for Care and Support. As I told him about my experiences, I started crying. I couldn’t help it. I hope what I told him has got through. Something has to change.

Find out how you can get involved in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign and read the rest of our stories so far.