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We're all about changing society for the better, so that disabled people and their families can have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Government outlines plans to make public transport more inclusive

Today the Government has published its new Inclusive Transport Strategy, outlining how they intend to make the transport network more accessible for disabled people. This includes over £300 million of funding to deliver the projects they’ve announced.

A positive commitment

The current transport system is set up in a way which deters – or even prevents – many disabled people from using it. The Inclusive Transport Strategy is a strong step in the right direction, dismantling some of the barriers disabled people face. This is not just about adjusting existing infrastructure to make it physically accessible, but tries to put the needs of all disabled passengers at the heart of designing our transport system.

Access for All

Our recent research found 40 per cent of disabled people have difficulty accessing train stations. The biggest announcement in the Strategy is that the Government is reviving the Access for All program, to provide funds to make railway stations more accessible. The £300 million which has been announced for the fund will go towards installing everything from lifts to tactile paving and automatic doors at more stations.

“I’ve lost out on great job opportunities because I arrived so late. There are no step-free stations near me so I have to drive everywhere, which takes so much longer” – Conrad

And this is on top of existing requirements for station operators to improve accessibility when they renovate their stations.

It’s not just railways that are getting an upgrade. The Strategy also announced that £2 million will be spent installing Changing Places facilities in motorway service stations, allowing more disabled people travelling by car to access a suitable toilet.

Attitudes

Disabled people frequently say that one of the biggest barriers to using public transport can be the attitudes of others. Whether it’s a non-disabled person refusing to offer a priority seat to someone who needs it, or a bus driver ignoring a wheelchair user at a bus stop, the attitudes of passengers and staff can make or break disabled people’s experiences of public transport.

“As I am young and have an invisible disability, I am often accused of not needing the accessible seats at the front of buses and…people rarely give up their seat to me when I ask” – Anonymous

The Inclusive Transport Strategy has recognised this, with a focus on both staff training and changing behaviours of non-disabled passengers. This will require bus and rail operators to provide disability awareness training to their staff, and the Government will spearhead a campaign to improve awareness of disability among all passengers.

The Rail Ombudsman

Even after the changes announced, things will still go wrong from time to time. While we want the Government and transport providers to work to eliminate these errors in the first place, it’s important that disabled people are able to complain and have action taken if things don’t go to plan with a journey.

The Strategy has announced a new Rail Ombudsman to help disabled people seek recourse. This body will have the power to rule on complaints relating to accessibility, and deliver binding judgements – meaning it can force train companies to act.

This will be accompanied by a new system for registering complaints about bus services, which will go to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency who can take action against bus companies that don’t meet their obligations.

What’s next?

It’s worth noting that the Inclusive Transport Strategy contains many more proposed changes beyond the ones we’ve discussed in this blog.

While we have welcomed the Strategy, there is still much more to be done to ensure all disabled people are able to access and use transport as they wish.

As well as making sure the proposals from today are implemented in full, we’ll keep pushing the Government to make sure the transport system really is one that is fully inclusive and accessible to all disabled people.

My big challenge – running the coast of Britain for Scope

A year ago, Chris Shipley decided that he needed a new challenge. On 26 February 2018 he started out from Southampton on a 5000 mile trip around the coast of Britain, which he plans to complete in under 10 months. In this blog he talks about his challenge and why he’s raising for money Scope.

I took up running four years ago. Since then I have taken part in two obstacle world championships and a European championship. I came first in an 18 hour endurance run and finished eighth in Europe’s “toughest mudder” race this year. Last year, I cycled back home from Switzerland through some of the worst floods seen in France.

A new challenge

I like to stretch myself physically and mentally. I read a book about someone who cycled the coast of Britain and was inspired by the story. I always wanted to do a long trip on foot or by bike. I was Influenced by Ed Pratt who is cycling around the world on a unicycle.

I didn’t really plan anything!! I chose the direction and date and saved up some money. I tested out my gear by camping locally in cold conditions.

How it’s going

So far, I’ve ran over 1400 miles and had some great experiences along the way.

I set off from my home in Southampton and just over 2 months later, I reached the most northerly point in Britain – John O’Groats.

It’s tough going at times, I’m on my third pair of running shoes! I vary the mileage according to the terrain but most days on average I’ll do a marathon each day, around 26 miles. On my best day so far I managed an astonishing 42 miles.

I carry a tent, cooking equipment, food, clothes and not much more, so I can stop pretty much anywhere.

There have been a few ups and downs but I never let situations get me down. When I started my challenge the “beast from the east” arrived but I soldiered on. I’ve encountered all that the British weather can throw at me and still carry on!

Food keeps me going although I haven’t had a burger in a while! I keep focused on the goal ahead and reaching the end of the challenge. The fabulous scenery and people you meet are really helping to keep my spirits up and keep me going.

My nephew Alfie has cerebral palsy and he’s the reason I’m raising money for Scope. We love the work that Scope does to create equality for disabled people. My mum also works as a carer so it’s something we’re all really passionate about.

Raising money for a worthy cause that supports people is important to me. Testing myself both mentally and physically is also very important.

Highlights along the way

I’ve met many people on my trip so far and have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement. There really are some great people out there. I’ve even talked to pupils at a school about my challenge and used the opportunity to talk about Scope’s amazing work.

Man standing in a school gym

There have been so many highlights so far. Whilst running through Skegness, I saw an opportunity to top up my fundraising so I stopped and completed a “hang tough” challenge, went sailing in Scotland and even met a cyclist going around the coast of Britain going the opposite way and lots of other challenges.

Man standing outside a fairground ride.

If I reach my target, I’ll do an extra challenge

If this wasn’t a big enough challenge, I’ve decided to up the ante and complete a challenge within a challenge. If I raise £5000 before 21 June I’ll run for 24 hours straight from 6pm to 6pm the next day. Please sponsor me – not only will you been helping me achieve my goals,  but supporting a great charity that’s close to my heart.

You can sponsor Chris on his JustGiving page and follow his journey around the coast.

Our new report shows disabled people still face negative attitudes

Our new report, The Disability Perception Gap, reveals the extent of the negative attitudes that are held towards disabled people – and how many non-disabled people don’t realise the scale of the problem.

The way other people act towards us can have a huge impact on how we view ourselves and our role in society. An occasional moment of rudeness or being ignored may be a minor inconvenience or annoyance. But the more it happens, the more the impact adds up.

For many disabled people, this will sound all too familiar. Whether it’s outright hostility, or seemingly minor incidents that add up to a hostile atmosphere, prejudice remains a common occurrence. Negative attitudes from others can be one of the biggest barrier to disabled people living life the way they want, and more needs to be done to tackle them.

The research in this report was carried out on behalf of Scope by the National Centre for Social Research as part of the annual British Social Attitudes Survey.

What is the Perception Gap

According to our new research released today, one in three disabled people still feel that there’s a lot of prejudice against disabled people. But only one in five non-disabled people think the same. This is what we’re calling the disability perception gap.

It may seem self-evident that disabled people face prejudice, but many non-disabled people do not understand the scale of the negative attitudes towards disability.

Some difference wouldn’t be surprising – disabled people have to live with this prejudice every day, whereas non-disabled people may only ever know about it second hand.

But this gap is growing. In 2000, there was only a slight difference between the views of disabled and non-disabled people when it came to disability prejudice. Over the last 20 years, however, the gap has trebled.

Illustration of the gap in perception between disabled and non-disabled people
“The gap between disabled and non-disabled people’s views of prejudice has trebled since 2000” – Disability Perception Gap

There is now a real danger that many non-disabled people think that disability prejudice has been tackled long before it has been, which could block further attempts to improve the situation. Instead of this complacency, we need to make sure that the experiences of disabled people are listened to and put at the heart of any programme designed to address negative and harmful attitudes.

Being close to disability can help

When it comes to improving understanding, it seems that nothing beats personal contact with a disabled person. Whether it’s a colleague, a friend or a family member, having a relationship with a disabled person makes a real difference to non-disabled people’s attitudes.

For example, 10 percent of people who claim not to know any disabled people think of disabled people as ‘getting in the way’ some of the time – an opinion held by only 3 percent of people with a disabled colleague.

However, a third of the population claim not to know a single disabled person. This means that their views on disability are far more likely to be based on stereotypes than any knowledge of what life is like for a disabled person.

Any attempt to improve attitudes will have to increase people’s understanding of what it means to be disabled, and the challenges that disabled people face on a daily basis.

Driving change

To do this requires a concerted effort across society to tackle prejudice and negative attitudes towards disabled people. This should include a variety of spaces; from the classroom to the boardroom, and all points in between.

This is why we are calling for efforts to get more disabled people into work to be amplified. With only 7 percent of people saying they have a disabled colleague, a million more disabled people in work could make a real difference to people’s views of disability and disabled people.

It’s why we’re calling on the media to do more to ensure that disabled people and their experiences are properly represented on screen. By supporting disabled talent, they can show what it means to be disabled in 2018.

Such efforts on their own will help, but they won’t be sufficient. We need a coherent approach to improving attitudes across all areas of life. Earlier this week the Government announced a new working group to look at the issues facing disabled people.

We’re calling on this group, and the rest of Government, to take prejudice seriously and launch a new cross-departmental disability strategy, focussed on improving attitudes and reducing prejudice towards disabled people.

What comes next?

This report is the start of something, not the end. We will be working to better understand how negative attitudes impact on disabled people, and how these can best be tackled.

There’s no single fix for this problem, and as part of our campaign for everyday equality for disabled people, we’d like to hear about your experiences and what you would like to see change.

Will you support our campaign by telling us your experiences?

Could you be part of the next generation of disability campaigners?

We are looking for aspiring young campaigners to join Scope for Change, our campaign training programme for disabled people aged 18 to 25. It’s a free, six-month programme, and no previous campaigning experience is needed. Find out more and apply to take part.

Disabled people face many barriers to equality – whether it’s negative attitudes, unnecessary extra costs, inaccessible environments or a lack of support in education or work. But we know that it doesn’t have to be this way, and that young disabled people have the drive and skills to help make change happen.

We first launched the Scope for Change programme in 2016 to support young disabled people gain the skills and confidence to campaign on issues they cared about . This first group of campaigners set out to tackle a variety of issues: encouraging museums to be more autism-friendly, making British Sign Language lessons at university more accessible and affordable, gaining step-free access to local transport, and raising awareness of hidden impairments.

Ellie, who took part in 2016, campaigned for greater accessibility at nature reserves. Here’s what she had to say about her campaign:

“I want to further educate those working in the conservation sector to make sites of natural interest as accessible as possible: providing ramps up to bird hides, having blue badge parking spaces, braille or audio information boards, allowing assistance dogs, and accessible toilets… Opening up the senses in particular for those with profound and multiple disabilities is so important – and where better to do that than a national park?”

It wasn’t just their campaigns that benefited – many of the group said that being part of Scope for Change gave them a sense of solidarity with other disabled people and boosted their confidence. No longer feeling like they were working alone, the campaigners could collaborate, share experiences and learn from each other.

Why get involved?

Now Scope for Change is back for a new generation, to tackle more obstacles on the road to everyday equality. We want disabled young people to be empowered to make decisions about their lives, influence change, and make real progress in their communities and wider society.

Over a six-month period, we will support the Scope for Change group to plan, launch and their own campaigns to make change on the issues that matter to them. This will be backed up with ongoing support from Scope staff and a three-day residential training event to learn all the skills needed to create a winning campaign strategy.

Does this sound like the opportunity for you? Apply for Scope for Change now – applications close on Monday 28 May.

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.

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

Virgin Media helps ParalympicsGB go for gold

In this guest post, our partner Virgin Media, is excited to announce their partnership with the British Paralympic Association (BPA). 

Virgin Media in partnership with us and the BPA have the ambition to positively change attitudes towards disability to drive participation of disabled people in work and everyday life.

At Virgin Media, we celebrate and value differences. This includes working to change attitudes towards disability – supporting disabled people in work and everyday life. That’s why we have partnered with Scope until 2020 to support more disabled people to get into and stay in work.

But our ambitions don’t end there. We also want to change attitudes towards disability to help drive participation of disabled people in the UK.

That’s why we’re so delighted to announce our new partnership with the BPA. This means that Virgin Media is supporting ParalympicsGB in their fearless quest, both in PyeongChang and in Tokyo in 2020. We’ve watched ParalympicsGB go from strength to strength over the years and I am thrilled we have the opportunity to support these athletes so they can reach even greater heights.

Not only does this partnership sit perfectly alongside our existing work with Scope, we know that sport has the power to inspire the country.

The 2012 and 2016 Paralympics were landmark moments that saw the country rally behind our Paralympic stars. And it did more than just spur us to unprecedented successes at the games.

Research from Scope shows that these sporting successes can change attitudes right across society:

  • Three quarters (78%) of disabled people say the Paralympics improve attitudes and four in five (82%) say the Games change negative assumptions to disability.
  • The poll of 1,000 disabled adults reveals that four in five (82%) believe the Games make disabled people more visible in wider society and challenge negative assumptions about what disabled people can achieve.
  • And more than three quarters (78%) of disabled people say the Paralympics have a positive impact on attitudes to disability.

In addition, recent research we commissioned to mark the start of our partnership with the BPA showed that Paralympians are the most inspirational athletes for young children.

Of course sport can’t change everything. That is why Virgin Media, Scope and BPA will be campaigning all year round, long after ParalympicsGB leave PyeongChang.

We are partnering with incredible organisations like Scope and the BPA to transform lives of disabled people, whether it’s on the snow or ice, in the workplace, or by shifting attitudes towards disability.

Our amazing Paralympians are already achieving great things in PyeongChang everyone at Virgin Media is cheering the team on.

To keep up to date on how ParalympicsGB is performing at PyeongChang, visit the BPA’s website or follow them on Twitter @ParalympicsGB

Tackling the price tag of disability

Life costs more if you’re disabled.

Our new report, The disability price tag, reveals that disabled people are forced to pay more for everyday essentials.   

From expensive items of equipment or adapted cutlery, to higher energy bills and costly insurance premiums, disabled people face extra costs across all areas of life.

Read more about our research and how we can tackle the price tag of disability. 

The financial penalty of disability

Four years ago we published research into disabled people’s extra costs and began campaigning for change.

Four years on, disabled people still face a substantial financial penalty.

Our latest research finds that disabled people face extra costs of £570 a month related to their impairment or condition. For one in five disabled people, these costs amount to over £1,000 a month.

This is on top of welfare payments such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) designed to help meet these costs.

This disability price tag leaves disabled people with less money to spend on other things, and unable to afford the same standard of living as non-disabled people.

After housing costs have been met, almost half (49 per cent) of disabled people’s remaining income is spent on disability-related costs.

Even for disabled people in work, average monthly extra costs are £492. And across the country costs vary substantially, from an average of £482 in the East of England to an average of £632 in Scotland.

What are the types of extra costs disabled people face?

Disabled people we talk to tell us that they face extra costs across many areas of their lives. These costs broadly fall into three categories:

  • Paying for specialised goods, like a wheelchair, a hoist or adapted cutlery
  • Having to spend more on everyday things, like heating or items of clothing
  • Paying over the odds for things, like insurance or accessible taxis

Marie is just one of many disabled people faced with extra costs. She uses a specially adapted wheelchair which needs replacing, but this would cost her £9,000. Marie and her husband also recently spent around £4000 on a specially adapted kitchen.

The extra costs of disability mean disabled people are less able to build financial resilience. They make it harder for disabled people to get a job, pay into savings and pensions, and participate fully in society.

What needs to change?

We cannot afford to ignore this problem.

Government, regulators and businesses all need to play a role in tackling the extra costs of disability.

We need action to ensure disabled people have the right support to help with extra costs. PIP helps with some of the additional costs of disability – but too often the PIP assessment fails to capture the extra costs many disabled people face.

We want to see an overhaul of the assessment so that disabled people get the support they need to help meet disability-related costs.

We also need to tackle the drivers of extra costs. We know disabled people are often underserved as consumers, leading to increased costs for essential goods and services like energy and insurance.

Today we are calling on businesses and regulators to set out what they will do to ensure disabled consumers are not paying over the odds.

What will we be doing next 

We will be reporting annually on disabled people’s extra costs to assess any changes over time. We will also be publishing research later on this year into the additional costs faced by families of disabled children.

What are your experiences of #ExtraCosts. Share your experiences in our extra costs discussion on the community.

Tackling the additional energy costs faced by disabled people

Winter brings two certainties – lower temperatures and higher energy costs. This is particularly challenging for disabled people, who often consume more energy because of their impairment or condition.

In recent weeks, Ofgem – the energy regulator – and the Government have both announced short-term proposals to help tackle high energy costs. Whilst these are welcome, Scope is calling for more targeted reforms to support disabled people in the energy market.

Below we look at these changes in more detail and what they could mean for disabled people.

Disabled people’s experiences as energy consumers

Disabled people face a range of disability-related costs, amounting to an average of £550 a month, making it harder for disabled people to get into work, access education and training opportunities and participate in society fully.

Energy represents a significant type of extra cost for disabled people. In an independent inquiry into extra costs, The Extra Costs Commission, energy was the third most cited area of additional cost by disabled people.

Households with a disabled person spend on average over £3,000 a year on energy, compared to the £1,345 an average UK household spends. It is no surprise then that more than a quarter (29 per cent) of disabled people have struggled to pay their energy bills in the past year.

What changes have been announced?

In October, Ofgem announced a proposal to extend the Vulnerable Customer Safeguard Tariff. Currently, this limits the amount that  customers who are on a prepayment meter will pay for their energy bills. The extension would cover an additional one million customers who receive the Warm Homes Discount, which is a one-off discount for certain customers on their energy bills. This change would take effect from February 2018.

Ofgem has acknowledged that this approach will not support all groups with high energy costs, including many disabled people. It is considering what further steps it can take to support a wider pool of customers.

Alongside this, the Government has published its Draft Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill. This would put an absolute cap on certain energy tariffs, including standard variable tariffs and default tariffs, which have variable prices that go up and down with the market.

The cap would be set by Ofgem and would be temporary in nature. It would last until the end of 2020, although it may be extended for a year on up to three occasions, depending on whether the market becomes more competitive.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee has been reviewing the Bill before it is introduced in Parliament. We have provided both written and oral evidence to the Committee, and we want to ensure that there is a clear process for evaluating how these changes will impact disabled people.

 What needs to change?

The proposed actions from Ofgem and the Government offer some short-term relief to some disabled people. However, long-term reforms are needed to specifically address the additional energy costs many disabled people face.

One area of focus needs to be on ensuring disabled people are accessing the support to which they are entitled. For instance, research by the Extra Costs Commission found that 40 per cent of disabled people were unfamiliar with the Warm Home Discount, meaning many individuals could be missing out on this support with their energy bills. We want Ofgem and energy suppliers to work together to increase awareness of these types of support.

We also believe the eligibility criteria for the Warm Home Discount is not as effectively targeted as it could be. We want the Government to review the criteria so that it captures a greater number of disabled people who face additional energy costs.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been carrying out focus groups to deepen our understanding of the experiences of disabled people in the energy market. This will help us develop recommendations for tackling the additional energy costs faced by many disabled people, but it is clear that Government, Ofgem and energy suppliers all have a part to play.

Tell us about your experiences

Have you faced high energy costs because of your impairment or condition? If you would like to share your experiences, please contact: stories@scope.org.uk.

You can also visit Scope’s website for more information on support with your energy bills.

Smiiffy’s 7 tips for coping with isolation

Josh, popularly known as “Smiiffy”, is a rapper from Birmingham who is looking to challenge attitudes and raise awareness of mental health and disability. He did an Instagram Stories takeover for Scope on Friday, where he shared “What I Need To Say” posts throughout the day, and even wrote a special verse.

I have anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder. I haven’t been in a good place in the past few months. My anxiety sometimes makes it difficult to be happy, even around my own family. It also means that it’s quite difficult to know what mood I’m going to be in for Christmas.

Josh sitting on a pub bench, looking into the camera

There are a lot of times I do feel isolated. I often find that I do it to myself because I prefer to be alone. I constantly feel alone in a crowd. Even if I’m surrounded by good friends, I feel alone. I sit alone for a while and think that I don’t fit in here. And I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere, which is really difficult sometimes.

Scope’s What I Want To Say campaign is important to me because I feel like Scope’s giving people the opportunity to have a voice and let me say what I genuinely need to say. Letting people know that they’re not alone, and that there are other people there who are wanting to listen to them is incredible.

As part of this campaign, I took over Scope’s Instagram on Friday 8 December, and am sharing my top tips for reducing isolation:

Smile

Whether it’s someone I know well, or a stranger in the street, one of my favourite things to do is just smile. I feel like if someone’s having the worst day, at least I’ve acknowledged them. Plus, it always makes me feel much better too!

A hug always helps

Hugs always make me feel good. Be it a friend, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a cousin, a family member or whoever, it helps you forget about the loneliness, depression and anxiety you might be feeling for a while.

Social Media

Josh taking a selfie in front of a mirrorI always thought that I’d be lonely and I posted that on social media. That was the first time that I accepted my own mental health. Telling people how you feel on social media can help things improve.

I use it positively, to raise awareness and let people know that there is help out there. You can also be anonymous on social media and that can make it easier to talk about the fact that you’re struggling.

Find someone to talk to

For people that are lonely, there are a few community clubs and centres out there that are open for people on Christmas day. If people are alone, that’s definitely one thing that could help.

If you’ve got family around you but you’re still struggling, just trying to talk to people can help. In most families, there’s at least one person that understands, so if you can speak to that one person, then things can get easier. Just expressing your needs to somebody else will help in the long run, because they will find a way to help you through it.

Speak to organisations that can help

Josh (Smiiffy) wearing a Scope T-shirt

Scope have helped me massively. They’ve helped a lot of friends too. I’ve never really told anyone that I have Bilateral Perthes’ disease but through working with Scope and seeing the work they do, it made me feel confident enough to tweet about it. I feel motivated by Scope to raise awareness of invisible impairments, like mental health.

Do something you love

I think that a hobby, something you’re good at or enjoy, can help. When I started music, I wanted money, fame, popularity but then I released a song about when I was struggling called “Air I Breathe”. When I realised how many people it had impacted, I knew that was my calling.

Music has been hard because I don’t like the attention but I fought off my fears. If you have a talent and use it to create good things for yourself and inspire thousands of others, it can be life changing. I also like giving back to charity because as well as music, charity saved my life.

Smiiffy, a young disabled man, smiles by a microphone

Help raise awareness

Over the years thousands of people have messaged me and said positive things like “I love your music, you’ve saved my life” or “you’ve made me open up about my own mental health” which is incredible.

I want people to let people know that, if they’re struggling to talk or feel like they’re not going to be heard, speaking out about what you’re going through can really help.

Too often disabled people struggle to access the right emotional support, advice and information. As a result they feel like no one truly understands, leaving them disconnected and isolated from those around them. This is particularly heart-breaking at Christmas.

Please help us this Christmas by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign. Share the message, tell us your stories, and donate to Scope so we can be there for people who have nowhere else to turn.