British people gave £800 million more than usual to charity during lockdown.

A special Covid-19 report by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) into UK household giving found that giving during the first months of lockdown was at levels normally seen during the peak seasonal fundraising months of November and December when the Poppy Appeal, Children in Need and major Christmas appeals are held.

Between January and June 2020, the public donated a total of £5.4 billion to charity – £800 million more than for the same period in 2019.

However, the report also found that some vital charities suffered unprecedented losses as donors shifted their donations to charities supporting the NHS and opportunities for fundraising were curtailed.

Medical research charities are among the hardest hit by this shift, losing out on an estimated £174 million in the first six months of 2020. Other causes that are normally among the most popular also experienced large drops in donations including animal charities and those supporting children and young people.

“There has never been a time in living memory when we have collectively been more aware of the value of charity in our lives and that is clearly borne out in this CAF report and in the generosity of the British people.” Neil Heslop, Chief Executive at the Charities Aid Foundation, said. 

“It is also our sincere hope that these extraordinary levels of giving serve as inspiration and reminds us of what is possible when people come together to support the causes closest to their hearts.

“It is worth remembering that this is not about the charities themselves – at the end of the day it is about the causes they support, be they our neighbours, our friends, or our natural world. We need them all to survive and to thrive, for all of our sakes.”

The Charities Aid Foundation is a charity, bank and champion for better giving who for over 90 years have been helping donors, companies and charities make a bigger impact. 

Their report found that there was a large increase in the number of people donating to or sponsoring ‘hospitals and hospices’ during the height of the pandemic’s first wave. Furthermore, one in 5 people reported donating to charities which support the NHS – this reflects the public support for NHS

Despite an increased anxiety around household finances early in the pandemic, this did not result in people giving less to charity.  By the end of April the sentiment had completely reversed – more people than usual reported that they intended to donate more in the next 12 months (12% vs. a long term average of 7%) – a figure that remains elevated.

The UK also remains one of the most generous countries in the world, consistently ranked in the top 10 in the Charities Aid Foundation’s annual World Giving Index.


Yorkshire Charities Come Together To Support Elderly Communities

Huddersfield-based Yorkshire Children’s Centre (YCC) has partnered with Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees (C&K) to deliver an ingenious telephone befriending service for the district’s most vulnerable people, as well as an app to help manage demand.

Since the service was set up – during the start of the lockdown period – in April, the charities have recorded over 1,600 calls, provided 800  hours of support, welcomed 150 new volunteers on board, and matched more than 260  people with ‘befrienders’.

The new scheme has enabled referrals to be paired with a volunteer within 48 hours – a process which prior to the pandemic was admin-intensive for staff and had a long waiting list.

The technology allows the charities to analyse data and spot trends – relating to peak call times plus frequently discussed topics – and keep better connected to their volunteer base.

Volunteers can access the GetVolunteering app to log their calls and any safeguarding concerns, which then flag up on the YCC and Age UK C&K systems – allowing staff to identify where further mental health, financial or social support may be required.

Commenting on the results, Jane Sykes, head of early intervention and prevention services at Yorkshire Children’s Centre, said: “We started the befriending partnership over two years ago with Age UK C&K, Royal Voluntary Service, Kirkwood Hospice and Locala, but the virus meant all face-to-face visits grounded to a halt.

“We had to act fast to help prevent social isolation and loneliness from skyrocketing in the community – setting up the new processes and phone lines, and training new volunteers over Zoom in intensive 30-minute ‘crash-courses’.

“The results – in partnership with Age UK C&K – have been amazing. We’ve worked really well together to deliver such an integral service to those in need. Even when we’re over the worst of the pandemic, this facility will definitely be here to stay.”

Until now, only local authorities and community anchor organisations could refer people for befriending, but due to the phone line’s success, it is now open to everyone.

Age UK C&K’s chief executive Lisa Butland added: “With the winter season almost upon us and the service showing no sign of slowing, we need volunteers more than ever before.

“At the start, we were inundated with requests to provide assistance. However, now people have gone back to work, these figures are reducing – but the number of vulnerable individuals in the community isn’t.

“We’re continuing to ‘rally the troops’ to get more people donating 30 minutes out of their weekly schedule to make a call – this seemingly small gesture really does help make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of the district’s vulnerable people.”

YCC and Age UK C&K hope to further build upon the GetVolunteering app’s capabilities over the coming months, to create a ‘volunteer community’ – enabling befrienders to contact one another via instant messaging.

Anyone in need of support call the telephone befriending phone line on 01484 411071, or email [email protected] for a referral form.

To find out more about how you can get involved with the Yorkshire Children’s Centre and Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees, head to their websites. 


Flora Barton on the purpose of education

Flora Barton, headteacher at Cromarsh Gifford Primary school joined one of our previous Smiley Talks event – The Big Education Action Plan

Beforehand, she caught up with us to share her insight on the importance of happiness within schools and how we can build movements which foster this. 

When we think of innovation, it is often thought of as something happen in larger organisations. How do you innovate in a small village school like your own?

I think it’s very much involving everybody. It’s about making sure everyone is involved in the process. We ask questions of everything we do and I think that’s why we are innovative, and why we come up with new ways of teaching our children. It’s about putting the kids at the heart of everything we do.

We have three questions that base every action on. The first is thinking about the purposes of everything that we do. The second is, what impact is it going to have on our children? If it’s not positive, we usually don’t do it. And then what impact is it going to have on the wellbeing of staff? And again, if it’s not positive, we don’t do it. 

Do you feel there is conflict between your decision to prioritise teacher wellbeing and the direction education policy has gone in in recent years?   

Absolutely. I think we always say put the children at the heart of everything we do. I think every school everywhere would say that, but it is also about making sure that your staff are at the centre of everything.

It has to start with your teachers and has to start with the people who are actually making the magic happen, so to speak. And so it’s making sure that your staff are happy first, so that they can then in turn, make sure that the children are happy, because until their well being is at the centre, the children’s well being won’t be.

My first inset that I did, eight years ago, my very first meeting with all the teachers I said to them, that I would we would work together to make sure that they could all leave by 4.15pm twice a week with nothing in their hands.

At the time,  they were teachers who were basically sitting there, exhausted, some were staying till ridiculous hours of the night, working all of the time. So that is what we started from, just implementing that and taking it from there. 

Whatever we do, it’s going to be about reducing everything we do work smarter, not harder. And that’s kind of just where we started and where we continue to work from really.

Tell me a little bit about your Burn Brighter conference.

During the lockdown, I was very much of the opinion that we’ve been given time and time is a gift. And during that time, I had done a lot of thinking – even though I was working flat out the entire time – I was just thinking about all the time that children were then having at home and the time they were having with their families, and just the opportunity to slow down and to think about things and reflect.

I feel as though we’ve been given the opportunity to really make a difference and to make a change in education. I feel as though if we don’t do it, now, we are going to miss our opportunity, we are going to become complacent again, because we know what the job entails. And we know how tired we get. So Burn Brighter was really a conference I’ve put together. We have another conference planned for December and I want it to become a movement.

It is about getting people together, who are passionate about changing education, and finding out what we want education to look like and how we get there. 

Has there been anything in particular that you have learned from another educator and adopted into your own school? 

Yes, absolutely. That’s that’s what education is about – it’s about everybody sharing best practice. I can’t say anything that we do in our school is any different to schools all over England, it’s just that we question everything we do. And so through the questioning, we then start researching the best ways to do things for the children.

I think the biggest thing that we need to take from from the coronavirus crisis is that the competition between schools needs to be broken down. So we are sharing best practice because we’re in this for every child everywhere, not just for the children in our school. That’s why we’re in education.

What do you think the purpose of education is? 

I think the purpose of education, for me is about helping children develop the skills and the behaviours to be the most effective. Learners I can be, so that they can go on to be lifelong learners. It’s about engaging children and getting children to question the world around them. Because for me, school should be about helping children find their purpose in life. They won’t find their purpose in life in primary school, but it’s about helping them understand that they do have a purpose. Yeah. And I think for me, you know, success is about waking up in the morning and doing whatever it is that you love to do every single day. And that’s what I want to help develop in our children is find what they’re passionate about.

You mentioned having an opportunity brought about by the pandemic – where do you think we should go from here? 

I think, I think we all need to really take stock of where we are,and realise that we have been given an opportunity. Everyone needs to come together, put their heads together and think about what we really want the purpose of education to be. It’s a chance to actually redefine everything, to truly consider what it is that we want education to look like in our schools. I think it’s a chance to flip everything back up on its head and and, you know, start fresh from a brand new perspective.


RNLI Work To Save Lives At Sea When Storms Hit

The RNLI has been working hard to safeguard lives at sea as storms hit the British coasts this weekend, with even greater swells expected this current weekend.

The start of the half term week has seen a huge increase in the number of people using the beaches around the south west. This past weekend, RNLI lifeguards patrolling 27 beaches across the region have been working extremely hard to keep water users safe as they contended with strong winds and powerful rip currents to ensure as beach goers could enjoy the October surf conditions safely.

The RNLI charity works to provide provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. Operating over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands.

Forecasters are now predicting an even bigger swell to hit Europe and the UK on Wednesday and Thursday, with challenging conditions then set to continue for the rest of the week. This swell is predicted to be dangerous in exposed areas of Cornwall and Devon, but the effects will create rough conditions along the south coast of Devon and into Dorset, so those heading to the coast should take extra care.

‘Experts have been watching weather systems out in the Atlantic for the last few weeks to calculate the impact on swell conditions hitting Europe and the UK. Forecasts at the moment are predicting a huge swell to arrive on Wednesday and into Thursday combined with strong winds.’ Steve Instance, RNLI Water Safety Lead for the South West says.

‘Sea conditions are set to be extremely dangerous and its likely most beaches will be red flagged with huge waves, strong rip currents and increased tidal surges. If you are tempted to enter the water, please go to one of the 27 lifeguarded beaches and listen to their advice, if there are no flags then there are no lifeguards. Do not enter the water if the red flag is flying, it only takes seconds to get caught out in conditions like these.”

‘While we expect stormy conditions during the winter, this particular swell is hitting in the middle of half term when the coastal area is busy with visitors to the region and locals off school. We would advise anglers, coastal walkers and anyone hoping to watch the surf to do so at a safe distance from the water.’

The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

To ensure their work can continue their work saving lives, the charity needs people to urgently donate, leave legacies, donate and volunteer. Volunteer roles do not necessarily mean going out to sea – the charity also needs volunteers in their shops, heritage sites and as part of their education programme. However much time you have and whatever skills, there is a way to get involved.


“We fail in kind of promoting positive mental health in children if we completely forget about teachers”: Adrain Bethune of Teachhappy on creating a happier schools

Adrian Bethune – part time primary school teacher, author, and founder of Teachhappy sat down with us to share his philosophy for education and how we can make changes that improve the wellbeing of young people.

Adrian will make up part of our panel The Big Education Action Planwhere we will be breaking down how was can transformation education for a positive future.  Make sure you register your place for free and catch up with our interview with our host Rae Snape


Why did you decide to get involved in education?

“I retrained to become a primary school teacher in 2010- before that I worked in the music industry. But when I was in music, I signed up to a mentoring scheme.

“And I mentored a boy through a charity called Chance UK. He was being taught in a Pupil Referral Unit, because his behaviour was often quite angry and aggressive in class, and he was at risk of being kicked out of school. I mentored him for a year and that experience is what made me want to retrain to be a teacher.

“I wanted to get into the classroom and help more children, like this boy that I mentor to kind of fit in to learn to be happy and to have a successful life and ultimately to thrive.”


What’s your vision for education?

“My philosophy is that the purpose of education is to allow children and the people that could look after them to thrive and flourish in life. I believe that is the ultimate purpose. On its own, it’s no good on its own just to have knowledge and qualifications – you need to have a deep sense of fulfilment or purpose or pleasure in life.

“So I think school should teach children not only knowledge and skills, but ultimately, give them what they need to carve out a life that they want to lead that they find pleasurable and purposeful.”


How do you make those big concepts like purpose and fulfilment comprehensible for young children?

“From my experience, young children understand these big concepts when you break it down for them. Children in my year five class can explain what neuroplasticity is, for example. They might not know the word but they would be able to explain that it’s the brain’s ability to learn to change to grow.”


How do we ensure that teaching wellbeing and happiness skills doesn’t just become another thing for teachers to have to do?

“We fail in kind of promoting positive mental health in children if we completely forget about teachers. Teachers’ physical and mental health has to be paramount in any discussions around well being in schools.

“What grinds teachers down the most is having a list of tasks that are meaningless. I haven’t met a teacher that doesn’t want to work hard for that, you know, the benefit of children. And when that work is enjoyable, and purposeful, when there’s a real kind of important reason for doing that work, teachers will go above and beyond to do it.

“But, when you’re asked to tick boxes and jump through hoops that aren’t helping the children in your care, that is is what I think eventually burns teachers out.”


Has the pandemic provided an opportunity to reconsider what education should look like?

“The pandemic has given us the perfect opportunity to stop to kind of step back to reflect on the purpose of education, whether what we’re currently doing is working, whether it’s fit for purpose.

“We know from behavioural science, that when you have significant changes, to your kind of lifestyle, to your habits, behaviours – and a global pandemic would be an example of that – if that is the opportune time to change what you’re doing to establish new kind of habits and behaviours.

“And so this is the ripe opportunity to make those changes. Because we have been shown this pandemic has highlighted the problems with our system, the problems with accountability, the problems with systemic racism, the problems with an exam system that isn’t fit for purpose, and actually seems to disadvantage, a significant number of students, which is completely wrong.”


What is your vision for education?

“I think where I see us going from here is having some constructive conversations about the purpose of education, because everything else is just tinkering around the edges.

“Unless all of us involved in education are talking and can agree that the purpose of what what is it we want for our young people – for for now and then for the future – there will be no progress. In terms of going forward, we need to have conversations, we need to listen. We need to find some common ground and then we need to work out how we get there.”


Belligerent Optimism: Rae Snape on Education, Innovation & Being A Flamingo Of Hope

Smiley Movement are delighted to announce Rae Snape as our first-ever Smiley Talks Education Ambassador. Rae wears many hats as a Head Teacher, National Leader of Education and self-proclaimed Flamingo of Hope.

We caught up with her ahead of our Big Education Action Plan Event, which she is hosting later in the week   to talk all things education, innnovation and belligerent optimism. 

What does Education meant to you?

“For me, education is life. I think there’s a lot of a view that education is restricted to school. But I think education is learning that takes takes place everywhere. It takes place in the home, it takes place in the park space in the supermarket. It’s I think living and learning are one in the same thing.

“So I’m very passionate myself about learning. And in its many forms, and I’m passionate about learning about learning, because I think education helps to helps you to see the world it helps you to shape your world. It helps you to, to enjoy life. I think that’s the that’s the true essence of education.

“Education gives the best benefits financially, socially, academically, that’s what a rounded education does for a person.”

Do you feel that schooling as it currently stands reflect what education can do?

“I think we’re very limited. Or rather, I think there are limits on education because of the testing system. And I do think that if we remove the testing system as it is, we would have new freedoms for teachers and young people to be co constructors of a really great education system that isn’t bound by these particular end points, fixed endpoints fixed outcome points that define what is taught. So I think this is this would have a substantial impact.

“If we eliminated the testing system, I am not adverse in any way, shape, or form to accountability is something that I believe in.I think children have a right and are entitled to be able to be literate and numerate and know about the humanities and to be creative and have great social skills.

“But I think that type of testing tests, things that aren’t easily testable. And so we’ve got this whole set of data, which only tests the things that are easy to measure, which are not the only things that are important.”

Tell me more about the importance of collaboration in education…

“I think ink a true education allows young people to see beyond themselves, and empowers them to be sociable to form great relationships. But for the more so to have a sense that their identity and be shaped by the choices that they make, and the legacy they leave behind is shaped by the choices that they make.

“So that sense of voice choice and agency is really important. And collaboration is fundamental, within 21st century pedagogy, because it’s through collaboration, that we get great creativity and critical ideas and critical thinking. And it just helps us to innovate. So that’s one of the benefits is through collaboration, you get innovation question.”

Can you tell me a little bit about innovation and how that impacts education?

Goldie Hawn Foundation do a wonderful programme called “MindTap, which is looking at positive psychology, basic neuroscience and mindfulness, three things. Schools are finding that using this framework they are empowering their children to be able to regulate, and to co regulate. And if you have those skills, and you understand how the brain works, then you’re more receptive to learning.

“Another great innovation that I learned about is actually very, very old, at 40 years old. And it comes from the work of Paulo Freire looking at schools as learning communities, where you set up dialogic literary gatherings and children, read the same text, and then discuss and debate the ideas in the book. And that’s not a very expensive innovation.

“One might argue, does innovation always have to be a new thing? Or is it the way that it’s implemented within the school? And something as simple as reading a book together and sharing ideas together, builds that strong sense of harmony and coexistence.”

“Innovation is not necessarily new things, it’s about making sure that they’re within your pedagogy in your practice. And another lovely innovation is our school or children spend time in nature, because that does incredible things for children’s well being and their resilience.”

And finally, I have heard you call yourself a flamingo of hope. What does that mean?

‘I was really aware in 2016 that it was not easy for schools, it wasn’t easy for teachers, especially with the policy creep on the education system going at pace. And it’s a very challenging working environment for teachers to be in.

“On the flip side, schools need teachers, society needs teachers, and teachers need teachers, if they are parents themselves. I became aware that if teachers were just talking about how miserable they were, how difficult their job was – while all of this remains true – it’s not going to encourage people into the profession and it’s also not going to keep people within the profession.

“If we are just being miserable, and it becomes a it becomes a sort of a drain on the the workforce. When teachers start to talk about how miserable their job is, more teachers join the bandwagon to discuss it. I’m not saying that it’s not valid, I’m not saying that there’s not challenges around workload and the entirely the the emotional drain on people.

“But it became becomes a bit like lemmings and they all follow each other. So I thought that is like lemmings of doom would balance out lemmings of doom. It would have to be a flamingo of hope. So we can either be lemmings of doom or we can be a flamingo of hope.

“Professor Teresa Cremin from the United Kingdom Literacy Association told me that flamingos come together in a flamboyance and they are one of the very few creatures who are able to withstand toxic environments and toxic lakes, and able to huddle together, and they support each other and they weren’t very creatively. And when they come together, and this beautiful dance, you see them creating this lovely love heart. So there’s something very relational, something very positive, something very optimistic about the motif.”


Rae will be hosting our event The Big Education Action Plan later this week. Head on over to our talks page to register your place for free.  


How Staying Up Raised Hundreds Of Thousands For Homelessness Charity

This year, instead of their annual Sleep Out event, youth homelessness charity Centrepoint started something new: STAY:UP. Coronavirus meant that the annual Sleep Out event – which has raised funds for over 15 years – had to be cancelled, and the fundraising focus shifted to something that could happen in spite of the pandemic. 

The aim of STAY:UP was simple: Tackle your tiredness, banish bedtime and don’t fall asleep. From having an all-night dance party to marathoning movies, people around the country got involved in support of the charity. There were 12 hour bike rides, pyjama parties, karate sessions and even a Zwift marathon. 

People at home also watched along to the live performance by The Vamps, as well as their Q&A. The charity also held an ‘In Conversation’ segment between ex Centrepoint resident Brookemorgan and ex GB athlete, Jade Johnson. There were special messages from staff and celebs alike, and the charity also held had a cook-along with Ching He Huang. 

For those who were unable to take part in STAY:UP this year, don’t panic – you can still get involved with their charity auction. From VIP tickets to The Vamps’ 2021 tour to a West Ham t-shirt signed by the entire squad, there is something for everyone.

With their usual event sleep Sleep Out, the charity’s  intention is never to replicate rough sleeping, but rather to give people an idea of the situation a lot of young people find themselves in.

The same goes for STAY:UP. Many young people – even if they are able to stay somewhere with a roof over their heads, do not feel safe enough to fall asleep. They often wander the streets until morning, where they then head straight to school or college.

The STAY:UP challenge raises awareness about how hard it is for young people to function without somewhere safe to sleep. 

In total, £296,021 was raised on the night, with more money still coming in. These funds will allow Centrepoint to continue their vital work helping over 10,000 young people each year. To find out how you can  get involved and support their mission head to their website.


Act Your Age To Help Girlguiding and Children In Need

Girlguiding, the UK’s leading charity for girls and young women, and BBC Children in Need have come together to celebrate Pudsey’s 40th year with the launch of a new fundraising challenge, ‘Act Your Age’.

Girlguiding is encouraging its nearly half a million members to take their age and do something good with it to raise important funds. To support the campaign, Girlguiding has today launched a special Pudsey badge which will join one of 100s of infamous badges coveted by its members.

On sale today, the badge has been designed to represent both charities and their mission and commitment to supporting children and young people in the UK and is available to anyone to buy to add their support.

The money raised through the partnership between BBC Children in Need and Girlguiding will be split equally between the two organisations and will go on to make a difference to young lives across the UK. 

Research shows the impact of Covid-19 is exacerbating the existing trend of declining happiness of girls across the UK. Enabling youth groups to carry on meeting virtually or face to face right now offers crucial support for many young people who are struggling.

For Girlguiding, in a time of ongoing financial impact caused by the pandemic, money raised will support the charity to continue working alongside its dedicated volunteers to support girls’ and young women’s wellbeing, build their resilience and offer fun, entertaining activities during this unprecedented time.

Girlguiding is powered by 100,000 volunteers aroudn the UK who support nearly 400,000 girls and young women. The charity provides a safe, welcoming girl-only space for girls and young women aged 5-18 years old (4-18 in Ulster) to try new things, build confidence, learn new skills, help other people and discover their passions and talents. All while making new friends and having lots of fun and adventure – whether virtually, or where Covid-19 restrictions allow, in person.

Funds raised as part of Act Your Age helps to give girls a platform to speak out on the issues important to them, train Peer Educators to talk about important topics like body confidence and mental wellbeing, support the opening of new Girlguiding units or support girls to experience their first overnight camp.

For BBC Children in Need funds raised will help to support local charities and projects in communities across the UK that are helping children and young people facing a range of disadvantages such as living in poverty, being disabled or ill, or experiencing distress, neglect or trauma.

Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, Rangers and Girlguiding’s 100,000 volunteers will be challenged to come together to have some fun and raise money to enable more young people across the UK access to life changing activities and support in their local areas. Members are encouraged to come up with an Act Your Age fundraising activity inspired by their age, or the collective age of their family or unit.

Whether that’s a six-year-old Rainbow climbing the equivalent number of steps up to Big Ben in six hours, an eight-year-old Brownie undertaking eight minutes of sponsored keepy-uppies, or a 13-year-old unit collectively taking on a virtual half marathon. 3rd Bishopton Rainbow Sophie commented that: “I love being a Rainbow and having fun with my friends. I’m excited to have fun with mummy and help Girlguiding and Children in Need too!”

The Act Your Age challenge fundraising ideas, support, and donation information is available on the Girlguiding website. The Pudsey Badge is available to purchase from their online shop or through local Girlguiding units and will cost £1.50 with profits to be split between BBC Children in Need and Girlguiding.

Emma, 1st Bishopton Brownie unit leader said: “I can’t wait to take up our challenge. It’s great to be able to plan something fun that we can do together to help make a difference to the lives of children and young people in the UK.

“I love being a part of my community and providing a variety of opportunities for our girls. Girlguiding has also helped me develop new skills, make new friends and travel to new parts of the world.”

Emma Guthrie, Girlguiding’s Assistant Chief Guide added: “We are incredibly excited and proud to be partnering with BBC Children in Need in its milestone 40th year. This year has been challenging for everyone, especially our children and young people and it’s imperative now, more than ever that we do everything we can to ensure that they are not forgotten and have access to the support they need to thrive.”

Commenting on the partnership, BBC Children in Need’s Chief Executive, Simon Antrobus said: “We are delighted to have partnered with Girlguiding and encourage all Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, Rangers and Girlguiding’s volunteers to Act Your Age, and get fundraising. Whilst these are very uncertain times, we know that through the kindness and generosity of our supporters like Girlguiding, we can collectively help children and young people overcome challenges they might be facing and reach their full potential.”

To get involved with the Act Your Age challenge or find out more about how you can help support Girlguiding in its mission to help girls and women throughout the UK through donating or volunteering, head to their website


Charity Supports Disabled People To Create New Hate Crime Awareness Film

A new stop-motion animation created by people with learning disabilities and their support workers in Devon is hoping to raise awareness of disability hate crime this month, after new figures showed yet another surge in the number of crimes committed across the South West.

Based on real-life accounts of disability hate crime and exploitation,‘Zack’s Story – Chapter 2′ aims to kick-start a widespread conversation about the impact of hate crime – specifically on the learning disability community and especially since the Coronavirus outbreak.

Local people with learning disabilities, many of whom are supported by the national charity United Response, worked with staff and Devon-based creative groups to help build and decorate the animation’s set. The seven-minute film itself is narrated entirely by people which the charity supports, while music used in the film was also recorded by people with learning disabilities.

United Response work to help disabled people – including those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, autism and mental health support needs – to live the life they want to. They do this through supporting day-to-day living, housing and job support, education and helping people find activities in the local communities.

The charity’s new hate crime animation is the second time Zack has appeared in ‘claymation’ form this year following the release of United Response’s debut animation in the summer, which focused on isolation and loneliness during lockdown.

As part of this week’s unveiling, those involved in the animation’s second chapter have also recorded a behind-the-scenes documentary looking at how the short film was made and how restrictive measures affected production.

The animation’s launch comes as new joint research from United Response and Leonard Cheshire revealed a worrying and continued rise in disability hate crimes across Devon and Cornwall. Disability hate crimes in the region rose by 20% during 2019/20, with over half being classed by the police as being ‘violent’ towards the victim. The data also showed that just three of the total 243 disability hate crimes committed in the region resulted in a police charge, prosecution or court summon for the perpetrator.

“We’re very proud to have worked with people we support to create this animation and highlight such a critical societal issue.” Therese Timberlake, Senior Area Manager for United Response in Devon and Cornwall, said. We know that people with learning disabilities face many inequalities and discrimination in their daily lives, and far too many are victims of mindless disability hate crime across the country

“If people with learning disabilities do not feel safe where they live, they will not be able to feel confident in accessing community facilities such as shops and pubs. This can lead to seclusion within their own homes which might then bring about further risk of abuse from isolation.

“As a society, we must come together to educate and empower on this burning issue – educating victims, witnesses and even criminals on the nature and impact of disability hate crimes, but also empowering those who are targeted to speak out and report incidents to the authorities.” she continued.

There are a wide variety of ways you can support United Response in their mission to help disabled people, including through donations, taking on a fundraising challenge, volunteering and campaigning. Whatever your skills and resources, there are ways you can get involved and support disabled people in your community. 


The Duke of Cambridge lays foundation stone for state-of-the-art cancer research and treatment facility


THE Duke of Cambridge today attended a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of building works for The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust’s Oak Cancer Centre, a state-of-the-art research and treatment facility being funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, with the support of the NHS.

The Duke followed in his mother’s footsteps by laying the foundation stone 30 years after Diana, Princess of Wales, laid a ceremonial foundation stone to commemorate the building of the Chelsea Wing at The Royal Marsden in Chelsea. The Duke has been President of The Royal Marsden for 13 years, a position previously held by his mother.

The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity has raised almost £62 million of the £70 million needed to complete the Oak Cancer Centre. Named after Oak Foundation who donated £25 million, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity is now asking the public to help them meet the £70 million target by 2022 when the facility is due to open to patients.

Research into cancer treatment is at a turning point, where breakthroughs are starting to target molecular and genetic abnormalities, with less emphasis on the tumour’s location in the body. It has already led to the discovery that drugs initially developed for melanoma patients are also effective in patients with bowel cancer whose tumours share the same genetic characteristics and that drugs for prostate cancer can help some women with ovarian cancer.

To make more progress like this, faster, it’s vital for teams to swap ideas and clinical knowledge. The Kuok Group Foundation Research Centre in the new facility will bring together over 400 researchers under the same roof as patients and clinicians, in spaces designed to encourage collaboration and to put patients at the heart of research.

“My goal would be that in fifteen years’ time, as a consequence of research undertaken in the Oak Cancer Centre, I can say to my patients that we have effective therapies to prevent cancer spreading in the first place.” Consultant Medical Oncologist Professor James Larkin, who also spoke at the ceremony, said.

“And if it were to spread, that we can realistically talk about cure of the disease for a majority of patients.”

During his visit, The Duke also met patients including Julie Balkwill, 65, from Wallington, Surrey. 

“Thanks to research, I have been living with ovarian cancer for 18 years, living a good quality of life and feeling well.” said Julie. 

“The trial drug that is currently keeping me alive also works for people with breast and prostate cancer if they have the same genetic mutation in their cancer as I have, so I am walking proof that we need cancer researchers to work across different types of cancer.

“While being under the care of The Royal Marsden I have seen both my children get married and my six grandchildren come into the world. This new centre will give other people like me in the future the same gift of life.”

Dame Cally Palmer DBE, Chief Executive of The Royal Marsden, said:

“Our Sutton hospital was opened by The Duke’s grandmother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 57 years ago. It remains an outstanding hospital but now it’s time to modernise for the 21st century and build a state-of-the-art facility to complement the existing facilities and help us meet some of the most pressing challenges in cancer research and treatment today. 

“I am delighted that our President, The Duke of Cambridge, joined us today to launch the build of this Centre and the new generation of cancer treatment and to follow in the footsteps of his family. We are very grateful for his continued support for our patients and the work that we do. I’d also like to thank The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and all its supporters, without whom this wouldn’t be possible.”

As well as accommodating so many researchers on one floor, the building will also be home to the Charles Wolfson Rapid Diagnostic Centre which will use the very latest technology to provide an earlier and faster diagnosis for more people, helping to save lives by diagnosing cancer when treatment is more likely to be successful.

A new Medical Day Unit will enable patients to enjoy peace and quiet while receiving chemotherapy, and patients visiting the new outpatient department will be able to undergo blood tests, see their consultant and collect a prescription all on the same floor. There will also be a suite of rooms designed for remote Skype consultations so that patients can avoid unnecessary trips to hospital.

The Oak Cancer Centre will help to build hope for people affected by cancer and speed up the development of new treatments for cancer patients throughout the UK and beyond.

To find out more about the Centre and ways you can support The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, please visit: