With serendipitous timing, my blog this week has fallen on International Wheelchair Day 2017. International Wheelchair Day, as many of you no doubt already know, is the annual celebration by wheelchair users around the world of the invaluable freedom a wheelchair provides, and recognises the support of organisations – like Whizz-Kidz – that help provide mobility equipment to those who rely upon it.
Today, then, it felt appropriate to use my blog to make a plea to you all: I’m incredibly proud of the work Whizz-Kidz does in providing essential mobility equipment to children and young people across the UK; but I want us to do more. I know that there are still very many children and young people waiting for the right mobility equipment to help them realise and achieve their true potential. We just need to reach them. So I’m asking you this week to think about how you might be able to help us reach out to those families who’d really benefit from the mobility equipment we provide. However you do it – whether it’s on social media, or to your professional networks – please, this International Wheelchair Day, recommend us to someone whose life we could change.
On the subject of life-changing support, it was fantastic this week to be able to meet with Jo Bucci, Managing Director of The People’s Postcode Lottery. As you may well be aware, to date, players of the People’s Postcode Lottery have funded more than three quarters of a million pounds of our work, and in doing so have made a substantial difference to the lives of disabled children and young people across the UK. It’s always wonderful to be able to share with Jo and her team Whizz-Kidz’s ambitious plans for the future; their enthusiasm for our work, and for the difference their players make to what we’re able to achieve, is really inspirational.
The issue of Personal Independence Payments, or PIPs, has been to focus of widespread media attention again this week, due in large part to comments from Number 10 unit head George Freeman. Mr Freeman said that proposed amendments to PIPs were designed to ensure benefits were reaching ‘really disabled’ people, and not those ‘taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety’.
While Mr Freeman later clarified his comments, this gave me a great deal of food for thought this week. From a practical standpoint, I am concerned about the impact these ‘tweaks’ will have on the lives of the young people we work with – many of whom rely on these payments to support their independence. When changes to PIPs were announced in the 2016 budget, the Chair of our Kidz Board, George Fielding, said:
‘I believe the cut to the Personal Independence Payment will remove some of this support and create an additional barrier to independence for many Whizz-Kidz Ambassadors and other young disabled people across the UK.’
George’s concerns remain as pertinent today as they did last year. As we prepare for the 2017 budget next week, I know that Whizz-Kidz, like many of the young people we work alongside and support, will anxiously be watching to see what impact Phillip Hammond’s plans for the UK economy will have on the lives of disabled people.
It’s important to me that this blog is relevant to you all and the issues affecting you, so if there’s something you want me to focus on, please just let me know. Thanks as always for your feedback on this blog, as well as your tweets, letters and emails.
Until next time.