Feedback: “The difference this has made to my life is unbelievable”

We’ve recently received some very touching feedback. Two letters in particular we’d really like to share with you.

Cambridge Women’s Aid has provided a moving update on the families supported by our TVs and radios when they move from the refuge into their own accommodation, with very little to call their own.

Meanwhile, a gentleman who’s brought himself out of homelessness with the help of Together Working for Wellbeing got in touch to tell us what a difference our donors’ help has made.

Angie from Cambridge Women’s Aid says:

“Since we received your kind donation of several televisions, we have had two families resettle in our local area from the refuge who have benefited from this donation.  Family number one is a mum and three children and family number two is a mum and four children.

“Family One had been in refuge for just over eight months, and Family Two fir six and a half months.  Neither family had any possessions of their own and were very grateful to be supported by a television from WaveLength. They have both managed the transition from refuge to living in their own homes well.

“Now that Community Care Grants have gone, our families can only receive three household goods from the Local Authority when moving into their own home.  Many of our families have nothing to set up home with so rely greatly on donations to add to these three items to have any hope in moving on in their lives.  We are unable to pass on second-hand televisions so this donation is very much appreciated. Thank you for the support!

“Since then the televisions have continued to support families restarting their lives after being so unsettled due to violence and abuse. Four televisions have gone on to support four more families who were reliant on donations for their new homes. One family comprised a mother and a teenager who had been in refuge for four months. Another comprised a mother and two young children and had been in refuge for eleven months. The third comprised a mother and a young child who had been in refuge for four months, and family four comprised of a mother and two children and had been in refuge for nine months.

“The televisions were a source of great support to all of the families.  To date, the six televisions have helped six adults and thirteen children.”

These TVs are on long-term loan so that WaveLength can pass them on in the future. However, Angie told us,

“The majority of our families are destitute when they arrive at refuge and we are seeing more and more families dealing with significant debt issues.  Although we continue to support families to be independent when they have left refuge, they continue to deal with a number of pressures, which mean they are still in need of the support given by Wavelength. We have many more families who would truly benefit from this support when they leave refuge.”

We’re so incredibly proud to be part of these families’ journeys into independence. As you can see, there is still a great need for support, particularly with cuts to community care grants. Anything you can give could help us to make a difference to the lives of people suffering from isolation – just donate online or by cheque.

We also received a letter from a Together Working for Wellbeing service user:

“I would like to thank your charity for helping me in my time of great need. I suffer with Mental Health difficulties and have been homeless and bankrupt. I have received fantastic support from my Project Co-ordinator and now have a safe secure roof over my head. My biggest problem in settling in and trying to rebuild my life was feeling lonely and to make my new residence feel like home. With your help, I now have a television and radio, the difference this has made to my life is unbelievable. Knowing that people are willing to help and give me a chance to get back on my feet is also a positive start on the way back to health and happiness.”

We know that the impact of our help on beneficiaries, alongside the benefits from the actual TV and radios, includes the emotional support of knowing that people – WaveLength’s supporters and donors – care about them and think they deserve more. As we crowded around this letter in the office, we were really moved that this beneficiary decided to reach out.


Feedback from Nugent Care and Endike Community Care

Some really touching feedback landed in the WaveLength inbox today from two amazing organisations that we’ve supplied with TVs and radios. One case history, and some lovely photos, that inspired us and moved us.

Endike Community Care runs a day centre in Hull that aims to stop loneliness for elderly people. Social stimulation and regular contact can help to slow dementia and makes an enormous amount of difference to older people’s health and happiness.

endike3WaveLength provided them with a TV for day centre visitors to watch, and they sent us some lovely pictures of their users enjoying their new set!

Meanwhile, Rachel Moran from Nugent Care, which supports over 5,000 people across the North West, got in touch to let us know that ‘the TVs and radios have been a huge success’. WaveLength’s donations help them to help vulnerable adults through their Supported Living scheme in Liverpool.

Rachel told us about one man who our equipment really made a difference to…

“Mr X has a 25 year history of mental health issues, has been street homeless on a number of occasions and sectioned under the Mental Health Act in various locations across the country. Mr X had a breakdown in his early 20’s after leaving a cult.

“Mr X came to us through the Community Mental Health team in Liverpool, in July 13, on discharge from hospital. When he first moved into the scheme, Mr X was very withdrawn, anxious and found it difficult to communicate. He also had trust issues. Over the first few weeks we supported Mr X to settle into his accommodation and put routine and structure into his days whilst learning to trust myself, Rachel Moran and my colleague Peter Boylan.

“Mr X had not watched television or listened to a radio for a number of years as he believed that he was receiving messages through them, which would in turn effect his mental health and cause it to deteriorate and trigger a psychotic episode.

“After being in our project for a few weeks, Mr X reported that he felt settled and well enough to try to use a television and radio. When he received the radio and television from Wavelength, it took him a little time to adjust but eventually he got used to watching selected programmes and listing to the radio. He has actually started to find it both a distraction and a therapy for his mental health, and his psychiatrist has reported that he is the most stable he has been for a number of years and is engaging really well with his support.

“We were able to use the equipment you gifted us to help us engage with one of our most difficult and complex clients.”


Perth Association for Mental Health and Pictures from WaveLength’s History

Lovely Feedback from PAMH

We were really proud today to get some lovely feedback from a Scottish mental health association xanax online that we’ve supplied with a TV for its Recovery College. PAMH helps people with mental ill-health, their carers, families, friends and potential employers to learn how to manage and control their illness so that they can get the most out of their lives, relationships etc.

Jillian tells us, “We have already run several pilot courses where we have used the television for display purposes and this has been most beneficial to both participants and course deliverers. Staff are also using the television to practice delivery and view materials appropriate for use in sessions with clients. As we go forward, the television will be fully utilized in our work.

“This equipment has been monumental in helping us to develop and deliver courses within our service.”

It’s fantastic to know that just one piece of our equipment can make such a difference. Our new model of partnering with organisations means that our supporters’ donations are really maximized, bringing real support and progress to the most isolated people in our society.

Janet speaks to St Nicholas’ Ladies Club

Recently our Project Worker Janet gave a talk about WaveLength’s history and activities to St Nicholas’ Ladies Club, a church club near our Hornchurch offices. She told them all about WaveLength’s 75 years of fighting loneliness, and our self-funded model, which means that we depend on donations rather than support from the government or councils.

She also passed around some photos we found in the back of the office cupboards, which really touched a lot of people! A couple of these are below – for more, take a look at our Facebook page or Pinterest board.

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Tim’s Blog: Thank Yous and Feedback for the New Year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver Christmas we got some very touching “thank yous” from our beneficiaries and referees. It is really satisfying to read such personal accounts of the difference a small donation of a radio or TV set can make – for people all over the UK.

For instance, this message came in on a Christmas card from a lady living in a homelessness refuge.

“To whom it may concern,

Sending many thanks your way!

A huge thank you for the television for my room – I am in hospital at the moment and to have a TV will make such a big difference upon my return.

Once again thank you,

Nicola”

And a referee from the Together Working for Wellbeing charity, which supports people with mental health issues, sent us a note to say she was “so pleased Mark’s TV will be in time for Christmas!”

We were touched to be told, “you are so helpful, and will change lives and aid the path to recovery and wellbeing.”

I hope that the New Year brings Nicola, Mark and all our beneficiaries strength, good fortune and fulfillment. And our donors can certainly pat themselves on the back for making a difference. A longer message from a referee at St Mungo’s let us know exactly how our TVs help people coming out of homelessness.

St Mungo’s Michael told us,

“The clients who received the loaned television sets were of varying ages and support needs but shared the common factors of social isolation and financial hardship. All five sets were given to formerly homeless clients who were moving out of either a shared hostel environment (where there was a communal television) or were moving directly from the streets to their own independent accommodation – usually a studio or one bed flat.

“Two of the clients suffer from depression and anxiety treat with valium , one has a psychotic mental illness and two have a combination of depression and are also recovering drug / alcohol addicts. I have had feedback from four of these clients. All five clients were also supported in obtaining TV licences, in four out of five cases by the Cash Easy Entry / Payment Card Scheme, the other client paying by direct debit.

“A common theme in the clients’ feedback is just how important a television set has been in alleviating social isolation (statistically, the single most important reason why tenancies for formerly homeless people fail) and assisting with tenancy sustainment – preventing abandonment of accommodation and a return to the streets. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that without provision of a television set, at least one of these five clients would have returned to rough sleeping.”

This feedback warmed my heart, knowing that WaveLength can help lift people out of isolation and poverty just by providing a TV.

Michael also included a quote from a client called, Nicholas, 59, a former rough sleeper who suffers from psychotic episodes. He spent six months rough sleeping in Bristol and London and a further eight months in a hostel for homeless men before being allocated a housing association flat in Lambeth.

Nicholas says, “In the hostel there were always people around to talk to and I could watch (the communal) television in the evenings and at meal times. When I got my flat I suddenly had no-one around again and it was so quiet. I was therefore very happy when I received the television.”

So here’s to making a difference, to the most vulnerable people in our society, with comfort, contact and companionship!

Happy New Year!


Feedback: Women’s Aid Leicestershire, and Helping Individuals

feedbacklettercolindaleWe get quite a lot of feedback from our organisation partners, but not so much from individuals who we help after referrals from their social workers, housing officers, community leaders etc. This is because these people often struggle to get through the days due to their isolation and other situations. However, sometimes we do get a letter that touches our hearts.

This letter from a lady in Colindale brought a lot of smiles to our face at the office.

Transcript: “To whom it may concern,

“I would just like to express the deepest gratitude for all your help in getting back on my feet. I have been suffering with anxiety disorder and depression for quite some time now and it had really brought me down, but since I met my housing support officer John, he has been helping me and motivating me to get back on my feet with your amazing help. Once I have the neccessities in my flat such as furniture i.e. a cooker I am very confident I will be able to stabilise myself. I am currently working alongside the job centre writing a business plan so in the future I can run a successful make up and beauty business, which I am qualified in.

“Once again thank you so much.”

It’s really touching to hear of the difference we’ve made to people struggling to lift themselves up out of isolation.

Women’s Aid Leicestershire

A Women’s Aid refuge in Leicestershire that we support with radios in Leicestershire has asked its residents for statements on how they’ve made a difference, and received some lovely comments.

“Children dance around the room to the music”

“It lifts my mood, makes me feel good, when I’m cleaning my room I put the radio on”

“It makes me feel really happy; I can listen to three Asian radio stations. I don’t watch TV or read so it really really helps it is my friend”

“Relaxes you, everyone can listen to their own choice of music whenever they want to”

People often don’t believe that radios are still relevant and useful in the present day, but we’re constantly told how useful they are. Not only do they mean no-one has to pay a regular TV licence fee, but they provide a manageable amount of stimulation for people who need to be able to control their own living spaces. Many people who have intrusive mental health symptoms need this level of stimulation, and since we’ve been working with refuges for those escaping domestic violence, we’re hearing that the ability to get companionship from a choice of radio programmes makes a huge difference.

To read more about WaveLength’s work with Women’s Aid refuges, click here.

Women’s Aid Leicestershire (WALL) says,

“A refuge is a safe house where women with or without children can live free from abuse and have time and space to recover and start to take control of their lives. When in refuge women are provided with help and support to enable women to move on to permanent accommodation or accommodation that is more suited to their needs.

“Our refuge prides itself on being a friendly welcoming and safe environment where women can feel at home and get to know other women and receive necessary support from workers and other women in similar circumstances, as well as basic counseling, practical help with benefits, money, housing, health, education and training, social and cultural activities and sign posting to other relevant services. Our refuge is a 7 bedded refuge in total we can provide support for 7 women and 6 children and any given time. Last year on average we supported 47 women and 35 children.

“Many women and children that arrive at refuge come with only basic essentials or nothing at all and often with no financial support or means to finances. The first few days or weeks can be very lonely, isolating and scary for the women and children therefore the radios donated have really help overcome some of these barriers and fears.“


Making a Difference at HULLHARP

We recently donated a large television to HULLHARP, a network of homelessness centres in the Hull area.

It was great to get this feedback from HULLHARP centre worker Ed:

“The television is in the communal area of one of our supported houses, which has 10 bedrooms and is nearly always full.

“At the present time, we have a number of Polish residents and they have been able to ask Polish-language channels (I’m a bit technically illiterate so I don’t know how this works)! This has been really beneficial because most of the Polish residents have little or no English and so having TV in their own language has been excellent in terms of providing a social focus within the house as well as entertainment.”

We know that supportive social networks are useful for anyone going through tough times, and we’re thrilled that our TV is helping people to give each other support in HULLHARP’s centre. And it’s remarkable how many people can be helped by a single donation to a homelessness centre!

To find out more about HULLHARP, visit their website


Lovely Feedback for Christmas!

We were thrilled to get some great feedback recently from a really lovely beneficiary in Leicester. Mr Brown became homeless after having to give up his job to look after his terminally ill father. He was placed in a hostel and suffers from loneliness and isolation after the death of his father.

But now, Mr Brown has a place of his own – and WaveLength helped him to feel at home.

He wrote to us to say, “After coming out of the hostel system and getting a fresh start, having a TV and licence (with radio) is a real path to the mainstream. You are all great! Thanks – good luck.”

WaveLength supporters are great! We continue to be amazed at your generosity and consideration for people who need a little companionship in their lives. We’ve been hearing a lot lately that our TVs and radios make people ‘feel normal.’ They help people to see their problems as manageable, not a cause for despair – and remind them of the friendly society that’s out there ready to welcome them.

This was a lovely message to receive around Christmas time.

Merry Christmas to Mr Brown and to all our beneficiaries and donors!


WaveLength Visits St Mungo’s

Wavestmungos_desLength works with homelessness centres across the country. We recently visited two homes in London run by St Mungos (www.mungos.org).

Julie showed us around the Harrow Road Centre, opened in 1989 in a converted office block. This first-stage hostel is home for 41 residents aged over 50, rough sleepers referred by outreach workers, or those with enduring mental health problems. Some have come from other hostels where the different needs of the younger residents have increased their vulnerability. Many have been on the streets for over 20 years.

“Loneliness is a huge problem”

Manystmungos_harrowroad residents, with already poor coping strategies, have lost partners of 40 years or lost their homes when their parents passed away. Loneliness is a huge problem with every client group, from the youngest to the oldest. Residents lack self-esteem and confidence.

“It is scary how self-isolating they are,” says Julie.

The team at Mungo’s addresses this; they do not just provide a home for their residents, they also bring in activities and organise trips out so the residents can engage with other environments, and arrange training so clients can move on. There have been many successes including an ex-service user “who everyone had given up on” helped by St Mungo’s into an apprenticeship, now healthy and with a future.

Some, however, cannot bring themselves to leave the safety of their room within the hostel and for these clients the TV provides a lifeline, an engagement with an outside world that cannot harm them.

stmungos_tv

We spoke to one resident, Michael, who had been sleeping rough before moving to Harrow Road 4 months previously. He rarely leaves his room except to make a cup of tea or go for a solitary walk along the canal. Having been given a Wavelength TV he enjoys watching the History Channel, with the World at War a great favourite; he is not so keen on the soaps – particularly the Yorkshire accents in Coronation Street.

There is no such thing as “The Homeless”

Every client at Harrow Road is different and is treated with dignity and hope. Five members of staff, including the Deputy Manager have been service users. Each has their own recovery and each brings something extra to the team.

We were also able to visit a St Mungos Registered Care Home caring for a very vulnerable client group, one of only 3 or 4 specialist care homes in London who work specifically with those with long-term alcohol dependency issues. Many of the clients have a history of rough sleeping. In many cases their accommodation has completely broken down when drug users or prostitutes have taken over the building and forced them on to the street. With no contact with family or friends, these vulnerable people are truly isolated until they find a home with Chichester Road.

Chichester Road becomes home to the residents for as long as they want it or have to move on to more specialist care.

Mick, the Manager, tells us “We don’t know what has been going on in the background… sometimes people have just been completely abandoned. Everyone who comes to the home is in crisis.”

A phone call home after 47 years

“The staff are the only people close to our resident and then they start talking about their families and wanting to make contact,” says Mick.

St Mungos facilitated a phone call for a resident who had not spoken to his sister in 47 years and then they were talking on the phone “as if they were talking yesterday”

Comfort and dignity

The staff help the client’s manage their vulnerabilities – accidents are reduced with fewer hospital stays, clients are being fed so are not so emaciated, they are no longer being abused financially. Their dignity is maintained.

Outings and activities help with engagement and cognitive improvement, but some residents cognitively cannot engage in a group activity and for them the TVs are a lifeline. Many need the comfort of their rooms, to have their own environment and make their own choices. TVs bring in the outside world and help engagement within the community of the home.

Main photo: Des, a St Mungo’s resident, was given a new WaveLength TV to bring him contact and engagement with the outside world


Tim’s Blog: Jeremy Hunt, Loneliness and Unpaid Care

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Here at WaveLength, we’re absolutely dedicated to banishing loneliness from the lives of older people and others at risk from isolation. We know what an enormous impact human contact can have on people’s lives, and know that our TVs and radios, which provide constant companionship, are best supplemented with regular visits or other social contacts.

“But I wasn’t happy with Jeremy Hunt’s comments on the “national shame” of isolated older people.

“In a speech at the National Children and Adults Services conference, Mr Hunt, our Health Secretary, said it was “badly wrong” that five million UK people say television is their main form of company.

“I’d never argue against providing more social contact for older people. But Mr Hunt’s recommended strategy for combatting loneliness through guilting families into providing more and more unpaid care for older, disabled or ill family members is an unrealistic and lazy approach.

“Many people have pointed out that a strategy of at-home care provided by the family is only realistic in societies where at least one person in the family – usually a wife, daughter or mother – is available twenty-four hours per day for care. Economic reality in the UK means that these unpaid carers are usually juggling help for relatives with at least one job outside the home. It is unfair to shift more of the burden of elder care onto people who are already overworked.

“Assuming that care is something provided by family also means that those who do not have strong family structures, including people who are childless, will be left behind. Many of the people WaveLength helps, for instance, have not formed strong family and community bonds throughout their lives, and some find this very difficult because of their conditions or circumstances. This does not make them less deserving of consistent care.

“At the same time as Jeremy Hunt’s speech, we have been told that his department is making a U-turn on councils’ responsibility to provide real care and contact for isolated people. No regulations will now be put in place to stop councils from commissioning care in 15 minute shifts, which we know mean that professional carers do not have the time to provide social contact, a chat and a cup of tea with the essential tasks they have to perform such as helping people to the lavatory or warming up a meal.

“Isolation and loneliness among housebound people is a huge national problem. But making hardworking family members feel guilty, without addressing the failings in the government’s care provision, is a lazy and unhelpful way to talk about it.”


Serena Sings!

Little Serena has lived with her family in the Belvidere homeless hostel since they fled as refugees from Syria. We’re giving them and other Belvidere families TVs and radios while they wait to find their feet. Serena can speak lots of English now and mixes it with Syrian in ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!’ She’s quickly mastered the Scouse accent!


Visiting the UK’s First Eco-Friendly Homeless Hostel!

We’re partnering with Belvidere in Liverpool, the UK’s first eco-friendly homeless hostel. Find out more as Tim visits.

Blog Post: The Belvidere Centre and a New Giving Method

Today, Tim and Deirdre are visiting the Belvidere Centre in Liverpool.

We got in touch with the Belvidere, the UK’s first completely eco-friendly homeless hostel, through the Whitechapel Centre, a great organisation that does a lot of good work in helping homeless people get back on their feet. Once a former 19th century convent now powered by photovoltaic solar cells and a ‘living roof’ of seedlings, the Belvidere is a series of apartments for families and individuals in urgent need of temporary accommodation. The hostel has just celebrated its first birthday – with a big cake baked by the residents!

It’s a great project that will keep vulnerable people off the streets when they’re at their most desperate. And WaveLength is setting the apartments up with TVs and radios to give a much-needed sense of normality and connection.

New Partnership Method

This partnership is the first time that we’ve worked with a hostel, but we hope it won’t be the last. Working with an organisation, rather than with individuals, lets us spread the initial cost of the equipment to many people. Several people will move in and out of the apartments during the life of the TV or radio, meaning that every pound we receive from donors will go even further. We hope that our equipment will help these adults and children to stay in touch with their communities, and ward off feelings of isolation and loneliness at a very stressful and scary time.

We’re excited about spreading our new method of funding centres to more organisations over the next few years. Please do get in touch if you think WaveLength would be a good fit for your beneficiaries!

The change to funding centres means that our supporters’ kind donations go even further. For the cost of one radio or TV, the Belvidere can help new people every few weeks or months for the life of the equipment – potentially hundreds of people. So please, if you can, visit just giving.com/wavel to donate any amount, however small, to help out the isolated and lonely people in our communities.

For more about Belvidere and our shout-out for organisation partners, watch Tim’s video on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qm6SiIqaB30


Women’s Aid & WaveLength

 

“They’re isolated from their communities. They’re isolated in their relationship, and the the refuge can be isolating as well.” WaveLength provides women’s aid centres with free radios, TVs and DVD players to fight the isolation suffered by women and children who’ve been abused. Here, centre workers tell us how abusers deliberately isolate their victims to the point where they find it hard to adapt to normal life.

Soundtrack kindly donated by Andy Cato of Groove Armada.


Go Digital Trial: Making Radio Help Schemes Inclusive (Press Release)

Recently, the Government’s ‘Go Digital’ trial in Bath gave digital radios to vulnerable people who might be ‘disproportionately disadvantaged’ when UK radio switches to digital, to assess how well they will cope. But the study doesn’t live up to the Government’s claim to be ‘committed to looking at the full range of human factor issues’ involved in radio need, says Tim Leech, CEO of WaveLength charity. And digital switchover can’t go ahead until vulnerable consumers in all groups are catered for.

Recently, the Government’s ‘Go Digital’ trial in Bath gave digital radios to vulnerable people who might be ‘disproportionately disadvantaged’ when UK radio switches to digital, to assess how well they will cope. But the study doesn’t live up to the Government’s claim to be ‘committed to looking at the full range of human factor issues’ involved in radio need, says Tim Leech, CEO of WaveLength charity. And digital switchover can’t go ahead until vulnerable consumers in all groups are catered for.  

Because of WaveLength’s work donating TVs and radios to isolated people living in poverty, Tim knows that many different impairments, physical and mental illnesses, and circumstances like domestic violence or homelessness, can restrict people’s ability to access the written word. This means they are extremely reliant on radio to stay informed, entertained and in touch with the outside world. “It’s like a trusted friend,” said one vulnerable Bath trial participant.

However, Go Digital trial participants were very limited: only including blind people, those over 75, and those who needed support on a daily basis (i.e. residential support). Most notably, it didn’t collect data on literacy – even though 59% of vulnerable participants said they couldn’t understand the written and on-screen instructions.

Even among these people, success was mixed – but the Government is presenting the trial as a success for digital radio. In fact, nearly 40% of vulnerable people included found it difficult to set up their new sets, and 19% found it difficult to use them once set up. This figure increased for certain groups; e.g., 25% of elderly women found it hard to use. As a result, 40% of vulnerable people say they will not choose to buy a digital radio set unless they have to.

WaveLength believes that Government needs to set up more comprehensive trials to survey the effect of a potential switchover on all vulnerable consumers. This includes people who will have trouble affording, picking out, and setting up a new radio, and those who rely on radio due to low literacy levels and/ or inability to afford a TV licence or use a TV. With real information in place, a digital radio Help Scheme can make proper provision for the people most at risk of isolation from loss of radio.


Value of TV: How Women Fleeing Abuse Stay Connected

When your life’s been turned upside down by domestic violence, you can become incredibly isolated. Refuge staff tell us how having a TV and radio gives women and children something to talk about with new people and helps them to feel ‘normal’ and connected to the world.

Read more about WaveLength’s work with Women’s Aid here: http://wavelength.org.uk/womens-aid-lanarkshire/

Soundtrack kindly donated by Andy Cato of Groove Armada. For more about Andy’s work with WaveLength, go to http://wavelength.org.uk/?s=Andy+Cato


Go Digital Bath Trial

The forthcoming digital radio switchover will be supported by a help scheme – but who needs support, and how much do they need?

The ‘Go Digital’ trial in Bath attempted to answer these questions, but WaveLength is unconvinced that people will get the support they need.

You probably know that 2012 saw the big switchover from analogue TV to digital in the UK. Millions of people had to buy new equipment in order to access the new service, and WaveLength CEO Tim Leech sat on the Consumer Expert Group (CEG) committee, set up to guide the Government on a digital switchover issue including Help Scheme for vulnerable people.

When 50% of radio listening switches to digital, and digital coverage is decreed as good as FM, a similar switchover will take place with radio services. At the moment the CEG is working to produce recommendations showing which people will be ‘disproportionately disadvantaged’ by a switch to radio, and so will need a Help Scheme when the switchover happens.

WaveLength is dedicated to helping the most vulnerable and isolated members of society. We support the transition to digital radio, as it could offer greater choice and accessibility to our beneficiaries. However, it’s crucial that an adequate Help Scheme helps vulnerable people make the switch, and stay in touch with the outside world. Participants in a recent short-term Go Digital trial in Bath, which lent vulnerable people digital radios, spoke unambiguously about their need for radio. “It’s like a trusted friend,” said one isolated person; a sentiment we constantly hear from our beneficiaries.

Nearly 40% of vulnerable people included in the Go Digital trial found it difficult to set up their new digital radios, and 19% found it difficult to use them once set up. This figure increased for certain groups; e.g., 25% of elderly women found it hard to use. As a result, 40% of vulnerable people say they will not choose to buy a digital radio set unless they have to. There are still serious problems with digital radio accessibility.

What’s more, the Go Digital trial participants were very limited: only blind people, those over 75, and those who needed support on a daily basis (i.e. residential support) were trialled. This misses out a lot of people.

Need

WaveLength believes two key factors should contribute to Help Scheme eligibility: ability to pay for a new digital radio, and ability to access the written word. People who struggle with the written word have greater reliance on radio as an auditory information source. They also face more difficulty with new purchase decisions due to reading information inaccurately. Currently the Government is not including literacy in Help Scheme criteria, and didn’t collect data on literacy in the Go Digital Bath trial – even though 59% of vulnerable participants said they couldn’t understand the written and on-screen instructions.

Radio switchover will have more impact on people living on limited incomes than the TV switchover did, as neither a licence nor a fixed address is needed for a radio, making it an invaluable accessible information and communication tool for many, in particular:

  • homeless people/ rough sleepers;
  • refuge residents who are fleeing domestic violence;
  • young people leaving care;
  • refugees and asylum seekers;
  • people with specific and non-specific learning difficulties;
  • people moving in and out of hospital due to poor mental health and/ or chronic illness;
  • the prison population.

The Government says it is ‘committed to (looking at) the full range of human factor issues’ to determine who will most need help. However many groups of vulnerable people were not included in the latest Go Digital trial in Bath. Lost access to radio for some of these groups could leave Government falling short of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which identifies communication and access to information as human rights.

More research needs to be done on the needs of the groups above. Currently, data is not collected on the needs of all elderly and disabled radio users, nor those whose situations make accessible radio crucial. Notably, no data is available on those who do not have a fixed home address.

The TV Help Scheme helped those aged 75 and over, those in receipt of certain disability-related benefits, registered blind or partially sighted, or who had lived in a care home for six months or more. These people need to keep access to radio. However, those already helped by the TV Help Scheme already have access to digital radio stations through their digital TVs. this has been shown to be particle helpful to blind people in the Go Digital Bath trial.

How can we include people?

The CEG has already recommended that eligibility for a radio Help Scheme should not simply replicate that for the TV Help Scheme. Some 10.5 million people would be eligible for help under these criteria, but a further 11.8 million people would be left out, especially those unable to work with the written word. WaveLength believes Government needs to adopt wider criteria, including:

  • using pension credits and tax credits to identify people on low incomes;
  • establishing a register of disabled people similar to the one which exists for the blind and partially-sighted;
  • using Access to Work records, covering five year periods;
  • using educational and medical assessments and statements as evidence of impairment or lack of access to the written word;
  • using local authority records to identify young people leaving care;
  • providing help through organisations such as homelessness shelters, hostels or women’s refuges;
  • working with NHS trusts, including mental health trusts, and those which track dementia;
  • working with organisations already providing radios to vulnerable people.

How To Help

We need to establish a fair and ethical system to identify those who need help, and who are less financially able to convert their listening to digital. That’s why WaveLength is placing importance on comprehensive means-testing, including prioritising help for those who don’t already have access to a device capable of accessing digital radio.

We think that equipment up to a certain set value should be made available to eligible people. In addition an extended, enhanced range should be made available through retailers, suppliers and charities, purchasable through a top-up scheme allowing individuals to upgrade basic equipment using their own funds, following the model used by the NHS to provide wheelchairs.


“My company is my television”

One of our beneficiaries talks about about loneliness and isolation and the benefits of technology such as television in relieving them.

 

Please share our film with others and consider making a donation to WaveLength at www.justgiving.com/wavel sing up to believe.in and support believe.in/wavelength-charity-ltd/

Soundtrack kindly donated by Andy Cato of Groove Armada. For more about Andy’s work with WaveLength, go to http://wavelength.org.uk/interview-with-andy-cato/.


WaveLength’s ‘Untold Stories’ Film

In 2013, WaveLength was selected for a Media Trust project, Untold Stories.

That meant that talented film-maker Frank Madone worked together with us to make this short film about WaveLength’s work, which was shown on the Community Channel. You can see some of our typical beneficiaries here and learn more about what we do, and how we help people.

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