Category Archives: Blog

SDN’s is seeking members to contribute to the blog. If you have a burning issue or you want to share something with other members please contact us.

Wheel’s Wonderings contributor is written Ian Pugh a disabled teenager living In Shrewsbury.

social welfare training 250-253

New Benefits Rates for Carers – Information from Social Welfare Training

Neil Arnott at Social Welfare Training has sent through their latest poster (download at the bottom of the page) and details of the latest changes to benefits.

  • State Retirement Pension is being uprated by 2.7% in line with the government’s “triple lock” commitment.
  • the Standard Minimum Guarantee in Pension Credit will be increased to give an equivalent to the cash increase in basic State Pension. The Savings Credit maximum is being reduced.
  • premiums paid to disabled people receiving working-age benefits, and to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants in the Support Group, will be uprated by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) at 2.7%.
  • working-age benefits (main rates) including main elements of Universal Credit and HB personal allowances will be uprated by 1%.
  • The Carers Allowance earnings threshold(above which Carers Allowance is not payable) is increased from £100 to £102.
  • The following stay the same as last year- the Benefit Cap levels ,  childcare costs rates and the capital rules.  
  • Housing Benefit non dependent deductions have been increased by a large amount over the last 3 years and are increased again this year.   

                                                                                                                                                              2013/14  2014/15                                                                                                                      







Non-dependant deductions



Aged under 25 and on IS or JSA(IB) or ESA(IR) which does not include an amount for the support component or work-related activity component  



Aged 25 or over and on IS or JSA(IB), or aged 18 or over and not in remunerative work



In receipt of main phase ESA(IR)



In receipt of Pension Credit



Aged 18 or over and in remunerative work



- gross income less than £128:



- gross income not less than £128.00 but less than £188.00



- gross income not less than £188.00 but less than £245.00



- gross income not less than £245.00 but less than £326.00



- gross income not less than £326.00 but less than £406.00



- gross income not less than £406.00



For more details of this and for information about Social Welfare  click here Social Welfare Training 2014-15 A4 poster web version

HSIC 250-253

ALERT-You know there is a difference-between the Programme and NHS Summary Care Records!

We live in an ever changing world and much of this is down to the technology that we have. “Brilliant” I hear our avid supporters say as this is what makes it possible to bring us this website. That is just it, we can alert you to things brought to our attention! We have been alerted by our members that many people are unaware that the Programme that has recently been put on hold for 6 months is very different to the NHS Summary Care Records.


So what is a a Summary Care Record? A Summary Care Record is an electronic record which contains information about the medicines you take, allergies you suffer from and any bad reactions to medicines you have had etc etc.

Having this information stored in one place makes it easier for healthcare staff to treat you in an emergency, or when your GP practice is closed. This information can be made available wherever you are which has to be a good thing, after all it could be disasterious if you were taken ill while in another town or county to be given medication that is not compatable with those you may already be taking, all because you were unable or did not realise how important it could be to you. Frightening!  Summary Care Records are held electronically & securely and only accessible to  healthcare staff involved in your care and they have to be accessed via Smartcard with a chip and pass code (like a bank card and PIN). You can find out if your records are held on this system. To read more visit-                  


But many people are saying “I thought this is what the programme was all about” Be warned think again. The good news is the programme has been put on hold for 6 months. This has to be a plus that a programme that was supposed to be going “live” shortly, when only 29% of the poplulation received a poorly produced leaflet informing them of government plans for this. However,It must also be said any scheme headed up “Better information means better care” has to be a move in the right direction!

Clearly reading into both, this is a very different / new computer database from that described above and there has been much in the press and TV in the last two weeks about the scheme. The reason for this is, it is not just about sharing information between those who care for you but others as well and that raises many concerns and issues for many of people. There has to be merit in an NHS system that wants to know about age groups etc affected by heart attacks, stroke, eye conditions… in order to advance but when it comes down to information being shared between pharmaceutical companies and the possible selling on of data to others enabling access to your information, then caution is  paramount. Will this result in “cold calling” to sell insurances for health and care packages etc.

To get out of the programme you must “opt out”. Many GP practices have produced a leaflet and form to sign giving you the opportunity to “opt out” of the system but read the wording carefully! Reportings to us give evidence that GP practices are producing different wording ie look and see -does yours use the wording “all “ “personal” “confidential” which your medical records are. Consider inserting these words if you think it is important. Remember, if you decide to opt out now, you can opt back in at a later date if the way the scheme scheduled to operate is changed and you are happy with it- so why alert you to this? Well the system as it stands does not ask for your name but it does ask for nhs number, gender, age group and postcode. That surely must mean, it would not take rocket science for you to be identified. If you want to find out more have a read of these

The decision is yours but don’t expect your Gp to ask do you want to be in it or not, after all money could be realised by selling on your data at some point. SDN is not going to influence you, our members either way but feel it is important enough for us to alert you! The decision is yours. Look out for further updates.

sign language ireland 250-253

A New App for Sign Language Alphabet-Share it with others please

Do you have an Andriod phone? If  so how about trying a new app that has been created by David Mullis from Dundalk IT College for use with android phones, for the sign language alphabet.

David Mullis

It is free in google play under: Sign Language Alphabet Ireland. 

David asks will you please encourage people to use the app but also to let him know of ways to improve it with a view to making similar apps. This innovation is helpful to all of us whether we have sensory impairment or not because it means we can all communicate with each other. So go on try it. What do you think? How did you get on with it? 

It helps by showing you the hand sign used in the sign alphabet. So if you tap a letter you will see a picture of that sign. Tap in a word and you will be shown how to spell that word in sign! 

Since producing this app David has already received some feedback enabling him to update his first version. Any SDN members willing to help David, help others, please do? It would be great if you could. 

Click on this link to find out how it work


shrop games

Hundreds Compete at County School Sport Festival

Shropshire Games-7116

Over two days this week (Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th February), hundreds of young people from across the county braved the weather and came together to compete in the winter Shropshire Homes School Sport Festival, as part of Sainsbury’s School Games. 

The Festival, now in its third year, brought 1400 primary and secondary school children from across the county to Lilleshall National Sports and Conferencing Centre where over 220 teams took part in 18 different sports competitions including Cross Country, Netball, Basketball, Volleyball and Gymnastics.   

There were also a number of events specifically for students with a disability including, MLD/SLD Sportshall Athletics and Inclusive Rowing.  

The two day Festival was the culmination of months of qualifying competitions which have been taking place in and between local schools throughout the county.  Lilleshall proved to be an ideal setting for the finals with young people being given the opportunity to utilise almost all of the world class facilities on site and experience two days of high quality sporting competition. 

The standard of competition was very high with all competitors aiming to win points for their School Games area (Shrewsbury, South Shropshire, East Shropshire, North Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Burton Borough, or Telford and Wrekin Phoenix) in the hope that theirs would be crowned the winners.  Congratulations go to East Shropshire who were winners on both the primary and secondary day. 

In addition to the hundreds of competitors, there were also 130 outstanding young leaders at Lilleshall who were key to making the Festival run smoothly at the qualifying events and over the two finals days. The young leaders took on a variety of different roles including team managers, officials and reporters.  An active Youth Forum also spent months helping to plan this event, putting into practice their ideas for running the county finals 

The Festival also provided an opportunity to showcase other local talent as the opening ceremony of each day involved performances from football freestyler Ash Randall, local singer/songwriter Louis Coupe and Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology Street Dance group. Also present to give their support to the Shropshire Homes School Sport Festival were three Olympic/Paralympic athletes; six time Olympic Archer Alison Williamson, London 2012 GB C2 Canoe Slalom gold medallist Tim Baillie and London 2012 Paralympic GB TA mixed double scull Rower Nick Beighton 

Geoff Renwick, Head at William Brookes School and Chair of the School Games Local Organising Committee commented, 

These two finals days and the qualifying competitions which take place in the months running up to them are a key part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Legacy, giving young people the opportunity to compete in a wide variety of sports.  The Festival has shown that there are some very determined and talented young sports people in the county and I hope that they continue to take part in their chosen sports after the Festival.  Well done to everyone who has taken part and congratulations to the winning areas.  

On behalf of the Local Organising Committee I would like to thank everyone involved in the organisation of the primary and secondary School Sport Festival, particularly the young leaders because without their commitment and enthusiasm this event would not be possible. Our thanks also go to the performers who took part in the opening and closing ceremonies and to our inspiring GB athletes. Finally, thank you to Lilleshall NSCC and to our sponsor, Shropshire Homes, for their continued support for school sport in the local area.” 

The next Shropshire Homes School Sport Festival will take place in July 2014. 

National Diversity Awards 250-253

Another Blog from the National Diversity Awards – Dom Smith

I’m Dom Smith, and I find inspiration in the simplest of places… 

They say the best jobs are the hardest. When (one of) your jobs involves running (or hobbling at speed) around festivals in Europe, while also dealing with Cerebral Palsy (and walking with two sticks), I guess you could say that my job as a journalist and editor of Soundsphere magazine is somewhat challenging.

It is extremely important for any entrepreneur with a disability to be able to channel their difficulties, and use them as a source of inspiration for not only themselves, but also others. In turn, it is important, no matter what any disabled person does for a living, that they find inspiration in the people that surround them. Though, it might be easier for me to do that, as I never stop talking, or asking people questions!

Everybody has a story, and a way to inspire and motivate, and that’s the knowledge that gets me up in the morning; that’s what makes me want to rush around while my legs hurt chasing interviews and (attempting) to meet deadlines. It’s all about remembering the cool people that I work with (inside the ever competitive music industry), as well as the family and friends that really give a monkeys about what I do, no matter how much pain I’m in, or however stressed I might be feeling.

Indeed, there are some interesting parallels and barriers that present themselves to a disabled person working within the music business – it’s certainly fast-paced and intense, but we are getting to a time when some really inspiring and talented disabled people are getting to perform on television, or work behind the scenes. In 2014, especially in creative industries, many appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit, and musicians in particular understand what it’s like to build a career off your own back. I certainly wouldn’t be anywhere without the bands, contacts and support networks I’ve developed since I started doing this, and I bet you can find similar people to inspire and motivate you in your professions.

I’m speaking to future National Diversity Award nominees here – I want you to realise how well you’ve done – whether you win or not. Everybody achieves different things in life (and I speak to world-renowned musicians every day who have achieved some wonderful things – some more than others). The fact is that, you get up, you motivate, inspire and drive yourselves forward each day no matter the odds (using some of the simple inspirations that I talked about above), and that is just awesome. Keep breaking down those barriers and doing everything you’ve wanted to do, using all of the resources around you, because you will change people’s lives in some very small and large ways.


final 1

Never underestimate the strength of your tweets

SDN having listened to you our Members took action earlier this year as a result of people telling us about disability access issues at the Premier Inn Shrewsbury. On your behalf we visited and have to say we were very impressed with the friendliness of the staff and the way the company meets the needs of those with a disability (ie accessible showers/baths, hearing loop systems, alarms, wide corridors enabling people who use any kind of mobility aid to get around easily.) There are many other facilities provided by Premier Inn to ensure visitors have an enjoyable stay. So what is the problem? Getting in the building! Yes ACCESS!

Have you tried it? It is via the back entrance, by way of a lift that would not accommodate the larger mobility scooter! We ask how does this fit in with the Equality Act? How did it get through planning? Where does the Disability Act fit in to a new building like this? We are fortunate at SDN to have a Specialist Advisor on our Management Committee who could guide us with her expertise and knowledge. So what can we do? What have we done and what is SDN doing about it now?

Firstly it must be said-Our representatives on the Safe Places Shropshire Committee had already refused to go to a launch of Safe Places Shropshire if it was held at Premier Inn Shrewsbury! Needless to say that Launch was held elsewhere. This is the strength of SDN’s feeling that people with a disability should not be treated differently. Please note we are aware that this access issue does not rest with disability, what about parents with prams/pushchairs-how do they cope when the entrance that had to be 7 foot above ground level because of flooding issues?

Having made enquiries from the Manager at Shrewsbury we were advised to email the Cluster Manager for Shropshire. Some emails were exchanged and our comments were passed on to higher authority. Then we started tweeting not realising the power of Social Media. Just how far would our tweets reach? Eventually Richard Prescott Head of Communications offered to come up from Bedfordshire and meet with us at Premier Inn Shrewsbury. We grasped this opportunity and met with not only Richard but also other officials from Bedfordshire eg Premier Inn-Head of Business Development, the Chief Operating Officer, and the New Opening General Manager. 

Two weeks ago your Deputy Chairperson and our Specialist Advisor for Projects had a very good meeting to discuss the issues. Each question was answered and we had a really worthwhile meeting. We were very pleased that Richard asked Christopher the Architect/Designer to bring along the plans that were produced for Premier Inn at Shrewsbury.. We are very pleased that Premier Inn officials are acknowledging that the access at Shrewsbury needs to be substantially improved. They want to work with us, have taken our suggestions and will be meeting with us again to look at the proposals they are now drawing up to address these issues. There are areas that they have asked that SDN support them in and we are aware that there will be a costs involved and this will have to be taken to the appropriate department of Premier Inns. They also asked us, if there are any other areas regarding disability that needs to be looked at and since our meeting we have gone back to them with one or two queries and suggestions. 

We are grateful to Richard, John, Jacqui, Rachel and Christopher for meeting with us. As we continue to work together on this project, we will bring you updates on what is happening with the ultimate aim of holding an SDN meeting there is the latter quarter of 2014. 

So, it is as  with the same words I started this article & said at our meeting by the Chief Operating Officer at Premier Inn “You” had underestimated the strength of your tweets re Premier Inn Shrewsbury which played a huge part in seeing that “we” needed to act!”

Superfast Broadband in Shropshire; Does it Matter

When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar! So goes the children’s joke and it’s guaranteed to send them into paroxysms of giggles and sniggers. Do you get it? They will say; it’s a JAR; and off they go again. In real life such doublé entendes can be far more serious for instance when is broadband for all not broadband for all? For that matter, why should we care?

It all depends on where you live. Shropshire is a big place, with only a few people, but that doesn’t mean that there are not a significant number of those people who are less able in some way or who require care. For every person who requires care there is often a carer and in many cases those carers are older people with needs of their own. This not insignificant group of people can potentially be the biggest beneficiaries of on line services.

This week we saw the latest release of information from Connecting Shropshire on the prospective roll out of superfast broadband across the county starting in 2015 with some areas not scheduled to see services until 2016 and a small proportion of the County only likely to receive a basic 2Mbs service after that. The information can be viewed here:

Why should you care? In Shropshire the provision of broadband technology is a vital underpinning of access to services, education and training, economic development, access to communication and entertainment services and just plain old equality of access and opportunity. One of the top three questions reported by estate agents when selling a property is: “Is there broadband” and houses in areas where there is no broadband or very poor quality of service command a lower price and take longer to sell.

Broadband should be the fourth utility but it is the preserve of urban areas and small parts of Shropshire. A group in South Shropshire is now campaigning hard for a change of approach. The “South West Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Broadband” has launched an e-petition and is lobbying for prioritisation of those areas with the poorest or non-existent broadband service. You can contact Patrick Cosgrove at:

Well House,
Chapel Lawn

Tel: 01547 530347

If you can get access to the Internet you can look at their petition at:



Our Park Run. Blog Post by Grace Hough.

Our local Park Run was launched in Telford on 16th February 2013 by a very enthusiastic guy called Chris Richards.  He worked tirelessly to include  as many people as he could in the birth of Shropshire’s very own event and there have been 25 to date.  Last week 10th August I was one of the 211 runners enjoying their Saturday morning outing. Lots of encouragement and no stress.  As a supporter of Shropshire Disability Network I am working with Chris to encourage the less able bodied to join and I wear my SDN T shirt to highlight the work of the charity. The Telford Town Park route is easily negotiated so an ideal venue. We aim to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  If you are unable to run the volunteer rota has vacancies.

The beauty of this sort of run is that it is all things to all runners.  If you are an elite athlete it can be a tough training run, but it is targeted at the less competitive side of life.  The ones who need a little encouragement to get active, to lose a little weight or gain  self confidence.  Those who might need more support than usual.  Or to just get out with the kids and jog, trot, or walk the 5km.  A sweeper runner at the back ensures no one is lost, left behind, or injured along the way.  Plus the social side afterwards, a quick coffee and a chat might be all someone needs to cheer them up.

For those not addicted to running and sport it all may sound a bit odd, but I have been around athletics for 30 years+  and I have seen the positive  effect it can have on both mental and physical health.  Because the Park Runs are just a very simple idea to get people moving they are an overwhelming success.

Just to prove that theory the newest Park Run in Shrewsbury is being launched as we speak and will debut in the next few weeks, so why don’t you have a go! You might enjoy it!

Get Going Live

A Brief Report by Haydn Jenkins DSA ADI, with pictures by Lee Hewis DSA ADI

I attended this year’s GET GOING live event in my capacity as a Driving Instructor working with people with disability.

The event is organised by Disabled Motoring (UK) and Mobility Choice, the charity behind the annual Mobility Roadshow,

The show is primarily for young and newly disabled people, keen to get behind the wheel, or to research adapted motoring options, Get Going Live! Is now in its 3rd year, this exciting free one-day event designed to help people explore all the options for accessible motoring.  At the event you can;

  • Test drive a range of adapted cars
  • Experience all-terrain mobility vehicles
  • Gain advice and information from mobility experts
  • Enjoy the thrill of 4×4, skid cars and much more!

It’s all about independence

Not everyone knows that young people with disabilities could get their driving licence at 16, a year ahead of those who are not disabled? That’s great news, but where do they start? Get Going Live! Has helped hundreds of people from all over the UK to try adapted driving for the first time, and welcomes young drivers from the age of 14 to come and get in the driving seat! 

John Rogers from Disability Driving Instructors Association (John is also a Driving Assessor Derby DrivAbility) talking to a young lady in one of the static vehicles.

Donington Park – The Heart of British Motorsport

What better place to start the drive of your life? This FREE event takes place at the Launch Pad, a self-contained, fully accessible venue at Donington Park with ample parking.


There is the chance to drive on a circuit that includes the historic Heritage Loop, accompanied by experienced drivers, and a wide range of expert advice and information on hand to help the potential driver make the right choices for their particular needs.

Those interested could find out about the adaptation options and vehicles that are right for them. Before getting behind the wheel there was the chance to test their reactions to different road conditions and potential hazards at the Autoadapt Driver Test Station

There was friendly expert advice. Straight from its national launch at the Mobility Roadshow the new Association of Disability Driving Instructors, which in partnership with the Forum of Mobility Centres, will help gain easy access to specialist driving instructors.

This is where my involvement comes in, as I was one of a number of Specialist Driving Instructors manning, several of our own adapted tuition vehicles in which the potential young drivers could try the controls in a static situation and receive advice on which adaptations were suitable for their ability before moving on to the test track, where they could drive adapted vehicles in a safe and controlled environment.

I can’t name every vehicle available, there were just too many to mention, there were several different makes of controls available to try from;

  • Brig-Ayd Controls,

    Cars in the static display area

    Cars in the static display area

  • Jeff Gosling Hand Controls,
  • Alfred Bekker Controls,
  • they had available; push pull hand controls,  left foot accelerators, steering aids and instructor dual brakes,  also available Sirus Automotive- Drive-From-Wheelchair and Wrightington Mobility Centre- Drive From Wheelchair Vehicles.

Because I was involved in the static section I didn’t have much opportunity to look around as I would have liked. But I gave advice to lots of potential drivers and did manage to make some new contacts with some of the adaptation suppliers.

I would also like to thank my wife Linda for coming with me without her help and support  I’m not sure I would be getting out and about as much. She also has to put up with me needing the Sunday to recover due to pushing myself too far.

To close I’ll leave the last word to some of the visitors;

This is me (in the hat) talking to the young lady watch by one of the other instructors and the young lady's farther.

This is me (in the hat) talking to the young lady watch by one of the other instructors and the young lady’s farther.

This comment from one parent in 2012 reflects the feedback from many:
“My daughter got to drive for the first time and this gave her the confidence to realise she will be able to drive a car.”

A comment made to me from one of the parents of a young paraplegic “Trying to find an instructor with a suitable vehicle for my son was like trying to find rocking horse droppings, this new disability driving instructors association has given my several contacts, and this should make it easier for him to learn to drive.”

And from young learner drivers: “Absolutely fantastic: where else can you get to try so many cars.” “I’ve had a brilliant day; the driving was great – loads of choice and information too.” “It was awesome: I can’t wait to be 16.”


This article is the intellectual property of the author;

HAYDN JENKINS,     Pictures courtesy of LEE HEWIS


Grace Hough-2It is a year since the excitement and enjoyable madness of the Olympic and Paralympic  Games.  For a few weeks in July and August 2012 the whole country was hooked on all things sport.  Be it Dressage, Rowing, Cycling or Athletics we watched it on the telly.  Medal after medal came our way.  It was like a fairy tale for both able bodied and disabled athletes.

On a personal note for me it was a dream come true.  Not only did I secure tickets for my beloved athletics, I saw Mo, Jess and Greg win their gold medals on super Saturday.  Could it get better, oh yes.  I was a Games maker at the Paralympic  Games working directly with the athletes.

One year on from the Games where are we and has it made any difference to anyone?  Well I went to the Anniversary Games a few weeks ago.  I hoped for a repeat of last year’s excitement and success. In some ways I wasn’t disappointed.

How can you be disappointed when Usain Bolt enters the stadium on a rocket! and Mo Farah wins his 3000m race.  However I also realised what a high price athletes pay for success.  Success is transient and very soon forgotten.  How many medal winners can you name or recognise from last year?  How many pay the price with injuries and lack of motivation after such a life changing experience as competing in the spotlight of your own country.  Some of them have retired or resumed their day jobs to continue to earn a living.  Only the few continue to live the life of a celebrity.

Jessica Ennis-Hill is sadly injured and unable to compete at her usual high standard as well as Dai Greene the hurdler injured and struggling in competition plus many more from 2012 suffering with injuries.

What has this got to with SDN you ask?  Well on a positive note I learned more about disability in a few weeks than in all my life.  It wasn’t the beautiful athletes who appeared on the TV that taught me, but the men and women who overcame their sometimes appalling injuries or disfigurements to compete against all odds. They came to the games mostly from third world countries on shoestring budgets hardly able to afford kit or accommodation.  They thoroughly enjoyed their experience.  Basically we had loads of fun just being part of the Games.  They went home full of positive ideas and hope for the future.

The Legacy of the Games may be slow to trickle down to the general population, but I have seen evidence that it is happening.   First, I have joined Ruby (A gem by name and nature) and her team as a fund raiser and Ambassador for SDN.  (Have you seen our T shirts?  Brill).  Second, I have been in contact with several athletes and they are visiting schools encouraging children to take part in sport whatever their ability.  Some like Beth Tweddle (gymnastics) and Nicola Adams (ladies boxing) have set up academies in deprived areas to encourage participation in sport.  Third, I am sure due to the progress of research on things like wheelchairs and artificial limbs, and prosthetics  things will improve the life for many individuals.

The next step is improving things in our normal daily life.  It is a long term project.  I hope I can assist SDN to achieve some small changes.

There is a long way to go to make everything right but I hope my small contribution will help the younger disabled population, and it all came about from London 2012.

Roll on Rio 2016.