Here at BuDS we thought it was about time we celebrated our wonderful trustees, volunteers and staff members who have dedicated their time to keep our projects running and disabled people supported through such trying and uncertain times. Over the past year BuDS has grown dramatically to meet the needs of disabled people, so please indulge us while we blow our own trumpet!
The global pandemic has cruelly highlighted the importance of social connections and sadly, many people have learnt that isolation and loneliness can be life threatening. BuDDies is our support and befriending service for isolated and lonely disabled people in Bucks. Started in the first lockdown in 2020, our friendly BuDDies are trained safeguarded volunteers who keep in touch through telephone, video and messaging with anyone who needs a chat or a shoulder to lean on.
We reactivated BuDDies when the national lockdown started before Christmas and it will run for as long as it is needed in 2021. We are looking for more BuDDy volunteers – you will be paired up with someone who needs some company and speak or message with them on a regular basis, offering support and companionship. If you are a good listener and want to support someone who is struggling with isolation – then BuDS needs you. And if you’re lonely and need a chat, BuDDies are here to help.
Information, advice and guidance throughout the pandemic
Throughout the pandemic, the BuDS Information, Advice & Guidance (IAG) team, including our experts in law, disability rights, statistical analysis and epidemiology, has been consistently providing quality information. We have kept up with the many changes in advice and guidance from the government whilst ensuring the wellbeing and safety of disabled people remains at our heart. Since last February, we have updated our followers 192 times in relation to the unfolding Covid developments, including updates on shielding, vaccines, risks, myths, and fake news – that’s 1 update every two or three days. Between 12th January and 8th February 2021, our Facebook posts reached 117,000 people and 40,000 of those people shared, liked, or commented – over a third of readers. This shows that tens of thousands of people all over the UK are being helped by BuDS’ information every month.
The BuDS IAG team are enormously proud of our weekly risk posts, the only independent risk analysis for disabled people in the UK, with supporters praising the posts for being ‘unbiased and informative’. We will continue to report on the risk of the unfolding pandemic for as long as you need us to.
As all-consuming as the pandemic can seem sometimes, we have also continued to post about ‘non-Covid’ related news that is of importance to disabled people, such as changes to benefits and accessibility issues. In 2021, we want to do more of this.
Disability Rights & the Fair4All Card
In January this year, many supermarkets decided to make it compulsory to wear face coverings in their stores. In one of our most read articles, our disability rights experts reported on the legal rights of disabled people when navigating the murky waters of exemption.
In the first lockdown, to help disabled people get their legal rights recognised, including around face coverings, BuDS worked with Thames Valley Police to issue letters to hundreds of disabled people confirming their rights. BuDS is now building on that scheme in 2021 by launching our new Fair4All Card for disabled people. The Fair4All Card is a secure photocard issued by BuDS to local disabled people who can prove that they are legally entitled to reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 and/or exemptions under the Coronavirus Regulations 2020 and 2021. The scheme is voluntary but will make life easier and simpler for both local disabled people and the shops and services they use.
A brand new Fair4All website allowing people to apply for the Card was launched at the beginning of February and the Fair4All Card scheme itself will start to launch in March. The wider Fair4All team are working with supermarkets, shops and services to encourage them to recognise the card. The Card team has been working tirelessly on this exciting new project since September, and we have received many applications from people wanting a Fair4All Card.
Insight Polls – we are listening to you
From the beginning of the pandemic, BuDS saw that disabled people and people at higher risk from coronavirus were being hardest hit, being more likely to experience isolation and loneliness and to struggle getting daily essentials and accessing services. Our Insight Polls collected data about these issues directly from disabled people all through the 2020 pandemic. We published the results and the data helped make local services better for disabled people.
In 2021, with the help of our volunteer statistical analyst and technical consultant, BuDS has relaunched the Insight Polls to record just how hard disabled people are being hit by the continuing pandemic. A number of local organisations have welcomed this because they know how valuable our data can be. We aim to use the data we collect from the Polls to spotlight where disabled people feel they are being let down. We will soon start publishing weekly reports on our findings, including how we think we can support you. We will also use the data to help us lobby for change within local government and improve access to services for disabled people both in Buckinghamshire and nationwide.
Reach4Work – helping local disabled people move into work
The BuDS Reach4Work project has always offered local disabled people who are job-seeking (or who want to move closer to work) the chance to volunteer within BuDS, with every volunteer role adapted to suit the individual. The pandemic has increased unemployment and reduced job security for everyone, including disabled people. So, with new funding from the Rothschild Foundation, Children in Need and the Youth Work Foundation, BuDS has expanded Reach4Work into a complete wrap-around employability service with 4 dedicated staff and a number of volunteers so that we can help even more disabled people gain skills, qualifications and move closer to and into work. Many people are already being helped and we will be recruiting more people into Reach4Work later in March.
Building a Fair4All society for disabled people – even in a pandemic
BuDS wants to build a Fair4All society which includes and accepts disabled people and where disabled people have the same choices and opportunities as non-disabled people. We do this by working to create permanent, sustainable change which makes life better for many disabled people, as well as working with individuals. We have formed strategic partnerships with a wide range of organisations, voluntary sector bodies and local councils and the NHS. Our Fair4All projects have always helped all of the 41,000 disabled people in Bucks plus many more across England, in areas like accessibility, inclusion, the design of public places, transport, events, hate crimes and much more. Our new Fair4All Unlock project is even tackling pandemic-related issues for disabled people like parking, one-way systems and queues.
Championing our expert volunteers
Here at BuDS, we’ve been very fortunate to work with over 30 expert professional volunteers during the pandemic. They have a variety of skills and expertise in several professions. We have volunteer accountants, scientists, social workers, lawyers, marketing communications experts, professional writers, statistical analysts and IT specialists, to name just a few. If you have professional skills and some time to spare, maybe because you are retired, furloughed or under-worked at the moment, please consider joining us. Whatever your skill or experience is – we have a role waiting for you!
We hope this article has given you an idea of all the great work BuDS is doing. Remember, we are a very diverse community of disabled people working together to make life better for all disabled people, and we are always looking for new disabled people to join our team. If you’ve been inspired or motivated to join us, please email us now on [email protected] (or leave a voicemail on 01494 211179) for more information.