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!

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

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 abuse, 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.

Continue reading…

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.


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.

Tim Visits Havering Women’s Refuge!


Since 2010, WaveLength has helped to make some Women’s Aid Centres (WACs) into more homelike places, where people fleeing domestic violence can connect with others, find companionship, and comfort themselves during an incredibly difficult transition. We visited Havering WAC to talk to managers Kirsty and Tilly about our donations of radios for women’s bedrooms and a big communal DVD player.

Havering Women’s Centre

Since 2010, WaveLength has helped to make some Women’s Aid Centres (WACs) into more homelike places, where people fleeing domestic violence can connect with others, find companionship, and comfort themselves during an incredibly difficult transition. We visited Havering WAC to talk to managers Kirsty and Tilly [1] about our donations of radios for women’s bedrooms and a big communal DVD player.

To stop their abusers harming them, women or families are sent to refuges in different counties while they wait to be rehoused by the council or save up for a private rental – processes which take on average one year. Kirsty said, ‘They’re in a new borough where they haven’t got friends, haven’t got family, haven’t got a local connection. They don’t know which bus to get, they don’t know where the shops are.’

Tilly agreed. ‘You’re isolated in your relationship, then the refuge is isolating as well.’

‘Would you let a stranger abuse you 35 times?’

Abuse is controlling and slow. An abuser might start saying, ‘I don’t like you going out with him’ or ‘I don’t like you wearing that,’ until the victim is completely isolated, and feels she has nowhere to go when the abuse becomes physical.

When they come to Havering, Kirsty said, ‘A lot of ladies haven’t even gone to Tesco’s and bought their bread. It can be that mad. Mum’s literally in the house, keeps it clean and tidy, indoors, away from her friend, isolated from friends and family, doesn’t have visitors… And leaving – especially if they’ve been with their partner for a long time – it’s like learning how to live life again.’

It cuts across all cultures, professions and ages. ‘We’ve had vicars’ wives, policemen’s wives. A lady of 101 called up last week, because she’d experienced it in the past, and she needed counselling.’ Despite this, there’s still a perception that domestic abuse happens to ‘other people’ – housing office staff recently assumed a resident in her fifties was enquiring about housing for someone else.

‘Did you see EastEnders last night?’

Residents gather together to watch certain programmes, such as EastEnders, which recently ran a domestic violence storyline, on the communal TV. ‘Everyone thinks other people’s lives are perfect, so when there’s domestic violence things on, we make a point of watching it and having a discussion. It makes you feel normal to feel you’re the same as everyone else. You wouldn’t believe how important it is, talking about it.’

‘I think the DVD player’s going to be a fantastic thing to give our ladies. In the communal area, they can come in and chat with each other, the kids can hang out together, the mums can have a cup of tea… And it’s nice for the mums in the evening when the kids are all in bed and they can relax.’

‘Don’t you have a TV at home?’

When WaveLength delivers the communal DVD player next week, Havering will enjoy ‘cinema nights’ – with popcorn! – at the refuge’s ‘Kid’s Club’.

Tilly said, ‘It’s trying to get away from the stigma when the kids go to school. They’re embarrassed sometimes that they’re in a refuge, but with this we can give them a bit of normality.’

‘For the mums, it’s a bit of an escape from the day, we all need that sometimes. You’ve had a hard day, the children have been hard, and you’re sitting with your own thoughts just going round and round… it’s something to focus on. ‘


Sally’s Story: Sally had been with her partner since her teens. It wasn’t until his drive to isolate her – including banning her from speaking to her adult children – had driven her to suicidal thoughts, that a health worker told her she was experiencing domestic abuse. She came to Havering with just two suitcases.

‘It’s surprising how isolated you can be even within your own family.

‘When you come from a home where you’ve had everything, to have nothing is very sobering. To look in a cupboard and to see your own knives and forks and plates… that’s what hit me most, the feeling that it’s not your own.

‘Everything here’s just so different and you just want to feel normal, and being normal is having the TV, the radio, and you just want to feel safe. I didn’t realise I missed the radio so much until I got it. I was awake at three o’clock this morning and had the radio on. It’s a lovely thing to do, you really do make a difference when you do things like that. Music’s such an uplifting thing.

‘I need to make a home somewhere. It’s my space. It’s taking control back – if I don’t want to put the radio on, I don’t have to. If I don’t want to put the telly on, I don’t have to.’


Amy’s Story: At the moment, the centre has six children in residence. Four of them are Amy’s.

‘I struggle to keep four kids happy in the flat, and it’s difficult to manage them when I’m doing laundry downstairs. My eldest daughter Lila is thirteen, and the hardest thing she finds is that she can’t have her friends in here, so for her to be able to watch TV, watch a DVD… She comes down here and has her time for herself.

‘When we’re somewhere like this it’s nice to keep the kids in a normal atmosphere, and it gives family time which is important.’


After the Refuge

Havering is only the beginning of Sally’s and Amy’s new lives. The refuge supports residents through their transition periods, but they may flounder afterwards.

Sally told us, ‘With lots of other women you all help each other out and don’t have to make any explanations. When you’re back out there’s no TV, no radio, no kids’ club. Up to about three months women still come back because they need that connection.’

Most families moving on from the refuge can’t afford their own TVs and radios. Government grants are available; but can take months to come through. That’s why WaveLength is considering loaning TVs, through the Women’s Centres, to people like Sally, Amy and Lila when they’re ready to move on, until they get back on their feet.

What do you think? Are TV loans a good idea? Let us know how you feel about our initiatives with WACs by dropping a line to ed@wavelength.org.uk, Tweeting us at @WaveLengthHelp, or writing on our Facebook wall!





[1] All names in this piece have been changed

Tim’s blog: Scientists Say Loneliness Hurts Physical Health

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA‘I just had to share these moving words from a researcher from Ohio State University, Dr Lisa Jaremka, which were quoted today in a BBC article pointing out that loneliness is damaging to physical as well as mental health.

‘Dr Jaremka said, “It was a struggle for a long time for physicians to recognise the importance of loneliness in health. We now know how important it is to understand patients’ social worlds. We need to find ways to help lonely people.

‘”Unfortunately we can’t tell anyone to go out and find someone to love you. We need to create support networks.”

‘Moving words from a doctor currently researching levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, in people who are lonely and who have good support networks. Her thesis, and that of other doctors working at the University of Chicago and Ohio State University, is that social isolation leads to changes in the immune system. This causes a dangerous boost in cortisol production, and a condition called chronic inflammation which shortens life.

‘We’ve already known since 2006 that women who see few friends and family are up to five times more likely to die from breast cancer than women with good support networks. This is sobering news, but something that WaveLength and many others working with vulnerable people have long suspected. We hope that we can help in a small way with our TVs and radios.

‘Dr Jaremka said, “Being lonely means not feeling connected or cared for, it’s not about being physically alone.” Of course, a TV or radio can’t care for someone, but it can keep them connected – and bring a little comfort and companionship along too.

’This new research came to me at a time when I’m campaigning to make sure that vulnerable people in circumstances conducive to loneliness and isolation keep their access to radio. In the event of a radio switch to digital, we don’t want people who are homeless, fleeing domestic violence, leaving care, mentally ill or learning disabled to be left behind as they were by the inadequate digital TV switchover help scheme. Because loneliness is dangerous, both mentally and physically, and we have a duty to curb it wherever we can.’

WaveLength Teams Up with Storybook Dads and Mums

cdsNew project aims to help isolated children through the power of technology.

As you know if you’ve been following WaveLength, people can be isolated in many kinds of ways. Some of our users live with illnesses or disabilities which prevent them from leaving their homes. Some are families fleeing domestic violence to take refuge at Women’s Aid centres. All of them can benefit through the use of technology to stay connected to society and to the people who matter to them.

We’re proud to start 2013 with a new project involving Storybook Dads and Storybook Mums. This inspirational charity lets prisoners record bedtime stories onto MP3s, CDs or DVDs, which their children can listen to or watch. Because not every child’s family can afford a CD player for its Storybooks, WaveLength will provide 100 CD players over the next year for families who otherwise wouldn’t be able listen to their Storybooks at home. These CD players will let children listen to the bedtime stories, educational books and “memory books” sent to them by parents “on the inside”.

We think that the stability and contact which Storybooks provides, for both incarcerated people and their children, is a perfect match with WaveLength’s ethos of using technology to fight loneliness and isolation.

Comfort, contact and companionship. Who needs them more than children separated from their parents?

Access to Elected Office Fund

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATim’s thoughts on the ‘Access to Elected Office’ scheme.

‘I’m concerned today about accessibility for people with all kinds of impairments  as yet another government scheme launches which seems overly tailored to an over-represented need.

‘The ‘Access to Elected Office Fund’ is a much-hailed plan to award money to cover the extra expenses that disabled people incur in running for political office. So far, so good. But only this specific need is targeted, with no considerations to the broader social restrictions that can hold disabled people back from the point when they feel confident considering running as an MP, mayor or councillor.

‘To qualify for this fund, people must prove that they ‘have been involved or interested in civic, community or other relevant activities.’ However, there is no provision in the fund for accessibility expenses incurred while taking part in these activities. Sitting on a parish council, leading a local voluntary group, or campaigning on a grass-roots level all present their own challenges for disabled people, just as much as running for office does. With help only being given to those already able to take an active part in civic leadership, this scheme is not enabling those most hindered by a lack of diversity and accessibility within society. Without help at a local, grass-roots level, only a very small, comparatively high-functioning group of people will be able to make use of funds supporting an election campaign.

‘This scheme seems to be being exclusively advertised online: I’ve seen no TV or radio adverts for it, which are more likely to reach disabled people who do not use the internet. As with the Universal Credit system, which will cut off benefits to anyone incapable of claiming online, this is a example of counter-productive efficiency. A scheme designed to help disabled people has failed in its purpose if it cannot be easily discovered and used by people with varied access needs.

‘These problems often come as a result of having non-disabled people involved in there planning. Well-meaning people often overlook vital needs which make expensive schemes increasingly less efficient. Ironically, these flaws in access schemes aren’t likely to go away until disabled people are fully represented in government and the civil service.’

Giving Evidence on the Small Charities Bill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATim gives evidence to the House of Lords on the new Small Charities Bill, which aims to give a Git Aid-like supplement to funds from anonymous donors.

‘Yesterday was an exciting day for me. I was invited to give evidence to the House of Lords regarding the Small Charities Bill, which plans to match funds raised through collections among small charities, community or sports groups.

‘Because Gift Aid requires the explicit consent of an identifiable donor, groups or charities which take collections or otherwise raise funds which cannot easily be traced back to the donor are currently missing out on Git Aid’s tax advantages. The new Bill seeks to remove this problem by allowing charities to claim a Gift Aid-like relief from HMRC on these funds (as long as it can be reasonably assumed that each individual donation is not more than £20).

‘So far, so good. And this is an area which definitely needs to be addressed, as more and more donations are collected in groups and often anonymously.

‘However, I have concerns about the criteria applied to the methods of collecting funds in order to be eligible for the relief.

‘The Bill allocates amounts of HMRC relief partly based on the number of buildings that an organisation uses for ‘community activities.’ Now, community activities taking place in a designated building is not the most common form of charitable work. WaveLength does its work in people’s houses, bringing entertainment and connection into their living rooms. Other small charities often work in people’s houses, out of offices, over the phone or online – and there’s no reason why this mentalhealthdrugs.com work is less important or less deserving of support than community meetings. The group which is obviously privileged by the proposed Bill is the religious-charitable sector. Churches and other religious meeting-places (such as temples, synagogues and mosques) both operate from designated buildings, and take informal and anonymous collections on a regular basis.

‘In short, although this Bill is taking the right path by addressing a funding issue which needs updating, the specific provisions regarding community buildings seem biased towards helping a particular group. I believe that to help the third sector move forwards, government needs to look at what is actually being done and how it can be supported. This is particularly important in a climate where charities everywhere are taking advantage of the possibilities (and low overheads) of technology- or office-based solutions – for instance, running volunteering organisations through collaborative software and a central database, rather than paying large rents for buildings in which to host face-to-face meetings. Instead, the Bill seems to have been designed specifically to privilege a certain type of charitable activity.

‘As ever, I’m thrilled to be part of the country’s unique democratic process, and it’s always an exciting day when I walk into the House of Lords or House of Commons! But as the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Charity Finance Group, Charities Aid Foundation and Institute of Fundraising all pointed out on Twitter yesterday, changes need to be made to this Bill before we can be sure that it really works for all small charities.’

WaveLength’s August and September Newsletter!

Hannah CockroftWelcome to WaveLength’s August and September round-up of activity. We’ve had a busy two months providing TVs, radios, DVD players and CD players to the UK’s most isolated and vulnerable people. This month, we’ve helped people who are elderly, chronically ill, disabled or victims of abuse to achieve contact, comfort and companionship. We’re sending over this newsletter to keep you up-to-date as a past supporter. To find out more about what we’ve been up to, visit www.wavelength.org.uk or see our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

During the summer WaveLength watched the Paralympic champions in awe, updated our application form and guidance notes, and secured a Google Grant!

The Paralympics knocked Great Britain off its feet as in the midst of economic uncertainty, the nation came together in awe to watch the incredible athletic feats performed by the likes of  Hannah Cockroft and Mark Colbourne. We’re proud to say that the last of our Olympic/ Paralympic interviews took place with Hannah Cockroft, a lovely and chatty young woman who told us all about breaking world records, winning double-gold, Channel 4’s ‘Superhumans’ campaign, and disability sport in the spotlight.

Though summers are supposed to be slow, there was plenty in the news this month, and Tim has some insightful blog posts up about the treatment of people with mental health difficulties in new London social housing units, Everything Everywhere’s pledge tobring high-speed internet to isolated rural areas, and former disability minister Maria Miller’s appointment as Minister for Culture.

Plus, September saw mainland UK’s last day of analogue TV as the Tyne and Tees region switched off, and WaveLength gladly fielded calls from people needing a little help with the transition. Remember, Northern Ireland is the last region to switch on 10thOctober – if you live in Northern Ireland and still need assistance, check out our factsheet or give us a call.

WaveLength has also recently updated our Application Form and Guidance Notes. There are some new changes to the process here, so if you’re a referee or potential beneficiary, please read the new versions carefully before applying for a free TV or radio.

And what’s next for WaveLength? Our recent trustee meeting discussed just that. With some interesting thoughts sketched out around technologies and partnership projects, expect some exciting new initiatives in the next few months! For all the latest news, Tim’s blog and relevant updates, see our ‘News’ section.

Last but not least, our Fundraiser position is still open, so do send in CVs and recommendations!

At WaveLength, we love to hear from you. So if you want to share news or feedback, do get in touch with a phone call or letter (details at Contact Us), an email toed@wavelength.org.uk, or by searching for ‘WaveLength Charity’ on Facebook, Twitter orPinterest!

One of Britain’s Biggest Inner-City Developments Excludes Mentally Ill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Independent newspaper has revealed Freedom of Information request results which showing the stringent restrictions on the type of social housing tenants catered for by one of Europe’s biggest inner-city regeneration projects, Kings Cross Central. People with a history of either mental illness, drug or alcohol problems, or rent-related debt are ineligible for the 500 social housing units being built alongside 900 luxury units, the UK headquarters of Google and BNP Paribas, and a massive retail complex.

‘Segregation on the grounds of mental health is completely unacceptable,’ says CEO of Mind, Paul Farmer, upon learning that Camden Council, which operates a large mental hospital very close to Kings Cross Central, won’t allocate a single unit to people with a history of poor mental health.

The consortium behind the £2bn scheme agreed to include social housing as a condition of planning permission for the complex. But in shocking contrast to usual social housing allocation, which gives priority to those in greatest need, large chunks of the population are excluded. In addition, a quota system ensures no more than 20% of Kings Cross Central’s social housing residents are emerging from homeless, no more than 23% are children, and no more than 25% are unemployed. Housing Justice CEO Alison Gelder calls the quotas ‘a crude exercise in social engineering.’

WaveLength CEO, Tim Leech, says: ‘WaveLength works closely with housing associations, and often receives requests for TVs or radios from One Housing Group, the association administering Kings Cross Central’s social housing. Many of them come on behalf of people with poor mental health which leaves them almost completely confined to their homes. WaveLength does all it can for these beneficiaries, and I would question why One Housing and Camden Council are not doing all they can to provide their clients with a safe and comfortable environment to live in.

‘Building rarified communities is never a positive way of going about things. Hot off the heels of the Paralympics, these exclusions are a sad reflection on our society and its inability to accept diversity and people for who they are. Councils and individuals need to appreciate people for who they are, rather than their medical conditions and economic status.

‘One of the most common aggravating factors for mental illness, as WaveLength knows only too well, is isolation. For this reason, a home in a bustling, lively central housing development, well-connected by public transport, would be enormously valuable to many people who are crudely excluded by Kings Cross Central. We know from Crisis’ Skylight centres that relaxing, safe and attractive environments do a lot to improve and maintain mental health. We all need access to good living environments.

‘If, as Camden Council says in its defence, ‘vulnerable residents may have insufficient support to manage in these homes,’ this is a failing in the system, not the people. People on the social housing list are capable of living independently in mainstream housing; otherwise, they would be on the supported housing list. In fact, Kings Cross Central will also hold 55 supported living units providing round-the-clock care for those suffering from severe mental illness or age-related impairments – making it unlikely that, as Camden claims, the location’s social housing units are inaccessible for people classified as needing lesssupport.

‘But if there are dramatic differences to this housing which would cause problems for people with mental health problems, this is the developers’ fault, not the prospective inhabitants’. This exclusion shows how, often, it isn’t a person’s own medical or educational condition which holds them back, but a social system which blocks opportunities.’

Is Everything Everywhere’s 4G Signal the Future for Rural Internet?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEverything Everywhere says its new 4G mobile internet network will reward Ofcom’s permissions by bringing vital connections to rural areas. But can it help the most vulnerable members of our society?

Tim says: ‘As usual with matters to do with the UK’s internet provision, I received the news that mobile network Everything Everywhere is promoting its new 4G internet network as an efficient choice for rural areas ill-served by fixed line broadband, with a mixture of hope and scepticism. Ofcom is allowing Everything Everywhere to re-use its spectrum for ultra-fast mobile internet (4G), which should enable easier digital connection across the UK.

‘Naturally, at Wavelength, we always support the use of cheap, affordable or free technology to ease loneliness and isolation among vulnerable people in the UK. It’s true that many of those living in rural areas are more prone to loneliness and isolation – such as the gentleman living in the Scottish Highlands to whom we donated a digital television, keeping him in touch with the outside world after his house burnt down. The company claims it will cover 98% of the UK population by the end of 2014, and if this does happen, it will clearly be a great benefit for people struggling to connect via fixed broadband.

However, it’s necessary to bear in mind that not all ‘rural areas’ currently suffer from unreliable internet. Everything Everywhere’s press release vaguely named regions such as ‘Wales’ and ‘Cornwall’ as ‘rural areas where there are not many fibre cables’ – something that inhabitants of Cardiff or Penzance would probably deny! Many so-called ‘rural zones’ are actually semi-rural or buffer zones, and covering these does nothing for the isolation of people in the most remote and lonely areas.

But coverage is only one part of accessibility – the other side is cost. While Maria Miller intends to ease planning rules in order to speed up the installation of both mobile and fixed-line broadband, neither government nor big corporations like Everything Everywhere appear to be doing much o ensure that those ‘covered’ by their networks can afford the connection charge. For a Wavelength beneficiary who’d love to be able to email an old friend or research local support groups from her sofa, a 4G charge of up to £40 per month is just as prohibitive as if no network was there at all.

To give an amount, however big or small, to WaveLength and our beneficiaries, just visit http://www.justgiving.com/wavel. Why not follow us on Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook?

Disability Minister Maria Miller Becomes Minister for Culture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week, former disability minister Maria Miller replaced Jeremy Hunt as Culture Secretary. It’s to be hoped that the experiences of someone who’s spent the last few years representing disabled people, who live with all kinds of access needs, will influence the department to really consider its duty to serve all members of the public.

This week, former disability minister Maria Miller replaced Jeremy Hunt as Culture Secretary. It’s to be hoped that the experiences of someone who’s spent the last few years representing disabled people, who live with all kinds of access needs, will influence the department to really consider its duty to serve all members of the public.

Many exciting cultural events and initiatives put disabled people at the forefront – at the moment, it’s hard to ignore the Paralympics, and we’ve also been spreading the word on Twitter about various disability-focussed art shows and cultural festivals. But of course, WaveLength’s main focus is on the TV and radio world. This part of the Department of Culture’s remit is both vitally important for disabled people, and – surprisingly – an area often overlooked by politicians working in the cultural arena.

Tim says: ‘As a dyslexic person, I find TVs and radios invaluable sources of education and information because they can be enjoyed using solely audio-visual skills. It isn’t only dyslexic people who value radio and TV for this reason: many of WaveLength’s beneficiaries are living with conditions, ranging from dementia to chronic fatigue, that make it hard for them to read and digest the large sections of text found on the internet, books or newspapers. TV and radio are also the perfect alternative for people, like our beneficiaries, who can’t leave the house to attend concerts, films or plays.

For these reasons, Maria Miller will need to bear in mind that a disproportionately large segment of TV and radio users have diverse access needs. Many of these were not catered for in the TV Help Scheme, and need more help from the Department of Culture.

For instance, with the growing number of Alzheimer’s sufferers in the UK, accessible ‘one button’ radios should be a priority. It isn’t difficult to make an easy-to-use radio or TV, but it is unrealistic to expect industry to invest in expensive products which cater for a narrower base of consumers. This is where governments come in; we need to see closer work to make sure that people with a range of specific learning difficulties, cognitive impairments and access needs get the help they need, rather than just the usual suspects. We need equality in provision across impairments and need to end the selectivity that has been taking place.

So what are my hopes for new Culture Secretary Maria Miller? That she works closely with CEG and industry to make sure that the equipment we need gets onto the shelves. That she targets any digital radio switchover Help Scheme to help those who lost out in the TV switchover, with help which is means-tested and available across all impairments. And most of all, that she takes into account the specific learning difficulties and cognitive as well as physical and access needs of the whole country when making decisions about the provision of culture, education, sport and entertainment.

Making Cities and Homes Better For People With Dementia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADementia Challenge – why we should adapt environments for people with dementia.

As scientists eagerly report various breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s research, the reality is that a real dementia cure is still most likely decades away. So I was glad to read about the work of the Dementia Challenge, which aims to bring comprehensive dementia support to 20 cities, towns and villages across the UK by 2015.

While a dementia cure would be fantastic news, it isn’t realistic to plan with that unlikely eventuality in mind, and no cure will abolish all of the memory and orientation problems which are a routine part of ageing for most people. Instead, it’s time to cater to our ageing population by including them fully within the community. A new approach to residential dementia care, showcased in Louis Theroux’s Extreme Love documentary, sees carers ‘playing along’ with memory lapses or difficulties of orientation – for instance, asking a man who thinks he’s still a dentist to examine their teeth, or letting a retired housewife help out with the dusting – with great results.

The Dementia Challenge will help dementia sufferers through many simple measures, including dedicated quiet areas in shops, free lockable covers to power sockets, volunteers orienting sufferers at railway stations, and clear street signs. These are fantastic small steps that can make a real difference by freeing people up to independence in their own homes and towns.

All of WaveLength’s beneficiaries are in some degree restricted to their houses, and in many cases this is because of a mental condition such as dementia which makes it simply too stressful for them to enter an unfamiliar environment. In fact, dementia sufferers represent our fastest-growing area of need. A more welcoming local neighbourhood could make an enormous difference to their lives.

During the TV switchover, WaveLength got a lot of calls from people living with dementia, who found their new flatscreen digital TVs impossible to use. If you live most of your time in a past decade, it’s hard to remember anew each day how to work a remote control. On the other hand, the great One Touch radios make things a lot easier for dementia sufferers, with a single, obvious ‘On/Off’ button. I’m concerned at the step away from intuitiveness and simplicity in TVs and radios, and concerned by the fact that the needs of this rapidly-growing segment of the population are rarely mentioned in terms of ease as use. At this stage, my hope is that by the time a digital radio switchover is necessary, the need to adapt technology and services to the needs of dementia sufferers will be recognised.

The Dementia Challenge seems to be pushing innovative and appropriate solutions to the need to enable a full, varied and enjoyable life for dementia patients. At Wavelength, we can only celebrate anything that helps people live their lives out of the house.

Our Second BT Ambassador Interview – Hannah Cockroft!

Hannah CockroftHannah Cockroft, at only 20 years old, is a double world champion wheelchair racer set to compete in the 100m and 200m events in the Paralympics in September. Hannah is an Ambassador and a BT Storyteller for the Olympic and Paralympic Games – more about these schemes at http://www.btlondon2012.co.uk/index-ambassadors.html.

– What does London 2012 mean for you?

London 2012 was never the target for me; I was taken onto the GB Paralympic team as medal potential for Rio in 2016, so this has all happened so quickly. I guess that with it being a home Games – the Paralympics finally coming home – it is a huge opportunity for me, as disability sport has really been thrown into the spotlight. Oscar Pistorius is breaking down the barrier into able-bodied sport, and the whole world has taken an interest.

For me, I’m feeling the pressure a little bit as everyone is expecting a medal from me. Going into it as double world champion maybe wasn’t the best idea! But at the same time, all my family and a good few of my friends are making the journey down south to watch me in the biggest race of my life. Apart from my Mum, Dad and brothers, no one has ever really come to watch me compete, so to have their support means a lot to me, and I know the opportunity means a lot to everyone too. They’ve all supported me so much over the last four years, so I want it to really be a way to say, “Look, this is where you helped me get to and now I want to do you proud”. It’s just a chance to make a name for myself, and to grow from a junior athlete into a successful senior.

It’s the last time the games are ever going to come to London, as we’ve had them three times now, so it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m so excited to be involved.

– Which modern technologies – television, radio, the internet and social media – do you use?

Recently I’ve done a lot of work with Channel 4 with their ‘Superhumans’ campaign and ‘That Paralympic Show’. I’m featured in two of the Paralympic adverts that Channel 4 released, on the Superhuman billboard, and I also have my own advert coming out closer to the Games! I did some mini-documentaries for Channel 4 and Sainsbury’s last year too and they’re all great fun to be involved with.

As for radio work, I’ve done a few interviews with local stations but nothing too major. When I broke the first world record in the Olympic Stadium though, that was broadcast on every station across the country!

I’m a typical teenager, so I do spend my life on social media websites. I have my fan group on Facebook –“Hannah Lucy Cockroft – Double World Champion” – which was set up by Paralympics GB last year, and I use it to keep my fans up-to-date with my progress and adventures. I’m a Twitter nut so I tweet an awful lot at @HCDream2012. I try to keep a blog, but it’s incredibly back-dated at the moment as my time is taken over by training and competitions. But I do video blogs for Channel 4, which they broadcast on their website at http://paralympics.channel4.com/the-athletes/athleteid=422/index.html.

But really, my main work is still with the newspapers, which is cool. I do a monthly diary with the Guardian and various interviews with other papers, so it’s pretty cool how much stuff comes up when you Google me!

– What do you think people will be feeling as they watch or listen to Olympic coverage?

I hope it makes them feel proud. Proud of their country, proud of what their country has produced! All the athletes are doing incredibly well and they’re making me so proud to be a member of team GB. The national anthem brings tears to my eyes every time it is played – maybe because I want to be in that position so bad, but also maybe because I’m unbelievably patriotic.

– What made you decide to get involved in the Ambassador scheme, and why do you think it’s important?

Sport has played a huge part in my life over the last few years, and I’d like to think that by being an Ambassador I can inspire at least a little tiny part of another person with what I do. Sport is all about the power of communication and passing on what you’ve learnt to other generations to keep the competitions going. Inspiring a generation is what the London Games are all about, and being part of that is proving to be something magical.

– What do you think a big social event like the Olympics & Paralympics means for community and for isolated people within a country?

The great thing about the Games is how it has brought everyone together! I was down in Hyde Park this week and normally, I avoid London – I’m a country girl so the big city scares me – but the atmosphere was electric and everyone had a huge smile on their face and was having fun! There wasn’t the usual arrogance that London sometimes boasts, with everyone getting on with their own thing, not caring about the next person. Everyone was together and enjoying what the country had to offer. This summer has offered lots of opportunities in this way, with the Queen’s Jubilee bringing the street parties and now the Olympics bringing worldwide celebration. It’s brilliant to see how empowering sport can be.

– What do you think your story has to say about the achievements of disabled people, and do you think coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics is an important factor in the portrayal of disabled people?

I’m nothing special, I’ve made the most of the life I was given, found something I enjoy and worked hard at it. Right now, it’s all about equality in life. Being disabled is no reason not to do something, you just have to find your own way of doing it!

I think the Paralympics is still slightly in the shadow of the Olympics, but it’s grown a lot since Beijing and people are starting to see now that we are real athletes. We work just as hard, if not harder, than the able-bodied athletes, and we deserve what we get. I’m incredibly proud to call myself a Paralympian because I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to this point!

– What did it feel like when you knew you’d been selected for the team?

I was always pretty confident that I’d make the team, as in my head, if they didn’t take a double world champion, then pretty much no-one on the team deserved to be selected. It sounds pretty big headed but at least I’m honest! But getting the call is the icing on the cake. It’s the final confirmation that settles your mind – you know that the hard work has all been worth it, but the real hard work starts now.

It was a moment of elation and fear for me. I’m so excited about the Paralmypics but at the same time, so scared!

– What’s your favourite story from the Games so far?

It sound bad to put it this way, but when Jess Ennis won her gold, I was with McFly, my all-time favourite band. So the tears were pouring with Jess, as she is such an incredible athlete, but I also got to meet four of the most gorgeous guys in the world, so that moment will stick with me forever, even if it is for other reasons!

– Do you think coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics is an important factor in the portrayal of disabled people?

I think that the increase in coverage for the Paralympics is brilliant as it is giving a more equal opportunity to the athletes, and allowing us to show the world what their Lottery money is going towards and what we can really do. By forcing us into the public eye, people are definitely starting to accept and respect us more.

– What do you think of modern technology – television, radio and the internet –as a way of avoiding isolation among vulnerable people?

I think modern technology is amazing! I have friends all over the world because of the travelling I do, and it is a brilliant way to keep in contact and stay up to date with their lives. But it is really useful for those who feel isolated or lonely, as there are so many ways to meet people and make friends now. Although you do have to be incredibly careful with who you meet on the internet, there is no reason for people to feel alone anymore as there’s always someone out there feeling exactly the same. With all the new technology around, you can always keep in touch with what is happening in the world.

– What should be the 21st century’s key message on disability?

Oscar Pistorius always answers this one pretty well: “You are not disabled by the disabilities you have. You are able by the abilities you have.” Everyone is good at something, you just have to find that thing.

WaveLength July Newsletter!

thumbnail_05Welcome to WaveLength’s June round-up of activity. WaveLength has had a busy month providing TVs, radios, DVD players and CD players to the UK’s most isolated and vulnerable people. This month, we’ve helped people who are elderly, chronically ill, disabled or victims of abuse to achieve contact, comfort and companionship. To find out more about what we’ve been up to, check out our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

During July WaveLength had bundles of fun at the Proms and Olympics, put out some new helpful factsheets, and welcomed a brand new trustee and Accounts Manager!

Our CEO Tim attended the Classical Music Proms, and other staff watched eagerly on TV – we were all struck by the power which these annual events have to bring people together through broadcast mediums. WaveLength is proud that our free TVs and radios are helping local people, who would find the journey up to London impossible, to enjoy the inspiration of the Proms offer. WaveLength will be running ads in selected Proms programmes, so keep an eye out for them!

As ever, Tim got some great snaps of the events, up now on WaveLength’s Pinterest page!

In July we launched two new factsheets. The ‘Digital Switchover’ factsheet guides beneficiaries through the digital TV switch, with some answers on radio as well. And if beneficiaries’ needs can’t be fully met by WaveLength, the ‘Alternative Services’ factsheet offers a list of alternative places to look for help. If your onhealthy.net organisation isn’t on the list and you think WaveLength beneficiaries could benefit from your work, do get in touch at ed@wavelength.org.uk!

During July, WaveLength hit two great donation landmarks. We were thrilled to accept the proceeds of a Jubilee street party in WaveLength’s home town, Hornchurch (pic here) – and a kind donation on the 18th pushed our JustGiving proceeds over £100! This profile is relatively new, as most of our donations take place offline, so we are really happy to pass this milestone. If you’ve used our JustGiving page, ed@wavelength would love to know how you found it!

Last but by no means least, we’ve welcomed not one, but two new team members! We’re proud to have the BBC’s Lindsey Mack on board as our newest trustee. Lindsey is currently very busy with the new Olympic radio station, BBC 5 Live Olympic Extra, but she’s also helping WaveLength with some exciting new projects. Watch this space! In the office, we’re welcoming a fantastic new Accounts Manager, Eileen Da Silva.

Our Fundraising Manager position is still open, so do send in CVs and recommendations!

At WaveLength, we love to hear from you. So if you want to share news or feedback, do get in touch with a phone call or letter (details at the contact page), an email to ed@wavelength.org.uk, or by searching for ‘WaveLength Charity’ on Facebook, Twitter orPinterest!

Digital Services Factsheet

thumbnail_02WaveLength’s guide to the digital TV switchover – how to cope and how to help others.

Digital Switchover

What is the Digital Switchover?

The UK’s digital switchover was first mooted in 2009, and plans were confirmed in 2005. The first area of the UK to lose its analogue signal and gain digital was Cumbria, in 2007. Since then, the UK has been converting on a region-by-region basis. Currently (June 2012) the only regions still using analogue terrestrial TV and TV stations are Tyne and Tees, and Northern Ireland.

Why digital?

Homes with digital TV receive between 15 and 40 channels, a wider variety than is possible on analogue. If you’re currently using Freeview or another digital service, your reception will probably improve once the switch is complete in your area.

Digital TV uses less broadcast space than analogue signal. This frees up space for wireless broadband, high-definition TV, and other services which are seeing rapidly increasing demand. It also makes digital TV cheaper for broadcasters to produce (although the content is the same).

What help is available?

The national Digital Help Scheme provides advice, installation and 12 months’ aftercare through a helpline for people who:

  • are 75 years old or older
  • have lived in a care home for six months or longer
  • receive Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Mobility Supplement
  • are registered blind

The service usually costs £40. However, if you meet one of the criteria above, and receive Pension Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Job-Seekers’ Allowance, it is free. Though closed now for regions which have already gone through digital switch, it is still available to people living in Tyne and Tees and Northern Ireland.

For some years, WaveLength has been providing digital equipment where possible as we’ve been aware of the impending loss of analogue signal. If you are a WaveLength beneficiary, or are worried about the effect of the switch on one of our beneficiaries, you can get in contact with WaveLength through phone, email or letter for advice and support. Please note we may not be able to immediately provide new equipment if yours is affected by the digital switch.

How does it work?

From now on, you will need a digibox or digital TV to watch TV. If you already had a digibox before the switch, you will have to retune it. (Generally, it’s a good idea to do this once a month in any case, to achieve the best possible signal – there’s guidance on how to retune here.)

There is no need to buy a new aerial if you already have a digital or cable TV. However, analogue TVs may need replacement aerials in order to pick up the new digital signals. Many people are instead choosing to buy a new digital TV. To find out what you need, you can take a look at these guidelines. However, for more tailored advice, it’s best to consult a local electrician.

Make sure that you choose an electrician who you or someone you trust has used before, or who has a long and reputable track record. For sources of more support and advice, see the help section above.

What about radio?

Along with the switch to digital TV, the government are considering a switch from the analogue (AM/FM) radio spectrum to digital (DAB). This would free up the analogue radio spectrum to be auctioned off to other high-demand telecom services such as mobile phone service and Wi-Fi internet. It could also bring a wider range of stations to listeners.

However, a switch to digital radio would have to follow the precedent set by the digital TV switch – analogue will not be cut off before a certain percentage of the population have already switched to digital of their own accord. The Consumer Expert Group believes that this percentage should be 50%. WaveLength has argued this position while giving evidence in the House of Lords. For more on our opinion, see these blog posts.

Currently, fewer than 20% of radio listeners use digital (DAB) radios, although another 10% or so choose to listen online, through apps, or through their TVs rather than analogue radio. This means that for the time being, you don’t need to worry about a compulsory switch to analogue radio. However, WaveLength does provide digital radios as well as analogue for those who are concerned.

Most digital TVs or TVs using digiboxes also broadcast some radio stations.

Alternative Services Fact Sheet

If WaveLength can’t help out, or if you need a different kind of support, this is a list of alternative services which may be able to assist.


If you need more support, or different types of help, have a look at these organisations. Some are ‘friends of’ WaveLength whom we often work with. Some are large national charities which have lots of resources for many people, while others offer support to various specific groups such as veterans or people living with certain illnesses or disabilities. Others are advisory services which can help beneficiaries to navigate new technology such as digital TV or the internet.


Older People – organisations supporting people over 65

Age UK – Charity offering information and advice for older people

Campaign to End Loneliness – Helps older people to avoid loneliness through a variety of routes

Friends of the Elderly – Financial grants and home support for older people living on low incomes

Independent Age – Charity offering financial and practical support for older people living on low incomes

WRVS – A network of volunteers supporting older people in their homes, and helping them to ‘get out more’


Disability Support – organisations supporting people with long-term access needs caused by disability or sickness

Disability Now – Group campaigning for disability and access rights

Disabled Living Foundation – Advice on independent living for people with disabilities or complex access needs

Mind – Grants, services, information and advice for anyone suffering from poor mental health

Scope – Practical services as well as advice, for people living with any kind of disability

Vitalise – Respite care and other services for disabled people, those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other long-term illnesses, and carers

Wirelesses for the Blind – WaveLength’s ‘sister charity’, providing radios and TVs for people suffering from blindness or sight impairment

Note: There are also several smaller charities helping people who live with specific disabilities. If you’d like information on help for a specific disability or illness, get in touch with WaveLength for a recommendation.


Technology – help with understanding, choosing and using modern technologies

Ability Net – Advice and equipment recommendations, designed to help people with various access needs to use computers and the internet

AT Dementia – Advice and product suggestions for assistive technology for people with dementia

Bigger Brighter Louder – Review of assistive technologies for older people

Digital Switchover Help Scheme -Government scheme offering advice and support on the digital TV switchover to people who are aged over 75, or who receive benefits based on disability (more information here)

Ricability – Independent consumer advice on digital equipment, for anyone

UK Online Centres – free and subsidised courses on computers, the internet and new technologies


Carers – organisations supporting unpaid carers

Carers Direct – NHS information page for unpaid carers

Carers UK – information, advice and campaigning for unpaid carers looking after family or friends


Domestic Violence – resources for victims of domestic abuse

Women’s Aid – The UK’s largest charity guiding victims of domestic violence through the practical and advisory services available, including a directory of refuges


Financial Support – specifically financial support, for a range of different groups

Buttle UK – Provides practical support and advice for those suffering from child poverty in particular

Elizabeth Finn Care – Grants and other financial support for people living on low incomes

Jewish Care – Health and social care support for Jewish people living in London and the South-East

Percy Bilton Charity – Provides grants for disabled and/ or older people to buy furniture, clothes and technological equipment

SSAFA – Practical and financial assistance for anybody who has ever served in the UK armed forces

St Pancras Rotary Club – WaveLength was founded by the BBC and St Pancras Rotary Club in 1939

Turn2Us – Helps anybody to decipher the UK’s benefits and grants system to maximise their support

Night at the Proms: Bringing National Initiatives to a Local level

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a night at the Proms, Tim muses on ‘bringing entertainment to the people’, the Olympics, and the local impact of national events.

Last night I was lucky enough to enjoy a night out at the Proms, the UK’s outdoor classical music institution. I was glad to get some great pictures of the scene (on WaveLength’s Pinterest page at http://pinterest.com/wavelengthtv/extraordinary-places/)

The Proms were created at a time of great change within the music and entertainment industries. Pushing forth with his mission of ‘bringing music to the people’, pioneer conductor and organiser Sir Henry Wood survived criticism of his arrangements ‘great hits’ of classical music by Debussy, Beethoven, Wagner and Elgar, and his decision to allow people to eat and drink while listening. Later, in the 1930s, the BBC’s coverage of the Proms faced fierce opposition by people who believed that the new technology for recording and replaying music would stifle the musical arts irretrievably.

We know now that these people were wrong. Recorded music – and now recorded film and TV – is an important and valuable part of many people’s lives.

Every year, the Proms bring a national cultural event to local homes, via TV, radio and internet broadcasting. They are is a true reminder of the power of modern media, which let people up and down the country unite in pride, enjoyment and inspiration.

Working at WaveLength, I’m very proud to be part of an organisation that is able to work at a local level, bringing national events to people all across the UK. Our beneficiaries, many of whom are unable to get outside for long enough to attend a busy, outdoor evening event like the Proms, get great value out of experiencing music, film, news, sports and information through our equipment.

The Olympic Torch Relay is another great example of the kind of local/ national participation that WaveLength tries to encourage, where real value is brought to local communities through increased participation in national organisations. We’re also excited about the launch of Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra next week. During the 2.5 Olympic weeks, this special temporary radio station will provide live coverage of events, with a particular focus on those important to Team GB! A guide to accessing Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra can be found on this site at http://wavelength.org.uk/News/988.

This year has been an exceptional one for this kind of participation, uniting the UK through huge events including the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. As we celebrate, I hope that others will join WaveLength in focussing on the local needs of people who can’t travel to Stratford or London Bridge, but who still want to feel involved with both their local communities, and with the nation. We’re proud to be a national charity, working and delivering at a local level.

Information: Extra Olympic Coverage with BBC Radio 5 Live

thumbnail_02A new digital radio station launches for the duration of the Olympic Games, offering full coverage & commentary of live events. Here’s how to find it.

What is BBC Radio 5 Olympics Extra?

For the 2.5 week duration of the Olympics Games, Anna Foster and Ian Payne will offer live coverage and commentary on Olympics events through this temporary, digital-only station. Coverage will be available from 9.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. each weekday, with highlights played overnight.

This Wednesday 25rd July, the temporary digital radio station BBC Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra will launch. In order to catch the launch, you can test-run your connection to the station from Monday 23rd July – a promotional loop will be playing to let you know you’ve found it.


How can I find it?

You can listen to this station using a DAB digital radio, online and on selected mobile devices.

On a digital radio, BBC Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra will be found between Radio 5 Live and Radio Sports Extra. It may not appear automatically int eh station list, but when it is found, the display will read ‘BBC R5O’ or ‘BBC R5L Olympics’. If you can’t see the station, you can press your radio’s ‘Auto Tune’ or ‘Auto Scan’ button, and it will find all new stations within a few minutes. If your radio doesn’t have an ‘Auto Tune’ or ‘Auto Scan’ button, press shopantibioticsonline.com ‘Menu’ and rotate the ‘Tune’ button until you see ‘Auto Tune’ in the display. Then select ‘Auto Tune.’

Online, you can listen at www.bbc.co.uk/5liveolympicsextra, or via the RadioPlayer at bbc.co.uk/radioplayer.

If you have an Apple mobile device, or an Android device which includes Flash, you will be able to access BBC Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra at www.bbc.co.uk/5liveolympicsextra.

This station is not available on analogue radio, digital television, or on RIM or non-Flash Android mobile devices.


What does this affect?

For the 2.5 week duration of the Olympic Games, Radio 4 LW’s Daily Service will be removed from DAB radio to make room for BBC 5 Live Olympics Extra. Listeners can find the Daily Service on Radio 4 LW on analogue radio, digital television and online. However it is not available on Freeview


Other BBC radio Olympic coverage

From 27th July, BBC Radio 5 Live will broadcast from the Olympic Park with the following presenters. This station will cover big sporting moments, including the 100m sprint, and medal ceremonies involving Team GB. It will also carry the Opening and Closing ceremonies, which will not be covered on BBC 5 Live Olympics Extra.

The Paralympic Games run from 29th August to 9thSeptember. These events will be covered by BC Radio 5 Live, with extra commentary on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.

The BBC has published additional information about Olympic radio coverage in a leaflet available at major retailers.

What’s the Answer for Long-Term Elderly Care?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Dilnot social care white paper on funding elderly care was submitted a year ago, but action on its recommendations was recently put off until the next Government spending review. As controversy surrounds the delay, with some calling for an immediate change in policy and some condemning its recommended ‘death tax’, Tim sees an aspect of the discussion that’s been overlooked…

The controversial delay on the Dilnot social care white paper, and Andrew Lansley’s ‘loan’ proposal for elder care funding, has prompted some thoughts on this country’s confused priorities on elderly care.

While dealing with older people’s happiness and community inclusion, WaveLength sees a continual shift away from care by families. As people move to other cities, or abroad, their older or disabled relatives depend on paid-for care. Current funding shortfalls mean that some of these people are going without – see the 15 minutes of care per client allotted by many agencies. Those who do have family or friends around are often forced to rely too heavily on them, putting these unpaid carers at risk of depression, debilitating stress and isolation themselves.

The short-term answer to this problem may be the one proposed by Dilnot, stripping older and disabled people’s assets to cover costs. Personally, I’ve witnessed one London council put a disabled man’s care on hold when he received a £20,000 injury settlement, only granting financial help again when this asset was stripped and he was left with nothing. But this kind of situation begs the question: why are we paying into a social care system if it’s not going to support us to the ends we need it to? What’s needed here is foresight and long-term thinking; and it seems that the Government is shying away from the dramatic solutions needed to deliver real fairness in funding.

I also feel very strongly that a trick is being missed here, as little focus is put on the question of avoiding costly residential care costs for as long as possible. If decision-makers think long-term, it should be clear that activities such as visits, entertainment and day centres are both more effective and more cost-effective than letting isolated older people decline towards a state of needing far more costly residential care. The strong desire of many people to stay in their own homes may well mean that those homes should be protected from sale when their owners are institutionalised; it should also lead councils to focus on improving the quality of non-residential care.

This week in Oxford, the international ‘What Do We Know About Loneliness?’ conference saw evidence proving without a doubt that isolation and loneliness are bigger killers for elderly people than smoking or alcohol. More and more research like this is coming out, and we need to readdress the assumption that sustaining life in elderly people should always take priority over quality of life. As the conference concluded, we need smarter, more realistic answers on care. Three years ago the international Conference of Television in Spain showed how television, interaction and group contact can Alzheimer’s sufferers in their homes, without (expensive) intervention care, for much longer. Technology such as home environment systems should also be encouraged – whether they’re provided by councils to less well-off older people, or seen as sensible personal investments to prevent oneself or one’s parents from moving out of or selling their homes.

If there’s one thing that the BBC’s ‘When I Get Older’ series shows, it’s the difference between the old age enjoyed by celebrity participants with active careers, large social circles and high mobility, and the old age experienced by people isolated by disability or lack of funds. When one full-time unpaid carer in her seventies was given a night off for a bingo visit, years dropped off her! It would be a shame to overhaul the end-of-life care system without also looking at the way in which care provided in later life can remove the need for intensive residential care.

Wavelength June Newsletter

thumbnail_05It’s taken us a while to get this one up – but our June e-newsletter hit inboxes yesterday! To subscribe, get in touch with ed@wavelength.org.uk

Welcome to WaveLength’s June round-up of activity. WaveLength has had a busy month providing TVs, radios, DVD players and CD players to the UK’s most isolated and vulnerable people. This month, we’ve helped people who are elderly, chronically ill, disabled or victims of abuse to achieve contact, comfort and companionship. We’re sending over this newsletter to keep you up-to-date as a past supporter. To find out more about what we’ve been up to, visit www.wavelength.org.uk or see our Facebook page or Twitter feed. If you’d rather not hear more from us, just reply with the word STOP.

During June WaveLength got excited about the Olympics, Paralympics and Diamond Jubilee, won a prestigious small charity competition in partnership with eBay, and gained a new animal supporter, Chai the cat!

Our latest BT Olympic Storyteller interview is with John Fearon, a professional storyteller from rural Derby. Our CEO Tim Leech also represented WaveLength in the other big event for summer 2012, the Diamond Jubilee. For his pictures of the Royal Family boarding the red-and-gold Royal Barge on the Thames, click here.

Closer to home, what we at WaveLength are really proud of this month is our win in eBay’s Small Charity Competition! During Small Charity Week (11th – 17thJune) eBay ran a Give at Checkout Competition, with five small charities winning an ad placed at checkout for seamless giving – and WaveLength was one of them! Donations at the checkout were made through our seamless JustGiving account, raising much-needed funds for the vulnerable and isolated people WaveLength supports. We also won the chance to auction off a special experience, and chose an ‘experience’ donation – fly fishing on the Granta with Tim. To learn more about running ‘experience’ donations on behalf of WaveLength, get in touch at ed@wavelength.org.uk.

Last, but not at all least, our latest adorable animal supporter, Chai the cat, joined us on Pinterest. Cute Chai keeps his owner company, while WaveLength provides company, comfort and contact for isolated and vulnerable people across the UK. To help WaveLength help people who need a ‘window to the world’, you can donate in a couple of clicks at http://www.justgiving.com/wavel, or use the postal methods outlined in our ‘Make a Donation’ page. 

At WaveLength, we love to hear from you. So if you want to share news or feedback, do get in touch with a phone call or letter (details at www.wavelength.org.uk), an email to ed@wavelength.org.uk, or by searching for ‘WaveLength Charity’ on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest!

Digital Radio – Leaving No-one Behind

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATim blogs about recent developments in the digital radio switchover plan

Today, big news is here for digital radio as the Government, BBC and a fleet of commercial station operators sign a Memorandum of Understanding designed to increase DAB (digital radio) coverage to 90% of the figure for FM radio. This is an agreement to fund five new digital multiplexes across England and Wales, and to use an Ofcom planning group to establish the necessary steps to bring digital radio coverage for the whole UK.

The Memorandum signifies commitment to extending DAB radio with the aim of implementing a switchover – in the model of the digital TV switch – as early as 2013. Tomorrow (Wednesday 4th July) is officially named Digital Day, and sees the launch of a new digital signal transmitter in Manchester. The Olympics are also being used to support digital radio, with a dedicated station, Five Live Olympics Extra, launching on 25thJuly, and adverts for digital radio focussing heavily on Games coverage.

The Memorandum mentions Government funding of £21 million, with a clause allowing further funding when necessary. The Government has published a cost-benefit analysis of this funding (available to view here). Comments on this document can be sent to CBAConsultation@culture.gsi.gov.uk until Friday 31 July.

Tim says: ‘It’s good to see plenty of focus put on raising awareness and understanding of digital radio. The new printed guide to digital radio may help people who are confused about their radio listening options. One of the things WaveLength likes about digital radio is that it’s trying to extend choice in the way people can listen.

‘However, with DAB listening currently flat-lining after an original boost, it’s hard to see why – apart from commercial reasons – this form of digital listening is receiving so much attention, and so much funding. Fewer than 20% of radio listeners in the UK use DAB radios. A larger consistent increase is in people using the internet or internet-connected devices to receive digital radio – and as we know at WaveLength, many people also remain quite happy to continue listening to their FM radios.

‘With current penetration at just 20%, a switch date of 2013 is an unlikely goal. Penetration of 50% digital usage among radio users is required to trigger a switch. Lining the ducks up for swift action when this target is hit should not take precedence over encouraging uptake among all sectors of the community.

‘During the TV switch, WaveLength got involved with the Consumer Expert Group in order to protect our beneficiaries, and I’m proud of the group’s support of consumers during this time. Many WaveLength users welcomed the digital TV switch because it seemed to offer a genuinely greater range of choice; but appetite for digital radio is significantly lower. As well as the lower penetration of digital radio overall in comparison to digital TV, radio is disproportionately used by the elderly, who are often less able to deal with new costs and less willing to adapt to new equipment.

‘Because digital radio has a much smaller base of existing users, the Government needs to commit to a help scheme which embraces all vulnerable consumers. As outlined in the CEG’s latest report, access to this scheme should not be reliant on receipt of certain benefits, but should be available to all who need it.

‘My opinion is that elderly people in general, as well as those living with any physical, cognitive or mental impairments, should receive support free of charge when dealing with a switch of FM radio to DAB. Providing this support only to those who are in receipt of particular benefits or registrations will leave many consumers behind.  A switch to digital must also cater for those vulnerable users, such as homeless people and asylum seekers, who use transistor radios rather than TVs for their news and entertainment due to their portable nature and lack of a licence fee. Because the radio is free to air, many of the UK’s most vulnerable people rely on it.

‘In addition, I’m concerned about the low proportion of manufacturer sign-ups to the ‘tick’ scheme for verifiable digital-friendly radio equipment. If not enough manufacturers sign up to the ‘tick’ scheme, confusion over which equipment is capable of receiving DAB signal may well grow.

‘A switch to digital radio can bring millions of people better radio signal, and wider coverage of news and entertainment. However, a switch must not be rushed through for commercial considerations in a way which leaves the more vulnerable members of the UK behind. At WaveLength, our priority is access for all.

‘The Government is planning a Go Digital pilot later this year, converting a sample of households to digital radio to assess their experience. We would like a guarantee that this pilot will fully take into account the needs and preferences of elderly and rural radio users, and those living with physical, cognitive and mental illnesses.’

Our Third BT Storyteller Interview: John Fearon On Community and Rural Connections

johnfearonJohn Fearon has worked for BT for 34 years and is a storyteller with the Flying Donkeys storytelling troupe in Derby. He’s one of the 100 BT Storytellers selected to tell their Olympic stories – more about the scheme at http://www.btlondon2012.co.uk/storytellers/index.php

– Why did you decide to apply to be a BT Storyteller and what does taking part mean for you?

I have worked for BT for thirty-four years now, and I have been a Storyteller, telling tales of daring do, like George and the Dragon, or the tale of the Lambton Worm, for twelve years. So when I read the article inBT Today asking if anyone would like to be an Olympic Storyteller I just had to give it a punt.

– What did it feel like when you knew you’d been selected?


– Which modern technologies – television, radio and the internet – do you use?

I use all of the above technologies, but with different degrees of success. For instance; this is about my fifth go at writing this email! My favourite without doubt is radio; with the BBC’s Radio 4 coming in as my number one.

– What do you think a big social event like the Olympics & Paralympics means for community and for isolated people within a country?

I hope and believe that both the Olympic Games and the Paralympics will unite the country. Much in the way that an international game of soccer or cricket would, but even more so. That said, I do know people who take the opinion of, “Well, London 2012 – that’s for London, nothing to do with me.” I hope they will be persuaded to change their minds on that.

– What’s your favourite story from the Games so far?

My favourite story from the Games so far is Dedication by Patrick Simkins. I just admire Oscar Pistorius so much, and I feel he is an inspiration to all disabled people.

– Do you think coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics is an important factor in the portrayal of disabled people?

As a “Disabled” person myself I am looking forward to the coverage of the Paralympics, as I would not have the guts to attempt what some of these boys and girls are doing.

– What does London 2012 mean for you overall?

London 2012 is a great opportunity for the UK to showcase to the world what a diverse and multi-cultural, tolerant place it can be. Let us hope that that opportunity is not lost for us, by one of the minority of folks with an axe to grind exploding a bomb in Trafalgar Square or suchlike, which seems to be happening with more and more regularity.

– What do you think people will be feeling as they watch or listen to Olympic coverage?

I hope people will be feeling pride at the huge amount of medals we win! I would also like to think pride, in the way we play the game, if we do not win any medals.

– What do you think of modern technology – television, radio and the internet – as a way of avoiding isolation among vulnerable people?

I am a great fan of modern technology. We have the opportunity to reach people with the 2012 Olympics that have never been reached before.

– What should be the 21st century’s key message on disability/community?

I hope that the message that goes out from the 2012 games is that you do not have to be a Daley Thompson or a Mary Rand to take part in sport. Every one of us can join in and do something.

For more information about John, take a look at the Flying Donkeys storytellers’ site www.flyingdonkeys.co.uk!

WaveLength at the Diamond Jubilee!

Lots of pictures royals on boat, Jubileeof the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on the Royal Barge, from Tim’s view from Albert Bridge!

While everyone was celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee on Monday, our CEO Tim Leech had a particular reason to be excited – he’d been invited to stand on Albert Bridge to watch the royals parade by boat across the Thames! WaveLength is a UK-wide charity, so we were excited to take part in a celebration which is hoped to boost community spirit and engagement.

From Albert Bridge Tim had a great view of the Royal Barge, and got some great shots of the Queen, Prince Charles, Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate, waving to the crowd and having fun on the red-and-gold Royal Barge. For more photos of the royals and the assembled barges at London’s Jubilee celebrations, see WaveLength’s Pinterest account.

The Jubilee was a great chance for people up and down the UK to get involved in community events, and WaveLength has uploaded some more local Jubilee pictures on Pinterest as well.

Although Tim got a first-hand view of the celebrations, the vast majority of Brits enjoyed Jubilee coverage on their TVs and radios. We hope that isolated people were able to enjoy the Jubilee either by taking part in community events, or by watching the celebrations on TV in the company of others.

WaveLength wins eBay Small Charity Competition!

WaveLength is participating in Small Charity Week as a winner of eBay’s Give at Checkout Competition – read on for a chance to win a unique fishing experience, and give in a new way!

You may not know this, but this week (the 11th – 17thJune) is Small Charity Week 2012. All over the world, people are celebrating this week through promotions and other activities designed to help small charities – and WaveLength is proud to announce that we’ve been selected as winners of eBay’s initiative for the week.

Online shopping platform eBay’s ‘Give at Checkout Challenge’ displays four 90-character messages from small charities, which eBay users can decide to make a last-minute donation to when they reach the charity. Hundreds of suggested taglines were submitted to the organisers of Small Charity Week, the FSI (Foundation for Social Improvement).

WaveLength won one of the coveted four slots with the tagline: “I want to buy a radio for a lonely, isolated, housebound elderly person in the UK.”

If you shop on eBay any time this week, you’ll have the opportunity to make a seamless one-off donation to WaveLength without leaving the eBay site.

As one of the winners, WaveLength also has the opportunity to carry out a special auction using the eBay FSI platform. We’re auctioning a day-long fishing experience on a private section of the River Granta, accompanied and guided by our CEO Tim Leech. (For Tim’s fly fishing blog, see http://www.flyfishingpodcast.com.)

The auction concludes on the 17th June, so get down to http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270987806740#ht_483wt_1932 and make a bid! Or, if fishing’s not your thing, you can make a Small Charity Week donation to WaveLength by shopping on eBay and selecting Give at Checkout, or by visiting our JustGiving page at http://www.justgiving.com/wavel.

Happy Small Charity Week, everybody!

Our Second BT Storyteller Interview: Calum Graham on Sports and Community Development

SONY DSCCalum Graham is a sports and community development worker in Gretna, Scotland. He manages a Special Olympic team and is set to carry the Olympic Torch through Gretna on 21st June. He’s one of the 100 BT Storytellers selected to tell their Olympic stories – more about the scheme at http://www.btlondon2012.co.uk/storytellers/index.php

– Could you tell me a bit about the torch run?

Yes, if you actually go to the 2012 site you can see who nominated us, and what they said. On the 21st of June I’m running with the torch in the runaway wedding location, on Gretna. And I’m also part of the torch relay team here who are organising it, you know, the safe route through. So it’s all hands on deck at the moment, but yes, very much looking forward to it.

– Fantastic!

I know.

– Could you tell me a bit about why you decided to apply to be a BT Storyteller and what it means for you to be taking part in that?

Basically, you know, I’ve seen it in the papers, and the option came up. And I just thought… ‘Why would you be like to be involved, and how you would tell the story?’ And basically my job is sports development, in the south of Scotland, and I do a lot of work with children and things. And obviously, the Olympic Games, it’s never going to come here again in our lifetime. And it’s just a great way of… to me, it’s going to make my job easier. It’s a great way to – not even inspire a generations, but to inspire generations. It’s just using the Olympic Games to motivate people to get involved in sport, to live healthier lifestyles, to be more physically active. And I just thought it was a great way to being able to tell the story of the Olympic Games. It’s been a great move for me because I’m doing the rounds of more or less every school in the region, I’ve talked about the Olympic Games, I’ve talked about the values of the Olympic Games, and the meaning of the flame and all that… I went into all of my personal experiences which I’ve experienced over the last year, being part of the programme, a visit to the Royal Albert Hall on the big night just a few weeks ago… And it’s just been fantastic, it’s been absolutely – it’s not just been great for me personally, it’s been great for my job and helping get that message out there. I think it’s just captured the imagination.

– That sounds great! So you said you run a disability sports team, could you tell me about that? Is that for kids as well?

No, what it is, we in Annandale and Eskdale, we set up a charity. It was to help people with physical and learning difficulties to get involved in sport. And basically we set it up a number of years ago, we raised some funds for it, basically to offer giving people a chance to have a go who otherwise wouldn’t get the chance. And it’s grown out of all proportion now, because we take football teams to national competitions, and we take – we have weekly athletics, coaching, swimming, tennis, football: they’re doing everything. And what we’re doing as well is, we’re working a lot with learning difficulties. We’re actually taking a team to the Special Olympics, which is next year, in Bath. So it’s a big journey from Scotland – it’s a lot of work, taking two coaches full of people with learning difficulties down there – but it’s still worth it at the end of the day just to see what they get out of it.And on top of that, I actually took part in the first race in the Olympic stadium, at the end of March, and I was lucky enough to get some signed framed pictures from people like Chris Hoy and Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah and Steve Redgrave, and auctioned them off as part of my run. What I did was I put everyone who sponsored me into a special draw, and I made quite a bit of money! And that all goes back into the disability sports group, and that goes to raise the money to take them to Special Olympics and to do the things we do with them. And obviously I’m satisfied just to see the pleasure they get with it.

– Great, great.


– So do you think that the Olympics and Paralympics are going to do a lot for the sense of community in the country?

Absolutely. No I mean, like, kids…. actually what I’m experiencing where we are is, it’s actually bringing communities together. Because there’s events taking place, there’s things happening. Every weekend, we’re involved in something – either we’re doing something, or schools are doing something. And it’s crazy the way people are just becoming involved in community engagement. And people becoming involved, and volunteers, people just wanting to help and it’s just – yeah. To me, it’s the best thing that could have happened to the United Kingdom in years, in years.

– That’s great to hear. Could you tell me a bit about the modern technology, that we use to be able to talk about the Olympics – do you think that’s helpful for vulnerable people, like the people you work with?

Absolutely. The reason is because, well obviously, not everybody’s able to be able to get out there and see the Torch Relay, for instance. You know, they can’t get out there and actually… I know I’m doing some help, I’m setting up a lot of them – I’m actually helping a lot of them to get out to see the Torch Relay – but I do know some aren’t able to get out. So what we’re doing is, we’ve organised workshops. We’ve got this man that works for the Mac group, he’s going to give us a workshop, helping them to make their own torch. But the thing is, they’ll be able to sit wherever they are, turn the computer on, and then be able to watch it all live on the BBC website. I mean, that’s just terrific. And obviously I have a BT Storyteller site, so anything I write and anything I do, it goes up on that site there. It just makes life so much more accessible, and communication is so great nowadays. Communication for everybody’s great.

– What do you think people will be feeling when they’re watching or listening to that Olympic coverage?

Oh! Well… Do you know the seven values of the Olympic Games?

– I’ve heard of them, don’t know if I could name them all…

Well, let me reel them off – Respect, Excellence, Equality, Courage, Inspiration, Determination and… oh, there’s another one! But inspiration, to me is the word. The whole thing’s inspiring. I’ve been lucky enough to be in the Olympic Park three times already, and even just… Well, I’m from Scotland, and even just when you get off the train in London, there’s a buzz about the place. It’s just totally inspiring. Especially with the Torch Relay coming up as well, everybody’s beginning to feel a part of it. I keep telling people that my Olympic journey started a year ago, when I got to spend the day with Seb Coe and Daley Thompson, but for everybody in this area, their real Olympic journey starts probably on the 21st of June when we get the Torch Relay. I just think that’s… You can feel the buzz now, you can feel people getting excited, and I just think on the 21st of June it’ll really kick in. Although, I mean, it’s doing great now. I’ve done sport programmes, and it’s all Olympic themed, and kids are asking questions about Olympics, and which Olympic athletes will be there, and saying, ‘I want to do this now’— It’s just great, it’s just great.

– Great, great. If I could just ask you one quite general question to round things off…


– If there’s a key message for community in the 21stcentury, what do you think is going to be important in the years to come?

A key message for…

– Community.

Yes… Just community cohesion. I mean, everybody pulling together. If you give us two minutes I’ll give you a real answer, but – community cohesion, just everybody working and supporting each other. I think, you know, where the structure of local government’s going, everybody now… they’re decentralising things. So just everybody supporting each other and the community in what they do. Volunteering and that sort of thing!

– Great! Well thanks for talking to me, that’s really interesting to hear about.

Not at all.

Find out more abotu Calum Graham at http://www.facebook.com/calum.graham.35

Our First BT Storyteller Interview: Andy Wilkes on Photographing the Olympics and Paralympics!

Andy Wilkes is a construction worker on the Olympic site who’s also a prolific photographer and social media user. He’s one of the 100 BT Storytellers selected to tell their Olympic stories – more about the scheme at http://www.btlondon2012.co.uk/storytellers/index.php

– Why did you decide to apply to be a BT Storyteller and what does taking part mean for you?

Because I felt I had a story to tell. I had begun my Olympic journey three years earlier in 2008, when I first entered the Olympic site when it was still being demolished from its original state. I had been documenting this in my pictures and thought Storytellers would be a good way of allowing a wider audience to appreciate what was going on inside.

Taking part means that I can showcase some more of my work, and also get opportunities to attend and see events that otherwise I would have had no chance of attending.

– What did it feel like when you knew you’d been selected?

It was very exciting! We knew when the date of the announcements were being made but had no idea exactly when, so it was a morning of constant refreshing of the site and checking of e-mails until the notification came through – and when it did I was very pleased indeed.

– Do you think a big social event like the Olympics & Paralympics strengthens community in the country?

We’ve seen similar during football tournaments and also in previous Olympic Games, but the fact that this one is here, on home soil, will strengthen the community even more. People will be and feel more involved, what with the Torch Relay coming to most towns and cities, and the 2012 festivals being held all over the country in the run-up to the Games. More people will have been touched by the Games here than ever before, and those people will want to share those experiences. And who better to share them with than friends and neighbours?

– You’re very active on social media. What do you think of modern technology – television, radio and the internet – as a way of avoiding isolation among vulnerable people?

I think modern technology is very important in the avoidance of isolation among vulnerable people, as it can carry immediate news and events to people directly into their homes and to their mobile devices. Newspapers only tell yesterday’s news, but a good TV and radio service will keep you informed of events in real time, and can make you feel involved. Even if you are impaired in some way that means you cannot get to an event or celebration, you can still watch it unfold in front of your eyes, or listen to it happening on the radio.

– What’s your favourite story from the Games so far?

The Torch Relay. This has really brought it home to the people of Britain that’s its happening, and happening very soon. It’s all well and good having a countdown – two years to go, one year to go, 100 days to go, etc – but no-one could touch or see those things. Now they can touch or see the Olympic flame as it passes nearby, and the BBC’s coverage of the relay is so comprehensive, you could watch every step of the way if you so wanted to. And people have been organising events along the way of the relay, working together in communities.

– Your pictures of the sites of the Games are very beautiful. How have you experienced the process of changing the London landscape for the Olympics and Paralympics?

I’ve been privileged enough to see it from almost the beginning, when they were still demolishing the old site – and then I saw the new arena, and landscapes arise from the dirt and dust into the beautiful park it is now. And also to see the surrounding areas, like Stratford, Hackney Marshes, and Hackney Wick change too, with improvements to infrastructure and roads and pathways, art being put into place… The whole atmosphere of the surrounding area has changed.

– What are your hopes for the Olympic boroughs and their communities during and after the Games?

That as many of them get involved as possible and that they utilise the legacy after the games. They are going to have world-class facilities and a wonderful park to enjoy, right on their doorstep.

– Do you think coverage of the Paralympics is important in the portrayal of disabled people?

No. I don’t really see disabled people as different, in the same way as I don’t see people from other ethnic backgrounds as different. We are all humans in this world, be we white, black, abled or disabled and whatever is in-between. Although I think it’s great that we’ve given as much coverage to the Paralympics as we have done the main Olympics, as it were – and look at the sponsors, in a lot of their promotions they use disabled athletes in the same way they use able bodied athletes – I can foresee a day when there is no Paralympics, but just a longer, bigger, better ‘OLYMPICS’

– What could be the 21st century’s key message for community?

We are all someone’s Son, Daughter, Mother, Father, Brother Sister, Uncle & Aunt. Look at those less fortunate than yourselves and think, ‘What if that was me, or someone I love’, treat others with kindness and compassion. It’s the small things that matter: a smile, a wave, a cheery hello in the street. A ‘Can I help with that?’ attitude, rather than putting your head down and walking by.

Find out more about Andy at http://insidelondon2012.blogspot.co.uk/,
and https://twitter.com/#!/InsideLDN2012

TV ‘Window on the World’, says Digital Help Scheme

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWaveLength has just received a bulletin from the Switchover Help Scheme, giving progress for the spring and summer. With Kent, East Sussex, the Tyne Tees region and Northern Ireland still to convert their TVs to digital this year, eligible people can still get practical help with the switch. Tim is glad to see the importance of TV to lonely people recognised.

‘The Help Scheme is available for those who are aged 75 years or over; registered blind or partially sighted; who receive certain benefits as a result of disability; or who have lived in a care home for six months or more. Of course, this list of recipients overlaps significantly with WaveLength’s beneficiaries, and many of our beneficiaries have worked with both WaveLength and the Switchover Help Scheme to navigate the process of the digital switch.

‘I have mixed feelings about the digital switchover scheme, but one important thing that the process has done is to raise awareness of the importance of TV and radio in the lives of lonely people. In this bulletin, the scheme’s chief executive, Peter White, says: ‘What really helps is that people instinctively understand that TV is important in the lives of eligible people. It’s their window on the world and a way to stay connected when they are perhaps less active than they used to be. For those that live alone, TV is often a companion.’

‘Peter, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

‘Our hope for the scheme is that the attention drawn to these vulnerable people is sustained after the switch is complete. The Help Scheme is organising a ‘Helping Hand’ community campaign to encourage local shopkeepers, support workers and others to remind eligible people of the support available. Hopefully this will encourage a lasting principle of ‘checking in’ with people who are isolated. WaveLength regularly receives increasingly desperate requests from beneficiaries having problems with their TVs and radios, which could often be easily solved by somebody younger and more tech-savvy. We do our best to guide them through these difficulties, but in many cases, even casual community support could make all the difference.

‘So let’s celebrate the work that the Help Scheme are doing – and hope that this situation helps both community members and policy-makers to recognise the help through isolation which a digital ‘window on the world’ can provide.’

WaveLength Supporters for the Olympics and Paralympics

WaveLength welcomes the Olympic torch to Britain!

The Olympic Torch is in Britain!

Today sees the Torch progressing through Dover and Plymouth on its way to London, carried by expert runners who’ve volunteered to become part of the UK’s Olympic history. At WaveLength we’re all excited about the Olympics and the Paralympics, and the chance to unite as a society around a shared event.

As we see so many people struggle with mobility difficulties and isolation, we’re particularly glad to hear from the Paralympic Storytellers and other media figures revving up to compete. We hope that the Paralympics will encourage people from the whole spectrum of access needs and disabilities to believe that they can achieve anything. Many of our beneficiaries will be using their TVs and radios to tune in to stories of people determined not to let health or access problems get in their way.

We’re glad that Olympics and Paralympics communications sponsor BT is giving plenty of time and coverage to both contests. BT has been congratulated for its work in providing access to Games viewing through its TV, radio and internet connections. For our beneficiaries, this access to an event which the whole nation is following will provide not just comfort, but confidence and inspiration, as they see the demand within the UK to follow the stories of Paralympians.

This is supposed to be a time when the whole country joins together to celebrate and cheer on athletes. However, sadly we know that many elderly, isolated, housebound or chronically ill people feel left out of these events. We’re trying to do our bit by providing them with TVs and radios on which they can follow the Games. If you’re organising a street party, community viewing of a big event, etc to celebrate the Olympics and Paralympics, do make that extra bit of effort to include people in your street who might not be able to get out much. Participation in a community event can make all the difference in the world to someone who’s feeling lonely.

Digital Radio – Online or DAB?

Digital ROLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAadio UK, the body pushing for switchover to digital radio, claims that 50% of all radio users listen digitally at least once a week. But new evidence suggests a significant proportion of the growth is through web and mobile application listening, rather than dedicated digital radios (DAB radios). Although almost 30% of radio listening takes place on a digital format, DAB use is down by 0.% in the first three months of 2012. Meanwhile, online and app listening is at its highest yet, moving from 3.4% to 3.9%. Tim says he saw this coming two years ago…

‘I wasn’t surprised to hear these figures. I believe it’s two-and-a-half years ago since I suggested to Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK (DRUK), that increased digital growth is likely to take place online. After all, if most people have an analogue radio and an internet-connected computer, they’re likely to simply use the computer if they want to digital radio, rather than buying an expensive new DAB radio. I suggested that DRUK should give more emphasis to online listening, especially as internet-connected TVs become more popular.

‘Ford Ennals responded that such a possibility was unthinkable – the UK simply doesn’t have enough bandwidth available online for mass adoption of online digital radio.

‘But at WaveLength we believe that listening behaviours can’t be dictated. Of course the increasing trend towards online digital radio is alarming, because of the current sub-par state of UK broadband – which I blogged about here. But the solution is surely to improve broadband provision rather than putting more and more money into erecting digital radio transmitters.

‘Keeping the UK connected digitally is a fine and important goal. But we have to think very carefully about where to spend limited resources. DRUK wants to turn off analogue radio when 50% of listening is digital, but their timespan keeps being forced back. Not long ago, this goal was predicted for 2013, with switchover taking place in 2015. Now, they’re estimating a switchover in 2020. But should investment be redirected instead towards broadband?

‘The Consumer Expert Group, of which WaveLength is a part, thinks we should only switch when 50% of listening takes place through DAB radio, not when 50% of listening is digital in general. Otherwise, we risk a majority of analogue listeners – those who don’t want to use a computer or connected TV – forced to buy new digital radios. It’s our job to look out for the most vulnerable, so WaveLength will always campaign for access to preferred listening systems to be a priority, over new technology for new technology’s sake.’


Want to help WaveLength help isolated people? We provide equipment, support and representation to the elderly, long-term ill, disabled and those who are victims of domestic violence or of torture. Visit http://www.justgiving.com/wavel for a one-click donation.

Broadband – What To Do?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs companies including BT, Virgin and TalkTalk are criticised for substandard internet provision, our CEO Tim Leech sets out priorities for the development of broadband services.

‘Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about broadband provision in the media. This is due partly to BT’s full-year reports released last Thursday, and partly to the disconnect between projected goals – Communications minister Ed Vaizey claims the UK will be the European leader in broadband provision by 2015 – and the actual poor service experienced by many UK residents. Many people receive very slow broadband speeds, preventing them from doing things like watching BBC iPlayer or listening to digital radio online.

‘UK governments and big corporations sometimes seem to forget that our country has signed up to the UN Charter which states that communication and participation in society is a right, not a privilege. The UK’s inhabitants have a right to access good-quality internet connection, and plans for broadband should be made with this right in mind. Investing in even faster connections for those living in the middle of big cities should not take precedence over ensuring that the most rurally-located people can fight isolation by logging on. And for many disabled or housebound people, the internet is a vital tool in improving their independence, allowing them to stay in touch, order shopping and even work from home.

‘I think it’s our duty to stand up and say that there’s no point investing in broadband which does not provide equal access to people across the UK. Currently, those living in rural areas – such as myself – are disadvantaged severely when it comes to broadband provision. For some people, paying the high premiums to get a good service while living in a rural area is simply unaffordable.

‘Sometimes when I talk about broadband, people ask me what it has to do with WaveLength’s core mission. Aren’t we a TV and radio charity? Well, yes and no.

‘WaveLength’s remit is to relieve social isolation through media and communications. When our charity was established in 1939, there was no such thing as the Internet – and currently very few of our beneficiaries express a need for it. However, with 73 years of helping the vulnerable already under our belt, we see ourselves as a long-term charity, and the reality is that internet is only going to become more important. We must ensure that developments reach those who need them most.’

Want to help WaveLength help isolated people? We provide equipment, support and representation to the elderly, long-term ill, disabled and those who are victims of domestic violence or of torture. Visit http://www.justgiving.com/wavel for a one-click donation.

WAVELENGTH NEEDS YOU! Fundraiser Position Available

We’re looking for a Fundraiser/ Fundraising Manager to work full-time in our Hornchurch, Essex office. Please send a CV and cover letter to the email/ postal address given on this website.


Based in Hornchurch, Essex. 5 days per week


The Organisation

WaveLength, originally The Wireless for the Bedridden Society, was set up over 70 years ago with help from the BBC and London Rotarians, to relieve social isolation through the provision of radios.  We still provide radios and televisions, and hope to move into new areas of technology that will help to relieve and challenge isolation. The last few years have been challenging for WaveLength as we develop our concept and understanding of charitable giving, our ability to understand and respond to developing social need and to be able to meet these needs within our remit. The charity has worked closely with the Charity Commission, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and SNR Denton to modernise its remit and develop flexibility, in order to be able to help our present and potential beneficiaries through challenges they may face in the coming years.

Traditionally the charity has raised money through BBC Appeals and an extremely loyal donor base which has been built on the back of these appeals. Over the years our money has been reinvested to produce dividends which fund the charity’s work. Approaches have only been made once a year, which helps to retain the loyalty of donors.  To develop the Charity further more income will be needed, and a more diverse fundraising approach needs to be developed. This will include development and retention of donors; an increase in legacy giving; corporate donations, and fundraising from trusts to name but a few. The Fundraiser’s aim will be to bring more balance to the Charity’s income, develop a long-term relationship with a trust to fund the Charity’s work in the future, and fund present work and initiatives.

Some initial work has been done in approaches to trusts, redevelopment of our funding appeal newsletter, and creating a new website and brand. This will provide a platform for the Charity to develop its work and we are now looking for the right candidate to take on this challenging role.


The Role

The purpose of the role of Fundraiser, reporting to the Chief Executive, is to help shape the organisation’s fundraising strategy and to lead on its delivery. The Fundraiser will be required to build on his or her existing broad fundraising experience, using this to take the charity to the next level as we expand our activities and raise our profile. One of the measures of success in the role will be the establishment of a solid fundraising base, providing a long-term legacy allowing the charity to continue and develop its work for the next 70 years.

This is a challenging and wide-ranging post. Candidates should:

·         Be able to cultivate relationships used to develop funding streams;

·         Be able to develop and deliver care and support for funders;

·         Have a proven track record of delivering financial targets;

Strong written communication skills are essential to success in this role, in order to support the charity’s fundraising through websites and social media, and to develop of publications and fundraising materials.

The successful candidate must have excellent written and organisational skills. They must also possess the ability to communicate confidently and sensitively with a wide range of people at all levels. They will be a team player who can work flexibly and to deadlines.



  • Excellent written and spoken communication skills; strongly numerate;
  • Experience of applying to and securing funding from trust and grant funding bodies, with knowledge of resources, research, and approaches;
  • Revenue and capital fundraising experience;
  • Ability to research and develop budgets;
  • Experience of new donor and legacy development;
  • Experience of agreeing on targets and taking responsibility to deliver them;
  • Successful use of social media platforms within fundraising;
  • Knowledge of website development and maintenance; some HTML programming skills would be useful;
  • Well-organised and flexible with strong IT skills;
  • Results-focused, creative, enthusiastic and self-motivated, with the ability to work independently to achieve goals.

Press release: BBC builds new digital transmitters aimed at car radios

Today, WaveLength received a round-up of activity from DRUK (Digital Radio UK), with information about the growing popularity of digital radio (otherwise known as DAB).

Consumer watchdog Ofcom has released a report on digital radio in its capacity as chair of a DAB coverage and spectrum planning group. Meanwhile, surveys show that DAB car radios have become increasingly popular, especially among motorists. Some 50% of motorists say they would not buy a new car without a digital radio. These results encourage involved parties to press on with replicating the old FM coverage areas with DAB capability. In fact, the BBC has pledged to bring DAB signal to 97% of the area of the UK – and claims that coverage now stands at 93% following the construction of 117 new transmitters.

Widespread access to the latest radio technologies is, of course, a good thing. At WaveLength, beneficiaries often tell us how their radio sets have changed their lives. They feel that they have company when they listen to their favourite programmes before they go to bed at night, and as soon as they get up each morning. At WaveLength, we’re thrilled at the wide range of stations and high quality of original programming which DAB signal provides.

However, DAB conversion still poses problems. For one thing, we find it hard to square the massive investment which the tax-funded BBC is putting into digital transmitters at a time of national cuts. A large part of this financial burden should be falling on the commercial stations and manufacturers who stand to profit at least as much as the BBC from digital radio adoption, as our CEO, Tim Leech, and other members of the Consumer Expert Group, have emphasised in the past.

We also encourage digital radio providers to focus not only on the relatively young, highly mobile people who install DAB radios in their cars, but also the elderly, ill and isolated people who love their radios, but are easily confused by change. Because WaveLength speaks actively on digital policy, has strong connections with the BBC, and our CEO, Tim Leech, has testified on the issue to the House of Lords, we’re kept in the loop about new developments. But far too many elderly or isolated people are still confused about the issue of digital radio. Even the different shapes of the radios – pressing buttons rather than turning dials – can be incredibly confusing to the very elderly or those suffering from dementia.

For some reason, digital radio is not getting the same amount of publicity as digital TV, leaving many confused about their options. All parties concerned should be doing everything possible to ensure that everybody in the UK not only has access to DAB coverage, but can afford the equipment and has information and advice about the process.

Read our April newsletter!

Mum and daughter bondingThis April, we’ve survived London’s digital switchover, launched a cross-nation appeal to put TVs and radios in women’s refuges, and gained a new fluffy bunny supporter! Our month’s round-up of activity.

April has been a busy month for us here at WaveLength. As a national TV charity, the digital TV switchover had a huge impact on what we do. Many of our beneficiaries live in London, so when the capital turned off analogue on the 4th and 18th April, we had a lot of phone calls and emails from people confused at the changes. Thankfully, these have subsided now as we were able to help a lot of people to get their TV service.

Remember though, if you’re a beneficiary and you do need help with your TV or radio function, WaveLength is happy to act as first port of call.

But April wasn’t all about the digital switchover. We also welcomed a new social media volunteer, Louisa, a carer for vulnerable people with physical or mental health difficulties. Louisa introduces herself here. She’s been tweeting away for us brilliantly – a bit thank you to Louisa, and to our other volunteers from this year, Emma, Thursa, Abigail, James and Clare!

April also saw productive meetings with the Consumer Expert Group, where Tim discussed the future of access to digital radio, and with our chairman Stephen Derrick, who’s beavering away on the BBC’s iPlayer listen-again service! Did you know that you can get iPlayer on some TVs, even if you don’t have a computer? Advice here. Meanwhile, our animal supporters have been putting smiles on a lot of faces, as you can see. Bella the rabbit is our newest supporter, but it’s too soon to tell if she can win more hearts than Stanley the dog or Mutz the cat!

On a more serious note, April saw the launch of our women’s aid campaign. We want to raise enough money to repeat our highly successful trial project of installing TVs and radios in three women’s refuges, across the country. To read more about the brutal systematic isolation suffered by victims of domestic abuse, go here. To donate to WaveLength – which helps victims of domestic abuse and torture, as well as the elderly and long-term sick or disabled – you can use the postal methods outlined on our ‘Make a Donation’ page, or do it in a couple of clicks at http://www.justgiving.com/wavel. Plus, we’re signed up to a new seamless giving service on Twitter, www.giv2.it, so if you already have a JustGiving account, you can easily enable giv2 to make donations just by tweeting to our name, @WaveLengthTV, with the amount you want to give and the hashtag #giv2

At WaveLength, we love to hear from you. So if you want to share news or feedback, do get in touch with the contact details from this website, an email to ed@wavelength.org.uk, or by searching for ‘WaveLength Charity’ on Facebook or Twitter.

Libraries or e-books?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Microsoft spends $300m on Barnes & Noble’s e-books, Tim’s still singing the praises of libraries…

‘Maybe I’m old-fashioned. But the first thing that occurred to me when I saw the news of Microsoft’s new stake in Barnes & Noble’s e-reader was – what about libraries?

‘Many people find e-readers invaluable, giving them access to devices which are lighter to carry than books. The ability to turn a book to large print on the screen is certainly very useful to those with sight difficulties. It isn’t hard to see why Microsoft has invested in Barnes & Noble to create a subsidiary for the American bookstore’s e-reader devices, and I’m sure many will be thrilled at the news that the Nook will be coming to the UK, bringing in someone new to compete with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.

‘But many people are cut off from these devices by their high prices. Others, especially older people, are just not comfortable with using electronic devices so regularly. Meanwhile, the UK’s libraries provide a fairly similar service – access to a very wide range of books – without customers needing to pay a penny. And many of them offer CDs, DVDs, tapes and videos as well as books.

‘During cuts over the last few years, libraries have often been the first to suffer. But what funds they have, they often spend on community initiatives, such as the partnership WaveLength started with Cambridge council to provide CD players from us and CDs from them on a door-to-door basis, or the wonderful Calibre service which provides audio books suitable both for those with sight difficulties, and those with learning or cognitive difficulties such as dyslexia or dyspraxia. Many councils run mobile libraries driven from street to street in vans, for those who can’t face the journey into town.

‘With all this on offer, we were surprised when our latest survey showed very few of our beneficiaries – even those mobile enough to use public transport – used libraries on a regular basis. Libraries are underfunded and underpublicized, but offer much more equal access to users. They cater for all income levels and for many different access needs; and when there’s a problem, a staff member is far more helpful than a computer company’s instruction manual!

‘So let’s remember that as exciting as new technology is, the importance of access to these new technologies – whether that’s e-readers, laptops or digital TVs – can never be underestimated.’

Bella The Rabbit – WaveLength’s Newest Supporter!

You’ve seen Stanley the dog and Mutz the cat… now Bella hits the small screen! There are plenty of people helping out animals, but at WaveLength, our animal supporters want to help keep lonely and vulnerable people comfortable. Watching Bella is fun. If you want to help the elderly, sick, disabled or abused to stay entertained, positive and connected, visit our charity’s website at www.wavelength.org.uk

Continue reading…

Find out why our volunteer, Louisa, decided to support WaveLength

Louisa_richardson_volunteerLouisa: ‘I’ve worked in health and social care for several years now and see regularly the devastating effects of social isolation on the vulnerable adults I support. For many people I work with or have worked with a radio or television is often the only friend or company they have.’

She continues: ‘For clients I have worked with who have been effected by mental health issues having access to a radio is an invaluable coping strategy. It’s an absolute pleasure to give my support to Wavelength and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to make a positive difference in people’s lives.’

Jeremy Hunt in palm of News Corp? Our CEO’s take on today’s Leveson allegations

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATim Leech gives an opinion on the calls for Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to resign. As head of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Mr Hunt often works on committees participated in by WaveLength

The Leveson inquiry today brings up some unpleasant allegations directed at Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Some claim Mr Hunt worked too closely with News Corp executives, lending support to their takeover of BSkyB at a time when many in the sector voiced concern over such an important service becoming concentrated in the hands of one company.

Tim says: “We don’t yet know the truth of these allegations, but at WaveLength the news concerns us on behalf of the isolated, housebound and often impoverished people who we represent. Listening to business interests is important, but for a public servant, listening to public interests should be paramount.

“News Corp’s proposed BSkyB takeover is controversial because it threatens the competition which provides the public with a range of services at a range of prices. I sat on committees with Mr Hunt to discuss the UK’s TV Digital Switchover. One of my main concerns then was that people who cannot afford digital equipment, or find it difficult to operate, should not face a situation where they have no other option. As the UK dives back into a double-dip recession today, this concern is even more important. A pay-to-view station should not be able to form a monopoly on TV viewing.

“Currently, we are discussing a potential switchover to digital radio – and along with the Consumer Expert Group which we’re a part of, we’re keen to make sure that a switchover doesn’t impact on the public’s ability to ensure choice and quality, and doesn’t harm those who are unaware of, distrust or are unable to afford digital radio. We feel that important decisions should reflect a consensus among the public.

“In this country we have a great tradition, of providing low-cost and accessible TV and radio media. At WaveLength we know how much of a lifeline this access can be for Britain’s most vulnerable people. With the Olympics coming up, it’s important that Britain shows its public servants are listening to the public.”

Mr Hunt is expected to give a statement on the matter to the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Women’s Aid Centres: Our Trial Project and Call for Funding

thumbnail_01Two years ago, WaveLength supplied three women’s centres with TVs, radios and DVD players. Since then, 730 people have used these resources to get them through traumatic periods of their lives. Now we’re asking for more donations to extend the project across the UK.

Choosing what you want to watch on TV is a choice that most of us take for granted: but for people who’ve been encouraged to believe that they have no agency and no power over their own lives, it’s a big step towards independence and confidence. TVs, radios and DVD libraries in women’s centres helps women and children made homeless by abuse to stay in contact with the outside world, develop companionship through communal viewing, and enjoy the comfort of a regular family schedule. The donations also send a clear message: that domestic abuse is intolerable and wrong.

That’s why WaveLength donated equipment to three UK women’s centres – and that’s why we’re now asking donors to help us help more incredibly brave domestic violence victims across the UK to move forwards with their lives.

“Knowing that there is someone out there, giving TVs like that, to help mothers like me, meant the world” – Kelly, Liverpool, mother of three

Why Women’s Aid?

WaveLength constantly assesses changes in the social and economic landscape to provide contact, comfort and companionship for people who are lonely and vulnerable. The TVs and radios we supply can be a lifeline to beneficiaries  who are elderly, disabled, suffering from chronic illness, or otherwise isolated, providing a vital link to the outside world.

In 2009, we launched a six-month trial project which diverges from our traditional model of donating TVs and radios to individuals. During that year, we received a number of applications for TVs from women’s refuges. We were being asked to help a whole community of extremely vulnerable people. Refuge workers told us that abusers often systematically isolate their victims from local communities, meaning that leaving their abusers to go to a women’s refuge is an enormously brave step. To build up new lives for themselves and their children, they need to feel welcomed and ‘at home’ in the centres.

Research showed us that well over 19,000 women lived full-time in refuges in 2009, as they struggled to start a new life away from abusive partners. Living with them were more than 21,000 children. The UK has around 1000 women’s refuges, but these are losing funding fast.

When Centre 56, a Liverpool refuge, invited WaveLength to come and see the work it does, we were excited to learn about the range of services provides including counselling, childcare, and access to social workers. Tragically, many of these facilities are being cut, under the pressure of local authority funding withdrawals.

With these financial pressures, it’s not surprising that the TV facilities within centres are often poor quality or non-existent. For instance, the TV donated to one centre by a local racecourse could only receive one channel. We were also surprised to learn that women’s aid centres are not supported by Digital UK’s Help Scheme, which helps those on low incomes to switchover to digital TV. WaveLength is proud to free up funds for these centres by providing vital support equipment.

TVs remind residents that they are part of a community, and gives a home-like atmosphere to refuges. While watching TV, residents terrorised by domestic violence can reassert a structured family schedule, gain a window to the outside world, and socialise with one another and with their children.

Now, we’re asking for more donations and more awareness to create a long-term equipment funding programme for women’s centres across the UK. Please read on for more information.

“By making this donation the Charity is not just trying to offer practical help but is adding its voice to condemn domestic violence in whatever form.  I personally believe we all have to say that such crimes are not acceptable and by keeping quiet we add to the problems.” – Tim Leech, WaveLength CEO


How Do We Help?

Our trial project supplied three women’s aid centres – Torfaen Women’s Aid Centre, Centre 56, Liverpool, and Wrexham Women’s Aid Centre – with some combination of:

  • 19” wall-mounted digital TVs for individual rooms
  • large-screen wall-mounted digital TVs for communal areas
  • DVD players, radios and radio cassette players
  • a small DVD library

We were proud to help 278 women and children during the first six months of the project. In the three years since then, our TVs, radios and DVD libraries have supported around 730 people passing through the centres as they move forward from a traumatic situation and into independence. These are fantastic figures, and incidentally show that this project helped more people, with less money, than our usual method of donating to individuals.

However, cost benefit is secondary to the importance of helping women and children to feel safe, secure and in contact with their communities at a diffcult time in their lives. WaveLength was thrilled to hear feedback from staff and residents.

Kelly, a mother of two, fled her violent partner and entered a Liverpool hostel while pregnant with a third child:

“Leaving our home and going to a refuge was really scary. I was petrified that there would be fights and that the refuge would be full of drunks. Going to Centre 56 was brilliant though. The boys settled in really easily, having the TV made it a real home for them. I can’t tell you what bliss it was to have the kids settled, just heaven. Once the kids were asleep I could watch films to help me unwind, or sometimes Eastenders on the later repeats.

“Sometimes in the day, the kids would watch CBBC in the main lounge with the other kids. It was good for them to play with the other kids and it meant that I could get on with jobs like the washing and cleaning our room, it was a big, big help.”

Other residents told us that:

“Having a TV in my room allows me my own space and lets me watch what I want. When you’re lonely or when you need time to yourself the TV is company.”

“Staying in a refuge can be difficult at times – sometimes you want to mix sometimes you want to be alone, but this can also be isolating. I cannot imagine living here without the company of the TV you have provided. Thank you.”

“I think it would be difficult at bedtime with my little boy as the TV settles him before he goes to sleep.”

Refuge staff reinforce what these women say: the TVs provide an element of distraction and reassurance to hectic lives, and make centres seem home-like and welcoming.

In addition, refuge staff tell WaveLength that our equipment serves many other more specific needs. For example:

  • Installed in interview rooms, TVs and radios relax women and children as they speak with social workers and police.
  • TVs give the opportunity for positive parenting lessonsduring communal activities such as family film nights.
  • One centre told WaveLength that watching the 2010 World Cup live indulged a family pastime without accompanying family violence, helping young people to break the cycle of domestic abuse.

In addition, WaveLength supported the refuges in approaching other funders, including joint press releases and our database of contacts. This added support helped two refuges to refurbish out-of-date facilities.


What Next?

The trial project was extremely successful, and just three years later, the TVs, radios and DVD players we installed have helped 730 vulnerable people move forward through a transitional phase in their lives.

We’re proud to support women’s centres’ aim of creating a hospitable and supportive first step towards a full independent life. When we improve people’s social, cultural and information links, we help them to move forwards without becoming reliant on support. Everybody at WaveLength is passionate about meeting this need.

In addition, this project raises awareness of the vital services which women’s centres provide, in a climate where many centres lose funding. Here are some statistics:

  • Just 60% of people appealing to the state for help escaping a violent partner found shelter in refuges in 2009.
  • Centres run by the UK’s largest umbrella organisation for domestic violence victims, Women’s Aid, turn away 230 desperate women every day.
  • Smaller centres which receive less than £20,000 in total funding (often those serving ethnic minority victims of domestic violence) have had 70% of that funding cut since 2010.
  • As local authorities across the UK have cut an average of 40% of funding to centres since 2009, workers are struggling to keep beds available.

One of the beneficiaries of our trial project, Centre 56 in Liverpool, is struggling desperately to stay open after losing all of its funding from Liverpool Council. In Liverpool, domestic violence is behind one in four visits to hospital by women, is the main cause ofhomelessness, and affects by half of all children in care. This situation is unacceptable. Donating to these struggling centres supports one of WaveLength’s core focusses: representing and amplifying the voices of those whose isolation makes it hard for them to speak out for themselves.

Practically, receiving our free equipment can have a real impact on stark facilities. We want to take advantage of the UK’s digital switchover to help women in these centres to maintain links with their communities through the improved digital services now available.

WaveLength wants to find enough funding to support a long-term scheme extended to many more women’s centres across the UK. If we reach our goal, we’ll help these amazing places free up money to keep beds and staff available.

That’s why we’re now calling for more donations, more support, and more awareness-raising. Please help us reach our goal of providing much-needed companionship, comfort and contact tools to women and children fleeing abuse.

Is 15 minutes enough? Our new campaign for home carers and those who they help

womanwithhatCarers get their 15 minutes of fame on our social media channels

Is fifteen minutes enough? New study shows home visitor carers for elderly people only get 15 minutes per client for washing, changing, feeding and chatting. At WaveLength we know that carers do an amazing job to relieve loneliness among elderly or chronically ill people – so we want to give carers their own 15 minutes of fame.

Are you a carer? Have you been helped by a carer, or know somebody who has? Tweet your experiences with the #15minutes hashtag, or send a video to ed@wavelength.org.uk, and it could get shown on our YouTube channel.

Carers’ work doesn’t get praised enough. As the latest study shows, many carers are illegally paid less than the minimum wage. Help us to give them their 15 minutes of recognition – and to let the world know that 15 minutes’ company per day is not enough for an isolated person..

– To donate to WaveLength, use JustGiving http://www.justgiving.com/wavel, or post us a cheque or bank draft.

Disabled cut off from consumer websites

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany popular websites fail to cater for disabled people’s access needs. Our CEO, Tim Leech, puts this problem in perspective as a dyslexic web user.

“Out of the UK’s top five price comparison sites, four score one star for disabled accessibility and one scores two stars, says AbilityNet, using a scale in which three stars indicates ‘a base level of usability.’ ComparetheMarket.comConfused.comGocompare.com, mySupermarket and Kelkoo all fail to provide an inclusive service for consumers. Even with screen readers and voice recognition, people with visual impairments, dyslexia or cognitive conditions struggle to ‘read’ websites not designed for them. Author Terry Pratchett, an early-stage Alzheimers sufferer, chimes in on the Guardian website to voice his own frustration with using these sites with voice recognition software. As a severely dyslexic person, I also have a personal story to tell.

“The other day, my stepson used one of the most popular insurance comparison sites to get a quote for his new car. Proud of the new driver in the family, I wanted to help him out with the knowledge that comes from years of car ownership. But because of a badly designed site, he had to read everything out to me, making the whole process take much longer than it should have done. If I lived alone, like many of our beneficiaries, this problem would make it near-impossible for me to use these sites, cutting me off from the best deals. With cuts to Disability Living Allowance and other services also in place, it’s a terrible shame to exclude people already at a disadvantage from these useful consumer resources.

“In this day and age, websites should be prepared to cater for everyone. Until they do, WaveLength can’t support internet provision as a catch-all solution for people who find it hard to get out of the house. We’ll keep campaigning with all our strength for real social inclusion of disabled, older and vulnerable people.”

Digital radio conversion – any progress? Our CEO Tim Leech speaks out

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATim meets with the Consumer Expert Group to discuss progress on radio digital switchover – and finds a lack of benefit analysis

Tim: “On Tuesday, I came away from a meeting of the Consumer Expert Group (CEG) without much feeling of progress on the planned switchover of the UK’s radio stations from analogue to digital. As an association dedicated to consumer rights, the CEG needs to see an analysis of the cost benefit involved in a digital radio switchover. Although the Digital Switchover for TV is almost complete, the CEG is uncertain about the benefits of a switch to digital radio, which is currently used by less than 30% of the UK population.

“WaveLength and our friends at CEG have made a recommendation to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, that around 75% of the UK population should have voluntarily switched to digital radio, through DAB devices, internet, connected TV or smart phones, before the analogue service is removed. But the pressure group representing these commercial radio stations and the BBC, Digital Radio UK, wants to make the switch as soon as penetration hits 50%. And with a cost to the switchover of up to £21 million, Digital Radio UK is asking the government to contribute an unspecified proportion of the funding needed.

“As the digital TV switchover is being achieved at no cost to the taxpayer, the CEG is asking why the government should shoulder the cost of a switch to radio – and at the Tuesday meeting, I realised that we’re no closer to getting an answer. At WaveLength, we think that the type of radio station you listen to should be up to you. We’re not keen to remove consumers’ access to a range of radio choices, in order to cut costs to radio stations.

“The CEG and WaveLength are behind digital radio for those who want it, and have seen how much comfort it can bring to our lonely and isolated beneficiaries. But we need a solid set of regulations, and a proper analysis of the costs and social benefits involved, before I or WaveLength can support a nationwide switchover. At the moment, this information still seems far off.”

Press release: New study shows 19,000 domestic violence victims flee homes every year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANew London Metropolitan study reveals 19,000 women ask English authorities for refuge from domestic violence in 2009. Help WaveLength equip the centres they go to.

Press release: New study shows 19,000 domestic violence victims flee homes every year

 Today, WaveLength is sad to hear how many domestic violence victims turn to the state for refuge. During our trial women’s aid centre project in 2009, we knew that 16,570 women were living in refuges in England[1]. Today, a London Metropolitan University study discussed at the British Sociological Association conference shows that 19,000 women fleeing violent partners asked the state to rehouse them in the year 2008-2009. More than 9,000 women took children with them.

Our 2009 trial project – which we hope to continue as a long-term commitment – provided TVs and radios for women’s aid centres in Liverpool and Wales. We’ve been told that this equipment helps to foster an atmosphere of normality and community at a very difficult time. For many victims of domestic violence, who have been systematically isolated for years, entering a refuge is the first step towards rejoining a community. A TV provides a window to the outside world, a chance to socialise with other women and children, and to build structure into family life.

Kelly, a mother of two, says: “The boys are used to watching TV at night before they go to bed and having the TV made it a real home for them. I can’t tell you what bliss it was to have the kids settled, just heaven. Sometimes in the day, the kids would watch CBBC in the main lounge with the other kids. It was good for them to play with the other kids and it meant that I could get on with jobs like the washing and cleaning our room. It was a big, big help.”

Sadly, today’s study also shows that only 60% of those applying for help secured accommodation at women’s residences. Since 2009, local authority cuts have led 40% of UK refuges to lay off staff and shut down beds, forcing them to turn away 230 desperate women every day. If we succeed in finding enough funding to support a full long-term scheme, we’ll help these amazing centres to free up money to keep staff employed and beds available. Please help us reach our goal of providing much-needed companionship, comfort and contact tools for centres across the UK, through donations or raising awareness.


[1] Estimated figures from 2008/9, provided by Women’s Aid. Extrapolated from 75% response rate to annual questionnaire, with 75% response rate.