Top tips for paying off Christmas debt

The last cracker’s been pulled, the decorations are coming down, now it’s time to face the bank statement! Surviving the Christmas debt hangover is always a big issue at this time of year, so Scope’s helpline have compiled a list of top tips to get you back into financial shape for 2016.

1. Prioritise your outgoings

Your priority outgoings are your rent or mortgage, council tax, utility bills and court fines. You should pay these bills first. Don’t avoid dealing with these, as they will get worse if left.  Do not be afraid to talk to your lender/landlord/local authority/energy provider if you are having financial difficulties. They might be able to help.

Draw up a budget using the Budget Planner on the Money Advice Service website. Analyse your income and expenditure and keep copies to send to the relevant people so that they can help identify areas in which you need some extra support. If you are having difficulty with any of the above, please call us free on 0808 800 3333 and speak to one of our helpline Information Officers or email helpline@scope.org.uk.

2. Maximise your income

Are you getting all of the benefits you are entitled to? Try our benefits check – you may be able to apply for other financial help using our grants search.

3. Discretionary Housing Payments

See Scope’s information about Discretionary Housing Payments and how they can help you with your housing costs if you are facing hardship.

4. Are you struggling with debt?

There are various sources of help available to help you manage your finances. You can seek help from charities such as Step Change, Money Advice Service and National Debtline. Do not pay for financial advice. There are plenty of advice agencies around who offer free advice.

Avoid payday lenders who charge excessive amounts of interest and avoid debt consolidation without getting advice about this first. You can access money advice at your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, approach your local credit union and, in some areas, your local council.

5. Local welfare assistance schemes

If you find that you have no money for essential bills or you need help due to an emergency or unforeseen event, you can apply to your local council for welfare provision payments which replaced community care grants and crisis loans in April 2013. You can find your local welfare assistance scheme on the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) website.

Each scheme has different criteria but Local Welfare Assistance would usually be considered as a last resort and you may need to access money advice to qualify for the scheme. Your local authority may not help you until you have exhausted all other options including a Budgeting Loan.

6. Fuel costs

See the pages on our website to help you tackle your fuel bills and get help to reduce large utility arrears bills – see Scope’s information on helping with fuel costs.

7. Start saving for Christmas 2016

If 2016 goes as quickly as 2015 then it will soon be Christmas again so it might be a good idea to start saving now. See the Money Advice Service’s information about Saving for Christmas for some helpful hints to help you stay on track.

8. Sell unwanted items for extra cash

As we feel the pinch more of us are buying second hand goods. You can sell unwanted items in a variety of different ways and this is a great way to make money from stuff that is lying around the home. Why not put your unwanted belongings on Ebay or organise a car boot sale with friends or family. You can even sell your items at an online car boot sale. Sell your unwanted gadgets on sites such as Cash In your Gadgets, Music Magpie or your local CeX shop.

For more money-saving tips why not check out these top tips from our community.

The top disability stories that got you talking in 2015

It’s been another busy year! There have been some huge disability stories that have hit the headlines – and you all got stuck in telling us your views.

Here are the top posts that caused the most debate on our Twitter and Facebook pages in 2015:

Eurovision Song Contest

#TubeStrike

#WorldBookDay

#ToyLikeMe

Invisible Disability

Holly bags a modelling job for Tesco

New hair salon for people with sensory needs

Seeing disability through the eyes of a child

Dad edits photos to make his son look like he’s flying

Donald Trump mocks a disabled reporter

Join us on Twitter and Facebook in 2016!

The best campaigns of 2015

As we approach the end of a busy campaigning year here at Scope, we’ve been reflecting on which campaigns have got us talking and why they were so successful. 

What is a campaign?

Campaigns take many forms such as  advertising campaigns, fundraising, political, awareness raising or those designed to make people think and act differently on a particular issue.

Crisis and Conflictsyria-london-final-hed-2014

This year has been a busy one for campaigners, not least because of the UK General Election. But we have also had war, terrorist attacks and a refugee crisis which was the focus of much campaigning.

Save the Children’s If London Were Syria campaign, depicting the horrors of war in Syria as though happening to child in London through very good use of film,  stood out in the minds of many of us.  Save The Children’s harrowing Most Shocking Second a Day video has had over 50 million views on Youtube alone.

In response to the horrors of the attacks in Paris in January and again in November we had the Twitter #Je suis Charlie and Facebook’s tricolor which allowed social media users to show their solidarity with those who had lost loved ones in France.

Body beautiful?

We live in an era where we are very conscious of our bodies and how we look.  The campaign This Girl Can encouraged girls to get into sport and physical activity. We loved the energy in this campaign and the positive message that regardless of your body type, everyone can be more active. The soundtrack accompanying this ad, Get Your Freak On by Missy Elliot really hit the spot.

 A very different campaign on body image created a lot of debate and controversy. The Beach Body Ready ad campaign attempted to portray the ‘perfect’ body and spawned many spoofs of the original billboard ads, such as that below.

lastminute_beach body campaign_800x419 RGB (2)

Celebrating disabled people’s lives

Here at Scope it has been a fantastic and busy year for campaigns.  We launched the second part of End the Awkward and our A-Z of Sex and Disability, building on the success of our original campaign from 2014.

The campaign challenges people’s attitudes towards disability through a series of blogs, infographics and short films aired on Channel 4.

We had a wonderful response to these campaigns and many people said their attitudes were challenged after watching the films and reading the blogs.  Disabled people who led on these campaigns said they felt empowered by telling their stories and showing disabled people’s lives in a different way.Whitehall

2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act.  This was my personal favourite as it reminded me why I got involved in campaigning.  The DDA was the first piece of legislation giving disabled people in the UK some protection from discrimination.

Through films, archive footage and blogs, we told the stories of those disabled campaigners who fought tirelessly to get disability issues onto the political agenda.  We  wanted to inspire the next generation of disabled activists to build on the success of campaigners of the 1990’s and bring real equality to disabled people.

Are you ready to change your world?

Scope is launching Scope for Change, a 10 month campaigns training programme for disabled activists aged 18-25.

If you want your campaigns to be the most talked about then apply to join our training programme and change your world.

2015: a year in the life of Scope helpline

In 2015, the Scope helpline received over 17,000 telephone calls, 5,000 emails and responded to a huge variety of posts on Scope’s online community and social media networks.

People asked about all sorts of things relating to disability, from housing to Motability, from recycling disability equipment to taking part in sport. When we add views of our online help and information, we have supplied answers to over three quarters of a million requests in 2015. Continue reading 2015: a year in the life of Scope helpline

Disability services in Finland: a better life?

Recently Jean Merrilees returned from spending three months at a regional centre that assesses people for equipment in Finland, as part of her degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Northampton. Having worked for Scope for a couple of decades, advising disabled people on a wide range of issues, it was a good chance to reflect on how disability services in Finland compare to those in the UK. Continue reading Disability services in Finland: a better life?

The Scope Film Awards 2015

2015 has been a very successful year for Scope’s film team. We’ve dusted off the disability history books, trained comedians to be spies, kissed awkward goodbye and got all hot under the collar about sex. All in all, it has been one big rollercoaster ride.

We thought we’d mark the end of the year with a mini ‘awards ceremony’ to mark some of our favourite and top films. What have been your favourite Scope film moments?

Most viewed – What Not To Do

We enjoyed a whole summer of ending the awkward. Who could forget our “What Not To Do” shorts made in collaboration with Channel 4? Fronted by Scope Ambassador, Alex Brooker, these six hilarious short films racked up over half a million views on our YouTube channel, thousands upon thousands of views across our social media and became the most viewed shorts on the Channel 4 website.

Most shared – The Disability Discrimination Act 1995: The campaign for civil rights

Last month (November 2015) we delved into the archives to mark the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act. We featured a variety of content on our website for the occasion including a film which collected the stories and voices of some of the most influential campaigners of the time. This film became our most shared video on our Facebook page with over 2,300 shares, over 1,700 likes and over 235,000 views.

Best female – Kelly Perks-Bevington

For those of you who have been following Scope in 2015, you’ll probably recognise Kelly. She has been popping up everywhere, from talking about awkward moments at festivals to stripping off for Enhance the UK’s Undressing Disability photo exhibition. We got Kelly involved in our A-Z of sex and disability. In this film she talks about dating, marriage and sex.

Best male – Adam Hills

The Australian comedian best known for hosting the Channel 4 show, The Last Leg, became a firm favourite when he took on the role of the enigmatic man in black for our parody of the classic Milk Tray advert. With his daring stunts he won the hearts of many, including celebrity actress and singer, Holly Valance in our advert for Great Donate campaign.

Best story – Harrison’s story

We love our story films here at Scope. What better way to capture the incredible stories that are happening up and down the country? Our latest offering focuses on Harrison’s story, a young disabled man with a learning difficulty, who has struggled to find and stay in employment. However, thanks to the specialist support he got from his local Scope employment service, that has all changed.

What’s next?

We’d like to thank you all for your support, shares and likes throughout 2015. We really hope you’ll subscribe to our YouTube channel and join us in 2016 for what we promise will be our greatest year of film yet.

You can expect compelling stories from disabled people and their families, vlogs from some of YouTube’s rising stars and appearances from some well known faces…

If you can’t wait until then, check out our playlist of some more of our top films from 2015 below.

 

Scope’s Santa of the year awards

For many disabled children and their families a trip to Santa’s grotto can be a difficult experience; the lights and sounds can be too much, many Santa Clauses can’t sign, and the grotto might not be wheelchair accessible.

Here are some heart-warming Santas who’ve gone the extra mile and made their Christmas festive and accessible. 

A tender moment between Santa and Landon

Six-year-old Landon explained to Santa at RiverTown Crossings Mall in Michigan that because of his autism he sometimes gets into trouble at school. Santa explained that Landon shouldn’t worry and that he has been a very good boy being who he is. Landon’s mum Naomi took this picture and shared their lovely story on Facebook.

a little boy is consoled by Santa

a little girl sitting on Santa's lapSanta’s magical gift for a girl with brittle bone disease

Upon finding out that 2-year-old Paige has type V osteogenesis imperfecta, Santa gave her a very special gift – a bell that had fallen of his reindeer Prancer – that she could ring whenever she was upset or scared about going to the doctor.

 

Signing Santa

For children who have trouble communicating, sometimes a signing Santa can make all the difference.

Sleeping Santa a little boy asleep on Santa's lap, who is also alseep

Two-year-old Ryland Wade, who suffers from epilepsy, fell asleep after having a seizure on his way to visit Santa at a mall in Ohio.

Fortunately Santa was also feeling sleepy and understood the situation.

Ryland’s parents took this adorable photo which was seen and shared by thousands online.

Have you had a magical Santa experience with your children? Share it in the comments section below.  

My experience on People’s Strictly, as a dancer with MS

Trishna Bharadia was a contestant on the People’s Strictly for Comic Relief.

Trishna was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 28 in 2008. She works full-time as a translator for an information services company but in her spare time has collaborated with various MS and disability organisations, to ensure that people with MS are supported and their needs are understood within the wider community and by the general public. Here she talks about her experience on the show. 

Dancing out of my comfort zone

I’m someone who has always loved the idea of dancing but never had the confidence to do it. Being diagnosed with MS brought a huge amount of unBlack and white photo of Trishna in rehearsal with her dance partnercertainty into my life and changed the way that I viewed things. The nature of the condition means that I could quite literally wake up tomorrow and not be able to move my arms or legs. No warning. It can just happen.

This led me to taking the bull by its horns and I started to do all the things that I’d always wanted. Dancing was one of them. I took up Zumba classes, where I really fell in love with dancing. It taught me that actually you don’t need confidence or even a certain level of physical ability to dance, you just need a passion for it and to be able to think outside the box.

Trishna wearing all yellow, posing with her dance partnerI’m a big fan of Strictly Come Dancing and when my sister heard that they were looking for people to participate in the first ever People’s Strictly for Comic Relief, she knew she had to enter me.

There were over 11,000 nominations and just six of us were chosen. It was an honour that the producers believed my story was worth telling and that the work that I’d done with various MS charities since being diagnosed warranted me making one of my dreams come true!

Facing Challenges

Dancing with MS or other chronic conditions or impairments isn’t easy. While I was having the time of my life on the show, dancing with the wonderful Aljaz Skornajec, behind the scenes I was also struggling with fatigue and the uncertainty of my condition. The four months were physically, emotionally and mentally tough, Trishna wearing a white sparkly dress, posing in a dance move with her partnerparticularly as I was still working full-time, as well as filming and dance training.  Training was anywhere between 10 to 25 hours per week for six weeks.

Just a few weeks before we were going to do our final dance, my foot went numb and I was terrified I was having an MS relapse; one of my relapses had previously involved me losing the feeling down one side of my body. Turns out afterwards that I actually had localised nerve damage from poorly fitting dance shoes, but it served to remind me just how uncertain my condition can be.

The production crew, other contestants and professional dancers became like a family to me. I’m used to having a strong support network around me, which enables me to do all the things that I want to do. On filming days it was my new Strictly family that ensured I was able to get enough rest and that adjustments were made to ensure I was being shown at my best.

Aljaz was fabulous and there were parts of our jive routine that we adapted and adjusted to take into account my fatigue and wobbliness when my muscles started tiring!

Doing Strictly has helped me to appreciate further what I’m capable of physically and also allowed me to push myself and find Trishna and her dance partner giving each other a high fivenew limits. I would do it all over again given half a chance! I was supremely aware, however, that not everyone with MS would be able to do what I did. I was contacted by the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (WDSA) and have since helped them to promote wheelchair dancing. I mean, who says that dancing has to be standing on two legs? Dance is a beautiful and challenging art form and disability definitely doesn’t have to be a barrier to people who want to give it a go!

Want to know more? You can connect with Trishna on Facebook or Twitter

Have you got a dancing story you’d like to tell us? We’d love to hear about it – just comment below. 

The man who found his freedom

Vicky is a support worker based in London who has been working with David for 12 years. David has cerebral palsy and recently starred in a dramatic production of a play inspired by his life –  ‘The Man Who Found His Freedom’.

In this blog Vicky tells us about David’s story and the emotional experience of seeing his play in production. 

As a Scope Information and Support Worker in London, I have been working with David Grindley on and off for the past 12 years. David has cerebral palsy, which affects his speech and movement, and is a full time wheelchair user.

David has always wanted to tell his own story from going into residential care to finally having his own flat with the right support giving him choice and control in his life.

David has always loved the performing arts. In 2014, David decided to share his experiences. With his love of theatre playing a part in so much of his life, there was no better way to tell his story than onstage. David is a long-term resident of the Isle of Dogs and the original member of the Space’s community theatre company.

David finds his freedom

A scene from the play, with two men looking through a record collection‘The Man Who Found His Freedom’ is a play inspired by David’s life, devised with a company of writers and actors. Examining life in care, family and friendships, this moving new production explores the meaning of determination – and tells the tale of a man who’s never given up.

David asked me to come and see his play. I didn’t know quite what to expect. The Space Theatre is based in an old Church on the Isle of Dogs with a cafe on the first floor serving drinks and good food.

David played the main role of Mikey with four supporting actors playing a number of different characters – family members and support staff. The performance was absolutely wonderful.

A scene from the play where David and a PA look at a Christmas cardTo see David’s dream being achieved and being part of that was a real privilege. My 11-year-old nephew who came with me was transfixed the whole way through the performance which I was delighted to see and that he was able to discuss it after with a real understanding.

It is such an important story

I thought the whole story was so well interpreted by the writers, the director and the wonderful cast of actors.

I have to say I was really blown away. It is such an important story and message to get to a wider audience: going into residential care; the struggle of being heard when you have a communication impairment; the abuse some people experience; getting your own flat and the challenges of getting the right support.

Feelings and emotions of leaving your family, being with people who don’t understand you and the joy and responsibilities of getting your own flat of being independent and having the right support – All of these are enormous challenges and the play really brought this home.

Everyone I spoke to in the audience said that this play should be seen by more people – so if you see that it is on again in the future please do go and see it – what a treat!