In 2016, the Scope helpline responded to nearly 20,000 requests for information and support by telephone, email and via Scope’s online community and social media networks. We also supplied answers to over one million requests for help and information via our website.
Your top 5 issues in 2016
Apart from wanting to know more about Scope, the top issues people contacted us about were:
- Benefits and finance
- Independent living
- Social care and services
Funding the extra costs of disability
Unsurprisingly, the number one topic you ask about is benefits. To respond to this, we’ve employed an extra benefits and finance specialist on the team.
To complement the work of our specialist advisors, our partnership with the charity Turn 2 Us offers an online benefits calculator and grants search tool. Since its launch in July 2015, thousands of you have used this free service to improve your finances, completing 8,100 benefits calculations and over 7,200 grants searches.
In 2016 so far, the calculations have identified over £319,000 per week in unclaimed benefits. This can make a massive difference to the lives of disabled people and their families, as this customer explains:
“Thanks to your brilliant advice, I have had some fantastic news. I applied for Attendance Allowance with the form on your website and I have been awarded £55.10 per week which will certainly be a big help to us. Thank you.”
We love it when we hear stories like this. Another customer contacted us following his failed application for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Our benefits specialist provided supporting information so that he could conduct his entire appeal himself. He went through two tribunals and finally, after spending a winter without heating and using food banks, he eventually won. He received a backdated payment of more than £5,000 as well ongoing ESA payments to support him to live.
Just the job!
Another caller who was out of work applied for a job at a company signed up to the Government’s positive about disability scheme. He met the essential criteria but had received a standard rejection letter so he thought he’d been discriminated against. We spoke to him about how to challenge the decision. The company reviewed his application and admitted a mistake had been made and he did indeed meet all of the essential criteria. They offered him an interview and he got the job!
Our online community
As well as answering calls and emails, Scope helpline continues to play an active role in our ever-growing online community. We are investing more time in answering your questions online because we know that answers to one person’s query can help many others too. For example, one discussion has had over 12,000 unique page views, meaning that many more people are continuing to benefit from our expertise and advice.
New information products
As well as responding to a wide range of enquiries, we have also produced lots of new online information in response to popular demand:
- Technology in association with Abilitynet
- Equipment with Which? (coming soon)
- Independent living, updated by our new specialist in social care.
In 2017, we will continue to trial new ways to deliver information content with pilot videos on PIP assessments, PIP appeals and employing your own PA.
We’ll also be launching a new information product that will help guide people new to disability, like this caller to our helpline:
“After working within the corporate industry for over 20 years, I have recently become disabled and found the past 9-10 months totally life-changing. I’ve called various places and not received the help or level of service I have just been provided. I don’t usually do this but I really want to make a point to applaud the level of service and professionalism your helpline has. I felt as though I have been treated with dignity and pride, and not made to feel uncomfortable talking about my disability. So thank you again.”
Goodbye to Veronica
2016 also saw the retirement of helpline manager Veronica Lynch who has worked on Scope’s national helpline since it launched in 1990. She retired in April after 26 years’ dedicated service and won a national award for staff with a long-term commitment to their cause and who had made a positive impact to people’s lives.
We miss her but, more importantly, so will the people who have asked for her support over the years.
One parent, whose twins have cerebral palsy, said:
“I can honestly say that I don’t think I could have coped had it not been for Veronica and the helpline. They have given me so much time and support through all my difficulties and battles.”
Have a happy Christmas and New Year!
Thank you to everyone who has contacted us in 2016 and may we wish you all a Happy New Year.
For free, independent and impartial information and support on the issues that matter to disabled people and their families, contact Scope helpline on 0808 800 3333 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note Scope’s helpline is closed 24 December to 28 December, and between 31 December and 2 January.
Scope helpline receives no Government support: £12 can help pay for a call to the helpline this Christmas. Please support us if you can.