Category Archives: Inside Scope

Reform is needed to halve the disability employment gap

The Government’s Green Paper consultation on Work, Health and Disability closed last week. Find out how we responded to the consultation and which areas we argued need action from the Government.

The Government has made a welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap – the difference between the employment rate of disabled people and non-disabled people – which has stood at around 30 percentage points for over a decade. If the Government is serious about increasing disability employment, then it must tackle the barriers individuals face to entering, staying and progressing in work.

Improving out-of-work support

Too many disabled people aren’t getting support to get into and remain in employment. Where disabled people do access support, at Jobcentres or through employment support schemes, many feel it is too generic and does not take account of their needs or interests.

It is vital that all disabled people who want to work have access to voluntary, specialist support that is tailored to their needs. Taking part in any form of employment support should be completely voluntary for disabled people, and have no impact on the financial support they receive.

As well as this, Scope wants to see a total reform of the “fit for work” test, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which decides whether someone is able to receive Employment and Support Allowance.

Currently, the WCA fails to capture the range of barriers to work that disabled people face, which means many individuals are not getting the right support to move in to work. That’s why we’re calling for the WCA to be replaced with separate assessments for financial support and employment support needs.

Supporting disabled people in work

New research by Scope has found that in the last year 58 per cent of disabled people have felt at risk of losing their job because of their impairment or condition. That’s why it’s so important that once disabled people take up jobs, the right support is in place to enable them to stay in work.

Something we want to see is an expansion – and better promotion – of Access to Work, a scheme that provides disabled people with financial support to work. We also want to see the requirement to take Statutory Sick Pay in consecutive blocks to be lifted. This would give individuals more flexibility in taking time off from work, for example through part-time sickness absence or a phased return to work.

Working with employers to drive change

Efforts to halve the disability employment gap will only be successful if we see a shift in how disabled people are perceived in the workplace. The need for action is clear – 85 per cent of disabled people feel employer attitudes haven’t improved since 2012.

Building on progress made with other aspects of workforce diversity, employers should shift from compliance with the law to taking a more proactive approach to attracting, recruiting, supporting and developing disabled employees.

For instance, the Government’s Disability Confident scheme – which provides guidance to employers on hiring disabled people – has a Business Leaders Group which is well-placed to drive best practice among employers through new research and peer-to-peer networking. However, it is crucial that this group has sufficient scope and capability to realise such an ambition.

Next steps following the Green Paper

Scope welcomed the opportunity to respond to this Green Paper. However, this will only lead to change if Government and employers take meaningful steps to tackle the barriers disabled people face to entering and thriving in work.

Therefore, we would like to see a cross-government strategy for disability employment – presented as a White Paper – as soon as possible. This should include a range of reforms to support disabled people in and out of work, along with clear indicators to determine the success of these. It is vital that any proposals are informed by the experiences of disabled people.

Find out more about Scope’s work to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people.

Why can’t the romantic hero be disabled?

Ellie Darkins is a romance author who has been published by Mills and Boon, Crimson Romance and Harlequin Books. Her latest book, ‘Holiday with the Mystery Italian’, features a disabled business tycoon as the romantic lead.

In this blog, Ellie talks about where the idea of including a disabled person came from, where she did her research and what she hopes the book will achieve.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s my pleasure to bring a little romance to the Scope blog! I write romance-packed novels for Mills & Boon, and my latest hero, the gorgeous, glamorous, gold-medal-winning Mauro, also happens to use a wheelchair.

I didn’t set out to write a hero with a disability. The early ideas for this book all centred around the concept of a couple meeting on a dating show, and from there I started thinking about who might be tempted to give that sort of experience a go, and why.

I always envisioned my hero as someone who is up for any challenge and any adventure, and it was when I started digging into why he was like this, it became clear to me that he had had some sort of accident in the past that made him not want to miss out on anything in life. That’s when it occurred to me that he could still be living with the physical effects of that accident, as well as the emotional ones.

Ellie Darkins, a romance novelist, and her family stand in a line whilst smiling and all holding up Ellie's disabled brother who is laughing
Ellie and her family laugh whilst holding up Ellie’s brother

Doing something different

Once it became clear to me that my hero had a physical impairment, I had some big decisions to make. When I read some other romances with disabled characters, I found some beautiful, touching stories. But in most of them, the impairment was a key part of the character’s journey. I knew I wanted to do something different – to write a character whose disability isn’t part of the story. A good romance is packed with conflict, with plenty of barriers standing between the hero, the heroine and their “happy ever after” – but I saw no reason for Mauro’s wheelchair to be one of them.

They say “write what you know” and in this case, I’ve been able to draw from a real-life example of someone who lives with a disability without letting it define them. My brother has had chronic lung disease since birth, but (while I have no desire to know the details!) it has never been an issue in his dating life. What it does do, occasionally, is throw up practical issues, such as the time my family nearly missed a flight home from Italy while the airport security staff tried to decide whether they would allow his oxygen cylinder onto the flight. They decided they would, but took so long that everyone had to run to make it to the gate in time.

Making Mauro as real as possible

Researching the practicalities of Mauro’s disability was an important part of writing the book for me. While I didn’t want his wheelchair use to be a big part of the romance storyline, it was important to me to try and portray Mauro’s life in a way that reflected the experiences of his real-life counterparts. I was in the privileged position of being able to give Mauro a bank balance that helps overcome many challenges, but even his billionaire lifestyle can’t get rid of all obstacles or remove all ignorant people from his path.

I hope Mauro and Amber’s story has done justice to the everyday challenges of the many wheelchair users who have shared their stories on this blog and elsewhere, and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

With Scope’s own Twitter poll revealing that three out of four people would like to see more representations of disability in literature, I hope that you’ll welcome Mauro’s story, and be as open to falling in love with him as I was.

Ellie Darkins, a romance author, smiles at the camera

Scope have been looking into the lack of disability representation in literature during National Storytelling Week. We hope that many more publishers and authors, like Ellie, include better representation of disabled people in books.

Visit Ellie’s website to find out more.

On Saturday 11 February, we are also giving you the chance to win one of two copies of ‘Holiday with the Mystery Italian’, find out more on our Facebook page.

Our priorities – influencing government in 2017

It already seems that Brexit is set to be the biggest political story of 2017 with the Government expected to trigger Article 50, beginning the formal process of the UK leaving the European Union, by the end of March. We think it is really important that disabled people’s voices are heard as part of this process and vital that progress towards equality made in recent years is not lost.

There will also be plenty of other important moments throughout the year and we will be working hard, with you, to make sure issues which affect disabled people’s lives stay high on the political agenda.

Social Care

Social care was hitting the headlines at the end of 2016, with warnings from the Local Government Association and Care Quality Commission that the system is in crisis. With the Government accepting a long-term solution to care funding needs to be found, social care is likely to remain high on the political agenda in 2017. Some additional funding will enter the system this year through an increase in council tax and from the Better Care Fund, but with a funding gap of £4.6 billion, this won’t provide the long term solution needed to meet rising demand and costs.

Social care is the support disabled people rely on to get up, get dressed, get out, and lead independent lives. Without that support disabled people can become isolated, can’t contribute to society and risk slipping into crisis. That’s why we are campaigning for long-term and adequate funding for care. Over 400,000 working age disabled people rely on social care, and with much of the recent focus on how care affects older people, we will be continuing to raise awareness with decision makers of disabled people as users of social care. 55 per cent of disabled care users tell us the system never supports their independence, so we are campaigning for a care system which supports disabled people to live independently and have choice and control over their care.

Employment

In February the Government’s consultation on disability, health and work will close. We want to see the Government take the opportunity to bring about real reform of the support disabled people receive both in and out of work.

The Government announced in October last year that people with severe conditions will receive continued Employment Support Allowance without needing repeated Work Capability Assessments. This is a welcome change but we want to see the Government go further in 2017 and completely overhaul the Work Capability Assessment so that it identifies the full range of barriers disabled people face to work.

We believe disabled people must be protected from any additional conditions linked to the support they receive. We would campaign against any attempts to impose requirements on disabled people receiving support.

The Government want to hear from disabled people about their experiences of employment support services and at work. Read more about how you can submit evidence to the consultation. Later in the year we are expecting the Government to publish a more detailed plan about how they intend to reform support for disabled people following the consultation, and at Scope we will be pushing for swift action.

Employers also have a key role to play in halving the disability employment gap. 85 per cent of disabled people think employer attitudes haven’t improved over the last four years and more needs to be done to encourage employers to create flexible modern practices. The Government should set out a long-term vision for Disability Confident this year and develop a campaign promoting the business benefits of disability employment.

Despite significant pressure on the Government from MPs from all political parties, the reduction in financial support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment Support Allowance is going ahead in April 2017. We will continue to raise concerns about the harmful impact this will have on disabled people and call on the Government to reserve this decision.

Extra costs

Following the publication of the Extra Costs Commission Progress Review in late 2016, we’ll be continuing to campaign to drive down the extra costs disabled people face and working with businesses in a range of sectors to look at ways they can provide a better service for their disabled customers.

In 2017 we expect government to announce a consultation on consumer and market policy. We’ll be continuing to campaign for markets to work better for disabled people, and for a cross-governmental approach to tackle the range of costs faced by disabled people.

We are also expecting the Government to publish their second independent review into Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which will include recommendations for reform, particularly around the assessment process. We want to see the assessment for PIP more accurately capture the range of extra costs disabled people face from higher energy bills to the need for specialised equipment. Given that disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on disability related costs it is vital that the value of PIP is protected.

In 2017 we want to see long-term funding for social care so that all disabled people who need support can get it, reforms announced that will support more disabled people in employment and to halve the disability employment gap and the protection of financial support for disabled people. We will be working closely with disabled people to continue to raise these issues with the Government.

2016 in parliament – Our impact

2016 has been a busy year in politics. We’ve seen the Government make a significant U-turn to stop proposed changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), an important consultation announced on the future of health, work and disability, Brexit and increasing pressure on the Government to provide the social care system with the funds it urgently needs. Scope has focused on protecting the rights of disabled people throughout 2016.

Theresa May used her first speech as Prime Minister to outline her vision for the country. She said she wanted to create a country that worked for everyone and create more opportunity for people, regardless of background. Whilst we welcomed this, much more can be done to help those ‘just about managing’, especially when recent research has uncovered that nearly half of people in poverty are disabled themselves or live in a household with someone who is disabled. We’ve raised these concerns with Government, and we need to keep hearing from you about what needs to change.

While the world was excited by the Paralympics in Rio our research found that whilst 78% of disabled people, through the Paralympic Games, have a positive impact on attitudes towards disability. Only 19% felt that Britain is a better place to be disabled now, than four years ago.

That’s why we have met with officials at Downing Street to emphasise the importance of making their social justice plans focus on improving the lives of disabled people.

Social Care

Social care has dominated the agenda in recent weeks and has been a big talking point all year. At Scope we’ve been calling for sustainable funding for social care to ensure disabled people have access to suitable care. The lack of additional funding in the Autumn Statement was disappointing and the small increase in council tax for social care won’t last and isn’t a long term solution.

In October we shared our research into the experiences of young disabled people and care ‘Leading My Life My Way’ with Government. This research uncovered that 60 per cent of young adults felt let down by their social care provision and a quarter were either only slightly or not at all involved in decisions about their care.

Many young disabled people are not being supported to do the things they want to do in their lives.

“I think it [support package] covers my blindness and my hearing impairments and the practical things I need to do, but it doesn’t give me enough time to go out and socialise.” Ricky, 26, South East

Urgently addressing the funding crisis in social care is the first step to delivering this.

Extra Costs

In March, we saw the disability community unite against proposed changes to PIP announced in the Budget. These changes would have left 640,000 people worse off financially. We warned the Government that these changes would just make disabled people’s lives harder and that our helpline heard from many disabled people concerned about the changes. We urged the Chancellor to think again and consider the impact these moves have on the lives of disabled people.

The Government u-turned and said it would not be going with this plan and committed to no further welfare cuts during this parliament.

In October we published the one-year on report of The Extra Costs Commission looking at action taken by businesses, government, regulators and consumers to drive down the £550 financial penalty of being disabled.

Uber and Marks & Spencer were two examples of companies introducing new products and practices to serve their disabled customers better. We would now like to see more businesses recognise the value of their disabled customers and will be focusing on improving service in the energy and insurance industries in the New Year.

Employment

Following our campaign in 2015, the Government committed to halve the disability employment gap and this year we have continued to call on them to introduce reforms to meet this target.

Alongside other charities this year, we have campaigned changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) due to come into effect in April 2017.

The Government plans to reduce the level of financial support to disabled people in the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). Disabled People in the WRAG have been found unfit for work by the independent Work Capability Assessment. This cut in support of around £30 a week to new claimants would impact nearly half a million people in the WRAG.

We believe this cut will push disabled people further away from the jobs market and make their lives harder rather than helping them overcome existing barriers to employment.

MPs and Peers from across different political parties supported our calls and argued the change must be postponed. Although the Government pushed ahead with this cut, we will continue to campaign against it.

In October the Government published a Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability which set out proposals to reform support for disabled people in and out of work.

We think it is right the Government is consulting on this and welcome some of the proposals, including working more closely with employers, challenging attitudes and halving the disability employment gap. We want to see wholesale reform of the fit for work assessment scheme, employment support to be made voluntary and significant shifts in employer attitudes towards hiring disabled people.

However, we’re concerned that the Government is considering extending requirements to look for jobs and attend employment programmes to people in the support group of ESA.

The consultation is open until February and the Government want to feedback on their proposals. Our latest blog on the Green Paper sets out how you can get involved.

This year the new Prime Minister said, ‘we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.’ In 2017 we will be looking to ensure that this includes the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people.

Next year we will continue to campaign for the Government to introduce reforms that support disabled people to find and stay in work, the protection of disability benefits and asocial care system supports disabled people to live independently.

 Read more of our policy blogs.

2016: a year in the life of the Scope helpline

In 2016,  the Scope helpline responded to nearly 20,000 requests for information and support by telephone, email and via Scope’s online community and social media networks. We also supplied answers to over one million requests for help and information via our website.

Your top 5 issues in 2016

Apart from wanting to know more about Scope, the top issues people contacted us about were:

  • Benefits and finance
  • Independent living
  • Social care and services
  • Transport
  • Employment

Funding the extra costs of disability

Unsurprisingly, the number one topic you ask about is benefits. To respond to this, we’ve employed an extra benefits and finance specialist  on the team.

To complement the work of our specialist advisors, our partnership with the charity Turn 2 Us offers an online benefits calculator and grants search tool. Since its launch in July 2015, thousands of you have used this free service to improve your finances, completing 8,100 benefits calculations and over 7,200 grants searches.

In 2016 so far, the calculations have identified over £319,000 per week in unclaimed benefits. This can make a massive difference to the lives of disabled people and their families, as this customer explains:

“Thanks to your brilliant advice, I have had some fantastic news. I applied for Attendance Allowance with the form on your website and I have been awarded £55.10 per week which will certainly be a big help to us. Thank you.”

We love it when we hear stories like this. Another customer contacted us following his failed application for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Our benefits specialist provided supporting information so that he could conduct his entire appeal himself. He went through two tribunals and finally, after spending a winter without heating and using food banks, he eventually won. He received a backdated payment of more than £5,000 as well ongoing ESA payments to support him to live.

Just the job!

Another caller who was out of work applied for a job at a company signed up to the Government’s positive about disability scheme. He met the essential criteria but had received a standard rejection letter so he thought he’d been discriminated against. We spoke to him about how to challenge the decision. The company reviewed his application and admitted a mistake had been made and he did indeed meet all of the essential criteria. They offered him an interview and he got the job!

Our online community

As well as answering calls and emails, Scope helpline continues to play an active role in our ever-growing online community. We are investing more time in answering your questions online because we know that answers to one person’s query can help many others too. For example, one discussion has had over 12,000 unique page views, meaning that many more people are continuing to benefit from our expertise and advice.

New information products

As well as responding to a wide range of enquiries, we have also produced lots of new online information in response to popular demand:

  • Technology in association with Abilitynet
  • Equipment with Which? (coming soon)
  • Independent living, updated by our new specialist in social care.

In 2017, we will continue to trial new ways to deliver information content with pilot videos on PIP assessments, PIP appeals and employing your own PA.

We’ll also be launching a new information product that will help guide people new to disability, like this caller to our helpline:

“After working within the corporate industry for over 20 years, I have recently become disabled and found the past 9-10 months totally life-changing. I’ve called various places and not received the help or level of service I have just been provided. I don’t usually do this but I really want to make a point to applaud the level of service and professionalism your helpline has. I felt as though I have been treated with dignity and pride, and not made to feel uncomfortable talking about my disability. So thank you again.”

Goodbye to Veronica

2016 also saw the retirement of helpline manager Veronica Lynch who has worked on Scope’s national helpline since it launched in 1990. She retired in April after 26 years’ dedicated service and won a national award for staff with a long-term commitment to their cause and who had made a positive impact to people’s lives.

We miss her but, more importantly, so will the people who have asked for her support over the years.

One parent, whose twins have cerebral palsy, said:

“I can honestly say that I don’t think I could have coped had it not been for Veronica and the helpline. They have given me so much time and support through all my difficulties and battles.”

Have a happy Christmas and New Year!

Thank you to everyone who has contacted us in 2016 and may we wish you all a Happy New Year.

For free, independent and impartial information and support on the issues that matter to disabled people and their families, contact Scope helpline on 0808 800 3333 or helpline@scope.org.uk

Please note Scope’s helpline is closed 24 December to 28 December, and between 31 December and 2 January. 

Scope helpline receives no Government support: £12 can help pay for a call to the helpline this Christmas. Please support us if you can.

 

A dinosaur isn’t just for Christmas! – “Christmasaurus” book review

As Christmas draws nearer, we’re getting into the festive spirit by getting stuck into a brilliant new Christmas children’s novel from bestselling author, Tom Fletcher.

Produced in collaboration with the disabled children’s charity, Whizz-Kidz, ‘Christmasaurus’ follows the story of William Trundle, a boy who uses a wheelchair, as he embarks on an extraordinary adventure with a very special dinosaur.

We asked writer and illustrator Dan White to review the book. He is the author of the brilliant Department of Ability comic book, featuring a cast of superheroes whose impairments are their greatest superpower. Keep a look out for the first book which is out in 2017.

I usually find that books for children that contain disability or a prominent wheelchair user fall into two categories. The first one is the “aww bless” category where the point is to generate a mood of sympathy, whilst the other is the “must educate the reader on the character’s disability”.

Thankfully a book has fallen into my eager hands. This is a book of such fun, majesty and colour that, even though its central character William Trundle uses a wheelchair, that’s not the overall arc of the story!

Disability inclusion

The “Christmasaurus” is a festive delight! Tom Fletcher writes with effortless wit. His musical skills are apt when it comes to the elves’ compulsive singing and the book was consumed by this proud dad in one joyful sitting. Yes! I am 44 and Scope asked me (a fellow writer, illustrator and dad of a basketball, book-loving 10-year-old wheelchair user) to review it! Unfortunately for my daughter, Emily, I got to read it before her!

Dan, a dad of a disabled daughter, reads a book entitled "Christmasaurus"

Mr Fletcher absolutely nails the issues and concerns of disability inclusion by having the discovery of William’s condition almost a full quarter of a way into the book. Even then you get a quick overview of Willy, his mum, dad and wheelchair that is snappy and refreshing.

The elaborate, layered storyline that opens the book combines dinosaurs, the end of the world, the ice age and Santa. This is all done with laugh out loud wit and pace. So much happens, so quickly. It’s so well written that you are lost in his magical world from page one.

Dealing with important issues

It is also refreshing how this hardback gem deals with the issues of family, bullying and loss. Nothing is straightforward and characters are well rounded. As you begin to boo, you then begin to cheer! Astounding!

Situations that involve bullying and disability are turned from what could be a “how awful” situation into a really funny one that all ages will get and chortle at. Yes, disabled kids DO get into funny situations (wider media world, take note) and Tom gives us refreshingly different family structures along the way – not just your typical mum dad and kids set-up.

This book is a gem. It’s illustrated beautifully and the pictures more than compliment the story. I have to admit I have a certain soft spot for the dinosaur. Without giving too much away, he is one of those quintessential characters who give you, regardless of age, a warm, winter, cosy feeling. He is probably my favourite character and he is brought to life, like all the other characters in your imagination, by Tom’s almost Dahl-esc writing and Shane Devries’ illustrations (jealous!)

Pick up a copy. It’s made to read out loud or just absorb with a permanent grin. From 5 to 55, it’s impossible not to want to take a Christmasaurus home with you to spend the big day with after reading this!

More please Tom (and not just at Christmas!). Right, here you go Emily, your turn to read!

Dan, an author holding up his comic book, poses with his daughter Emily who uses a wheelchair

Scope are giving away a copy of Tom Fletcher’s magical ‘Christmasaurus’ to three lucky winners. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this fantastic prize is visit this Facebook post and tell us about the most awkward Christmas present you have ever received.

This competition closes midday on Monday 19 December.

Full terms and conditions can be found on our website.

“I want to have a job, get paid, go out, enjoy myself”

Nusrat is 27 years old and recently started a job as a Lab Aide at the Sainsbury’s Wellcome Centre, with help from Scope’s Future Ambitions employment service.

For Learning Disability Work Experience Week, Nusrat shares her journey in to work and her goals for the future.

When I was at school I was thinking –  I want to get paid, I want to earn my own money and that’s what I want to do for my future. I went to college, then when I finished college I went to Project Search which finished in July. Project Search gave me training to help me get a job. I also did First Impressions, First Experiences with Scope. I liked it. I made loads of friends there. We did mock interviews, learning more skills, that kind of thing. That has helped me.

Work experience helped me get a job

I was going to Newham’s employment service and a Workplace advisor told me and my mum about work experience through Project Search. I thought it sounded good, that’s why I wanted to do it.

The work experience was good. I liked working with my tutor and job coach from Project Search. I liked working in the kitchen, giving patients tea and coffee in the morning. I liked working in the canteen, emptying the bins and cleaning the tables. I learned new skills. I learned to give food to customers and how to make tea. I learned to use the till. I did that with a colleague. I worked as a host. I was learning to be a housekeeper. I didn’t like that, it made me feel sick. I was also in an office, typing, answering phones. I enjoyed it. I liked it. We finished at the end of July and had an awards ceremony. My mum came. She said she was very proud of me.

I learned about listening to colleagues and managers. I learned how to make tea. I learned about working with people. I also learned about interview skills. Doing the work experience helped me get my job.

Nusrat sat at a long table smiling, with a cup of tea

Support to do my job

Jodi from Scope told me about the job at the Wellcome Trust. I wanted to come here and work in the lab. I came here for an interview. I was brave, confident, and polite. I liked it. Jodi was there too. I love this job. I want to do it, I enjoy it and I like my colleagues.

I like Jodi because she’s really friendly and very helpful. She supports me so my mum knows it’s okay, she’ll look after me. Jodi comes in to visit me at work. It’s nice to see her and I like working with her. If she doesn’t visit, I can just give her a text. It’s nice to have someone to talk to.

It’s difficult for me to travel. A taxi comes to pick me up and takes me home, takes me to work. Jodi has sorted things out for me. If I didn’t have the taxi it would be difficult for me to do this job.

My hopes for the future

I’ve never experienced bad attitudes. I’ve worked with some good people. It was hard to find a job at first though. I don’t know why, I’m not sure. I was looking for jobs but they wouldn’t hire me. Employers need to change their attitudes and respect other people.

I work hard. Working with other people has improved my skills. In the future I’d like to be able to go out with my family, go shopping, help out at home. I have lots of friends and that makes me happy. I go to a friendship club to meet other friends and I enjoy it. I want to have a job, get paid, go out, enjoy myself. This is what I want to do for my future.

If you would like to share a story about work experience or employment, get in touch with the Stories team.

“Being a parent of a disabled child changes your outlook on life”

This Trustees’ Week, we spoke to Bethan Skyrme, a governor of Scope school, Craig Y Parc, and Celia Atherton, a Scope trustee. They talk about how and why they’re using their skills and time to support Scope.

Bethan

My son, Jac, is disabled and has been attending Craig Y Parc School in Cardiff since he was 17 weeks old. He’s now nearly 15, so it’s been a big part of our lives for a long time. Craig Y Parc helps disabled children to develop skills and realise their potential in a safe and supportive environment.

Bethan and her son Jac smile for the camera
Bethan and her son Jac

Jac originally started at Craig Y Parc for half an hour a week, and became full time when he was three years old. He also now attends a local secondary school one day a week. It really has given him the best start in life, and he wouldn’t be the person he is today without it. Being involved with Craig Y Parc has helped to make me stronger and more confident too.

I’m well known at the school and three years ago was approached to volunteer as a school governor. I was surprised and honoured to be asked and definitely wanted to get involved and to give something back. I’ve just finished my first three year term as a governor and have been asked to stay on for another three, which I am very much looking forward to.

In my day job, I work for Estyn, the body responsible for inspecting schools in Wales. I’ve been able to use the skills and knowledge gained in my professional role to support Craig Y Parc as a governor. This came in particularly handy when we went through our inspection, and ensured we had all the relevant documents in order.

I have a busy life, but I’m organised and make sure we have a set routine at home. This helps to make sure I can fit everything in. As well as being a school governor, I also volunteer with a charity that supports homeless people in Cardiff. I help them move in to permanent accommodation and support them during the transition. Being a parent of a disabled child really does change your outlook on life. It makes you see the world differently and I’m glad that I’m able to give something back to the community and to Craig Y Parc.

Celia

Celia and Scope supporter Nicolas McCarthy
Celia and Scope supporter Nicolas McCarthy

I originally heard about Scope through my work in social justice with disabled children and their families. Three years ago I heard there was a vacancy for a new trustee, and this seemed like a great way to get involved with Scope’s work.

I was really interested in the role as I knew that being a trustee would allow me to work to plan the future of the organisation. I hadn’t been a trustee before, but decided to apply and was thrilled to be offered the role.

Becoming a trustee has really opened my eyes to what we can achieve. All Scope trustees are volunteers. All volunteers at Scope are equal, whether they are based in a shop, a service, at head office, or volunteer remotely. We are all working to push our society to be one where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Being a volunteer, I ensure that I’m an ambassador for Scope. I have visited Scope services and shops to see the varied work we do, and talk about Scope’s ambitions and work wherever I go. I have taken part in Ride London twice to raise funds and awareness for the work Scope does.

I love meeting disabled people and their families who have benefited from Scope’s work. They are a great testament to what we are doing to make the country a better place for disabled people. It’s great that Scope works to support all disabled people, and that we have such a wide reach across all areas of disability.

Since taking on this role, I have now become a trustee for two other charities as well. I really enjoy the way being a trustee allows me to give something back. I like to be busy and am able to juggle volunteering with my other commitments. If you are interested in helping to create the strategy that directs an organisation, or if want to develop your skills, being a trustee is definitely for you. Whatever your age or background, volunteering as a trustee is a great way to make a difference.

If you’re feeling inspired by Bethan and Celia, take a look at our volunteering opportunities.

Find out more about Scope school, Craig Y Parc.

Read more about Trustees’ Week and how you can get involved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Managing volunteers is the best part of my job!”

Tina Taylor is a Volunteer Coordinator for Scope’s Face to Face befriending programme in Halton in the North West. Jo Smyth is a Volunteer Coordinator in the Scope Retail Admin Team in London.

For this year’s International Volunteer Managers Day, we chatted to them about why they love working with Scope volunteers, and give us their top tips for effective volunteer management.

Tina Taylor

Volunteer manager for Face 2 Face Halton
Tina Volunteer Manager for Halton Face 2 Face

I originally got involved with Scope as a volunteer myself. I have a son with Asperger’s Syndrome and wanted to do something to help me get out and about. I was also doing a degree in counselling at the time and befriending other parents of disabled children fitted in well with my existing commitments and interests.

Volunteering with Scope helped me to find a job working with disabled young people in my local area. Once the project came to an end, I was looking for other opportunities and came across the Face to Face role with Scope. I felt that the role was made for me, so decided to go for it, and got the job!

As a Volunteer Coordinator, I organise the befriending programme for parents of disabled children in Halton. All of my befrienders are volunteers, and I’ve got almost 16 volunteering with me at present. Often parents who are being befriended get so much out of it that they volunteer to become befrienders afterwards.

I love working with volunteers and matching up new befrienders with parents of disabled children who need support. It’s really satisfying to see the volunteers enjoying their befriending, and the parents get so much out of it too. Being a volunteer manager is very fulfilling. Getting to see my volunteers’ confidence build has been great and my team has really gelled.

Jo Smyth

head and sholders of woman in park
Jo Volunteer Manager for Scope

I started working for Scope at the beginning of 2016 in the Retail Admin Team. We support Scope’s chain of 230 retail shops and ensure they have the tools and resources required to run effectively.

I have a personal connection to disability and wanted to work for an organisation that is making the country a better place for disabled people. After a few months, I took on a new challenge and became the Volunteer Coordinator for my team.

I have managed volunteers before as part of a national project linked to the 2012 Olympics. In this role I worked with volunteer ambassadors who ran a series of maths and science challenge competitions in schools. I enjoyed this role and was keen to work with volunteers again.

In my team I currently have five volunteers. They’re all from different backgrounds and have different reasons why they chose to volunteer with Scope. I’m a real people person, so have loved getting to know my volunteers. Coaching them and seeing them develop and grow is a really rewarding part of my role. I like to give my volunteers the opportunity to take on additional responsibilities in a safe environment where they can ask questions and try things out. Being a volunteer manager is definitely the best part of my role.

If you’re a volunteer manager, or are looking to become a volunteer manager, here are some top tips from Tina and Jo on getting the best from your volunteers.

  1. Appreciate your volunteers and say thank you for all their hard work. We write thank you cards for volunteers for National Volunteers’ Week, and also organise thanks events and get-togethers throughout the year to show our gratitude.
  2. Value your volunteers’ time and commitment. They give up their time for free and are making a commitment to your organisation. It’s important to respect this, and to allow them to fit volunteering in around their existing commitments. For example, one of our volunteers has some ongoing health issues, so we agreed that she would take a step back from her volunteering activities for now.
  3. Give volunteers opportunities to grow and develop. We both make time to talk to our volunteers about personal development and highlight relevant opportunities to them.
  4. Use coaching skills to get to know your volunteers and to help them work through any issues they may have. Coaching some of our volunteers has helped to work out what their next steps might be for them, such as looking for employment, or taking on a new project.
  5. Be organised! I (Tina) have quite a large volunteer team and I need to keep track of when and where they are doing their befriending. I use my diary to do this, which ensures that I know when my volunteers should be checking in with me, and helps to keep them safe. Being organised helps me (Jo) to keep a note of my volunteers’ birthdays and to make sure I have a card ready for them!

If you’re feeling inspired by Tina and Jo, take a look at our volunteering opportunities.

Find out more about International Volunteer Managers Day.

Sign language isn’t just for swear words – End the Awkward

Liam is a student, writer, blogger and has his own radio show. He also happens to be deaf. For End the Awkward, Liam writes about awkward moments, misconceptions and how to communicate with a deaf person without avoiding them or making them feel uncomfortable.

I’m not a comedian, yet there seems to be something I do which makes people laugh on a night out. Except I’m not laughing and everything’s suddenly turned a little bit awkward. It’s a tumbleweed moment, and I don’t know what’s so funny.

I’ve misheard something. All it takes is for me to confuse two similar sounding words and everyone around me either laughs or feels uncomfortable. It’s particularly easy for this to happen in a pub or restaurant, where background noise is a constant problem. As soon as I realise that I’ve misheard and ask for clarification, the conversation has moved on and I’m told it ‘doesn’t matter’. It’s frustrating, but I try to shrug it off.

For the rest of the night, people avoid conversations with me in case there’s another mishap, so I’m left trying to understand people talking around me. It’s particularly hard in a bar when there’s a lot of noise and a group of men in the corner getting way too invested in a game of football.

Communication is key to ending the awkward

Most hearing people don’t know how to communicate with deaf people, and that’s where the awkwardness lies. Poor deaf awareness has led to misunderstandings and a sense of mystery surrounding the deaf community.

Something I still find uncomfortable is asking someone to repeat themselves. Sure, as someone who struggles to hear now and then, you’d be right to think that I’m allowed to say ‘pardon’ every once in a while. Yet, as I ask them to say what they’ve said again, I fear that they’ll do something which isn’t helpful – be it shouting, exaggerating lip movements or getting frustrated.

In the end, I’ve resorted to asking someone to repeat themselves around two or three times. After that, I just nod, smile and agree. It saves the hassle, but it becomes a problem when you then find out that they were complaining about something you shouldn’t have agreed with. Oops.

Liam wearing radio headset, smiling at the camera

Sign language has so much to offer people

In 2014, I was on the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Youth Advisory Board. At the first meeting, I met a few young people who use British Sign Language. However, as I didn’t know any BSL at the time, I was forced to write on scraps on paper, or use mobile phones to talk to them.

It worked, but not knowing basic BSL made me feel a little embarrassed. So, in-between the next three meetings, I tried to learn sign language wherever and whenever I can. The end result was that I could finally communicate with my friends on the youth board in BSL. Now, I’m more involved in the deaf community and a few misconceptions I had have since been debunked.

As someone who is keen to teach others, I’ve had a lot of friends ask me to show them some BSL. The only problem is that they want to know swear words and not useful phrases which will help break down the communication barrier.

How to End the Awkward

I’m not saying that every hearing person has to take BSL lessons. Next time you meet a deaf person, just say hello and ask how they like to communicate. If they happen to know BSL, ask if they can teach you a few words or phrases. If not, there is one workaround which I am encouraging my friends and other people to do.

Written English is the best way for deaf and hearing people to communicate together. If a hearing person cannot understand BSL, and a deaf person is struggling to understand what they’re saying, then taking out a phone and going to the notepad app can really help. It may feel awkward for the hearing person having to type out their response instead of saying it, but the alternative is far more awkward and confusing.

Eventually, hearing people will get to understand the lives of deaf people, ending the misconceptions, ending the mockery and ending the awkward.

You can read the rest of our End the Awkward blogs, or get involved in the campaign by submitting your awkward story.