We sat down with PCAS founder Simon Arthur to understand the increasingly important and challenging role the charity has in our region.
Simon Arthur, Manager at PCAS, and his partner and Administrator Alli
Simon, PCAS has been serving the disabled community in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin for 25 years, why is it more important than ever to secure additional funding?
With austerity and continued governmental cuts to local authorities, this has had a knock on effect to the voluntary sector. In fact, two other advocacy services have closed in the last couple of years putting even more pressure on our service. The need for our service has grown year on year and last year we helped 450 disabled people. We have the longest waiting list we’ve ever had and we really need the communities help. The increased complexity of cases means we need more staff and more training.
We’re trying to find new ways of raising additional funding to address the crisis in our region. We need to attract people to our cause by making ourselves more visible to different types of donors and fundraisers, including encouraging more individual donations. We need people to help with our fundraising efforts through doing sponsored events, runs, coffee mornings, etc and we need more partnerships with companies who support what we’re doing.
You say cases are becoming more complex. How so, and why is this?
When we started 25 years ago, the advocacy world was just taking off and people didn’t know what advocacy was all about. In the early days, PCAS helped disabled people challenge decisions they didn’t agree with, fill in forms, or accompany people to see their GP so the GP listened to them.
Around 10 years ago there was more publicity, and local councils started to recognise that they should be referring vulnerable disabled people into advocacy services for more complex issues. These included challenging social care services around care packages, having someone to help them through continuing health care assessments, helping and supporting through adult safeguarding (where abuse was reported) and helping the most vulnerable older people who’d gone into residential or nursing homes (to help them set up payments for their care contributions).
Then five years ago we noticed that around 80% of clients we were helping had multiple disabilities and very complex needs. For example, someone who’d had a stroke which affected their communication – we had to find a way of helping them get people to listen through writing things down or getting them a light scribe so that they could be fully involved in planning their life going forward.
We have many people who have a learning difficulty who don’t understand the words used by statutory agencies and staff, they need someone to break it down to simple words and statements. This is so important when we are working with a parent with learning difficulties who is fighting through child protection to try and keep their child/children with them and get the help and support they need to be a good parent.
How does PCAS use the money donated by funders?
At PCAS we use as much of the money donated or given to us through grant funding to help at the frontline. By this, I mean to employ advocates or go towards the travel budget – Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin is such a big region to cover, and we go to the client in their own home. We do this as it helps break down barriers for the client and gives them a bit of power back knowing that this service is making an effort to come to them – they don’t have to arrange transport or carers, medication or remember to lock their house up.
We really do try to make sure any money coming into our charity is best used for the benefit of the most vulnerable people in society we help. Because we offer long term help not just a quick fix, it’s getting more difficult for our team of dedicated staff to cope with the huge demand being put on the service.
We work with people who are blind or partially sighted and we are their lifeline as we read their post and letters so they know what is on their bank statements and understand appointment letters. People with Multiple Sclerosis can struggle on a daily basis with their condition. We help them make phone calls, get adaptations done and find ways to make their life that little bit easier as their condition deteriorates.
We help people with an acquired brain injury who have memory problems by putting systems in place to remind them when they have appointments or when to do certain things like pay their bills (we do this by setting up a memory board or a communication book for their carers to use).
How are PCAS hoping to increase funding; through new donors, through more large or small donations?
At PCAS we try and see further into the future. Because of the ageing population and the fact that our long term clients aren’t getting any younger, we need to think about our future plans.
We hope that through the increase in awareness of the plight of vulnerable disabled people in our area, that new donors, sponsors, supporters of the valuable service we deliver to society will come forward and work with us. This will help us increase our funding levels and enable us to continue to do the amazing work we have been doing for the last 25 years.
How can people or business owners reading this help PCAS?
I’m sure there are business people and owners out there who will read this and be reminded of someone they are close to who has a disability or condition that affects their life. They will understand how so very difficult it is for these people living in a world that is trying to make adjustments, but we are never going to make life easy or better for everyone.
We need businesses or business owners to help us with events, fundraising or even by donating a raffle prize to us for one of our fundraising events (every little helps). We can offer businesses some publicity through our website or on our leaflets, and we can build a directory of services that we can tell our clients about when they need something doing in their home/garden. We help our clients find other services they need and last year we helped them gain access to over 1500 services in the region.
Finally, if PCAS receives the support you are looking for, what can we expect to see from PCAS in 2020?
If we can get the community on board to support us with fundraising, then we can expand further, get more workers and help bring our waiting list down. We recognise that any delay in providing support can be devastating for the individual or family concerned, and so want to be able to respond quickly and effectively to urgent matters.
It’s our mission to grow to be able to help more vulnerable people for the long-term.