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A Letter To The Man Who Insulted My Brother With CP

March 20, 2017

A beautiful piece of writing by a sibling, from Saturday’s Guardian.

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Cerrie Burnell Is Quitting CBeebies After 8 Years

March 20, 2017

Same Difference wishes her well. She is one of our success stories from our early days online.

After eight years as a presenter on CBeebies, Cerrie Burnell has decided to move on and start a new chapter as an author and actor, spending time focusing on just one of her viewers – eight-year-old daughter Amelie.

“She’s grown up with her mum sort of being like an attraction at the park: ‘There’s the ice cream van and Cerrie from CBeebies!’,” Burnell says of her daughter. “While she’s still young I just still want to have more adventures with her.”

The presenter has become a familiar fixture in the lives of millions of children but says it feels like the right time to leave following the success of her children’s books.

“It has been a really incredible eight years,” she says, but “I’m happy to be going and I mean that in the loveliest sense; I’m grateful for all the time I’ve had up there [in Salford] but it’s just time for something new now.”

Her arrival on the BBC’s dedicated channel for the under-sixes in 2009 was greeted by some hurtful headlines after a few people suggested on CBeebies message boards that children might be scared of her because she was born without the lower section of her right arm.

Sitting in a cafe in Brighton, where she is working on a new children’s book partly set in the city, Burnell says any adverse reaction was due to ignorance.

“I don’t mean that in a rude way – I just think they hadn’t been exposed to it. I think having someone who is speaking directly to your child is a lot more intimate and more personal than just seeing a character in a wheelchair.

“I think having a children’s TV presenter, for the adult, is more challenging. We live in an age where everyone thinks their opinion matters: that’s the dark side of Twitter really, that everyone can say anything.”

Her on-screen presence on Channel 4 during its coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics and a greater push for more diversity on television have improved attitudes, she believes.

“I think the diversity issue has changed and our awareness has grown [but] there’s plenty more for me to do. I want to write more diverse books and scripts and [get] them made and commissioned, perhaps even be in them. I feel like I’ve done all I can do on CBeebies and now I need to take the next leap and want to push in other directions.”

 

She says leaving the channel was not an easy decision as it has been like a family to Burnell and her daughter. She finally made up her mind after being offered an audition for a TV show on the same day she was told her series of books about a girl called Harper with a magic scarlet umbrella had been sold to nine territories – it has since risen to 13 – including Iran and the US.

Burnell began writing plays after studying drama at university. She is adapting her first play, Winged, into a film, but it was the arrival of her daughter that prompted her to start writing books “in the middle of the night”.

Amelie is mixed race but Burnell could not find stories featuring children who looked like her, so wrote Snowflakes, which Oxford Playhouse turned into a musical last Christmas.

She explains: “I’ve spoken very positively about being a solo parent but it’s a shock having a baby for anyone, those first six months. None of my friends had children, the pregnancy wasn’t planned, she was a surprise. Suddenly I went from being this cool girl around Hackney – well I thought I was cool – going out doing whatever I wanted … and then suddenly you’re in the house all the time. It can be very isolating.

“For me writing was a way of turning the isolation into something positive. As a result I can write anywhere.”

She adds: “I would like to have more children but there’s absolutely no way you can contemplate bringing a baby into the world when you’re going to Manchester every other week.”

When I ask if there is anything she will not miss about CBeebies, she responds immediately: “The travelling – only because I’m a mum, otherwise it wouldn’t bother me.

“You have that guilt, it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got or the most supportive partner, no one can take away the guilt. Society conditions men to not have that expectation that they will be there, so they expect to miss things.”

When the channel moved from London to Salford in 2011 Burnell went with it, but then began commuting after moved back south to live near her parents in south-east London so they could help with the energetic Amelie. “As I’m a solo parent, I just couldn’t make the childcare and the frantic schedule we have work up there without any family up there at all,” says Burnell.

She explains her choice of description: “I tend to say solo parent as when I say single parent people kind of presume it’s a negative. It shouldn’t be a negative label as it’s the thing I’m most proud of. I’ve not been single all of that time … I’m her parent whether I’m in a relationship or not.”

She believes diversity on TV and in books is the same battle. “I think for children it’s changed. I don’t know if that’s filtering further up the food chain to the people who are making the decisions. I think the BBC and particularly children’s has always been excellent at diversity.

“All that needs to happen now is that things need to move out a bit so you turn on any panel show and you can have a disabled comedian on there and it’s not a big thing. I think we’re at that point. I just don’t think it’s enough.”

Her latest book, Fairy Dreams, will be published this summer and features a girl who is hearing-impaired but can communicate with fairies.

 

Burnell, who is sensitive to noise because she is severely dyslexic, says in Fairy Dreams she wanted the message to be that “everyone has their own gifts and talents and you don’t have to be loud and banging a drum … something magical can still happen.”

One thing she will not miss about presenting is that “you sort of always have to be ‘on’”, even through illness and “if you’re not polite to people who come up and want a photo you run the risk of someone slagging you off online”.

She would also like to write a comedy for adults “about a children’s TV presenter who’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown”, she says with a chortle. “It wouldn’t be based on my life – a kind of Bridesmaids-esque film.”

She enjoys Netflix series Stranger Things and watches mostly UK and Australian shows with her daughter, with CBBC’s The Worst Witch a particular favourite. “There’s this danger if you watch an American equivalent it’s all just so kind of missing the point of childhood in a way, it’s like they’re already 14 when they’re 10. Australian TV isn’t like that, it’s still lovely and gentle.”

CBeebies will mark her departure next month so children know she is leaving. She will miss it, especially the pantomimes, but hints there is a strong possibility she will make guest appearances reading stories.

So while she wants to continue her dedication towards diversity, she says: “I’m leaving Narnia but I’m leaving the wardrobe door slightly open.”

Sesame Street Welcomes Julia, Muppet With Autism

March 20, 2017

Its much-loved muppets Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch have been charming viewers for almost 50 years.

And now the children’s TV show Sesame Street is introducing a new muppet character with a simpler name, and a tougher brief.

Julia, a little girl, has orange hair, a toy rabbit – and autism. She will make her Sesame Street TV debut in April on US channels HBO and PBS.

The character is already included in digital and printed storybooks.

However, bosses want to step up her role.

Autism diagnoses have risen steadily in recent years to a rate of one in every 68 US children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But explaining the topic to a young audience is far from straightforward.

‘She ignores Big Bird’

“The big discussion right at the start was, ‘How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?'” Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro told the CBS News show 60 Minutes.

“It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.”

In her debut episode, Julia will demonstrate some common characteristics. When Big Bird is introduced to her, she ignores him.

Confused, Big Bird thinks “that maybe she didn’t like me”. But the other muppets tell him: “She does things just a little differently.”

Later, when a group of children are playing tag, Julia starts jumping up and down with excitement.

“That’s a thing that can be typical of some kids with autism,” Ms Ferraro said.

Instead of rejecting Julia, the children create a new game in which they all jump around together.

Julia’s puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, happens to be the mother of an autistic son. She said the creation of an autistic muppet is “huge”.

“Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviours through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened,” she told 60 Minutes.

“They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way, and that that’s OK.”

At this point it’s not known if Julia will become a major character on the show, but Ms Ferraro – who has been writing it for 25 years – is keen.

“I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism,” she said. “I would like her to be just Julia.”

Lily Beddall: Two Year Old With Downs Syndrome Is New Matalan Model

March 20, 2017

A two-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome has been chosen as one of the faces of a fashion retailer’s advertising campaign.

Lily Beddall, from Harlow, Essex, was approached by a modelling agency via a family friend from her toddler group.

Her face now appears in Matalan shops across the UK.

As well as launching a modelling career, Lily is also the star of a Facebook page that supports parents of children with Down’s syndrome.

Her mum, Vicki, wants people to know that living with the condition “isn’t scary” and “can be wonderful”.

Simon Lee, of Matalan, said: “It was a joy to work with Lily. She was a wonderful model and we’re thrilled to hear that Lily and her parents have enjoyed seeing her photos in our stores.”

Fight Against PIP Changes To Continue In House Of Lords

March 20, 2017

Successful Appeals Against Disability Assessments- It’s As If There’s Something Wrong With The System

March 20, 2017

It’s rapidly becoming clear that Prime Minister Theresa May’s bold pledge to create a Britain that works for everyone should have an asterisk attached to facilitate the addition of “except for those pesky people with disabilities, can’t we pack them off somewhere else?”

In recent days the Government’s plan to cut people with serious mental health conditions out of eligibility for personal independent payments has justifiably come under sustained fire. 

However, the attitude problem displayed by both May’s administration, and that of her predecessor David Cameron, goes beyond that, as a delve into the latest statistics demonstrates.

What they show is that the number of appeals against decisions made by the DWP on the basis of assessments made by the private, profit driven contractors working on its behalf is increasing at a similar speed to that at which Lewis Hamilton exits Silverstone corners. 

They show that there were 60,600 Social Security & Child Support appeals between October and December 2016, an increase of 47 per cent. Even Lewis might think twice about acceleration like that. 

Some 85 per cent of those appeals were accounted for by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and the Employment & Support Allowance (ESA).

The rate at which the decisions made by the DWP on the basis of information supplied by the Government’s contractors – Capita and Atos – are overturned is also increasing. 

People started taking notice when it was running at 50 per cent. Now close to two thirds of appeals the case of the PIP (65 per cent) are successful. The figure is higher still when it comes to ESA (68 per cent). 

I’m given to understand that the people who sit on tribunals have been asked to keep June clear, in an attempt to reduce a growing backlog. So forget about an early summer holiday. 

Needless to say, these people have to be paid, which puts extra cost into the system at a time when the Government says it’s trying to save money. 

Simply applying for either benefit causes a great deal of stress to people with disabilities. Having to go to appeal only exacerbates that. Applicants find themselves in the middle of a process that is humiliating and dehumanising.

That process also seems to throw up scandals with alarming regularity. Channel Four, for example, infamously filmed a Capita assessor saying a claimant had a “disability known as being fat”. Another claimed to have filled out forms before even seeing clients amid pressure to get as many done as quickly as possible. 

Other scandals have involved people with weeks or months to live being told they’re fit for work in the case of ESA, which is paid to people whose fitness to do so is impacted by medical conditions and disabilities. 

Set against that backdrop, is it any wonder that there has been so much criticism of the process, and so many successful appeals? 

If the assessment process worked effectively, and as it should, the number should be limited, and you wouldn’t expect such a large majority to be successful.

Ken Butler, welfare rights advisor at Disability Rights UK, says he is “very worried for all those disabled people who get turned down for benefits and don’t have the time or energy to challenge poor decisions made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)”. 

He adds: “We’d advise all claimants to get benefits advice and, if they are turned down, to use the independent appeals process.”

Butler says that the high success rate of appeals clearly demonstrates that there is something wrong with the system. 

Unless, of course, the system, also savagely criticised by the United Nations, was deliberately set up to be this way. 

Before you suggest that is me indulging in a conspiracy theory, take a moment to think about this. If you make something difficult, stressful and painful, if you litter it with traps, and take the view that everyone getting involved in it is a dirty scrounger until proven otherwise, a lot of people will get put off and won’t apply. Still more won’t appeal when turned down, saving the Government money it can use for things like millionaires tax cuts. 

Dealing with a disability presents enough of a challenge as it is, without having to get to grips with a state that operates in a manner that would have impressed some of George Orwell’s darker characters. Would anyone be terribly surprised to find O’Brien working as a civil servant in the DWP?

The cynicism on display is breathtaking, if my assessment is correct. Alternatively, the situation I’ve discussed could simply have been created by a toxic mix of bureaucratic callousness and incompetence. 

The net effect is the same regardless, which is why there will be peals of bitter laughter emanating from Britain’s disabled community every time those words of Theresa May’s are trotted out. 

You’d be able to hear them if it weren’t for the fact that so many people with disabilities are now trapped in their own homes.  

PIP Points Scores- As Of 16th March 2017

March 17, 2017

With many thanks to Benefits And Work:

 

The full list of PIP points, as from 16 March 2017, is set out below.

DAILY LIVING ACTIVITIES

1. Preparing food.
a. Can prepare and cook a simple meal unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to either prepare or cook a simple meal.  2 points.
c. Cannot cook a simple meal using a conventional cooker but is able to do so using a microwave. points. 2 points
d. Needs prompting to be able to either prepare or cook a simple meal.  2 points.
e. Needs supervision or assistance to either prepare or cook a simple meal.  4 points.
f. Cannot prepare and cook food.  8 points.

2. Taking nutrition.
a. Can take nutrition unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs –
(i) to use an aid or appliance to  be able to take nutrition; or
(ii) supervision to be able to take nutrition; or
(iii) assistance to be able to cut up food.  2 points.
c. Needs a therapeutic source to be able to take nutrition.  2 points.
d. Needs prompting to be able to take nutrition.  4 points.
e. Needs assistance to be able to manage a therapeutic source to take nutrition.  6 points.
f. Cannot convey food and drink to their mouth and needs another person to do so.  10 points.

3. Managing therapy or monitoring a health condition.
a. Either –
(i) does not receive medication or therapy or need to monitor a health condition; or
(ii) can manage medication or therapy or monitor a health condition unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs any one or more of the following –
(i) to use an aid or appliance to be able to manage medication;
(ii) supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage medication.  
(iii) supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to monitor a health condition.  1 point.
c. Needs supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage therapy that takes no more than 3.5 hours a week.  2 points.
d. Needs supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage therapy that takes more than 3.5 but no more than 7 hours a week.  4 points.
e. Needs supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage therapy that takes more than 7 but no more than 14 hours a week.  6 points.
f. Needs supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage therapy that takes more than 14 hours a week.  8 points.

4. Washing and bathing.
a. Can wash and bathe unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to wash or bathe.  2 points.
c. Needs supervision or prompting to be able to wash or bathe.  2 points.
d. Needs assistance to be able to wash either their hair or body below the waist.  2 points.
e. Needs assistance to be able to get in or out of a bath or shower.  3 points.
f. Needs assistance to be able to wash their body between the shoulders and waist.  4 points.
g. Cannot wash and bathe at all and needs another person to wash their entire body.  8 points.

5. Managing toilet needs or incontinence.
a. Can manage toilet needs or  incontinence unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to manage toilet needs or incontinence.  2 points.
c. Needs supervision or prompting to be able to manage toilet needs.  2 points.
d. Needs assistance to be able to manage toilet needs.  4 points.
e. Needs assistance to be able to manage incontinence of either bladder or bowel.  6 points.
f. Needs assistance to be able to manage incontinence of both bladder and bowel.  8 points.

6. Dressing and undressing.
a. Can dress and undress unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to dress or undress.  2 points.
c. Needs either –
(i) prompting to be able to dress, undress or determine appropriate circumstances for remaining clothed; or
(ii) prompting or assistance to be able to select appropriate clothing.  2 points.
d. Needs assistance to be able to dress or undress their lower body.  2 points.
e. Needs assistance to be able to dress or undress their upper body.  4 points.
f. Cannot dress or undress at  all.  8 points.

7. Communicating verbally.
a. Can express and understand verbal information unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to speak or hear.  2 points.
c. Needs communication support to be able to express or understand complex verbal information.  4 points.
d. Needs communication support to be able to express or understand basic verbal information.  8 points.
e. Cannot express or understand verbal information at all even with communication support.  12 points.

8. Reading and understanding signs, symbols and words.
a. Can read and understand basic and complex written information either unaided or using spectacles or contact lenses.  0 points.
b. Needs to use an aid or appliance, other than spectacles or contact lenses, to be able to read or understand either basic or complex written information.  2 points.
c. Needs prompting to be able to read or understand complex written information.  2 points.
d. Needs prompting to be able to read or understand basic written information.  4 points.
e. Cannot read or understand signs, symbols or words at all.  8 points.

9. Engaging with other people face to face.
a. Can engage with other people unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs prompting to be able to engage with other people.  2 points.
c. Needs social support to be able to engage with other people.  4 points.
d. Cannot engage with other people due to such engagement causing either –
(i) overwhelming
psychological distress to the claimant; or
(ii) the claimant to exhibit behaviour which would result in a substantial risk of harm to the claimant or another person. 8 points.

10. Making budgeting decisions.
a. Can manage complex  budgeting decisions unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs prompting or assistance to be able to make complex budgeting decisions.  2 points.
c. Needs prompting or assistance to be able to make simple budgeting decisions.  4 points.
d. Cannot make any budgeting decisions at all.  6 points.

MOBILITY ACTIVITIES

1. Planning and following journeys.
a. Can plan and follow the route of a journey unaided.  0 points.
b. Needs prompting to be able to undertake any journey to avoid overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant.  4 points.
c. For reasons other than psychological distress, cannot plan the route of a journey.  8 points.
d. For reasons other than psychological distress, cannot follow the route of an unfamiliar journey without another person, assistance dog or orientation aid.  10 points.
e. Cannot undertake any journey because it would cause overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant.  10 points.
f. For reasons other than psychological distress, cannot follow the route of a familiar journey without another person, an assistance dog or an orientation aid.  12 points.

2. Moving around.
a. Can stand and then move more than 200 metres, either aided or unaided.  0 points.
b. Can stand and then move more than 50 metres but no more than 200 metres, either aided or unaided.  4 points.
c. Can stand and then move unaided more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres.  8 points.
d. Can stand and then move using an aid or appliance more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres.  10 points.
e. Can stand and then move more than 1 metre but no more than 20 metres, either aided or unaided.  12 points.
f. Cannot, either aided or unaided, –
(i) stand; or
(ii) move more than 1 metre.  12 points.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) daily living component points scores

To get an award of the daily living component, you need to score:

8 points for the standard rate
12 points for the enhanced rate

For daily living, the points need to be scored from activities 1-10 above. 

You can only score one set of points from each activity, if two or more apply from the same activity only the highest will count.  So, for example, if:

4  d. Needs assistance to groom.  2 points
4  g. Needs assistance to bathe.  4 points

both apply you will receive only the 4 points for the ‘Bathing and grooming’ activity.  These can then be added to points for other activities, such as ‘Dressing and undressing’

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Mobility Component Points Scores

To get an award of the mobility component you need to score:

8 points for the standard rate
12 points for the enhanced rate

For mobility, the points need to be scored from mobility activities 1-2 above. 

As with daily living above, you only score the highest points that apply to you from each activity, but you can add points from activities 1 and 2 together to reach your final total.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Variable and fluctuating conditions
Taking a view of ability over a longer period of time helps to iron out fluctuations and presents a more coherent picture of disabling effects. Therefore the descriptor choice should be based on consideration of a 12 month period.

Scoring descriptors will apply to individuals where their impairment(s) affects their ability to complete an activity on more than 50 per cent of days in the 12 month period. The following rules apply:

If one descriptor in an activity applies on more than 50 per cent of the days in the period – i.e. the activity cannot be completed in the way described on more than 50 per cent of days – then that descriptor should be chosen.

If more than one descriptor in an activity applies on more than 50 per cent of the days in the period, then the descriptor chosen should be the one which applies for the greatest proportion of the time.

Where one single descriptor in an activity is not satisfied on more than 50 per cent of days, but a number of different descriptors in that activity together are satisfied on more than 50 per cent of days – for example, descriptor ‘B’ is satisfied on 40 per cent of days and descriptor ‘C’ on 30 per cent of days – the descriptor satisfied for the highest proportion of the time should be selected.

Awaiting treatment

If someone is awaiting treatment or further intervention it can be difficult to accurately predict its level of success or whether it will even occur. Descriptor choices should therefore be based on the likely continuing impact of the health condition or impairment as if any treatment or further intervention has not occurred.

Reliably, in a timely fashion, repeatedly and safely
An individual must be able to complete an activity descriptor reliably, in a timely fashion, repeatedly and safely; and where indicated, using aids and appliances or with support from another person (or, for activity 10, a support dog). Otherwise they should be considered unable to complete the activity described at that level.

Reliably means to a reasonable standard.

In a timely fashion means in less than twice the time it would take for an individual without any impairment.

Repeatedly means completed as often during the day as the individual activity requires. Consideration needs to be given to the cumulative effects of symptoms such as pain and fatigue – i.e. whether completing the activity adversely affects the individual’s ability to subsequently complete other activities.

Safely means in a fashion that is unlikely to cause harm to the individual, either directly or through vulnerability to the actions of others; or to another person.

Risk and Safety
When considering whether an activity can be undertaken safely it is important to consider the risk of a serious adverse event occurring. However, the risk that a serious adverse event may occur due to impairments is insufficient – there has to be evidence that if the activity was undertaken, the adverse event is likely to occur.

Aids and appliances
The assessment will take some account of aids and appliances which are used in everyday life. In this context:

Aids are devices that help a performance of a function, for example, walking sticks or spectacles.

Appliances are devices that provide or replace a missing function, for example artificial limbs, collecting devices (stomas) and wheelchairs.

The assessment will take into account aids and appliances that individuals normally use and low cost, commonly available ones which someone with their impairment might reasonably be expected to use, even if they are not normally used.

Individuals who use or could reasonably be expected to use aids to carry out an activity will generally receive a higher scoring descriptor than those who can carry out the activity unaided.

Support dogs
We recognise that guide, hearing and dual sensory dogs are not ‘aids’ but have attempted to ensure that the descriptors capture the additional barriers and costs of needing such a dog where they are required to enable individuals to follow a journey safely.

Support from other people
The assessment will take into account where individuals need the support of another person or persons to carry out an activity – including where that person has to carry out the activity for them in its entirety. The criteria refer to three types of support:

Assistance is support that requires the presence and physical intervention of another person i.e. actually doing some or all of the task in question. This specifically excludes non-physical intervention such as prompting or supervision which are defined below. To apply, this only needs to be required for part of the activity.

Prompting is support provided by reminding or encouraging an individual to undertake or complete a task but not physically helping them. To apply, this only needs to be required for part of the activity.

Supervision is a need for the continuous presence of another person to avoid a serious adverse event from occurring to the individual. There must be evidence that any risk would be likely to occur in the absence of such supervision. To apply, this must be required for the full duration of the activity.

Unaided
Within the assessment criteria, the ability to perform an activity ‘unaided’ means without either the use of aids or appliances or assistance/prompting/supervision from another person.

Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a marked example of a fluctuating condition where an individual can have no functional limitation one minute and considerable limitation the next. Assessment should be based on the impact this causes.

Key to assessing individuals with epilepsy is the consideration of risk. Within each activity, the relevant descriptor should apply to a person with epilepsy if there is evidence that a serious adverse event is likely to occur if the person carried out the activity in that descriptor. It is essential to consider the likely effects of any seizure – type and frequency of fit, associated behaviour, the post-ictal phase and whether there is likely to be sufficient warning to mitigate any risk of danger.