Friends Save Lives: TV and a cup of tea

Orchid Friendship Group in North Nottinghamshire brings people together through befriending and a day centre. We gave them a big smart TV, a DVD player and four Hudl tablets! Since we’ve been running more projects in partnership with other charities and organisations, WaveLength’s equipment helps a huge and diverse variety of people. Our CEO Tim likes to get out to see the effects our equipment is having, and meet our partners and beneficiaries face to face.

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Orchid Friendship Group & St Anne’s Hostel

stmungos_desCompanionship for older people in rural Nottinghamshire and for older homeless men in St Anne’s, Birmingham – the only Midlands hostel to accept dogs!

Recently we’ve heard some lovely things about the equipment we provide, and we’d like to share it with our supporters.

The Orchid Friendship Group in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, represents a range of isolated people from ex-mining villages. For many the weekly group is the only time they get out of the house for the social contact they desperately need for health and wellbeing.

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WaveLength Ambassadors Speak Out Against Loneliness

Our lovely Ambassadors are hard at work representing WaveLength to the public. Here, they tell you why they chose us.

“Working in radio, I realise how many people rely on their radio for company, Radio presenters all over the world receive thousands of letters every day from people stating that fact. I am proud to be an ambassador for Wavelength.’Rick Wakeman, YES keyboardist, “Grumpy Old Man” and radio presenter

Kersty pupy‘I decided to become an Ambassador for Wavelength because in this day and age, we can forget that some people still do not have the TVs and radios that most of us take for granted. After reading some letters of thanks from the people helped by Wavelength, I know that without their TVs and radios some are housebound in silence which is not a healthy way to live. Loneliness is cruel and can lead to depression, and bringing TV and radio into homes helps massively with loneliness and mental health. When I was suffering myself with Selective Mutism as a child, I could be in a crowded classroom but still felt lonely. The need to get home to speak was extremely important to me. People should feel most comfortable and happy in their own homes. Wavelength strives to bring that comfort and peace of mind to everyone.’ Kirsty Rose Heslewood, Reigning Miss UK Continue reading…

Tim’s Blog: Our First Tablet Project

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Last week, we paid a very special visit to Westminster. Deirdre, Colette and I were there to help eight former Passage clients get to grips with their brand new Hudl tablets. The clients, who are all formerly homeless and setting into new tenancies across London, received the tablets as part of our first ever project designed to provide computer technology rather than TVs and radios.

“Passage’s Employment, Training and Welfare Rights Manager, Richard Wealleans, led the new tablet users through the process of setting up and using the Android tablets. He covered everything from creating an email address to finding good free apps and widgets. The attendees had amazingly diverse experience – some new to computers, others already using smartphones, while one young man planned to use complex IT skills to ‘jailbreak’ his tablet as soon as he got home! Continue reading…

Passage Training Session

Members of the Passage’s Sunday Lunch club learn how to use their new WaveLength-provided Hudls. 







Lighting up lonely lives in St Anne’s Hostel

We were chuffed today to receive a lovely picture of Simon at St Anne’s hostel, enjoying his new radio. St Anne’s provides accommodation and support for homeless men over 25 – a neglected demographic – and is the only homelessness hostel in Birmingham which accepts dogs!


We sent them a 32 inch TV for a communal area back in April, and in June sent along five radios for individuals’ rooms as well.

Here is a pic of Simon enjoying his new radio. As you can see, he doesn’t have a lot of possessions. It can be tough to make a hostel room feel like home, so we’re really glad that the new radio is helping Simon to settle in and feel less lonely. Mark from St Anne’s says Simon has ‘benefited greatly from his radio’.

Want to help people like Simon turn new pages in their lives? Find out more…

Radio Academy Podcast Gallery

Tim talked with Radio Academy’s Paul Robinson, and two homelessness outreach workers who give out WaveLength radios, about the difference this equipment can make to people struggling to make changes in their lives.






Feedback: Step Up and Home for Good

One of the great things about our organisational projects is the way that they give us a glimpse into the schemes being carried out up and down the country to bring comfort and companionship to lonely people.

passage-home-for-goodWaveLength helps such diverse groups of people, it’s hard to keep track of them all. But often, other organisations send us reminders of the difference that our TVs and radios make.

Step Up, run by ASCEND in Hertfordshire, helps people with poor mental health to avoid the poverty trap. We gave them 5 TVs and 6 radios. Christine, Project Director, says:

“I’ve had the radios delivered this afternoon and I’ve already given one away.

“The person I gave it to is from Kosovo and they had to flee to this country at the time of the crisis. They have worked so hard since coming to this country, husband working, eldest son going to university but life still tends to kick them in the teeth. The husband recently lost his job due to ill health and they are now back living on benefits with very little money. She is over the moon with the radio.

“Thank you so much for coming to us with this amazing project.” Continue reading…

Feedback: Orchid Friendship Group and St Anne’s Hostel

Companionship for older people in rural Nottinghamshire and for older homeless men in St Anne’s, Birmingham – the only Midlands hostel to accept dogs!

Recently we’ve heard some lovely things about the equipment we provide, and we’d like to share it with out supporters.

The Orchid Friendship Group in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, represents a range of isolated people from ex-mining villages. For many the weekly group is the only time they get out of the house for the social contact they desperately need for health and wellbeing.

Lis Lawrence, Director of Care + Comfort which runs the group, says, ‘The group are delighted that they will be able to watch television and some of their favourite films and DVD. This means so much to them.”

Meanwhile, St Anne’s Hostel in Birmingham let us know that our TV has provided a social hub for older residents of their single men’s homelessness refuge. These men enjoy having a place to socialise while watching programmes that don’t necessarily appeal to ‘youngsters.’

“Particularly the soaps!”

St Anne’s workers say the WaveLength TV “has brought a number of residents out of their rooms and enabled more communal cohesion between residents.”

The hostel supports men moving on to their own tenancies in the future. So they know how important it is, when changing a chaotic life, to engage with other people and move away from self-isolation.

We’d like to say to all WaveLength supporters – thank you so much, for helping us to help more people every day.

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

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

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

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

Angie from Cambridge Women’s Aid says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feedback from Nugent Care and Endike Community Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lovely Feedback from PAMH

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

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

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

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

Janet speaks to St Nicholas’ Ladies Club

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

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

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Herring House – Domestic Violence Against Men

In 2010, 40% of domestic abuse victims were men. But there are very few refuges in the UK for male survivors of abuse. Instead, many male survivors end up homeless, either living on the streets or moving between hostels.

Herring House

Herring House homelessness centre is one shelter that cares for men who have escaped abuse. We gave them some TVs and radios for the men to enjoy. In this video, staff at Herring House tell us how domestic abuse drives men into homelessness.

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“At last they feel valued”

Tim talks to two of the staff members at Herring House. We recently donated TVs and radios to their High Support Unit which helps people with long-term complex problems. They tell us that TVs help foster the sense of control and self-esteem that enables people to lift themselves out of homelessness.

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

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

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

“To whom it may concern,

Sending many thanks your way!

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

Once again thank you,


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

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

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

St Mungo’s Michael told us,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

Feedback: Women’s Aid Leicestershire, and Helping Individuals

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

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

Transcript: “To whom it may concern,

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

“Once again thank you so much.”

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

Women’s Aid Leicestershire

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

“Children dance around the room to the music”

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Aid Leicestershire (WALL) says,

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

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

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

Making a Difference at HULLHARP

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

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

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

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

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

To find out more about HULLHARP, visit their website

Lovely Feedback for Christmas!

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

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

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

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

This was a lovely message to receive around Christmas time.

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

WaveLength Visits St Mungo’s

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

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

“Loneliness is a huge problem”

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

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

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

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


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

There is no such thing as “The Homeless”

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

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

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

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

A phone call home after 47 years

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

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

Comfort and dignity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serena Sings!

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

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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 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:

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.

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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.

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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, 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 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 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, 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 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

– 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

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 organisation isn’t on the list and you think WaveLength beneficiaries could benefit from your work, do get in touch at!

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, 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

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

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 ‘Menu’ and rotate the ‘Tune’ button until you see ‘Auto Tune’ in the display. Then select ‘Auto Tune.’

Online, you can listen at, or via the RadioPlayer at

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

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

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 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

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, 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, an email to, 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 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

– 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!

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.