England’s amputee football star – How wearable tech makes my life easier

Martin is a 25 year-old who works at Lancashire Sport Partnership and plays for the England Amputee Football Team. He also features in Barclaycard’s new Pay Your Way campaign to promote their contactless wearable devices.

In this blog he talks about his journey to representing the national team and how wearable technology has made his life outside of football a lot easier.

Sport has always been my passion.

Representing my country has been my proudest achievement, but the road hasn’t always been steady. I first had cancer at four, and then again at 15, that’s how I lost my leg.

Male amputee standing with crutches in football kit at football ground
Martin Heald at football training ground

It started with a pain behind my left knee. My GP said it was a cyst. It went away and came back. It turned out to be cancer. I went through a year of chemo and had my leg amputated.

My mum was very supportive and stayed with me at the hospital.

But challenges are there to be conquered, and it’s now my tenth year in the England Amputee Football Team.

My team mates are like family to me and football has given me the strength to be the person I am today.

How I got into Amputee Football

I was at the limb centre getting my prosthetic, and saw a magazine with a picture of amputee football. It was only like a quarter of a page. From there my dad got in touch with the Amputee Football Association who invited me down to see what it was all about. The team were so welcoming and encouraged me to start.

When I first started there was only really one team in the North West, and that was in Manchester. It was a small team, I travelled every week with my dad to train with them. It was those people who really got me into it and helped me improve.

Before I lost my leg, I didn’t really do that much sport, unless skateboarding counts? And I guess I’m now always looking for that buzz. And football really gives me that.

Every time, no matter how many times you play, you still get that buzz when you walk out onto the pitch and sing the England National Anthem with your team mates.

How wearable technology has helped

When I lost my leg it was quite a big deal. I didn’t really want to do stuff at the time. But my mum was there, giving me a push to get out there and do things.

I work full time, I coach and play football as well. So I’m always very busy. I’m always looking for ways to make my life easier. Using contactless wearables to pay really helps.

Contactless devices like Barclaycard wearables definitely make life easier, especially when I’m on crutches. It means I don’t have to stop to get my wallet out. The pay fob on my keys is especially useful because I always have it with me when I drive.

My wristband is keeping me on the move. It means I literally don’t have to have anything on me.

I’ve overcome many obstacles in my life. The next one is winning the European Championship with England.

Disabled football player sitting at a table in club house
Martin Heald with friends in the club house

It’s hugely encouraging to see leading brands like Barclaycard developing accessible products, and including disabled people as part of their flagship advertising campaigns to promote these products.

Disabled people and their families have a combined spending power of over £200 billion a year. We hope this step by Barclaycard encourages other leading brands to recognise the importance of diversity and put more disabled people at the heart of their campaigns.

Find our more about the value of the purple pound.

Let’s celebrate a summer of sport for all

There has been a definite buzz of excitement in the Scope office as London hosted the World Para Athletics Championships. Over a thousand athletes from over 85 countries competed and it was clear everyone was behind them. The event boasted the largest audiences in world Para sport championship history outside of the Paralympic Games.

Our athletes won a staggering 39 medals, placing Great Britain third in the medal table.  #TeamScope were cheering them on all the way. If you missed out on the buzz, check out what was happening during the event over on Twitter.

It’s not over yet

The event may have drawn to a close, but there’s still work to be done.

Last year, disabled people told us they felt attitudes towards them had begun to change after London 2012. 72% believed the games had helped to lift the negative attitudes they all too often experience. However, they also told us that over half of them regularly experienced discrimination.

A group of Scope staff standing outside the Olympic stadium in London
Some of Team Scope at the Olympic Stadium

#SportForAll

As part of our mission for everyday equality, we are going to be running a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport, as well as challenging attitudes towards disability.

You can expect new research, blogs, videos and social media events. These will showcase some of the best athletes and storytellers involved in disability sport today.

To get you started, read Sascha Kindred’s blog on how he thinks disability sport can help combat negative attitudes.

How you can get involved

Tell us what sport means to you

If you’re a disabled person, let us know what sport means to you. Just tweet us (@scope) with a photo, video or tweet using the hashtag #SportForAll.

Like, comment and share

There will be loads of exciting content coming your way so make sure you stay tuned, like, comment and share! Look out for video and blog content on our social media channels, our blog and in the ‘Everybody’ series on Huffington Post.

Make a difference

Support us fundraisers this year in accessible events such as The Superhero Triathlon and Parallel London. Find out more about our full list of challenge events.

It’s clear that sport has the power to bring us together and sporting events have the power to change people’s attitudes.

However, we all have the power to ensure that disability is celebrated and championed all year round, not just during events like the World Para Athletics Championships or the Paralympics.

It makes good business sense to be accessible

Cerrie Burnell is a children’s author and actress changing attitudes towards disability through raising the profile of diversity. In this blog, she talks about why we need better representation of disabled people in the media, marketing campaigns and the public eye.

The household spend of disabled people amounts to more than £240 billion a year.

I’m not a person with a keen mathematical mind. 240 billion is a number I find almost unfathomable, like gazing at a clear night sky and trying to count stars, whilst simultaneously sipping wine – where would it end. But it’s not a fathomless figure, it’s a very real amount, and yet every year like stars at dawn, this amount of money slips away almost unnoticed by the marketing industry.

Why? Because the spending power of the disabled community has not been fully recognised. And more importantly positive representation has not been maximised. At all. The Pink pound, and The Grey pound are becoming part of our everyday life, and have landed firmly on the radar of marketers and boardroom bosses. Now, we have started to hear more about the Purple pound.

The purple pound

Purple. It’s the colour of mischief and regal gowns, and whilst it makes me think of the velvet curtains of grand theatres about to unleash drama on the world, it also holds a sense of rebellion. It’s not a colour that’s easily forgotten. I’m not entirely convinced that colour coding society by potential for spending is healthy, but it’s necessary for a brand to know who their customer is and as a member of the disabled community I have as much right to be that customer as anyone else. If labelling our money as purple achieves this, so be it. Money like people has the same value regardless of colour.

Britain’s 13 million disabled people have recently been recognised for their spending power, and now accessible products and services are being developed each day by big brands. But the disabled community aren’t solely interested in seeking out accessible products, we’re already spending money on regular products from well established brands. A wheel chair user may still want to wear stilettos. A person who is hearing impaired may want to buy headphones. Someone who is visually impaired might only wear Chanel Lipstick because it’s the shade their Grandmother wore. We are not separate from the rest of society, we are part of society, we are within the fold. Yet that’s not how we’re portrayed.

So, whilst it’s positive to see businesses starting to recognise the disposable income, that previously untapped consumers spend on retail, leisure, travel and in my case Malibu, Havaianas and ridiculously over-priced yoga leggings. What’s needed is more diversity to promote products (and services) as we also look to challenge attitudes around disability.

Getting representation in the media

Thankfully over the last few years we’ve seen brands like Smirnoff and Maltesers lead the way and feature disabled talent in their advertising. This is like a huge gasp of fresh air to me. And I’m delighted that following their campaign during last year’s Paralympics, Mars, the owner of Maltesers, has achieved much more beyond ticking the diversity box.

The adverts – a series of three commercials featuring awesome disabled talent, which I thought were both coy and hilarious – received so much positive feedback that Maltesers are now looking to extend the campaign to other markets. The largest of which being the United States and Canada. Which is great news and is exactly what we need to see more of! Bring it on.

But, more importantly for disabled people, this isn’t just about profit margins and big business. This is about us getting the representation we truly deserve. The fastest way to tackle negativity, discrimination, fear or even just insecurity is through genuinely inclusive media. Featuring underrepresented groups on our TV screens, telling diverse stories in books, newspapers and magazines is key to changing attitudes more widely.

Most disabled people still don’t feel they are well-represented in the media

At present, only 2.5% of all characters on TV screens are disabled. Eight in ten (81%) disabled people do not feel they are well-represented on TV. Shocker! That’s because we’re not, but this can very easily change. With the massive value of the purple pound looming like a spell of spending joy, big brands can promote disability whilst benefiting financially. Nobody is going to do it because it’s simply the right thing to do, it must be good business sense – and thanks to our spending power it is. Watch out world. The futures bright, the futures purple.

Cerrie supports Scope and with our mission to achieve everyday equality, so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Visit our website to find out more about our work and how you can support us.

“We had never thought about disability seriously until Oliver was born”

Chris is taking part in RideLondon for Scope next weekend. When his son, Oliver, was born with an undiagnosed condition, Chris didn’t know who to turn to for support.

We had never thought about disability seriously until Oliver was born. Oliver has an undiagnosed genetic condition which has certain physical manifestations. He was born with fused fingers and he has a cleft palate. He has some other conditions and a severe learning disability but it’s quite hard to describe. If your child has Cerebral Palsy or something that has a name, then you know where to go because there are people who will support you for that.

Oliver, a young child wearing glasses, smiles

We’ve also found out that Oliver is very strongly on the autistic spectrum as well. This came as quite a surprise to us because he has a very good sense of humour. He is very naughty but not in a bad way. He is incredibly cheeky. At school, he will quite often wait until his teacher is looking at him and then he’ll knock something off the table and he knows that he shouldn’t do it but he just has this glimpse in his eye while he does it and he makes everyone fall in love with him.

He is an outrageous flirt, no seriously, its dreadful, in a good way. He has a filthy laugh and this wonderful grin. What he will do, particularly with women, is just look you in the eye, give you this grin and suddenly you’ll forgive him for anything. You really do.

He has a lust for life

Oliver is going through a really good stage at the moment. He just has a lust for life . He wants to be in everything. He’s just started walking in the last few months which is great, charging all over the place, getting into all sorts of trouble. What is so nice about it for us is that he is getting into all the trouble that toddlers get into. It’s that ‘oh god Oliver stop doing it’, but then its ‘oh how wonderful’. This is what he’s meant to be doing given his stage of development.

He’s got loads of friends at school which is nice. Even though he’s totally non-verbal, he just seems to have a way with him about charming people. He loves any motorised transport so he gets incredibly excited whenever he sees busses or trains or helicopters. He does what we call his jazz hands when he sees them. He does that a lot and that’s a sign of when he’s excited.

He loves being in the car, loves being on the move. He’s quite partial to waving to everybody who sees him and then he just sees how many people wave back.

Chris with his son, Oliver. They are sitting on some steps on a beach.
Chris and his son Oliver sitting on the beach

The support from Scope has been invaluable

Scope offers such a broad variety of support and information. When you’re not sure where to go next, information is what you really want. Sometimes you just want to be signposted to an expert. Sometimes you want very specific things and sometimes you just want to know that someone else is there. That’s actually really important, just knowing that someone is there and they get it.

I’m a pushy little proud parent and I want Oliver to achieve everything that he is capable of achieving. I want to make sure that he has every opportunity in life to do everything he can.

Joining #TeamScope for RideLondon

I’ve done Ride London twice before and it’s so much fun doing it because it’s completely closed roads. It’s such a brilliant experience.

The support from #TeamScope has been really nice and the Facebook group is a nice idea. When you go past the point and you hear people cheering, it does give you a boost, and you feel part of something. I go out cycling for health and fitness, but Ride London gives me a focus and something to build up to. It also gives me the opportunity to do a bit of good as well.

I just worry that without organisations like Scope, opportunities for disabled people, like Oliver, are going to get taken away. Scope have been there for our family when we’ve needed support and I want to make sure that they are there for many years to come.

Join #TeamScope today to ensure that support and information is there for families like Chris and Oliver’s. Whether it’s running, swimming, cycling or trekking, we have charity events for everyone.

Find out more about the events that we have on offer.

2017 AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards

Now in its seventh year, the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards is one of the most inspiring events of the year. It shows the incredible capacity of technology to improve all our lives. There were over 200 brilliant and life-changing projects to choose from but here are some of my favourites that improve the lives of disabled people:

AbilityNet Accessibility Award winner: Bristol Braille Technology

Bristol Braille Technology is building a revolutionary and radically affordable Braille e-reader called Canute, designed with and by the blind community. The world’s first multiple line Braille e-reader will launch by 2018 and it is hoped will be around 20 times cheaper than existing digital Braille devices.

BT Connected Society Award winner: Sky Badger

Sky Badger logo with animated cape
Sky Badger logo

Sky Badger finds educational, medical, financial and social support for families with disabled children all over the UK. Over the last five years, Sky Badger has supported over one million disabled children and their families. Sky Badger puts the emphasis on having fun.

Digital Health Award winner: Fizzyo

Both of Vicky Coxhead’s sons have Cystic Fibrosis and because of this they have to do an hour’s breathing exercises every day to keep infections at bay. She applied to feature on a BBC2 documentary The Big Life Fix and was introduced to Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge. She enlisted the help of Creative Technologist Greg Saul to create a device that could take the boys’ breaths and turn them into controls for a videogame. Combining gaming with saving lives proves a potent mix – see Fizzyo.

Digital Skills Award winner: FabFarm

FabFarm participants
FabFarm participants

FabFarm is a digital aquaponic farm that is designed, built and operated as a social enterprise by disabled students in Derry, Northern Ireland. Developed by the Nerve Centre, FabLab, it uses new and emerging technologies to help empower, engage and inspire 20 young people with special educational needs to develop new skills which are directly focused upon their employability in the digital marketplace.

There were so many other great projects that were shortlisted and deserve a mention:

AutonoMe is a support system that combines the power of video and mobile technology to help people with learning difficulties through everyday tasks.

Optikey is a new assistive on-screen keyboard, designed to be used with low-cost eye-tracking devices. It brings keyboard control, mouse control and speech to people with motor and speech limitations.

Signvideo  British Sign Language (BSL) video interpreting services can help deaf people communicate easily and professionally over the telephone or face-to-face, with hearing colleagues. Signvideo offers instant access to an experienced, qualified video interpreter within minutes, via PC or Mac, tablet or smartphone.

Read about the 2016 Tech4Good awards.

Read about Scope’s partnership with AbilityNet.

“We all want to be a part of society don’t we?” Addressing loneliness in disabled people

Yesterday we attended the launch of Sense’s report for the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Their research found that over half of disabled people (53 per cent) say they feel lonely, which rises to 77 per cent for young disabled people. In this blog Scope storyteller and autism advocate, Carly Jones, shares her experiences and ideas for change.

I was really honoured to be invited by Scope to come to this event. As Jo Cox so eloquently put it when she was alive, you think of loneliness and you think of older people, we don’t think of children and young adults. But I know from my personal experience, and the autistic community as a whole, that we are extremely isolated.

My experiences of loneliness

I didn’t get my autism diagnosis until I was 32. You can read more about it in my last blog for Scope. I remember feeling very different at school. I was really anxious. I started realising that I never got invited to birthday parties. I was pretty aware by the time I was in my late 20s that I was autistic, but without a diagnosis it was like being in “no man’s land”.

When I finally got my diagnosis, I filmed it with the help of the National Autistic Society so that no-one else would have to go through this alone, because I felt so alone.

Getting my diagnosis changed things for the better because I could start going to autistic events without feeling like a fraud.  My advocacy work has really helped me find people who understand disability or other autistic people who just get it because they’re autistic too, and you can become friends. So my advocacy work has actually been my social life line. People say “Oh you’re so selfless” and I’m like “No, doing this helps me get out of the house and meet people too!”

Carly smiling with Mel and Juliet from Scope
Carly Jones with Scope staff

Three ideas to address loneliness in disabled people

Better representation in the media: If there’s an autistic person on TV usually it’s a boy who’s about 8-years-old and into trains! It’s really not helping. It’s isolating the thousands of autistic women and girls in the UK who are struggling to have their needs met in everyday society. We need a autistic girl in a big show like Eastenders, who has challenges but strong and sassy.

The education system needs to improve:  Schools need to be more holistic in their approach to difference and really nurture talent. You get awards for being good at maths but what about the artists, the philosophers, the big thinkers, the social entrepreneurs?

I had a really difficult time at school because I struggled with the environment, but teachers just thought I was being naughty. When your needs are not being met it can lead to mental health problems and vulnerability. A lot of the children who come to the events are home educated because they’re not “autistic enough” for a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school but they can’t get the support they need in mainstream school. That can be incredibly isolating too.

More social opportunities: I run a bi-weekly group for young autistic people.  The stereotype is that we never get invited to things so, with the events that I put on, we go to some really cool places and they can invite whoever they like – autistic, disabled, non-disabled. Hopefully their friends will then grow up not seeing autism as this stigmatised thing but thinking “I had an autistic friend in school and we did some really cool things”.

Adults need better groups too. Sometimes you’ll see events for autistic adults and it’s just basically what you would have for a child but for an older audience. You know, we are cool, quite cool and we are adults in our own right and we are responsible people. I think if there were more clubs – which are affordable – there would be more opportunities to meet people.

woman standing in front of a poster holding a magazine
Carly Jones, Autism Advocate

We all want to be a part of society don’t we?

It was fantastic to be at this event. I’ve already got so many emails in my mind that I want to send! Everybody genuinely wanted to hear other people’s stories. The fact that it’s cross party, cross charity, working together, is really fantastic. We all want to be a part of society don’t we? As someone said, it’s not a 10 year solution, it’s more like 40 year solution, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get there.

From 10 July to 13 August, Sense will be leading a coalition of disability organisations, including Scope, to shine a spotlight on the issue of loneliness for disabled people and the steps that we can all take to help tackle it. Head to the website to find out how you can get involved.

If you have a story you would like to share, get in touch with Scope’s stories team. 

Changing the attitudes of the next generation

Meet Mary, one of Scope’s disabled role models. Mary goes into schools to talk to kids about her experience of school, bullying and disability.

Thanks to supporters like you, we plan to reach more school children this year with Scope Role Models, tackling bullying and changing the attitudes of the next generation. 

Bullying hurts

If you were unlucky enough to be bullied as a child, you’ll know how miserable it can make you feel. When everyone is laughing at you, you feel completely alone, and the pain stays with you – sometimes for the rest of your life.

That’s how it was for me. I went to a school with over a thousand students and I stood out – all 4 foot 1 inches of me. There was no place to hide and it was exhausting – emotionally and physically – dealing with so many people who regularly wanted to make fun of you.

Yes, I was the butt of every joke. The bullies thought it was okay to laugh at Mary because they thought, ‘Mary’s not like us. Mary doesn’t have feelings’. But I did.

I went through so much pain, heartache and loneliness. I don’t think I would have had depression as an adult if I hadn’t been bullied as a child.  That’s why I can’t live with the fact that disabled children are twice as likely to be bullied as their non-disabled classmates.

I don’t want another child to experience the constant hurt that I went through

Thanks to supporters like you, we can change the attitudes of the next generation with Scope Role Models. We work with children in schools, because that’s where bullying happens, and that’s where kids form opinions that last for life.

I don’t mind telling you it was daunting the first time I stepped back into a school. The painful memories came flooding back, but the children made it worthwhile. It’s exciting to see their attitudes change in front of you. I’ve found that children are like sponges – they soak up the new ideas I share with them about disabled people, then go out and deliver that message to family and friends.

I just wish we could do more. And we need to do more, because bullying is still going on in schools around the country.

Scope is taking action thanks to your donations

As a Scope Role Model, I want children to understand the pain bullying causes. I want them to understand discrimination has its roots in ignorance. But I also want to share a positive message – and get them thinking about the friendships they miss out on with their disabled classmates.

I just wish there had been something like Scope Role Models when I was in school. It might have spared me a lot of pain, and even changed the course of my life. So I am determined to help get this life changing programme into every school.

Putting a stop to discrimination

Your support is helping disabled children who are dreading going to school because they can’t face another day of being picked on. And together we can change the future, because I’m sure, like me, you want disabled people to have equal opportunities in our society. But that won’t happen if disabled children are bullied in school, and if their non-disabled classmates follow the same path as previous generations. They’ll feel awkward around disabled people, they’ll avoid and exclude us – they’ll discriminate against us.

Thank you so much for your support, without you Scope wouldn’t be able to tackle bullying in such an effective way.

Our goal is to reach 2,500 young people through Scope Role Models this year – so if you can, please send an extra gift today to help change the attitudes of the next generation towards disabled people.

Making social justice a reality for disabled people – panel event

Anna Bird, our Executive Director of Policy and Research, recently spoke at an event on the Government’s social justice reforms, organised by the Spectator and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

What social justice means for us

We believe that a key social justice aim is to make sure that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

It is therefore crucial that the debate on social justice and social reform include a focus on disability and the barriers disabled people face. Too many disabled people feel the financial penalty of disability. Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, even though many are pushing hard to get jobs. And many are facing additional costs related to their impairment or condition.

Disabled people tell us that they worry about the cost of living and struggle to make ends meet in their day to day lives. This has resulted in an additional 275,000 families where someone is disabled, falling into poverty over the last two years.

If the Government wants to create social justice, it must understand the barriers disabled people face. And make disability a priority for social reform.

The Conservative manifesto made a commitment to get more disabled people into work, reduce the extra costs that disabled people face and reform the broken social care system.

But as our recent blog post on the Queen’s Speech set out, the Government has not provided much detail on how these commitments will be turned into concrete policy proposals that will make positive changes for disabled people.

What next for social reform?

After the election, Theresa May committed Parliament to work to make this a fairer and stronger country, where injustice is tackled and opportunity and aspiration is created for all.

Now is the time to make this reality, by ensuring that disabled people’s voices are part of the discussion around social justice.

The Government should take action in three areas to make social justice for disabled people a reality:

Firstly, urgent action is needed to close the disability employment gap  (the gap between the employment rate of disabled people and non-disabled people) which has remained at 30 percentage points for over a decade . The Conservative manifesto committed to getting one million more disabled people into employment over the next 10 years and to legislate to give disabled people personalised and tailored employment support. But the Queen’s Speech did not mention employment support for disabled people at all. This is a missed opportunity – Scope research shows that a ten-percentage point in the employment rate among disabled adults would result in a £12 billion gain to the Exchequer and a £45 billion increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Secondly, disabled people face a range of extra costs related to their disability. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) play a vital role in helping disabled people meet some of these costs. We believe the Government should protect the value of disability benefits and develop a new Personal Independence Payment assessment which accurately identifies extra costs.

Lastly, action is necessary to drive down the extra costs disabled people face in the first place. A cross-governmental approach should be taken to tackling the range of additional costs disabled people experience for things like transport, utilities and financial services.

We agree with the Prime Minister that disability discrimination is a burning injustice that needs to be tackled. This will require a system change.

We believe the Government should commit to a cross-government disability strategy to address the barriers disabled people face, make sure disabled people are widely consulted on this, and finally, set Parliamentary time aside for debate and the legislative reform required.

Change is desperately needed. And the Government cannot afford to wait any longer to address it.

The Queen’s speech – “Consultation cannot be a substitute for action”

Today the Government has announced the laws they plan to pass and the issues they will consult on over the next two years in the Queen’s speech.

The Queen’s speech is taking place in an unusual political context with the Conservative party having failed to secure an overall majority and still in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party over a confidence and supply agreement.

Queen’s speeches normally take place once a year but with the backdrop of Brexit negotiations, there won’t be another one until 2019, so if legislation wasn’t announced today it is now unlikely to be considered over the next two years.

The Conservative manifesto made commitments to get more disabled people into work, reduce the extra costs that disabled people face and reform the broken social care system. The need to tackle disability discrimination was mentioned explicitly in the Queen’s Speech but there was little information on how manifesto commitments will be turned into action.

The future of employment

Last year the Government held a major consultation on the future of employment support for disabled people. Reform is needed to both in and out of work support to enable disabled people to find, stay and progress in work. The consultation proposed a number of important measures, including reform of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), and Government ministers have promised to continue this work.

Yet disability employment was missing completely from the Queen’s speech. If the Government are to meet their manifesto commitment to get a million more disabled people into work then they need to take action to speed up the pace of change in closing the disability employment gap.

At the disability hustings last month Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Disabled People, spoke again about the need for reform of the WCA, something all political parties agreed on. The manifesto also had a commitment to legislate on specialist employment support for disabled people, so it was disappointing to see neither of these things mentioned today.

There was no mention of social care for disabled people

Social care became a major issue at the election but disabled people were left out of the public debate, despite representing a third of social care users. The system desperately needs reform with over half of disabled people unable to get the support they need to live independently.

The Government has announced a consultation on the future of social care which is a welcome recognition that the system cannot continue as it is. However, there was no mention of the future of social care for disabled people. Disabled people rely on social care to get up, get dressed and go to work and their needs must be considered as part of a commitment to reform.

Disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on extra costs which affects their financial security and resilience. Disabled people face higher bills for energy and insurance so markets need reforming. Again, the Queen’s speech made a commitment to examine markets which aren’t working –  but there is action that can and should be taken now – such as requiring regulators across all essential markets to have a common definition of consumers in vulnerable circumstances.

The Prime Minister has promised to create a country that works for everyone but disabled people still face numerous barriers to everyday equality. Consultation cannot be a substitute for action. Commitments and warm words must now lead to legislation to tackle the barriers which stop disabled people participating fully in society.

That should start with a cross-Government disability strategy and action on the promises the Government has already made.

How to appeal a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit decision

Scope’s benefits advisor Debbie Voakes is presenting a set of films on how to appeal a PIP benefits decision. Read below for her guide to the five main steps:

1) The Mandatory Reconsideration process

You have one calendar month from the date on your decision letter to request a mandatory reconsideration.

Before you request a mandatory reconsideration go through your paperwork and pick out all the points that you don’t agree with. If possible, seek advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau, Disabled Person’s Organisation or a local welfare rights team. Don’t panic if you can’t get advice.

Review the PIP descriptors and work out why you should have qualified. If possible try and get some new evidence to support this. Call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and explain your reasons for disputing the decision and point out why you feel that you should have qualified.

Can you do the activity reliably, safely, repeatedly, to an acceptable standard and in good time? If not, you might qualify for a higher score.

If you have further medical evidence, tell the DWP that you’ll send this as soon as you can. If you can, send it recorded or special delivery. Keep proof of postage.

If you can’t meet the deadline, tell the DWP as soon as possible. It’s best to keep within the timescales but if you can’t you might be allowed some more time.

2) From Mandatory Reconsideration to Appeal Tribunal

The Mandatory Reconsideration will be carried out by a different decision-maker at the DWP. They will review the claim form, the assessment report and all the supporting evidence that you sent in.

If the decision remains unchanged after the Mandatory Reconsideration, you will receive a copy of a Mandatory Reconsideration notice. You will be sent two copies of this and you’ll need one copy to send to the tribunal.

You will need to download an SSCS1 form. 

Try getting in touch with a benefits adviser to start building your case and work out your chances of success.

Join Scope’s online community where you can share appeal tactics and ask our benefits advisors specific questions.

If your SSCS1 form is going to be late, explain this on the form otherwise your appeal will not be accepted.

You can choose to have an oral or paper-based hearing. An oral hearing is better because you will be able to put your case forward in person. Only choose a paper-based hearing if your evidence is strong and clear and points to a clear decision.

Send your SSCS1 form and your copy of your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice to the tribunal. If possible send it by recorded delivery or special delivery.

Remember to keep records of all telephone calls and paperwork.

3) How to prepare for a PIP hearing

The DWP will look at their decision again once they have received your appeal. They can revise your award at any point up until the hearing if, for example, you send in new evidence.

You will be told the date of the hearing 14 days in advance. You should receive directions to the venue with transport links, accessibility information and also expenses. Review your paper evidence and think about what extra evidence you might need. Attending the hearing and telling the panel about your disability counts as evidence.

You can send in evidence at any point up until the hearing but don’t save it all up for the hearing as this could delay matters.

All papers relating to the appeal will be sent to the panel members before the hearing. This will give them the chance to identify if there are any problems or issues that may affect the hearing from going ahead.

4) On the day of the hearing

Take someone with you. This can be your representative if you managed to find one, could be your partner, a family member or a friend.

The tribunal will be made up of a tribunal judge, a doctor and a disability specialist. All are independent from the Department of Works and Pensions. Their role is to check the DWP’s decision and to ensure that the law has been applied correctly.

This is your chance to talk about how your disability affects you, how you feel you meet the descriptors and anything else that went wrong during the assessment process.

Normally tribunals will make a decision on the day and will confirm this in writing.

5) Further appeal

If you’re unhappy with the decision made by the first-tier tribunal, there is a further appeals process. You can appeal to the Upper Tribunal if you believe there has been an error in law.

This is a very complex area and you will need the help of a solicitor or a welfare benefits specialist. There may be some legal aid available to help you with your case.

Read PIP appeal tips from our online community.

Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.

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