Category Archives: News and politics

Will comedy be the next Paralympics?

Guest post from comedian Francesca Martinez

Congratulations to Jack Carroll, the very talented young comedian in the final of Britain’s Got Talent 2013. The audience loved him and so did the judges – David Walliams described him as the next Peter Kay. Jack is funny and likeable. He also happens to have cerebral palsy. He ended his set with a quip about donating to the disability charity Scope – then gave himself £20 to cut out the middle man!

I bet Jack’s jokes have also helped a few people think differently about what it means to be disabled. Like me, Jack uses humour to challenge attitudes to disability, much in the way that Britain’s Paralympians did with their amazing achievements last summer. A year on from the games, it’s got me thinking: could comedy be 2013’s Paralympics?

As a child growing up wobbly (I prefer the term to ‘cerebral palsy’), I used humour to disarm bullies and to deflect people’s pity. I thought that if I was cheeky or funny, people would respect me. I loved saying the things everybody thought but nobody dared to say.

Fifteen years later, when I discovered comedy, it was a revelation. I’d found something which let me stand in front of people and challenge their prejudices and stereotypes. So if the audience feels sorry for me when I walk out on stage because I’m wobbly, I use humour to question why. By the time I walk off, I want them to see the person behind the wobbles.

A lot of my material questions the lazy thinking behind what’s seen as different and as normal. I think disability is normal – it has always existed. It’s not abnormal because it’s part of life. Of course it brings struggles, but many of those struggles come from society’s inability to deal with difference.

Comedy lets us tackle ‘difficult’ subjects in a light-hearted way. It lets you by-pass the discomfort that bubbles up when people worry too much about what to say. I try to turn people’s fears into jokes, because I find that people are more receptive if you make them laugh. And, do you know what? Disability can be funny! Some people think I’m talking about an issue, but I just talk about my life, which is what every comic does.

It’s a difficult time for everyone right now, including disabled people. Attitudes towards disabled people and the ‘vulnerable’ have worsened. We need the power of comedy now, more than ever. If I can say things that need saying and change attitudes for the better, it gives a deeper meaning to the job I love.

It’s wonderful to see Jack Carroll doing so well and I hope he has a great future ahead of him. The more that difference is represented in the media, the more people will accept it as a natural and invigorating part of life. But Jack and I are not the only ones using laughter to change the way people think: there’s a host of great disabled comedians out there. My friends at Scope, who work to remove barriers so that disabled people can lead full and productive lives, have collected some clips .

Ed Miliband’s welfare speech: three talking points

Ed Miliband has given a high-profile speech on welfare. The BBC’s headline is that Labour would cap social security spending. But underneath the soundbite the speech covered a lot of ground. The Scope policy team considers what it might mean for disabled people:

1. Investing in better employment support will bring down benefit expenditure

Successive Governments have recognised that supporting more disabled people into work can bring down social security spending. But too many programmes have had the wrong focus. Scope has long been clear that the Work Capability Assessment doesn’t work; our figures show that only 1,000 disabled people have got a job through the Work Programme. Ed Miliband is right to make this a big issue when it comes to welfare. But he needs to be clear that the reason unemployment is high for disabled people is because there are barriers to the labour market and a lack of appropriate jobs – not because disabled people don’t want to work.

We need to assess what the barriers disabled people face actually are rather than focusing on whether someone is medically able to stand up in the shower.

And we need to make sure those barriers are met through a programme of support that works for disabled people and finds jobs that they actually want, rather than pushing them into low-pay, low-skill jobs that only work in the short term.

Here’s Scope’s thinking on improving employment support for disabled people.

2. Spending money on social care can reduce broader public spending

Ed Miliband wants to cap something called Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), public spending that fluctuates with the economy. Welfare spending is the main chunk of this, and this is the basis for the ‘cap welfare’ headlines.

Social care doesn’t come from this budget. But there’s a crucial link here. If disabled people don’t have the right support to get up, dressed and out of the house in the morning, they won’t be able to play a part in their community and the wider economy.

With the right support, disabled people will be able to to contribute more to the economy, creating savings in social security expenditure and generating tax revenues.

Rather than capping Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), Labour should invest in areas like social care that could make real savings across the whole of public services – not just welfare.

Scope’s research shows that for every £1 spent on support, £1.30 comes back into society – and 28p of this saving is directly reduces AME.

3. Some disabled people will always need benefits.

Miliband said: “We should also support disabled people. Those who cannot work. And those who want to work and need help finding it.”

This is really important, because disabled people will be concerned about the impact on their support of combining a shift to a ‘contributory welfare’ system and a cap on AME. Hopefully this means that when it comes to disabled people, Labour’s starting point won’t be “How much money do we have?”, but rather “What kind of support we need to provide?”

And hopefully the result will be plans for making this a better place for disabled people.

Seven things you need to know about social investment

David Cameron has today called for a major growth in social investment. Here are seven things you need to know about social investment…

  1. Big Society Capital defines social investment as  “the provision and use of capital to generate social as well as financial returns”.
  2. David Cameron thinks it’s a great idea and is throwing his weight behind it ahead of the G8 meeting of world leaders at the end of June. He recently told the Telegraph: “Britain and other developed nations face a shared challenge – sorting out our debt problems and achieving economic growth. We need to do this at the same time as improving public services and tackling our deepest social problems. That’s why this Government has placed such an emphasis on social innovation from charities, social enterprises and other businesses”
  3. Investors are increasingly looking to make ‘social investments’. According to JP Morgan the global market for social impact investment is estimated to be worth $9 billion and expected to grow to between $200 and $650 billion in the next decade.
  4. How is Scope involved? We were the first traditional charity to venture into the social investment bond space, blowing open the space for other charities. We launched our Bond in 2011, which offered investors a return of 2% and the opportunity to support our work making this a better place for disabled people. We raised £2m; and used it to fund new charity shops and seek new regular donors, which in turns provides us with a sustainable income for our network of parents befriending groups and info and advice service. Check out this blog from Tom Hall. The first tranche of the Bond is closed, but Richard Hawkes hopes Scope’s work will inspire others. “Charities can’t just rely on traditional donations. Investors are looking for ways to invest their money that has a social as well as financial return. We need to bring them together.”
  5. Why does a charity do it, it sounds risky?  Charities need a mix of income streams. The social investment bond creates an alternative way for people to support our work alongside the philanthropic loans and traditional donations. Donations are important; they support vital work on the ground. But charities also need to invest in activities that generate long term, sustainable income – such as fundraising or charity shops. Not every donor can fund these activities. But – as they generate income – it is perfect for a social investor, who wants to support a charity, but also wants to see a return on investment.
  6. How is a charity able to pay a loan back with interest? We are investing the money we raise in activities that generate long-term, predictable and sustainable income, such as our fundraising programme and our retail network. That means we can be confident that we can return the investment and also fund our work to make this country a better place for disabled people. Find out more about the impact Scope’s Bond had in this Investing for Good case study.
  7. So, what can be done to grow the market? Scope is also backing the launch of the Social Stock Exchange (SSE), a portal for social enterprises and social purpose businesses seeking to raise capital and for social impact investors wishing to find businesses that reflect their values.  The Government also has a chance to send a strong message with its proposed consultation on tax relief for social

Funding the care system

The social care system is in crisis.

The Government’s response – the Care Bill – is being scrutinised in the Lords. It seeks to tackle the crisis in care by introducing a cap on costs, a new means-testing threshold and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care.

The benefits of taking action are almost self-evident – imagine not being able to get up, get dressed and get out of the house.

But getting a system that works costs cold, hard cash and in an age of austerity that’s in short supply.

In recent years hard-up councils have tightened their criteria, meaning that disabled people might need more frequent hospitalisation, be unable to continue living in their own home, more likely to experience depression and fall into debt or lead a less healthy lifestyle.

Does that mean we will be stuck with a persistently underfunded system with an ever-tightening rationing of resources? Not necessarily.

Cash on the table

As reported in the Financial Times, five leading disability charities have revealed that the economic benefits from government investment in social care for disabled people are substantial. We can break the downward spiral.

Through advice and support for everyday activities from budgeting, and communication to help in the home the study found we all benefit from preventing disabled people’s care needs increasing and relying on more costly public services.

Earlier this year, the five charities lifted the lid on the scale of the crisis revealing that care for disabled people was underfunded by £1.2 billion. The case for plugging that gap just became even stronger.

Money talks

The debate on how we fund social care has – ahead of the government spending review on June 26 – is a hot topic.

Government plans are backed up by a recent announcement about greater integration between health and social care. The proposals include making joined-up and co-ordinated health and care the norm by 2018 and agreeing a definition of what people say good integrated care and support looks and feels like.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham waded in over the weekend when he said, “Labour would invest £1.2bn over the next two years to ease the crisis in social care – tackling a root cause of the pressure on A&E.”

With pressure on A&E’s hitting the headlines, Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs said: “And the elephant in the room, we don’t have enough social care beds and social care facilities so patients can be looked after in more appropriate places.”

A recent inquiry comprising a cross-party panel of MPs and Peers, led by Baroness Campbell, a well-known disabled peer, and Heather Wheeler, an influential Tory MP, called on the Government to use NHS cash to help fund social care to fix a system that is devastating lives.

The case for a properly funded social care is gathering momentum.

A Care Bill that does not go hand in hand with extra funding is at risk of failing the millions of people who rely on care in their day-to-day lives. The economic case for action is now as compelling as the human one.

Disability and comedy

Young comedian Jack Carroll has made it through to the final of Britain’s Got Talent 2013. First and foremost Jack had the audience in stitches. Judge David Walliams called him “the new Peter Kay”.

But Jack also happens to have Cerebral Palsy, and it’s a good bet that his routine has helped a few people think differently about disability.

Jack joins a growing number of disabled comedians using humour to challenge attitudes to disability and make this a better place for disabled people…much in the way Britain’s Paralympians did with their amazing achievements last year.

So we thought we’d give you a taste of some of these great acts…

Francesca Martinez

“I think humour is a fundamental human right. It’s a big part of the way I handle my difference. If the audience feels sorry for me when I walk out on stage because I’m wobbly, I use humour to question why. By the time I walk off, I want them to see the person beyond the wobbles.”

Adam Hill

“With comedy and disability people go, ‘Ooh, where’s the line?’ There is no line – if you’re celebrating, then you won’t say the wrong thing. As long as it comes from the place of going ‘This is great’. And it is, it’s an amazing sporting event. I think because everyone behind the show loves the Paralympics, we get it, we’ve seen a lot of Paralympic sports and we’ve all gone beyond that [he puts on an insipid voice], ‘Oh isn’t this inspiring’ and instead gone, ‘This guy’s awesome. It’s about the sport really.”

Laurence Clark

“I was sick and tired of going to comedy clubs and listening to comedians who used disabled people as the butt of their jokes, so I decided to redress the balance and have a go myself.”

Lost Voice Guy

“I want to show that there’s a funny side to disability too and that people are allowed to have a sense of humour about it. I’d rather people talked about it than pretend it didn’t exist. It’s a big part of my routine but I wouldn’t want to focus on it forever, it’s just that I’ve got so many stories to tell about it.”

Liz Carr

“I think disability is the last bastion of political correctness, and people need to see that disabled people are funny, you know, our lives are quite fascinating and there’s a lot that people can learn from that.”

Steve Day

“Once any initial reluctance on the part of the audience to laugh at disability is overcome, it provides, I think, an interesting perspective. There still is that resistance though, sometimes, every now and again an audience simply won’t have it. Two things have happened though, I’ve got funnier, and attitudes have changed, albeit slowly, since the early days. The Paralympics have also been a big help in making disability seem less scary and taboo, there is less reluctance to laugh.”

Jack Carroll and Britain’s Got Talent

Jack Carroll has made it through to the final of Britain’s Got Talent 2013. He mentioned Scope in his routine. Congratulations Jack and thanks for the mention!

Here’s some of the feedback from Twitter:


Queen announces Care Bill – will reforms help disabled people?

Guest post from Caroline Hawkings who is a Senior Public Policy Advisor for Social Care at disability charity Scope.

When the draft Care and Support Bill was published last July, there was much to be pleased about. For example, for the first time social care law is modernised into one statute. Importantly, there is an overarching principle to promote ‘well-being’, rights of carers are strengthened and there are new duties on local authorities to provide information and advice.

Since July, Scope, along with other charities in the Care and Support Alliance, has been working hard with policy makers at the Department of Health to make changes to the draft Bill, such as pushing for specific provisions for advocacy. The crucial question is will this Bill be a new improved version, or will it merely be tinkering at the edges? We will have to wait and see, but on the key question of eligibility for social care, we won’t have any immediate answers.

Disabled people have repeatedly told us that whether or not they qualify for local authority funded care and support is their overriding concern. The Bill will establish a national eligibility threshold – a national minimum level at which local authorities must provide care and support. This should help to end the current variations between one local authority and another. However, there’s a danger that this threshold, which will be set through regulations, will be set too high. In future, care and support is likely to be available only for people whose needs are ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’, potentially denying social care to thousands of others whose independence will be severely curtailed.

Social care in crisis

We know that local councils have had to cut back on funding for social care, partly by reducing the numbers of disabled people who receive it. The Other Care Crisis (PDF), a joint report from Scope and four other disability charities using research from the London School of Economics estimates that 70,000 disabled people are already struggling to get by without social care and a further 30,000 more will be at risk of losing their support if the Government’s proposals go ahead as planned.

In a Scope survey, featured in the report, four in ten disabled people said that their basic needs, like washing once a day, getting dressed and getting out of the house, were not being met. We heard from people like Joshua who now has to ask strangers for help to put his shoes back on when they fall off and Michelle who often goes without having a shower because she just doesn’t have the energy to manage.

Britain Cares about social care

This is why Scope has launched the Britain Cares campaign to end this scandal. We – along with other charities, groups and thousands of people are calling on the Government to put in place enough funding so that disabled people can get the essential support they need. Crucially, the budget for social care will be decided in the forthcoming Spending Review in June and this is when the regulations setting out national threshold are due to be published.

So, it’s not only May that will be significant in the life of the new Care and Support Bill, but also 26 June when the Spending Review is announced. Although we hope that the new Bill will contain considerable improvements to the first draft, it will be far from ‘job done’. Over the next few weeks, through our campaigning and discussions with parliamentarians and civil servants, we’l l be redoubling our efforts to ensure that disabled people have the vital support they need to live their lives.

Show that you care that disabled people should get essential support to lead their lives.

Care and Support Bill

A few days ago I came across a quote from a young disabled woman that I simply couldn’t believe.” Emma, from Cambridge, said, “Not getting the support I need has meant my life is on hold. I have no routine, I feel socially isolated, lonely and of no value to society. I’m only 24; I feel 84.”

Emma is talking about the effects a lack of proper social care support has on her life. The idea of someone so young feeling that she is of no value to society is a terrible state of affairs, but sadly, Emma is not alone.

Today there are hundreds of thousands of disabled and older people who are not getting the social care support they need to live their lives.

Social care in crisis

It’s fair to say the social care system is on the brink of collapse. Crucially, in a matter of weeks, the Government will be making major decisions about the future of social care when the Care and Support Bill will finally be brought to Parliament.

It comes at this pivotal moment in the reform of the social care system that I have the honour of taking over from Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, as the new Chair of the Care and Support Alliance.

At Scope, our number one priority for a long time has been seeking to persuade the Government to ensure that disabled people get the social care support they need to live independent and active lives.

Care and Support Alliance

As Chair of the Care and Support Alliance, a coalition of over 70 different organisations representing older and disabled people’s concerns of the social care system, it will be a huge privilege to be equally championing the views and concerns of the millions of older people and carers also affected by these reforms.

It’s worth reiterating why so many diverse organisations came together to form this powerful alliance on social care in the first place.

Years of chronic underfunding by successive Governments, followed by unprecedented cuts to council budgets, at a time when there is growing demand for care services, has put the social care system into crisis. Councils have been forced to ‘manage’ the numbers of people they can commit to providing social care support for. In reality this means the vast majority of councils today only provide state-funded social care support for those judged to have at least “substantial” care needs.

Effects of care crisis on disabled people

This has serious implications for disabled people and older people who only have moderate or basic needs and for the millions of carers left to pick up the pieces.

But the Care and Support Alliance has a much bigger role to play than just highlighting the problem. We can provide solutions. It is clear to us that setting eligibility for state-funded social care at “moderate” needs would guarantee disabled people and older people an active and independent future.

To that effect, my mandate as the new Chair is clear.

It’s never easy working in coalition. But it is testament to the sheer scale of the crisis engulfing older and disabled people that our sector wide coalition, representing the diverse views of disabled people, older people and carers, has been able to coalesce behind this one crucial issue with one clear solution.

Of course there will be significant cost implications and many people will ask if we can afford this in a time of austerity.

A Joint Committee of MPs and Peers scrutinising the draft Care and Support Bill recently warned that “restricting support and care to those with the highest levels of need will become entirely self-defeating, because it shunts costs into acute NHS care and undermines interventions to prevent and postpone the need for formal care and support.”

For that reason we’re asking the Government to be bold and make a brave choice when it comes to social care. To solve this crisis once and for all by investing in a system that ensures older and disabled people with moderate needs get the support they need to live a life with dignity; to have the support they need to get up, get out, and take part in daily life in their communities.

When faced with stories like Emma’s – can we really afford not to?

What do you use DLA for?

On Monday, the Government will start the process of replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment.

We asked our Twitter followers what they use DLA for. Here’s what they said:

If you receive DLA we want to hear about the difference it makes to your life.