This is a break from the norm, but it is a cause about which I feel very passionate , so I beg 5 minutes of your time to read on, as the REALLY important bit is at the end. You can JUMP THERE NOW if you’re impatient.
I work for a Charity, Disability Direct Nottingham. We support over 6000 disabled people, older people and carers each year and have done so for the last 8 years. Our small team helps bring in hundreds of thousand pounds of disability benefits payments that disabled people are entitled to, but recent government reforms of the welfare system make it difficult for them to receive. We are one of only two organisations in Nottingham City that will support a person from completing the application form through to representing that person at a tribunal. When we do go to a tribunal, our benefits advisers have an 84% success rate.
If a person is unable to represent themselves in court, they will be unable to challenge decisions that will have a direct impact on their lives. I like to think I am a relatively intelligent person, able to cope with the benefits system by myself. I happen to be married to an occupational therapist who knows how my disability affects me, but I still found the support of our benefits advisers invaluable in my recent move to the new(ish) disability benefit, Personal Independence Payment.
If I did not have this support around me, the whole process would have been 10 times harder. The stress of the actual medical assessment and completing the complicated paperwork would probably have me questioning if I really wanted to apply for this crucial payment. So now imagine you are someone without that support around you. You may have difficulties with anxiety or other disabilities the make this whole process all but impossible. The results are (and we see it every day), that you just wouldn’t claim in the first place, or, when you are refused (and that happens a lot), you may just choose to accept it and move on, but I would say just look at our 84% success rate. It’s worth appealing those decisions, because, apparently, the DWP sometimes get it wrong.
We also have a large pool (70+) of excellent volunteers that carry out a huge range of tasks for people that are in need and are often unable to source this support elsewhere. What do our volunteers do?
- Hedges / lawns / gardening
- DIY tasks
- Accompany to Hospital appointments
- Accompany to DWP / CAPITA medical assessments
- Help with IT tasks
- Help reading / understanding letters / emails
- Plus much, much more
As the volunteer coordinator at Disability Direct Nottingham, I am regularly contacted by people who are desperate for help in one form or another. Some examples of what I’ve done in just the last 6 weeks:
- A social worker called me because she had a client, 95, that needed some help. His care package was not enough to help him get out of his house. He needed to pick up some shopping, but could not do it by himself. Social Services were trying to get something in place, but this could not happen for several weeks, but they had no way of helping him during those weeks, so we had a volunteer take him shopping each week until his care package had been adjusted.
- I took a call from a Discharge Coordinator at the large hospital in Nottingham. She wanted to get a 96 year old man out and back home, because he was medically fit to do so. The hospital is on black alert and has been for some time (have you been watching on TV?), so I can understand the need to free up beds, however, this gentleman was not able to get food himself, and had no care package in place. After being accused of ‘bed-blocking’, I explained that we were working with volunteers and as such, couldn’t guarantee this support. The Discharge Coordinator was clearly disappointed, as there were no other services she could turn to, however, we managed to get a team of volunteers to visit this man every week and take his shopping to him, stack his cupboards and make sure he was okay.
- A lady came in that couldn’t read or write, but didn’t know why she hadn’t been receiving her pension, and why she had been receiving eviction letters from the local authority. Our volunteer was able to spend several sessions to help her read through the letters and spoke to the local authority on her behalf. Our volunteer also found out that she was using the wrong Post Office account card to access her money. No one had bothered to mention it to her.
- A hearing and visually impaired man came in with his wife who had a learning disability as well as a hearing impairment. They couldn’t understand the letters that they were being sent about their benefits. We have a volunteer who was able to use her sign language knowledge to get the facts and help this couple.
- A man that wants to come out of hospital but needs a bed moving from upstairs in his house, and a hospital bed putting in downstairs. The social worker that called me explained that he couldn’t come home until this was done, but he couldn’t afford to pay someone to do it. Our volunters were able to help.
- A lady needed to get herself to a chemotherapy session at the hospital. Our volunteer collected her in a car, and sat with her through the duration of her treatment, before making sure she was settled back in her home, with a cup of tea!
We also have an information officer, whose job it is to find people information on, well, anything! It could be information on:
- aids and adaptations
- how to replace a broken piece of equipment
- grants for accessible holidays
- how to adapt your property
- grants for household white goods
- how to get help with debts
- accessible and inclusive activities for children and young people
- services for particular disabilities
- your rights as a disabled person
- getting a blue disabled parking badge
- much, much more!
We run community activities, coffee mornings, family fundays and more.
We run a job club, working with disabled people that need some help to get back into work.
Sure, some of this information could be found online, and the government certainly expects people to be moving towards a solely online existence, however, approximately 60% of our clients have no access to IT technology, and only a tiny percentage of those that do have access, know how to use it.
For many of you, you will never have any need for such services.
But what if you did?
We’re all getting older, and we’re all trending in a downward fashion, plus we don’t know what waits for us around the corner. You never know when you, or someone you know and love will need such services.
We think we’re important. We think we’re crucial.
We currently do not charge for any of our services – benefits, volunteers, info, advocacy. We survive on donations from our clients, 90% of whom cannot afford to donate anything. Our current Big Lottery funding is set to expire in October this year. If we do not secure further funding, Nottingham’s only Centre for Independent Living will disappear.
***Here comes the pitch, but don’t worry, it requires you to do NOTHING MORE THAN YOU ALREADY DO.
We have set up an easyfundraising.org.uk page to raise a small amount of money from companies when you shop online. The beauty of this scheme, is that it requires nothing from you, except logging in to the easyfundraising site or app before you do your normal online shopping. When you purchase something online from literally THOUSANDS of retailers, a percentage of the purchase price is donated by the retailer to the worthy cause. It doesn’t come out of your pocket!
You can shop for:
- online shopping at any major supermarket chain
- takeout food
- Amazon and Ebay
- hotels and holiday destinations
- car and home insurance
- fashion and Beauty
- home and garden
Anywhere, in other words! – Anywhere you would usually shop online.
Simply register at easyfundraising.org.uk which you can do with a Facebook account in one click, and link up to Disability Direct Nottingham as your good cause to support (link above and below). Then, every time you go to shop online, simply log into you easy fundraising account, search for the supplier you want to use, and you will be taken to their website, but you will then start collecting donations for us, or rather, the retailers will start donating to us!
Clicking the above image will take you to our easyfundraising page. You can download an app for Apple and Android devices (see below), and you can even install a small app on your computer that will remind you when you go to a retailer that can earn donations for us!
Please consider spending 30 seconds to sign up for this good cause.
Please share this post with as many people as you can. Without your help, this service is in danger of closing its doors to local disabled people.
Thank you for indulging me.