Tag Archives: attitudes

National Paralympics Day: join the legacy debate

Saturday is the first National Paralympics Day. It’s one more chance to relive the magic of London 2012.

The spotlight will again be on Queen Elizabeth Park. Here’s a plug from Paralympic Judo bronze medallist Ben Quilter:  “There are elite sport matches taking place at the Copper Box Arena, opportunities to meet Paralympic athletes, come-and-try sessions for people to get involved in, and the fantastic Liberty Festival to experience”.

The milestone is also another chance to ask if the Paralympics improved daily life for disabled people.

To mark National Paralympics Day we’re publishing exclusive new interviews with gold medal-winning Paralympian Sophie Christiansen – who’s going to be at Queen Elizabeth Park this weekend – and Tyler Saunders, who left his job last year to make it in wheelchair basketball.

Paralympian Sophie Christiansen asks ‘Did the Paralympics improve the lives of disabled people?’

Professional wheelchair basket player Tyler Saunders  says “Disabled sports have slipped back into the shadows.”

Here is an interview with Tyler reflecting on a what’s happened since London 2012, and here’s Tyler doing pull ups sat in his wheelchair!

And check out disabled entrepreneur (and good friend of Scope) Martyn Sibley. He’s setting off on an epic journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End in his electric wheelchair. Martyn hopes to raise awareness of the challenges disabled people face and how they can be overcome… even if you’re not a gold medal winning Paralympian.

For Scope it is really important that we ask disabled people about legacy.

The Government had big ambitions for how the Paralympics could change the lives of all disabled people (not just Paralympians), and although legacy is a long term project, a year on is a good time to ask how it’s going.

The legacy debate has been bubbling away for the last month.

In July the Government published independent research. Well known former Paralympians had their say. Scope has been asking disabled people, what they thought, and in August we published a summary of their views.

Overwhelming people said that 2012 was an incredible moment, but that one year on legacy is in danger of going off course as a result of hardening attitudes to welfare and a crisis in living standards for disabled people.

There’s still time to join the debate. We want to hear your hopes for Paralympics legacy and what needs to be done to achieve it. Tell us on Facebook or tweet using #paralympicseffect and #NPD13.

Have the Paralympics improved the daily lives of disabled people?

To mark the anniversary of the Paralympics we wanted to know if disabled people thought London 2012 has improved their lives.

Lord Coe says legacy is a ten year task, but this is a useful point to ask how things are going.

In July the Government argued that the “Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”.

Two well-known former Paralympians – Ade Adepitan and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – have recently had their say.

But the views of ordinary disabled people are missing from the debate.

Over the last month we’ve been gathering their comments and opinions – through a poll of a thousand disabled people, through social media and also by looking at what they’ve been telling Scope recently about their lives in 2013.

We think this provides pretty compelling evidence that the Paralympics Legacy hangs in the balance.

There’s lots of ways to tackle the issue of legacy.

But we thought we’d take as our starting point, what the Government said it was hoping for: a change in attitudes and improvements participation in sport and community engagement.

We review these ambitions below and also on the Scope blog publish a collection of quotes and comments from the disabled people we spoke to.

Changing attitudes

Disabled people feel strongly that what’s said publicly is crucial in shaping attitudes. Behind this is the shocking fact that 90% of Britons have never had a disabled person in their house for a social occasion.

So it’s no surprise that disabled people, charities and the Government all saw the Paralympics as an opportunity improve hardening attitudes.

And – in the short term at least – most people think it did just that.

Surveys in the aftermath of the games pointed to an improvement in public attitudes. Lord Coe declared that ‘we’d never view disability in the same way’.

Scope’s new poll backs this up. Some 70% of disabled people think that the coverage of the Paralympic games had a positive effect on public perceptions.

Scope’s chair Alice Maynard describes the Paralympics as “a breakthrough moment”. She says: “Disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly”

But where are we one year on?

Recent Government figures show that over half of a sample of the public (regardless of whether they are disabled or not) said the Paralympics gave them a positive view of disability.

There have been moments when – like in 2012 – positive disabled role models have had a high profile in the media. Channel 4 brought back the Last Leg. Comedian Francesca Martinez hailed comedy as the new Paralympics following disabled comedian Jack Carroll star-turn on Britain’s Got Talent.

British double leg amputee and Paralympic Gold medalist, Richard Whitehead, is running a marathon a day this summer from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

But our new poll suggests that despite all this, disabled people remain concerned by public attitudes to disability.

81% of disabled people say that attitudes towards them haven’t improved in the last twelve months – with 22% saying that things have actually got worse.

Of the respondents who have experienced a decline in people’s attitudes over the past year, 84% think media coverage of benefit claims and the welfare system has had a negative effect on public attitudes.

That last point is crucial.

Despite welfare fraud being 0.7% of the benefits budget, the Government regularly contrasts the hard working person gets up early for work, to his benefits claiming neighbour’s whose blinds are pulled.

Cabinet members have had their wrists slipped for misusing welfare statistics. But people continue to think benefit fraud is worse than it is.

Tanni Grey-Thompson recently summed up the impact of the myth that most people who claim benefits are scroungers: “I’ve lost track of the number of letters from disabled people who have been spat at in the street…One letter I received described how a disabled person was in a bus queue and someone came up and started asking them how many thousands in benefits they were costing.”

The Government’s own analysis of 2012 legacy raises this as an issue. Against this back drop, it says: “How long the uplift in public attitudes will last is more questionable”.

That’s why Scope is using the anniversary to call on the Government to halt the scrounger rhetoric once and for all.

Participating in sport and engaging in the community

One important fact first: the 2012 had a huge impact on Paralympics sport. As the head of the British Paralympics Association recently underlined, its profile and its funding are both greatly improved. Paralympians go to Rio with huge confidence.

But for ordinary disabled people the jury’s out.

The Government says “Participation in sport and recreational activity by disabled people increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2012 from 2005/06”.

Sport England says 362,000 more disabled people now play sport than in 2005, but it is estimated that only 18% of disabled adults undertake physical activity for more than 30 minutes a week, and those with impairments are still around half as likely to be active than their able-bodied counterparts.

This is echoed in Scope’s poll, which reveals only 10% felt that the Paralympics had inspired them to take up a new sport or re-visit a sport they once did.

Meanwhile when it comes to volunteering, the Government says: “The Games also opened up a range of volunteering, cultural and sporting opportunities for disabled people that did not exist before. Participation in volunteering by disabled people increased year-on-year to 2012, compared to 2005/06, and 4% of Games Maker volunteers had a disability.

But Research by Disability Rights UK and Community Service Volunteers has found evidence that many people with disabilities are experiencing a surprising level of difficulty in finding volunteering roles.

As Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said recently: “If you can’t get out of bed or get washed in the morning, then you can’t change the way people think, you can’t take part in sport and you are not going to be involved in the community.”

Disabled people have three big challenges before they even get to the sports club or volunteering centre: getting the basic support from their council, getting about and paying the bills.

Getting the basic support

Disabled people rely on support from their councils to get up, get dressed, get washed and get out of the house.

But councils have been upping the bar for eligibility, with 83 per cent of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system. Support for those in the system is being squeezed. A Scope survey found almost 40 per cent of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs.

Angela from Luton talks about the impact this has on her.

The Government recently committed to investing £3.8bn in social care and its Care Bill reforms are introducing a cap on costs and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care.  But the Government has also said the plans will set as standard the higher level that most councils have moved to. According to the London School of Economics (LSE) this will leave 105,000 disabled people outside of the system.

Paying the bills

Life becomes more expensive if you’re disabled and you’re more likely to be on a low income if you are disabled. Living costs are spiraling and income is flatlining for everyone. But recent research showed just how tough things are for disabled people.

One in ten disabled people have used doorstep loans, compared to just 3% of the general population. Fifteen per cent of disabled people – over double the rate for the public (7%) – use loans to make ends meet.

Here’s Susan from Ealing talking about her financial predicament.

What’s the Government’s response to the financial crisis facing disabled people? It is taking away £28bn of financial support, sticking with both the broken system for deciding if disabled people are entitled to out-of-work support and the discredited Work Programme, which has spectacularly failed to support disabled people into work.

Accessibility

There was an ambition for the 2012 Games to be the ‘most accessible ever’ and TFL in particular took measures to improve accessibility. But in 2013 it remains a fact that 66 of the 270 Tube stations are step-free. ONS data shows that nearly half disabled people have had issues access leisure activities.

Scope polling suggests the real issue when it comes to accessibility people’s willingness to do something different or be flexible to accommodate a disabled person. Last summer 76% of disabled people told us they have experienced people refusing to make adjustments or do things differently. We regularly hear from disabled people who talk about this issue. Buses don’t stop. You’re not let into a club or bar because you ‘look drunk’.

As Scope’s Tom Hall recently told Marketing Week, disabled people and their families represent 20 million potential customers. Both local businesses and big brands should be doing so much more to tap into the £80bn purple pound.

Disabled people and their families debate the ‘Paralympics Effect’

What difference did the Paralympics make to the lives of disabled people? Did it change attitudes? Did it increase opportunities to play sport or volunteer?  Disabled people, their friends and family have their say on whether the Paralympics has made the country a better place for disabled people.

#ParalympicsEffect


Sophie Christiansen OBE
, London 2012 Paralympic Games triple gold medal-winning equestrian, said:
“During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Great Britain saw what disabled people could do. It was a turning point in perception. However, it was just the start. Just like not every able bodied person is not going to run as fast as Usain Bolt, not every disabled person is going to be a Paralympian. The challenge is now bridging the gap between the disabled community and Paralympians. The government’s initiative for role models is key to this to show that you can achieve in anything, whether it be in business, the arts, sport, academia, media, even if you have a disability.”

Richard Whitehead MBE, London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medal winner, said:
 “The 2012 Paralympics sent a powerful message that a disability shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals. We hopefully inspired disabled people. We hopefully made the public think differently about disability. For me it’s not about looking back. We need to look forward. You don’t have the Paralympics every day, so how else can we show the world what’s possible once you start living a life without limits?”

Martyn Sibley, co-founder of Disability Horizons, is travelling in his wheelchair from John o’Groats to Land’s End to celebrate the Paralympics effect. He said:
“I was spellbound by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it wasn’t just the sport… it was the electricity in the air, it was the collective community consciousness and for me it was about the big bright light put on disability never before witnessed in the four corners of the UK.”

Marie Andrews, 30, from Milton Keynes volunteers two days a week at a centre for integrated living where she gives advice to disabled people. She agrees that the Games changed the way people think:
“I’ve noticed a shift in attitudes since the Paralympics. People in the street are not staring as much, they’re not as judgmental. I think the Paralympics helped the public realise that just because someone is disabled, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve. They are seeing disability in a new light. Don’t get me wrong, I still get looks but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.

Alice Boardman from Lancashire is the mother of two boys with autism aged six and seven. She said:
“I feel frightened for the future with the budget pressure on all services.  It seems we are in a fast accelerating downward spiral with being able to care for disabled people. But the Paralympics has given me huge confidence that disability is slowly becoming more socially integrated and celebrated in a positive way.  It felt like the first event that truly combined the able and disabled worlds in joint appreciation of the talents of disabled sportsmen and women, and I hope this will continue to ripple in a positive way though other areas of society.”

‘Could do better’

Alison Walsh, Channel 4 disability executive, said in response to what more the media should do:
“My answer is just do it. Less talk more action. Be prepared to take some risks with new talent – find people who are right and work hard to develop programmes that are right for them. The Paralympics gave Channel 4 a vehicle for disabled sports presenters but they can’t just be dusted off every four years, and they shouldn’t be confined to presenting disability subjects; they must be developed on as presenters who can work across different sports and all sorts of genres.

“Cast disabled actors in roles not written as disabled characters. Don’t forget to cast disabled contributors wherever you are featuring general public in reality or factual entertainment shows. Stop airbrushing us out! Behind the screen the same – take risks, make an effort to attract the talent. And disabled people – bash down our doors…”

Speaking on the link between comedy and attitudes, comedian Francesca Martinez said:
“I bet Jack Carroll’s jokes 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?

“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.”

Jane Jones from Cornwall, is the mother of a Jacob who is disabled:
“I feel that while the Paralympics gave families of disabled people hope and inspiration, since then the steady decline of funding and respect for disabled people from many places has made it harder to cope.”

Mandy (via Facebook): “I feel it did make a difference at the time but the attitude is swiftly changing back due to poor reporting making people with disabilities look like ‘scroungers’, or worse. Is this what the government wants?”

Pauline (via Facebook): “The attitudes of many have changed I think on a practical level access, facilities etc there has not been a lot of change and there needs to be more done”

Lizzy (via Facebook): “The Paralympic Games really excited my son he wants to compete but in our area there are no sports for disabled people let alone disabled children. Our local swimming pool is not very accommodating either.”

#ParalympicsFail

Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now:
“The thing about the Paralympics always was that they happened in this bubble of hyper reality. Real life for disabled people was never going to be like that again. So now here we are with people under threat of losing their social housing homes, others left stranded on a work programme which doesn’t work for them, people dreading the all-too-real eventuality of losing a disability benefit.”

Jenny (via Twitter): “Paralympics showed us great achievements but #ParalympicsFail as government and media give scrounger image”

Angela Murray is a disabled former volunteer of the year from Luton she said:
“There’s no middle ground in the way the media think about disabled people: we‘re either lazy benefit scroungers or people to be pitied. I don’t want the public thinking I’m sitting at home demanding benefits but neither do I want people to be sympathetic to the point of patronising.”

“I’ve had people look down on me and say stuff like ‘do you think you can’t work just because you use a wheelchair?’ But at the same time I’ve had people say ‘of course you can’t work, you’re in a wheelchair.’ Neither attitude is helpful.”

“I remember one interviewer being really impressed with me. He practically told me I’d got the job before the interview was over. But I saw his face change when I asked him to help me get out of the building because I couldn’t get through all the doors. That was it. I knew I had no chance.”

Pauline (via Facebook): “No decent member of society can possibly agree with what is happening. It is undoing all the good that the Paralympics did to change attitudes. Life is so difficult for everyone it should not be made even more so for some members of our society who need and have a right to financial help.”

Helen (via Facebook): “Any positive attitudes the games produced has disappeared because of how the Government and the media are portraying disabled people as benefit scroungers and workshy within their welfare reform hype.”

Rebecca (via Facebook): “Rubbish – and given the fact that many Paralympians will face losing their DLA over the coming years, their “opportunities” are likely to decrease, rather than increase. And as for public perceptions – seeing superhuman paralysed people or amputees running/swimming etc, just made many people say “well if HE can do that, why can’t you…?”

John (via Facebook): “My sons special needs school has lost its sports field don’t get me started in this subject, I only have to walk into Starbucks to find teenagers mocking my 13 year old son with regards to his disability.”

Paula (via Facebook): “No definitely no improvement. I was told by someone that being disabled I should look to the Paralympics to see what I could achieve if i tried. My husband can ride a bike but he’s no Chris Hoy…..”

Loretta (via Facebook): “No attitudes haven’t improved. Sport is still extremely exclusive. My son has no provision to play tennis competitively as he has cerebral palsy and autism. Advice from the LTA is to put him in a wheelchair so he can play wheelchair tennis as they don’t cater for other levels of physical impairment!”

Scope wants to know what you think. Leave a response below, let us know on Facebook or
tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

Have you been on the end of scrounger abuse?

It’s now almost a year since the Paralympics started and we’ve been asking disabled people and their families if they feel the games made a difference to their day-to-day lives.  
There’ll be a lot of discussion next week about legacy. Scope is going to be urging journalists and the Government to listen to disabled people’s views.

One issue that keeps coming up is “benefits scrounger rhetoric”, and how this leads to people being abused in the street and being trolled online.

We asked on Twitter and Facebook for people to share their own experiences:

Bullying and abuse

Some people responded with shocking stories of unprovoked verbal and physical abuse:

“Just the other night one twitter account dedicated to highlighting the abuse of blue badge bays has decided to shut down because of the abuse it gets. One of my friends is seeking a judicial review and they tried to use his twitter use against him. I have a specific troll who tells me I am just lazy, I could work if i tried and so on. Any time there is a documentary style TV programme featuring sick or disabled people it stirs up a lot of abuse and general ignorance.” – Ema via email

“I’m leaning on my crutches by the broccoli when a lady in her late 50s walks up behind me shoves me hard into the broccoli box – face first – and calls me a disability scrounging unrepeatable in front of my children. My most embarrassing moment.” – Tinna on Facebook

“Someone walked into the back of my wheelchair whilst in supermarket queue, which apparently is my fault as “your sort shouldn’t be cluttering up the shops”.” – Teddy on Facebook

And it’s not just from strangers:

“I’ve had ‘friends’ explain how I just have to accept and expect romantic rejection because disability is ugly.” – NQ videos on Twitter

“I was told by a ‘friend’ that I shouldn’t be allowed a mobility car for my wheelchair using son with CP.”  – Naomi on Twitter

Hidden disability

Many people spoke about the problem of impairments that aren’t immediately obvious:

“I was once accused of stealing a disabled persons bus pass. It had my name and my photo on.  I am partially sighted. You can’t see the damage I have to my optic nerves, nor how much I can really see….I’ve had someone tell me I shouldn’t be on DLA because there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t feel the need to broadcast every single medical problem I have.” – Sofie on Facebook

“People seem to think that ‘disability’ means a missing leg, or using a wheelchair/crutches; it can be, but sometimes a disability affects people more subtly and they still need assistance.” – Caitlin on Facebook

“I have epilepsy and hold a bus pass because of it – I’ve had some dirty looks off people for using it in the past.” – Kath on Facebook

Unashamed and fighting back

Some disabled people told us that they refuse to be ashamed of the money they receive and are fighting back at the bullies:

“I’m not ashamed of having claimed out of work benefits and I refuse to be ashamed of my DLA.” – Natalya on Facebook

“If anyone abuses me they get far worse back. I am sick and tired of being abused because of something that is no fault of my own. I will not be bullied or abused by people who believe the rhetoric” – Ian on Facebook

Parents told us that they didn’t care what people thought – the well-being of their children comes first:

“I have a two year old with CP. There would be no way I could take him to his physio without the extra help we get through DLA. If that makes me a beggar then so be it. I really don’t care as long as my son gets the best possible care and start in life !” – Darren on Facebook

“My daughter has CP. I listen to people going on about benefits and get fed up with listening to the constant moaning. I only want what is best for her and for those that do complain about disabled – stop and think – how would they feel if it was them?”  – Val on Facebook

Whilst some parents are taking more extreme measures!

“My son has severe CP. Rules we are working on when he is in his electric chair are

  1. If someone stares, smile at them – if they still stare, run them over.
  2. Three “excuse me”s from Mum and Dad and if they still wont shift – run them over.
  3. Three honks on his horn then …… yup, run them over” – Wag on Facebook

Why Walk When You Can Fly

Guest post from filmmaker Ray Wong who has recently released a documentary about Nathan Doidge, a man with cerebral palsy who qualifies as a pilot. We asked Ray to tell us more about the film:

I’ve known Nathan for around 10 years. About 5 years ago, after a night out on the tiles, he mentioned to me that he was going to learn to fly.

I was completely puzzled. My first thought was “how would that work?” I knew at that moment that I had to film Nathan learning to fly. Nathan generously agreed to be filmed and so began my journey into Nathan’s mind and what drove him to do such things.

I always knew that I wanted the film to start with Nathan in the cockpit of a plane, preparing himself for a solo flight. I liked the thought of that image at the start. The rest of the film would then explain what motivated him to get there.

I was ashamed to say that I didn’t know much about cerebral palsy. In a way, my ignorance was helpful because it allowed me to ask questions that most people were probably scared to ask. Ultimately though the film is about so much more than cerebral palsy – it is about Nathan’s spirit, the love, devotion, and support his parents gave him, and the fact that they instilled in him the fact that he could do anything he wanted, it may just take him a longer, that’s all.

I feel very privileged to have been allowed access to Nathan’s life so that I could make a film that, I hope, has done justice to his character. Obviously, Nathan is so much more than a filmic portrait – he is an inspiration and one of a kind. I hope after watching that you agree

Watch the film on YouTube and let us know what you think about the film in the comments section below.

Disability in 2013

The Government hoped the Paralympics would improve daily life for disabled people.

But one year on disabled people have been telling Scope that daily life is really tough.

Here are some reasons why:

Basic care

Disabled people rely on support from their councils to get up, get dressed, get washed and get out of the house. But councils have been upping the bar for eligibility, with 83 per cent of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system. Support for those in the system is also being squeezed. A Scope survey found almost 40 per cent of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs. Angela from Luton talks about the impact this has on her:

The Government recently committed to investing £3.8bn in social care and its Care Bill reforms are introducing a cap on costs and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care. But the Government has also said the plans will set as standard the higher level that most councils have moved to. Experts say this will leave 105,000 disabled people outside of the system.

As Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said recently: “If you can’t get out of bed or get washed in the morning, then you can’t change the way people think, you can’t take part in sport and you are not going to be involved in the community.”

At the same time parents of disabled children have also been raising concerns about the difficulties they face when it comes to finding the right kind of support, services and activities for their children.

Paying the bills

Life becomes more expensive and you’re more likely to be on a low income if you are disabled. Living costs are spiralling and income is flattening for everyone. But recent research showed just how tough things are for disabled people. Fifteen per cent of disabled people – over double the rate for the public (7%) – use loans to make ends meet.

What’s the Government’s response? It is taking away £28bn of financial support, sticking with both the broken system for deciding if disabled people are entitled to out-of-work support and the discredited Work Programme, which has failed to help disabled people find work.

Attitudes

Most non-disabled people don’t get a chance to speak to disabled people, so disabled people feel strongly what’s said publicly is crucial in shaping attitudesDisabled people, charities and the Government all saw the Paralympics as an opportunity improve hardening attitudes. Scope’s chief executive Richard Hawkes describes last summer was as “a breakthrough moment”.  He says “disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly”. Surveys in the aftermath of the games pointed to an improvement in public attitudes. But, as the Government’s own report found, there are increasing concerns that this is being undermined by negativity around benefits.

We want to know what you think. What is your life like in 2013? Respond below, on Facebook or tweet us @Scope.

Disabled people discuss the Paralympics Effect

What difference did the Paralympics make to the lives of disabled people? Did it change attitudes? Did it increase opportunities to play sport or volunteer?

We’ve heard from famous former Paralympians Tanni Grey-Thompson and Ade Adepitan.

Scope’s also been asking disabled people, their friends and family to say if they thought that the Paralympics has made the country a better place for disabled people.

#ParalympicsEffect

Martyn Sibley, co-founder of Disability Horizons, is travelling in his wheelchair from John o’Groats to Land’s End to celebrate the Paralympics effect. He said:

“I was spellbound by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it wasn’t just the sport… it was the electricity in the air, it was the collective community consciousness and for me it was about the big bright light put on disability never before witnessed in the four corners of the UK.”

Marie Andrews, 30, from Milton Keynes volunteers two days a week at a centre for integrated living where she gives advice to disabled people. She agrees that the Games changed the way people think:

“I’ve noticed a shift in attitudes since the Paralympics. People in the street are not staring as much, they’re not as judgemental. I think the Paralympics helped the public realise that just because someone is disabled, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve. They are seeing disability in a new light. Don’t get me wrong, I still get looks but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.

John (via Facebook):  “Yes, I strongly agree. It’s great how much things have improved for us”

Shaun (via Facebook): “I think it’s definitely improved and people are actually offering more opportunities.”

Siobhan (via Twitter): “Loving that since the Paralympics, I know all the athletes performing at #Lyon2013”

‘Not sure’

Jane Jones from Cornwall, is the mother of a Jacob who is disabled:

“I feel that while the Paralympics gave families of disabled people hope and inspiration, since then the steady decline of funding and respect for disabled people from many places has made it harder to cope.”

Mandy (via Facebook): “I feel it did make a difference at the time but the attitude is swiftly changing back due to poor reporting making people with disabilities look like ‘scroungers’, or worse. Is this what the government wants?”

Pauline (via Facebook): “the attitudes of many have changed I think on a practical level access, facilities etc there has not been a lot of change and there needs to be more done”

Jenny (via Twitter): “Paralympics showed us great achievements but #ParalympicsFail as gov and media give  -ve  scrounger image”

Lizzy (via Facebook): “The Paralympic Games really excited my son he wants to compete but in our area there is no sports for disabled people let alone disabled children. Our local swimming pool is not very accommodating either.”

#ParalympicsFail

Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now:

“The thing about the Paralympics always was that they happened in this bubble of hyper reality.  Real life for disabled people was never going to be like that again.  So now here we are with people under threat of losing their social housing homes, others left stranded on a work programme which doesn’t work for them, people dreading the all-too-real eventuality of losing a disability benefit.”

Pauline (via Facebook): “No decent member of society can possibly agree with what is happening. It is undoing all the good that the Paralympics did to change attitudes. Life is so difficult for everyone it should not be made even more so for some members of our society who need and have a right to financial help.”

Helen (via Facebook): “Any positive attitudes the games produced has disappeared because of how the Government and the media are portraying disabled people as benefit scroungers and workshy within their welfare reform hype.”

Rebecca (via Facebook): “Rubbish – and given the fact that many Paralympians will face losing their DLA over the coming years, their “opportunities” are likely to decrease, rather than increase. And as for public perceptions – seeing superhuman paralysed people or amputees running/swimming etc, just made many people say “well if HE can do that, why can’t you…?”

John (via Facebook): “My sons special needs school has lost its sports field don’t get me started in this subject, I only have to walk into Starbucks to find teenagers mocking my 13 year old son with regards to his disability.”

Paula (via  Facebook): “No definitely no improvement. I was told by someone that being disabled I should look to the Paralympics to see what I could achieve if i tried. My husband can ride a bike but he’s no Chris Hoy…..”

Loretta (via Facebook): “No attitudes haven’t improved. Sport is still extremely exclusive. My son has no provision to play tennis competitively as he has cerebral palsy and autism. Advice from the LTA is to put him in a wheelchair so he can play wheelchair tennis as they don’t cater for other levels of physical impairment!”

Scope wants to know what you think. Leave a response below, let us know on Facebook or tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

The starting gun has been fired on the Paralympics Legacy debate

Did London 2012 change the lives of disabled people?

Last week the Government argued that the “Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”.

Yesterday two well-known former Paralympians and good friends of Scope – Ade Adepitan and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – had their say.

Ade
Ade Adepitan – Actor, TV presenter and Great Britain wheelchair basketball Paralympian

Ade, who’s forging a career as a presenter on C4, thinks the games has changed perceptions of disability.

In a great interview with Nick Curtis at the Standard, Ade says he hears “people saying: ‘I’ve suddenly seen more disabled people on the streets: where do they come from?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, the bastards, they’ve been hiding underground. Who let them free?’”

“I always thought that as a disabled person I was cool, because difference is cool. Me and my friends were pioneers, going out in the street and playing wheelchair basketball, a sport no one knew about. In 2010 people had an idea about disability sport but didn’t know the characters. It was our job to tell the public who the stars were, give ’em nicknames like ‘the Weir-wolf’ and get them to fall in love with them.”

Although he’s mostly upbeat, Ade drops in a cautious note.

He says the lack of access to public transport “prevents disabled people from playing an active part in society” and the Government’s review of the welfare system “gave the impression that many people with disabilities are lazy, and created a ‘them and us’ mentality”.

It’s this last point that Tanni – the Paralympian who’s now making a name for herself in the Lords –   majors on in a hard-hitting interview with the Mirror.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (Photo credit: NCVO)

She contrasts the feel good factor of last summer – “Which exceeded all expectations” –  with a hardening of attitudes to benefits claimants.

“I’ve lost track of the number of letters from disabled people who have been spat at in the street. Instead of the deserving and undeserving poor, we have got deserving and undeserving disabled people.”

“One letter I received described how a disabled person was in a bus queue and someone came up and started asking them how many thousands in benefits they were costing. This was a working disabled person who takes nothing in benefits.

“There is suddenly a massive ­mismatch between how Paralympians and everyone else with disabilities are viewed. The irony is that of course there are Paralympians who are losing benefits under welfare reforms.”

Scope wants to know what you think. Leave a response below, let us know on Facebook or tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

In-depth research shows that disabled people are financially excluded

New research published today looks beyond the welfare debate, and at the untold story of disabled people’s financial exclusion.

Disabled people’s finances are being hit from all sides. Earlier this year, research found that 3.7 million disabled people will lose £28 billion worth of support through the welfare changes – some being hit by six reforms at once. And in the Spending Round earlier this month, the Chancellor announced that there will be an overall cap on social security spending– including the amount spent on disability benefits.

A quarter of disabled people live in poverty, even before the extra costs of being disabled are factored in. The coalition’s cuts and caps will have an acute impact on disabled people and risk pushing more disabled people below the poverty line.

But there is another, largely untold part to the story of disabled people’s finances. In-depth research conducted by Ipsos MORI (PDF 1.2MB) published today examines the financial inclusion of disabled people.

Being financially included means having access to appropriate, affordable financial products and services – and knowing how to use them effectively without incurring costs. It means being able to build a financial safety net through insurance and savings; smooth fluctuations in income perhaps by drawing on credit; manage money and plan ahead. Most of all it’s an essential part of people living independently and being able to partake in all that society has to offer.

The research (PDF 1.2MB) shows that the story of disabled people’s financial inclusion is a complex one. Some disabled people are in a very poor financial situation.  Half have relied on credit to pay for the everyday items needed in life, while a similar proportion are struggling to pay their bills. For these, being able to save even occasionally; pay insurance premiums; or make credit card repayments, is unrealistic.

But for disabled people, financial exclusion is about more than just lacking money:

  • One in eight (12%) disabled people cannot physically access their bank.
  • Some want to protect themselves against financial crises, but feel they are turned down for insurance (8%), or are forced to pay higher premiums, on the basis of being disabled (22%).
  • Most (84%) are confident in managing their own money, but do not have access to the right advice, and may be completely in the dark about the welfare changes that will affect them – in 2012 almost half (45%) had never even heard of Universal Credit.
  • Some could afford to save a bit each month (17% agreed strongly that they could), or make credit card repayments but without knowing all of the options available to them choose to borrow off family and friends (38%) or ‘do without’ instead (48%).

For these disabled people, it is the role of the government, industry and regulators to ensure equal access to the right financial products. In a series of pamphlets published today, Scope outlines ideas for ensuring financial inclusion for disabled people in three main areas: Credit and Debt, Savings and Insurance and Information and Advice.

The Government wants people to be financially independent – to manage their own money and live their lives with minimal state support. The delivery of these aims so far has involved hastily removing the social safety net from beneath disabled people, without putting in place structures to build up their own financial resilience. For those disabled people who will always need some state support, drastic changes in their benefits mean that poverty, and spiralling debt are a more pertinent risk than benefit traps. For others, becoming more financially resilient is a real possibility – one that could be achieved through access to the right products and advice, and through policies which promote financial independence – and one that the Government would be unwise not to recognise.

View the pamphlets here: Financial SituationCredit and Debt, Savings and InsuranceInformation and Advice.

View the research: Disabled People and Financial Wellbeing

View the data tables

Government reports on Paralympics legacy

Paralympic Opening Ceremony
Paralympic Opening Ceremony (Photo credit: MegMoggington)

The Government has today published its assessment of the financial and social impact of London 2012.

The £9.9bn boost for the economy has grabbed the headlines.

But the report also looks at Paralympics legacy.

The Government previously outlined the three things it wanted the Games to do: change attitudes and improve participation in sport and community engagement.

The report says in big letters: “The Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”

David Weir
David Weir (Photo credit: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

But the Telegraph spots a note of caution in the detail: “While the Paralympics improved public attitudes to disabled people, this has been undermined by the debate over the government’s welfare reforms, the evaluation suggested.”

Meanwhile the Sun asked Paralympian David Weir what difference the Games made to his life. “I live in the same council house with three kids,” he said.

These concerns echo points made by Scope Chief Executive Richard Hawkes in the Independent yesterday: “If the Government really wants to honour the legacy of the Paralympics and change things for the better, it has got to stop fuelling that narrative and demonising benefits claimants… you can’t have the Paralympics every day. But we should aspire to make the atmosphere of positivity towards disability a part of everyday life”.

Over the next couple of weeks Scope will be bringing together disabled people to say what they think about the Paralympics Effect. Watch this space.

So what exactly does the report say about the impact of 2012 on disabled people?

Here are the key points

The report says the Games “were a unique opportunity for sharing positive messages about disabled people, which led to an up-swell in positive public attitudes and perceptions of disabled people”.

There are some good stats on Channel 4’s coverage:

“More than 500 hours of coverage were broadcast across all platforms, 350 hours over the stated target and four times more than from the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. It included 16 hours of live coverage every day and 1.3 million live streams online. The coverage reached an unprecedented share of the audience, and achieved record viewing figures. Almost 40 million people – more than two thirds of the UK population – viewed the Paralympic Games on TV.[1] Overall, 25% of all TV viewers watched Channel 4’s coverage every day. Peak viewing levels reached 11.6 million for the opening ceremony – Channel 4’s biggest audience in more than a decade – and 6.3 million watched Jonnie Peacock win Gold in the T44 100m, the largest rating for a single Paralympic event. Channel 4 also ensured that 50% of on-screen talent for Paralympic broadcasts were disabled people.”

A name-check for Scope research:

“Research by the disability charity Scope found that 62% of disabled people believed the Paralympics could improve attitudes towards disabled people. Independent media analysis showed a major improvement in the way disability was covered in the press in the year of the Paralympics, with a peak in the level of coverage of disabled people which used positive and empowering terminology.”

But the report offers a bit of reality check too:

“How long the uplift in public attitudes will last is more questionable. Stakeholders broadly agreed that the improvement in attitudes was at risk of being a relatively short-term improvement and that developments and press coverage since the end of the Games, especially in early 2013 around the context of benefit reform, had affected public perceptions. Encouragingly, rolling survey evidence still being collected[2] shows that even by March 2013 a quarter of people were still saying that the Paralympic Games caused them to have a ‘much more positive view’ of disabled people.”

It then looks at volunteering:

“The Games also opened up a range of volunteering, cultural and sporting opportunities for disabled people that did not exist before. Participation in volunteering by disabled people increased year-on-year to 2012, compared to 2005/06, and 4% of Games Maker volunteers had a disability.

And sport:

“Participation in sport and recreational activity[3] by disabled people also increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2012 from 2005/06. This was in part driven by legacy programmes such as the Inclusive Sport Fund, which is investing over £10 million of National Lottery funding into projects designed to increase the number of disabled young people and adults regularly playing sport, along with opportunities offered by the School Games, Sportivate, Inspire projects and Legacy Trust UK. The School Games national event in May 2012 in the Olympic Park involved 167 disabled athletes (11.6% of the total) and all the facilities in the Olympic Park have been designed to be accessible to disabled participants and attendees.”


[1] Channel 4 (2012) The London 2012 Games. Brought to you by Channel 4. Based on three minute reach of TV coverage over duration of the Paralympic Games.

[2] Games-related questions commissioned by Department for Work and Pensions were asked in five waves of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey from November 2012 to March 2013.

[3] Based on 1×30 minutes of moderate intensity sport in the last week including recreational cycling and walking as measured by Taking Part.