Tag Archives: shops

Scope shop customers call on MPs to Keep Us Close

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

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

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

Children and Families Bill

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

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

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

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

MPs’ visits to Scope shops

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

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

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

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

You can support the campaign by emailing your MP today.

Why go to party conferences?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep us close – our focus this year

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

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

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

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

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

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

The power of a charity shop

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

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

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

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

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

Bromley Council refuses to reverse textile bank decision

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

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

Campaign to save textile banks

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

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

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

How loss of donations will affect disabled people

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

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

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

Scope charity shops reaction to Bromley’s decision

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to hearing from you.

Behind the scenes at a Scope charity shop

Guest post by Katie Adams, Scope media officer

I had never worked in charity shops before. In fact I have to admit I’d never actually experienced working in any kind of shop before this week. So I was excited.

Part of the induction into my new role as a Media Officer for retail at Scope was to find out more about how our charity shops are run, as well as meeting the key people behind them.

Looking forward to my two days at the Stamford Hill store, I arrived as the shop opened for business and just as a whole host of volunteers were also beginning their day at the busy branch.

My first few hours were spent with manager, Shallini, and head volunteer, Barbara, who explained exactly how clothes spend a certain amount of time on the shop floor before moving on to other Scope branches.

I got to take down the old stock and put out the new, which included the creative task of dressing the mannequins with what I thought would attract passing shoppers and help make more money for Scope.

It was evident that Shallini knew her customers’ needs well and crafted her shop window displays to attract people she said loved their designer brands, as well as eye-catching colours and trendy accessories.

Meeting the volunteers

Chatting to the volunteers gave me an interesting insight into why they give up their own precious time to help Scope and many find the experience a way of giving back to society or a chance to meet others.

One man who had once worked in a pressured office environment told me volunteering had made him realise he wanted to find new employment focused on helping people, rather than making someone a profit.

These volunteers are key in making sure things run efficiently at the store through the sorting of donations, manning of the till, security and cleaning of the shop floor.

Donations are so important

The shop was constantly busy during my two-day visit with scores of shoppers trying on outfits, buying new bags and browsing through the books, CDs and DVDs on offer.

Because of the popularity of the stock it was clear to see just how important regular donations from the public really are.

Without people’s bags of donated goods and clothes, the shop wouldn’t be able to keep up with the high demand of its consumers.

Spending time with the team at Stamford Hill was an interesting, fun and eye-opening experience and I would encourage people to volunteer if they can, or at least donate some unwanted items and help our shops keep up the good work.

Become a volunteer for Scope.

Shops volunteering

Looking for something new to do in the new year? How about volunteering in one of Scope’s shops?

Last year, 7,874 volunteers across Scope donated 1.7 million hours of their time. Many of them worked in one of our 247 shops in a variety of roles. See the types of volunteer roles on offer.

It was bitterly cold when I left my cosy computer to volunteer at my local Scope shop but I received a warm welcome from Thatcham shop manager Marlene Dredge, who has 34 volunteers, including disabled volunteers from Mencap Link and people doing community service, but can always use an extra pair of hands.

The Thatcham shop is the top seller of Christmas cards in the Berkshire area, having sold over one thousand packs. The shop also won third place in the window display competition in the Kingsland Centre this year – not bad considering the display was made with donated goods and no budget!

The volunteers love dressing up and recently created a winter wonderland with resident characters such as the Ice Princess, Snowman, Mrs Santa and Bah Humbug.

Although it’s a fun atmosphere, Marlene keeps everyone busy! That morning, there were more takeoffs at Thatcham than at Gatwick airport – Marlene took 334 items of clothing off the show floor to send for sale to the Petersfield shop. Folding and bagging clothes is quite tiring but worth it to keep the stock fresh for the shop’s many regular customers who help raise upwards of £2,000 a week to fund Scope’s work.

Despite horror stories of soiled (that’s being polite) clothing, nappies and sanitary towels (why? What’s wrong with the dustbin?), most of the donations we received on the day were clean, saleable and of good quality. A house clearance caused a bit of a panic in the small stock room – we could hardly move for stuff but Marlene says, “We accept everything, except bulky furniture, electrical items and husbands with suitcases!”

Nevertheless, we were relieved when the textiles lorry made it through the snow from Kent to take away the rags we couldn’t sell! Find out what Scope shops want. 

The highlight of my day was meeting Violet, who comes in every afternoon to work on the till and keep the bric-a-brac stocked up. She set up the original Spastics Society shop in Thatcham over 20 years ago and still is full of enthusiasm for volunteering.

Volunteer for Scope shops and, like Violet, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are making a vital difference to our work with disabled people.

You’ll learn new skills and gain retail experience as well as meeting new people and becoming part of a team.

You could also gain:

  • Professional qualifications
  • Community spirit – feel part of your local area
  • Disability awareness – you’ll learn more about Scope’s work
  • Paid work – learn about and apply for job vacancies at Scope

If you would like to volunteer, please contact your local Scope shop to discuss your interests and find out which roles are available.