Local elections 2018: Make your vote count

Local elections will take place in England on 3 May 2018.  In this blog we talk about the importance of voting and how disabled voters can access their polling stations.

150 council seats across England will be up for election, including all seats in London’s 32 boroughs. There will also be direct elections for the Mayor of Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Watford and the Sheffield City region.  Find out if elections are taking place in your area.

It’s important that the voices of disabled people are heard in local elections. Local councils make decisions on a range of issues such as housing and planning, waste collection, road maintenance and local transport. Councils also provide a range of services in areas such as social care and health. Voting, as well as taking part in election events in your local area, gives you the chance to tell your local councillors what’s important to you and what you would like to see them do.

Access to polling stations

All polling stations should be wheelchair accessible and support disabled voters. If you need to use a disabled parking space, these should be clearly visible and monitored throughout the day.

There are lots of ways you can be supported to cast your vote inside a polling station:

  • If you cannot mark your ballot paper, members of staff called Presiding Officers may mark your ballot paper for you. You may also attend the polling station with someone who you would like to mark your ballot paper on your behalf.
  • Polling stations should provide tactile voting devices. The tactile voting device attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered flaps (the numbers are raised and are in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.
  • Polling stations should provide large print versions of ballot papers.

Polling stations should be accessible for everyone wishing to vote. If for whatever reason your local polling station isn’t accessible, Presiding Officers should provide you with a ballot paper and allow you to vote outside of the polling station. Find more information about getting assistance at polling stations. If you visit a polling station and find it inaccessible, you can complain to your local authority.

Voter ID pilots

The Government are trialling voter ID pilots in five different local authority areas. This means that if you are voting in Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford or Woking you will need to take ID with you to the polling station to vote in the local elections. Without it you won’t be able to vote.

The ID requirements are different in the different council areas. If you live in one of the five areas, you can find out what the ID requirements are where you live.

Make sure your voice is heard in the local elections on Thursday 3 May.

When I became disabled no-one would hire me, but Scope helped me find a job I love

Simone never had a problem looking for jobs before she became disabled. She had good references, experience and qualifications, but when she developed repetitive strain injury, it seemed like none of that mattered. After 15 months of getting no responses, Simone had lost her confidence and her hope. In this blog, she talks about how Support to Work helped her turn things around.

I developed repetitive strain injury a few years ago, a condition which affects my arms and my hands. My employer did try to make adjustments – things like speech recognition software and an adapted keyboard – but it got to a point where being on a computer even for 20 minutes caused so much pain. So, I made the decision to change career.

I didn’t think finding another job would be too difficult. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do lots of computer work, but I had so many transferable skills. But after 15 months of applying for jobs with no response, I lost hope. It got to the point where I was just applying for anything.  It didn’t matter what it was or what the pay was, I was just desperate to work. But I still couldn’t find someone to employ me.

A woman stares into the distance, in front of a bus stop
Disabled people, on average, have to apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people.

It was probably the lowest point of my life

It really knocked my self-worth and my self-confidence. You start to feel like you’re not worthy of being employed despite having a great career history. I felt like all my qualifications had been for nothing.

I felt lost, and when you get to that point, you need someone who can sit down with you and go “Okay, so these are your strengths and these jobs would suit you.” But I couldn’t find anyone willing to help. One agency told me “It’s unfortunate but employers will look at you as a liability.”

Then I got in touch with Scope.

The right support turned my life around

They were really quick to get started. When the employment adviser, Zaid, looked at my CV he said, “Wow, this is brilliant. I’m confident that we can help you.”

A women holder a file with office behind her

“I felt a sigh of relief. It felt like someone finally had my back, after months of feeling so alone.”

The main thing that Support to Work helped me with was my confidence. Because my confidence had taken such a huge knock, I didn’t feel like an employer should employ me. I didn’t think I was worth it. But when Zaid made so many nice comments about my CV and gave me so many ideas for what I could do, I started to believe in myself again.

I think I’d been coming across as negative on applications, but he helped me find the right approach to tell employers about my condition and talk about what I can do with simple adaptations.

With my new-found confidence, I applied for a role as Operations Assistant and I got an interview straight away. The interview went really well and I was offered the job! I felt uplifted. I was so happy. I was smiling for days.

For a long time, I couldn’t see a future but Support to Work really turned my life around.

Two women and a man chatting in an office, holding mugs
If you’re a disabled job-seeker, Support to Work can help you build confidence and develop skills for your job search.

My advice for employers

I love my job and I feel like my employers have exactly the right attitude. At the interview, I talked about my condition and they said, “You’ve got the skills we’re looking for, it won’t be a problem”. It put me at ease straightaway. I wish all employers thought like that when it came to hiring people.

Once in work, employers should make conversations about adjustments easy. In my current role, I feel confident that I could ask for changes if I needed them. I’ve got an open communication with my manager so if I do have any problems we can find a way to work around it. I also think they should be open to doing things differently. At work, I’m not afraid to say, “Look this is a bit much, can we do it a different way?”

Another piece of advice is to take advantage of schemes like Access to Work, which paid for my adaptive equipment – things like dictation software and an adapted keyboard – it hasn’t cost my employer anything and it enables me to do my job well.

Ultimately, I want employers to look beyond someone’s impairment or condition and focus on the skills and experience that they would bring to the role. Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t mean they won’t be an asset for your organisation.

Support to Work is funded by Virgin Media as part of our three year partnership to understand and tackle the issues disabled people face getting into and staying in work.

Our ambition is to reach one million disabled people with employment information and support by the end of 2020, so they can get into work, stay in work and realise their career ambitions.

If you’re a disabled job seeker, you can sign up to Support to Work on Scope’s website.

I’ve cheered at 10 London Marathons – here’s why I keep going back

The clock is already ticking – just 5 days until the start of the Virgin Media London Marathon 2018. This year over 100 brave runners will be taking part to raise money for Scope. And we’ll be fielding another team on the day – the volunteers who shout themselves hoarse at our cheering points*. Carol, a veteran of many cheering points, tells us why the marathon is such a great day out, even if you don’t run.

This year I’ll be taking part in my 10th London Marathon (cheering point). Every year people ask me “What’s the big deal? Why are you so excited?” and I have to confess that it’s addictive.

Collage of marathon costume photos including a dog, Mr Tickle, T Rex and the Tardis
Did I mention the Marathon costumes? They are epic!

Logically, standing around for the better part of a day to watch more than 35,000 total strangers run past should not be so rewarding, but it is. This year there’s the added bonus of fine weather but frankly most of us would be cheering in the pouring rain if we had to.

There’s a great party atmosphere at cheering points; usually someone is playing music loudly nearby, and you know that you might meet some old friends and certainly make some new ones. In fact, the Marathon has been described as “London’s 26-mile long street party”.  But there’s more to it than that.

In a small way, you’ve helped someone achieve something awesome

Predictably, when someone in your charity’s running shirt passes by, the whole cheering point loses its collective cool; everyone goes wild, bangers are banged, whistles blown, and high-fives exchanged. But most charity cheering points will tell you that they don’t just cheer their own runners – they’ll cheer everyone, especially those runners who look like they need a boost.

And that’s when the Marathon Magic happens – when you spot a total stranger, flagging a bit as they run by.  You yell out their name and a bit of encouragement and you can see it having an effect. They perk up a bit, maybe even smile. Sometimes eye contact is made and you get a thumbs up. Sometimes they might even be able to gasp out a “Thank you” but that’s just a bonus.

After my first marathon charity cheering point, the fundraising team got a letter of thanks from one of their runners. This is from memory, but it went something like this:

“It was my first London Marathon and I didn’t know what to expect. By the time I got to Canary Wharf I was really struggling but then I rounded a corner and a wall of orange went berserk.

And in that moment, I knew I was going to make it to the finish line because ahead of me on the route there were more pockets of total strangers willing me to finish and no way was I going to disappoint them”

And that’s why we do it. You know that in a small way you’ve helped someone achieve something awesome. For me, that’s a pretty good use of a Sunday.

My top tips for cheerers

The runners get plenty of tips for getting through the day, but I’ve picked up a few myself for cheerers:

  • Essentials – water and food. You might be standing directly opposite a coffee shop but, once the runners start coming through, there’s no way you can reach it if it’s on the other side of the road.
  • Tech issues  – if you’re planning to take photos make sure you’ve got an extra camera battery or a spare power supply for your phone. Also, once things get busy, just accept that you will miss great stuff if you’ve got your head down over your phone. Getting a signal can be tough too, especially anywhere around the finish line.
  • Timing – check what time the runners will start passing your spot and allow plenty of time to get there. Areas around tube stations tend to get really jammed and, even with stewards directing traffic, you can spend 15 minutes just covering 100 yards.
  • Clothing – Check the weather forecast on the day but layers are best. If you’re standing with a charity, allow room for a T-shirt to go over the top. Also bear in mind if it’s sunny, that the sun will move (obvs!) during the day. Although you may start out chilly and in the shade, you might be in full-on sunshine by lunchtime – so it’s hats and/or sunscreen, people.
  • If you’re not on a charity cheering point (WHY NOT?), try not to be standing downstream of a water point. Once they’ve re-hydrated, runners tend to drop their bottles and, if any runners accidentally kick or tread on a discarded bottle, the contents can go everywhere, but mostly all over you. I found this out the year that Lucozade pouches – briefly – replaced water. It was sticky.

If this has made you realise what a great day out you’re missing, there’s still time to join one of Scope’s cheering points. 

You can just show up on the day or sign up online to get last-minute updates and information. Either way, here is all the information you’ll need.

*Purple wigs optional

Tell the Government about your experiences as a disabled consumer

Last week the Government published a consultation called Modernising Consumer Markets, which is looking at ways to improve how different markets work for consumers.

We know that disabled people often face challenges as consumers, which can drive up the cost of essential goods and services. Below we outline what this consultation is about and some of the changes we want to see for disabled people.

What is this consultation looking at?

This Government wants to hear about ways to improve consumers’ experiences across different markets. This includes both regulated services such as energy and insurance, as well as private sector businesses selling things like food and clothing.

Whilst the Government wants to ensure that markets are competitive, there is an acknowledgement in this consultation that no one should be exploited if they lack the time or capacity to engage, and that “vulnerable” consumers need to be protected.

Some of the proposals the Government is considering including making it easier for consumers to compare the performance of businesses, and simplifying terms and conditions when consumers enter into new contracts. The Government is also interested in the role that data could play in helping consumers get the best deals or receive targeted support and advice – recognising the need to balance this with preserving privacy for consumers.

Improving disabled people’s experiences as consumers

There are almost 14 million disabled people in the UK, whose combined household expenditure, the so-called ‘purple pound’, totals £249 billion a year.

However, we know that disabled people often face challenges as consumers, which can drive up the cost of essential goods and services. Our research shows that on average, disabled people face extra costs of £570 a month related to their impairment or condition.

In some instances, disabled people are unable to access the products or services they need. For instance, our research shows that over half (55 per cent) of disabled adults have been unable to make a purchase because of an inaccessible website. Tackling these barriers is key to ensuring consumer markets work for disabled people.

Disabled people commonly tell us about experiences of poor customer service or a lack of disability awareness from businesses. We want to see a more consistent approach from businesses to supporting disabled consumers, particularly within regulated markets.

It’s also important that consumers are able to seek redress when something goes wrong. However, disabled people say that they are often put off making a complaint because of things like the length of time it can take and a lack of trust in the process. These challenges need to be addressed as part of this consultation.

How you can get involved?

This consultation is an opportunity for you to share your consumer experiences. The deadline for responses is 11:45pm on 4 July 2018.

You can email a response to ConsumerGreenPaper@beis.gov.uk

If you’d prefer to send a written response, you can write to:

Consumer Green Paper Team
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
1st Floor, Orchard 3
1 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0ET

What Scope will we be doing

We will be submitting a response to this consultation, highlighting the changes needed to ensure disabled people receive a fair experience across different markets.

We want to ensure this consultation reflects the issues facing disabled people as consumers. You can share your experiences with us by completing this short survey.

For further information about the consumer green paper, please contact Ben Wealthy in the policy team on ben.wealthy@scope.org.uk.

At the Commonwealth Games people said, ‘I didn’t realise you could throw that far’.

As another successful Commonwealth Games draws to a close in Australia we spoke to 2014 discus gold medalist Dan Greaves and  Laura Turner about the past, present and future of inclusive sport. 

Dan Greaves

I was very fortunate to be involved in the Commonwealth Games in 2014, it was an incredible experience. People came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I didn’t realise you could throw that far’. It was really great to demonstrate how powerful Parasport is and make an impact.

I came from a sporty background so I was pushed into sport and loved it. I was a swimmer first. Watching Adrian Moorhouse, Sharon Davis, those kinds of people, on TV doing so well at the Olympics. Atlanta in 1996, Linford Christie and Sally Gunnel. I was in school then, practising waving to the crowd at opening ceremonies. Four years later, I went to Sydney for my first Paralympics.

The impact of London 2012

You can still see the domino effect of London 2012. There are more people trying to get active and schemes popping up left, right and centre. It just shows you that there’s an interest in sport. If you really, really want to do it then it doesn’t take as long as you think.

Sprinter Laura Sugar, who has the same condition as me, told me that she was inspired after seeing an advert for London 2012 where I was talking about my disability. It took me back a bit, we get so wrapped up in our little world. So for her to then reach the Paralympic games, I was gobsmacked.

So, had we not had London 2012 we might not have had people like Laura now involved in sport. The more we can do to help promote it, get a bit of nostalgia going and keep it in people’s minds. It’s always going to be strong because we’re such a sport mad country.

Athletes of the future

Npower launch partnership with Team England
Dan and Denise Lewis with school kids

I’m now working with Npower and Team England to go into schools and encourage more kids to take up sport. It’s amazing to see how enthused they are. When I was growing up I didn’t have that opportunity and I would have really relished someone to come and show me their medals or talk about their experiences.

Just to give the opportunity to younger kids to say that they can do it and go on the same journey that other athletes have done. I hope I inspired some future champions –disabled or not. Sport is for everyone.

We’ve come leaps and bounds, a lot more people now understand Paralympic sport and they really enjoy it. When I was doing Paralympic sport in 2000 there wasn’t much media coverage, I think three members of the press came to greet us at the airport. Years later, at London 2012 Channel 4 had to put on an extra show because people wanted to watch it so much.

I think there are more opportunities now being given to disabled people across the UK to actually take up sport and they now know how to access those sports. When I was starting out I didn’t know who to contact or what organisation to go to. It just shows you now there’s been a complete overhaul and a lot more access for disabled people.

Laura Turner

Allowing Para-events to take place alongside main competition is fantastic. It gives spectators and supporters the opportunity to see just how much of an impact sport has on disabled people, both physically and mentally.

Laura Turner
Laura (left) competing with her co-pilot

Following its debut in Rio, it was great to see the Para Triathlon at this year’s Commonwealth Games, to see swimmers still get medals after being reclassified and new world records being set in Para Cycling.

Everyone should have the opportunity to take part in sport or do physical activity. I was 12 years old when I was introduced to sport, looking back this was too late in life. The Gold Coast set out to ‘share the dream’. I hope that the Games have inspired disabled people to want to have a go and I hope that Birmingham can do England proud in 2022.

Have the Commonwealth games inspired you? Let us know on Twitter

Find out how Npower and Team England are inspiring the next generation of athletes