“Everyone deserves to live a life of dignity”

Ricky is currently studying for a Masters degree in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights. In this blog he describes his experience of living independently while at university.

I worried about the support I’d get at university

As I did my A levels, I was encouraged to go to university and I knew I wanted to carry on studying. I’ve always had a passion for politics and I wanted to take it further. My concerns were that I had never been in a mainstream environment. I had always been to specialised schools and colleges before that point.

I didn’t know what to expect and how other non-disabled people learnt as, obviously, being blind means that you can’t learn in the usual visual way of learning. I was also worried about the support I’d be able to get in relation to my care and social support. It was always there in school and college, I just didn’t know what was going to be there for me.

I could be left in my room for 24 hours at a time

Originally, I had agency support for my care. I stayed with them for about a year and a half, then I went onto direct payments. I applied and got the maximum disabled students allowance DSA so I’ve always had academic support, people to take notes, scan my books and reading materials etc.

I really enjoyed the academic side of things and the academic department did everything they could for me. I don’t think they ever had a blind student before. Socially, academic support at Sussex was a total disaster in terms of being left in my room for 24 hours at a time. It really took its toll on me. I felt really lonely and I didn’t really get the student experience at undergraduate level.

My current support is so much better

I’m now at the University of Essex and I’m studying for an MA in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights. I have to say, the support is a lot better at my new university. There are some hiccups but overall, it’s going pretty well. The student support department actually really care about the students and they’re really on the ball, properly qualified and their expertise levels are a lot higher. They know what they’re doing.

I’ve been so well accommodated and I’m really grateful to my local authority for giving me those opportunities to live life as any other university student should. I have choice.

More hours means more independence

I’ve just had my support doubled to 41.5 hours a week. It has made such a tremendous difference to me. Previously, I only had just about enough support just to live, to survive. I could only have a daily meal cooked and have a sandwich made up for the following day. It also meant that I could only get washing and shopping done, there wasn’t any time for social activities.

The increase in hours has meant I can do so much more. I now don’t have to rely on carers to do things for me out of their good will as a friend. I now have people coming in twice or sometimes even three times a day. I have a great team and they support me to do so many things.

Two men share a coffee in a cafe

Good social care is so important

Bad social care looks very bleak; staff not turning up, miscommunications, random staff turning up. There was one occasion where my mum had to drive down to Brighton because the agency had no one available and I would have been without food.

The alternative to agencies is direct payments. The only problem is that you have to advertise yourself for carers but once you establish a good network of people who can help you recruit it’s a really is a liberating experience to be able to employ people who have similar interests to you. When you’ve got a good team, it can work really well.

Having the right support is really good for my emotional wellbeing. As well as being able to survive, it allows me to socialise, take opportunities and explore avenues that are available to other people at university. It is so important to have good solid, reliable and enjoyable social care. Everyone deserves to live a life of dignity, autonomy and to be themselves no matter what.

At Scope, we work to change society so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. There are 13 million disabled people in the UK today and life is still too hard for too many.

Our new strategy has been developed with disabled people and their families and sets out how we want to make this country a better place and drive positive, lasting change.

We want all disabled people to be able to live the life they choose. That’s why we are focusing on making living independently a reality. From campaigning for better social care to providing information, advice and support, we’ll fight to make independence and choice a reality for many more disabled people.

Visit our website to find out more about our new strategy.

Today we launch our new five-year strategy – Everyday equality

Today marks the start of an important journey for Scope as we launch our new five-year strategy – Everyday equality.

We’re setting out a bold vision for how we can reach more people than ever and continue our mission of driving social change to ensure disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

That’s because we know that life today is much harder for the 13 million disabled people in this country than it needs to be. Disabled people have told us the challenges they face are changing. So we’re changing to meet those challenges with them.

Our mission

Our mission is to achieve everyday equality with disabled people in Britain.

Everyday equality is about ensuring we all have the same opportunities in life. For us, it’s about ensuring that disabled people aren’t made to feel inferior, aren’t treated unfairly, aren’t overlooked because of their impairment or condition.

It’s about fairness, justice and rights – at home, at school, at work and in our communities.

Disabled people tell us that everyday equality can’t be achieved without a steady income, enough money to pay the bills and cope with life’s unexpected events. For many disabled people – although not all – everyday equality is about having a job.

For others it’s about feeling strong enough to cope with the hard times. It’s about knowing how to get support at times and in ways that are most convenient. It’s about finding people who are in the same boat, not feeling alone or isolated. It’s about being visible, being included and having a voice, going to school, feeling safe, making friends and enjoying life.

Our focus

We will focus our work in the areas disabled people have told us matter most, supporting them to:

  • Get the best start in life
  • Live the life they choose
  • Be financially secure

We will drive social change by influencing policy, attitudes and championing the rights of disabled consumers. We will continue to offer support, information and advice to disabled people and their families. And of course, disabled people will remain at the heart of everything we do. 

We want to campaign with everyone to change policies, laws and attitudes. We want to build a community of disabled people who support each other through life’s big moments and harness the power of digital technology to improve lives.

We’ll also continue to deliver direct services to disabled people and their families. The types of services we deliver will change but everything we do will advance our mission of securing equality for disabled people. We can only deliver this by reaching many more people. That’s why we have an ambition to directly reach more than two million people with our services by 2022.

This will only be possible with your support

Of course, all of this will only be possible with your continuing support. We know there’s a lot still to be done. We won’t stop until Britain is a country where disabled people can reach their potential and live the life they choose.

Visit our website to find out more about our new strategy and how you can get involved