Category Archives: Campaigns

Keep Us Close Family Memories delivered to MPs in style

“What on earth are all these?!” As I piled up five large cardboard boxes filled with almost 300 memory boxes on the counter of the Westminster post room, the disgruntled security guard seemed quite confused. I could have given him the long answer: “This is a collection of over 700 fond family memories, shared by Scope supporters. They’ve written to us, to share memories of sunny holidays and close Christmases, because they believe in the importance of family time together. We have sorted these, and wrapped them beautifully in memory boxes. They want their MP to unwrap this box, read their memories, and remember how much family time together matters, before they go to make important decisions on the Children and Families Bill. Really, what’s in these boxes, is pretty amazing.”

In the end, I decided to just tell him they were simply ‘message to MPs’ – he appeared to be in a bit of a rush. He accepted this, and all the boxes, and now they are on their journey through the corridors of Westminster to land on MPs’ desks.

I really believe that when MPs open their memory boxes, after some curiosity, they’ll be pleasantly surprised. We have been quite touched by the small insights into the family lives of Scope supporters. It’s difficult to not feel that family really is central to many people’s lives after reading the collection of memories that have arrived. When MPs read about their constituents’ day trips to the zoo, their sandwiches on the beach, or their first Christmas with their grandchildren, I hope they too will be reminded that the closeness of family is something to treasure – and is so important for families with disabled children.

It’s now down to them to take this feeling, and turn it into action when the Children and Families Bill goes through the next stages in the coming weeks. For Scope campaigners, it’s good to know what we hope will act as the final reminder, is safely on the way.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed by sharing their family memory, your support has been overwhelming. We’ll keep you updated on the progress of the Children and Families Bill, and the Keep Us Close campaign.

Children and Families Bill debate

Scope has been inundated with support from across the country for our campaign for better local services for disabled children and their families.

Thousands upon thousands of emails, letters, postcards, wish stars and memories have been sent to MPs calling on them to take action as part of our Keep Us Close campaign. And they have a real opportunity to do so with theChildren and Families Bill, poised to enter Parliament in a matter of weeks.

However, the impact that this support is having inside Westminster is not always so easy to see.

On Wednesday this week, a debate is being held in Parliament specifically on why the Government must improve local services for disabled children and their families. Tabled by Angela Smith MP, this gives MPs who have a strong interest in supporting disabled children and their families a chance to quiz the Government on their proposals – and tell them why they must be strengthened.

Local services for disabled children

Scope has been calling on the Government to improve inclusive and accessible local services for disabled children and their families by strengthening something called the ‘local offer’ which is contained in the Government’s proposals.

Currently, the ‘local offer’ is too weak to really make a difference. We want to see a ‘local offer’ that gives parents with disabled children a clear promise of the support that they can expect to receive locally – and the right to hold their local authority to account so that they receive this support.

The families we speak to have to battle too hard, too often, to get this support – and when they do, they have to travel far too far away to get it. That’s just not right.

Children and Families Bill debate

The debate is being held in the ornate Westminster Hall, and will be one of the final chances that MPs have to ask the Government Minister, Edward Timpson MP, what he is doing in the Bill to improve local services for disabled children and their families. The Bill is due to enter Parliament imminently at the start of its passage to become law, and we know that MPs from all across the House of Commons – and from all political parties – feel very strongly that the Government must get the reforms right.

But main reason they feel strongly that this must not be a wasted opportunity is because they know how important an issue this is for their constituents – the people they represent. For months now, their postbags and inboxes have been filled with Scope supporters telling them they can’t let this opportunity pass.

Alongside the support of all our campaigners, we are working with MPs to turn up the pressure on the Government to make sure they get the reforms right, and Wednesday afternoon gives them a real chance to do so.

You can watch the debate at 4.30pm on Wednesday 20 January.

Your Christmas Wish Stars tell MPs to keep families close

It was around 9 in the evening. A group of us were gathered late, sorting through the hundreds and hundreds of Christmas Wish Stars we’d received — more than 1,300 in all. And that was when I saw this message written on one star:

“I was a disabled child and felt abandoned and I’ve only recently got over that 30 years later.”

I read it out to the rest of our Scope team who were there, and for a minute we all stopped what we were doing. It was an incredible reminder of why our Keep Us Close campaign is so important, to get better local support for disabled children and their families. Here’s another that’s really powerful (and crazy to hear!):

“We are having to consider moving 400 metres into another council boundary to receive the help we can’t find in our council area. How can this be right?”

Last Monday we were so pleased to be able to take your messages into Parliament on International Disabled People’s Day. We wanted to bring them straight to MPs who will be deciding on the Children and Families Bill that could change the future of services for disabled children.

We’ve had good news recently as the Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, has made an important new promise: families will have more say in the support they get and councils will have to listen when they decide which local services they provide for disabled children.

This is a great step in the right direction. But listening isn’t enough of course. What hundreds of thousands of families really need is a guarantee that councils will actually provide the support they need in their local area. It’s a vital missing piece and we believe we can get it. Now we need to keep the pressure on.

Our Christmas reception in Speaker’s House in Parliament was a brilliant way to bring your voices from all over the country to the politicians – and we got to put them on a giant 20-foot Christmas tree! We were hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP, and joined by comedian and actress Sally Phillips. Families came from all over the country to meet MPs and talk to them firsthand.

Check out our short film to find out why the MPs featured are supporting Keep Us Close and if you haven’t yet emailed your MP please contact them here orsend your own Christmas Wish Star. We are now posting on every single one of the stars we’ve received to tell MPs they must help keep families close by providing better support.

Sign up for our Campaigns Network and we’ll let you know what happens next!

Where is the Paralympics effect?

As visitors to the Scope website offer their thoughts in a new survey on attitudes to disabled people, one particular question is picking up momentum in the media. Have the Paralympics changed anything for disabled people?

Back in September the consensus was that “we would never look at disability in the same way again”.

For some, that feels like a long time ago.Last month disabled people took to the streets to protest against cuts. Report after report underlines the impact of spiralling living costs, stagnant incomes and the loss of national and local support on the lives of disabled people and their families.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson speaks out

It was Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who finally said what many people were thinking. In a comment piece last week she described a sports dinner.

“I had to use the back entrance, nothing much unusual or offensive in that. However, I could have got in the front (there was a ramp there albeit tucked away) but the organisers just had not thought about it. When I wanted to use the bathroom it took several minutes to find a ramp. I was also asked if I really needed to “go”. While I was in the bathroom the ramp was taken away, so I could not get back down the steps.”

Tanni asks where the evidence is of a change in attitudes.

A couple of days later she posed an even more challenging question, this time in the Times. Have the Paralympics made it easier for the Government to strip disabled people of vital support by presenting an unrealistic image of what disabled can achieve?

“Don’t be fooled by what Paralympians can do. They are not typical of disabled people. They are remarkably good at the sport they do, but it is not a realistic view of disabled life, no more than Olympians represent anyone else.”

So is it time to write off the Paralympics effect?

Attitudes to disabled people

Disabled people tell Scope that greater visibility and public discussion of their lives makes a difference.

During the Games Ellie Simmonds, David Weir and Jonnie Peacock become national heroes. With Channel 4 leading the way, Disability was consistently, openly and widely talked about like never before. Three different polls taken straight after the games pointed to a change in public attitudes.

But it takes longer than a fortnight to change attitudes.

Times are undoubtedly tough for disabled people. But maybe rather than write the Paralympics effect off, we should be asking what we can do to build on it and keep it going.

What we can do increase disabled people’s visibility in the media, in politics, in the arts and above all in everyday life? (It’s certainly good news that Channel 4’s Last Leg is returning.)

How can use the Paralympics to make the point to the Government that the starting point for welfare should be what do disabled people need to live their lives – not what can we take away to save money?

As Tanni says we need to keep the fight going.

Take part in our attitudes survey

Scope wants to hear your views: take part in our new survey on attitudes to disabled people.

Scope shop customers call on MPs to Keep Us Close

As I write this I am surrounded by postcards, piles of envelopes and spreadsheets with long list of numbers, the aftermath of a busy three weeks of campaigning in our shops.

The numbers on the spreadsheets are unexpectedly exciting, telling me that over 15,000 petition postcards have already been sent to MPs, asking them to guarantee better local services for disabled children and their families. The postcards come from Scope customers, who have been hearing all about the Keep Us Close campaign from the hardworking staff and volunteers in our shops.

The Keep Us Close campaign aims to get better local services for disabled children and their families. Families have been telling us about the huge amounts of pressure they’re under. Disabled children often need extra support, in addition to education and health care. But parents are struggling to find the services they need for their disabled child, such as speech therapy or suitable playgroups. Even if families can find good support, it will often be miles from home. Frequent travelling to appointments and often having to fight hard to get the appropriate support is putting pressure on parents.

Children and Families Bill

We hope that if we can show MPs how much support there is for the campaign, they can use the upcoming Children and Families Bill to make life easier for families. And Scope’s customers have certainly proved that the campaign has a lot of support, and have got Keep Us Close off to a flying start!

Spending a day with the wonderful staff at the Scope shop in Nantwich confirmed the rumours; Scope shop staff are very skilled campaigners. Few customers left the shop without signing a petition postcard, and were pleased to find out more. And while Marian, who has been volunteering for Scope for years, worked hard to persuade them of the value of their signature, I did my best to persuade customers how photogenic they were. (Which was actually more difficult!)

For those who could be persuaded, their photos will go alongside messages of support for the campaign in an album, that will be handed into Edward Timpson, the Minister responsible for the Bill, who is also the local MP for Nantwich.

Jo and Marian told me why they were so keen to support the campaign:

MPs’ visits to Scope shops

In the past three weeks, many shops have actually hosted a meeting with their MP. The staff in Alton, Beckenham, Bromley, St Albans and Wimbledon did a fantastic job of telling their local MP how their customers supported the campaign, over a cup of tea. Many shops also gained some local media coverage, promoting the campaign even further.

The Eccles shop took the cup of tea to a whole new level when they put on an entire tea party, complete with eccles cakes of course, for the Shadow Education Minister Sharon Hodgson, Scope supporter Sarah Kiley, who has a disabled son and was keen to share her experiences, and Richard Hawkes. The day proved to be a great success, and gave Sarah the chance to talk about the difficulties she has faced as the mother of a disabled child.

She explained that ‘the frustration comes from the possibility of services being made easier. The facilities are already there, such as local children’s centres. Specialist facilities, such as hydro pools, are there, but are out of my reach.’

The hard work and enthusiasm from Scope shops over the past three weeks is a crucial step along the journey to making sure that mothers like Sarah no longer have to deal with such frustrations.

You can support the campaign by emailing your MP today.

Keep Us Close campaign update

After almost a month, our Keep Us Close families campaign is continuing to go from strength to strength. Scope supporters have been busy emailing their MPs, calling on them to ensure that disabled children and their families have better local support.

Hundreds of emails have been sent, adding to the thousands of campaign postcards and petitions that have been sent from our shops in England and Wales. Our customers have been so keen to support the campaign that many shops ran out of campaign postcards!

Six MPs have visited their local Scope shops to collect the postcards and hear about the importance of the campaign. The Labour Shadow Minister for Children and Families has supported Keep Us Close, as well as other organisations, including Save the Children and the Family and Parenting Institute.

Online, our new Keep Us Close animation is still very popular, and the campaign has been a hot topic on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The campaigns team is busy planning the next stage of the campaign, so look out for how you can get involved next month.

In the meantime, please don’t forget to email your MP, and tell all your friends about this essential campaign for disabled children and their families.

Why go to party conferences?

As a new political year gets underway, another season of party conferences comes to an end. The effects of three consecutive weekends away from home and the combination of too many late nights, meetings and caffeine begin to take their toll. But why do charities go to conferences in the first place? And why a charity CEO?

There’s a whole host of reasons for people to attend conferences. Some may want to use it as an opportunity to stake their claim for party leadership, or to apologise, others may choose not to go for fear of becoming a distraction from the key issues at play.

For me, party conferences have a real buzz around them and as a neutral observer, I find it fascinating to watch them unfold; from the excited new party intake soaking up their first conference, to the name-dropping competition amongst old hats and especially the collective swivel of heads as a high-profile minister casually wanders by.

But it’s not just as a casual observer that Scope attends these conferences. These are extremely difficult times for disabled people and their families. They are being hit by a double whammy of seeing their financial support and local services falling away at the same time as the cost of living spirals out of control. And if we want to realise true social change on these issues, we need to be influencing decision makers.

That’s why my colleagues have the season blocked out in my diary as soon as the dates are announced and they are right to do so. The opportunity of new introductions, spontaneous discussions and chance encounters make it a crucial part of my annual calendar, so that I no longer need convincing that it’s worth the time away from the office (and home).

Conferences present a unique opportunity for us to talk to a whole host of influential people, from MPs and Councillors, to journalists and bloggers, to hear their views about what’s important to them but equally to tell them about the crucial changes taking place now that are affecting disabled people and their families.

They provide us with a unique opportunity to test and refine our arguments from all angles and learn what resonates with different audiences. What makes them lean forward, and what sends them resting back in their chairs with their arms crossed? Who are our allies on the issues we feel are important? Who will oppose us and why?

It’s the type of intelligence that you can only obtain when you have numerous conversations, with countless different individuals with different beliefs, backgrounds and interests about the same issue in a short space of time.

Keep us close – our focus this year

This year our approach tied in with the launch of Keep us close, our new campaign about getting better local support for disabled people and their families.

This is a huge issue for families with disabled children. Currently we know many families have to fight long and complicated battles just to find an appropriate school or therapy for their disabled child and in many cases, the support can often only be found far away from their home; this has a huge impact on family life.

Crucially, there is currently a piece of legislation beginning its passage through parliament with the intent to overhaul the support families with disabled children or special educational needs (SEN) receive. Yet despite this being the window to make real changes to this bill that would enable families to be better supported, it’s not really at the top of the political agenda.

From our perspective, it needs to be higher up the agenda. It has the opportunity to make an enormous difference to families’ lives and for us there is quite a simple solution that politicians of all colours can get behind.

And so our conference journey starts and ends with conversations about families; with myself and my colleagues grabbing every available opportunity to talk to existing and new contacts, at all levels, about the problems that families with disabled children face and why it’s so critical that we seize this opportunity to make a genuine difference.

We gather intelligence along the way that allows us to ensure we are ready and can take advantage of every opportunity available to us to make a real and genuine difference to the lives of thousands of families with disabled children.

The power of a charity shop

And finally, my most memorable moment during this year’s conference season ironically wasn’t even in the conference but five miles down the road from the Labour conference.

It was the two hours I took out of a packed conference agenda to take Sharon Hodgson, MP and Shadow Minister for Children and Families, to the local Scope charity shop in Eccles so she could meet the mother of a young disabled boy and hear about her everyday experiences and the real challenges her family face getting the right support they need locally.

It was about taking time out to talk to our shop volunteers who between them talk to six million customers every year about the issues we want them to get behind and how they play a crucial role in helping us spread the word.

And ultimately it’s about recognising that real social change can equally take place in a charity shop as it can from the platform of a conference hall.

Join our campaign and help get better local support for families with disabled children.

Face 2 Face: being an online befriender

Berit is mum to two boys and her youngest, Nicholas had meningitis as an infant. This caused injury to his brain and straight after his recovery, he was diagnosed with left-sided hemiplegia. At the age of five, Nicholas started having seizures and has now got extremely severe epilepsy. Because of Nicholas’ high number of daily seizures he also has severe learning difficulties, behaviourial and communication problems.

“The last 10 years has honestly been a rollercoaster of emotions. Nicholas contracted meningitis when he was only five weeks old. He spent quite a long time in intensive care and no-one knew if he was going to survive. At one point, when he was transferred from our local hospital to Kings College Hospital in Londo. We were even told to ‘kiss him goodbye’.

“For the first five years of Nicholas’ life, his brain injury mostly affected his mobility, co-ordination, attention span and speech. In the early stages after his recovery we were just so happy and relieved that he survived, but of course at some point reality kicks in. I felt quite overwhelmed and stressed out with all the medical appointments and visits from different therapists. Although some of the therapists and doctors involved have been very supportive and caring towards us as a family, we as parents never had any specific support.

Parents need befrienders

“Looking back now, I really wished that I had known about Face 2 Face and had had contact with a befriender myself. No one really understands the emotions, the stress, the worrying, the uncertainty and the practical implications having a child with special needs can bring unless you have had similar experiences. No one can understand the total euphoria you feel when your child has reached the slightest (and to some unremarkable) milestone and the strengths and feeling of closeness it can bring to your family unless you have had similar experiences.

“I came across Face 2 Face through searching the Internet. At that time I was doing a Certificate in Counselling and was interested to see what types of support was out there for parents of disabled children. The fact that they were looking for befrienders immediately caught my eye. I contacted the co-ordinator and because we were a group of parents from all over England who had shown our interest, our training as Online Befrienders took place near Birmingham over several weekends.

Face 2 Face training

“I started the Face 2 Face training when Nicholas was about three years old. And that was the first time I got the opportunity to talk to and listen to other parents’ experiences. The other parents were of enormous support to me and I have made fantastic friends for life!”

“I have been befriending online for over six years now. I have befriended parents of children with a wide and different range of disabilities and the length of contact varies from parent to parent. I like being an Online Befriender and I hope that I can give other parents some support through my own experiences. If I could, I would probably have chosen to be befriended online all these years ago. You can make contact in your own time and sometimes it might be easier to express yourself on paper.

“I honestly feel that talking to and listening to other parents of disabled children can be of invaluable support and that is what Face 2 Face is for.”

Find your local Face 2 Face parent befriending scheme.

Bromley Council refuses to reverse textile bank decision

As a campaigner, I am often left with a mixed feeling of pride and disappointment. Leaving the Civic Centre in Bromley, after the Council meeting, was no exception. I felt extremely proud of the Scope charity shops staff and volunteers who led a local campaign to a meaningful conclusion, ensuring the significance of the issue came across, both in Bromley and more widely. But I found it difficult to shake off the feeling of disappointment that despite our efforts, Bromley council is maintaining a decision that could cost Scope £360,000 a year.

Since March, I have had the privilege of supporting the staff and volunteers from Scope charity shops in the Bromley borough. They have been encouraging their customers to sign a petition calling on Bromley Council to reverse their decision to evict Scope textile banks from council land, and to show other councils considering the move how unwelcome it is.

Campaign to save textile banks

The communities affected by this decision have launched an impressive and passionate campaign to save textile banks that act as a vital lifeline for their Scope shops. In only three weeks, the Bromley borough stores collected over 1,400 signatures from angry residents, opposed to the decision, and already we have heard that other councils are now wary of such a move.

The campaign came to an exciting close on 25 June, as we went along to  the Bromley Council meeting, to witness key councillors attempt to justify their decision, in front of the full council and residents.

The council chamber was full of spectators, and as Alex, Scope’s area manager, and Julie, the manager of the Petts Wood store spoke, the atmosphere in the room was tense. The overwhelming support we have received for this campaign was echoed by the loud applause Julie received as she finished her speech.

How loss of donations will affect disabled people

Despite this support, and the questions raised by opposing councillors in the debate, Councillor Smith, who is responsible for the decision, stood his ground. The removal of the banks in Bromley would dramatically affect our donation levels, and consequently impact on our work with disabled people and their families. This was clearly in the minds of all spectators as the councillor continued to explain why he felt Scope’s ‘privilege’ had now ended.

The support from the Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, who requested the decision be referred back to the original steering group, was very welcome. There were questions raised on the transparency of the decisions made, and the true benefit to the community and other charities under the new plans. It was positive to hear our points be raised in the debate, and go a small way to reflect the outrage felt by Scope customers.

Despite this, the council voted to reject Scope’s petition.

Scope charity shops reaction to Bromley’s decision

Wendy Howden, manager of the Bromley Scope store attended the meeting, along with Julie.

I share Wendy and Julie’s disappointment at the decision. However, I remain positive that the support shown for this campaign is something we should be proud of. Bromley council were mistaken if they thought this change would happen without a response from Scope or the Bromley community. If we can join together to create such a brilliant, personal campaign in such a short amount of time, I have no doubt we can support the Bromley shops to be as successful as ever, and ensure this council decision does not impact on Scope’s essential work. We already know that other councils considering this type of contract have changed their minds, which is a fantastic achievement for the campaign and the future of Scope’s shops.

If you would like to support the shops affected in any way, please contact them directly: BromleyPetts WoodOrpington and Beckenham. I’m sure they would be grateful for your continued support.

We would like to thank everyone who signed the petition, and demonstrated an enthusiastic interest in this campaign. Your valuable support has sent a strong message to other London councils, who may be considering a similar move, of the strength of community support on this issue and the value of donations to charity shops.

We are always looking for enthusiastic campaigners to join us as we campaign on important issues such as this. Please join our campaign network here.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Look, Smile, Chat

Hello, my name is Lucy. I’m the Head of Young People’s participation at the National Deaf Children’s Society. I’ve been asked by Scope to tell you about our exciting new campaign called Look, Smile, Chat.

We want to make it easier for deaf teenagers to interact with their hearing classmates and create a sense of common understanding. Look, Smile, Chat aims to ease the social isolation experienced by some deaf teenagers by putting hearing teenagers in the shoes of their deaf classmates and giving them simple steps to make communicating easy.

We’ve created free resources, including short films, lesson plans and posters for professionals working with young people to raise awareness of the challenges facing deaf teenagers and we would love your support to promote them. We’re asking for your help to tell teachers, social workers and other professionals about the campaign and how they can help to improve the lives of the UK’s 45,000 deaf children using our online resources.

For further information and to access the free resources, go to the Look, Smile, Chat website.

by Lucy Read, National Deaf Children’s Society