Our helpline programme lead Rob Kelly reflects on seeing our helpline on screen in the BBC 2 documentary Alex Brooker: Disability and Me
It was bittersweet for the team.
Filming with Alex
Thinking back to that day of filming in January, we could not have imagined how much life was about to change for all of us.
Waiting for Alex and the film crew to arrive, there was a real buzz, as we are all big fans of his. But we were also looking forward to the chance to talk to Alex about the harrowing situations many disabled people face, and the detrimental impact this has on their lives.
Day in, day out, our helpline receives calls from people facing impossible situations who do not know where else to turn. We support people with a wide range of issues from benefits and housing to social care and employment. Alex was amazingly friendly and matter of fact about the filming, which put everyone at ease.
Coronavirus changed everything
In the months since that day, disabled people have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve been at the sharp end of the social and financial consequences. Two-thirds of all those who have died were disabled people.
Anxiety levels have sky-rocketed as people struggle to get the food and essentials they need and fear what will happen if they were to catch the virus. Many disabled people have felt forgotten throughout this crisis, and our helpline team has been on the front-line to offer advice and support to people, when they need it most.
We’re helping thousands of disabled people and their families with benefit claims, dealing with drops in income, providing support on isolation and loneliness and helping with access to basics like food.
Adapting to lockdown
But like many charities, At Scope, we have faced a catastrophic drop in income. All of our 207 shops had to close for almost 3 months, our face-to-face fundraising was paused, and fundraising events cancelled.
In response to this unprecedented situation, we have launched an emergency appeal to raise vital funds, asking the public to donate what they can afford. Just £9 can pay for a call to our helpline, giving someone vital support and information in a time when there’s so much uncertainty. Months of feeling forgotten is taking it's toll. Disabled people and their families have disproportionately faced loneliness and worsening mental health.
Shielding may be due to pause at the end of this month, but there’s no pause button on disabled people’s anxieties. The risk of infection has reduced but not disappeared. Disabled people need to be able to make informed choices, which is why services like ours are lifelines.
Please donate and give what you can.