Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Getting the Message Across

Our Asbestos in the Home project was launched in Leicester last year, and has been on show just a few times since – at Nottingham City Homes events and at our own conference in Derby, for example.  We need to keep on pushing the project – and in order to get the message into the public consciousness we are going to have a re-launch in Chesterfield, early next year.  This is going to cost a lot of money if we are to do it properly.  Here’s a copy of a letter that we have just sent out to trade unions in the region:

Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team (DAST) was originally established to support anyone that had been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease.  As the organisation tackled a growing number of people who were suffering from the terminal diseases of Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer, it became clear that we needed to build awareness of the dangers of asbestos too.  As was initially expected, many of those affected by asbestos had come into contact with the substance in an industrial setting – in power stations, coal mines, railway workshops and steelworks.  But just as many workers had inhaled those deadly particles in a domestic setting. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - 8 joiners, 6 electricians and 4 plumbers die every week due to asbestos exposure.   This is because the majority of houses that were constructed before 1999 contain asbestos.  90% of all public sector housing is thought to contain the substance.

In the average 20th century home, asbestos will be found around water tanks, fuse boxes, guttering, flooring and insulation among many other locations.  It remains safe as long as it is undisturbed – it is the particles that are released on movement which are dangerous.  Many professionals are now aware of the dangers and most larger employers will ensure that employees are trained to protect themselves. But we are concerned about smaller companies and the self employed.  HSE research showed that many workers thought that because asbestos is now banned, it no longer posed a danger. The growth in DIY – and the recession forcing people to try and improve their homes rather than move – also puts householders at risk.

DAST saw this need to make people aware of domestic asbestos, and we launched our Asbestos in the Home project as a result. The project consists of model houses which, with the aid of a computer programme and projector, demonstrate where asbestos could be lurking in each part of an average house.  The initial launch took place in Leicester.  The displays have also been on show in the Nottingham area, thanks to the support of union stewards at Nottingham City Homes.  But we need to keep on using the displays if we are to get the message out into the wider community.

We are therefore planning to launch it for a second time – on this occasion we will be targeting Chesterfield and northern Derbyshire.  We wish to hire rooms at the Winding Wheel for one day, and invite the general public as well as local trade union representatives and members of local government.   We will need to publicise this in the local press as well as pay for technical support and refreshments.  It is therefore an expensive activity and we are seeking grants and sponsors for this event, which we are scheduling for early spring 2015.

I would like to ask if the xxx can consider sponsoring this event.  A donation of £100 would be very welcome and we would ensure that your logo appeared in the programme and a projection screen. I would also like to ask if this letter could be distributed to Derbyshire branches. This is primarily as part of the awareness drive – but any donation that they could also consider making towards the Chesterfield launch would be very welcome.

I hope that you can help us to keep workers and DIY enthusiasts safe in the home.

Do you know of anyone who might want to be a sponsor?    Have you got any more ideas on how we can get this project equipment on show in new places?
Please tell us!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Caring for the Carers

Plans are now well underway for our first event to be held especially for those who have been bereaved by an asbestos disease.  Last week, Joanne and Sarah visited the Doubletree Hotel in Lincoln and booked their hospitality suite for the 26th March.  They also met with the branch chair and secretary of the local Cruse Bereavement Care.  They will be sending some of their volunteers along to offer help and support, and to tell those attending a bit about their services.   This event will be an opportunity for people to share experiences and talk to someone else who “understands the journey”.  We hope that those attending will find companionship and moral support.  The event will be open to anyone – not just widows – children, parents or close friends will be welcome too.

This is just the beginning of what we hope will be a big development in DAST’s services.  Up until now, we have only had the resources to support those actually suffering from asbestos disease.  However it has been clear to us for sometime that loved ones need just as much support.  Stage two of our lottery bid will be submitted within the next couple of weeks.  If we are successful this will pay for a new worker to join us for 3 years to help set up a befriending scheme and a friends and relatives forum.  Keep everything crossed for our success.

Sarah has been working on this bid as part of her remit to diversify and develop our income.  New projects like this are needed to tap into funds from the Lottery and others, because they always prefer to fund new work over existing services. This is good in a way because it has made us look at what out service users need that we are not already giving them.  However, it is an uphill struggle to fund funds for our day to day work.  General running costs, such as telephone and electricity bills in particular are hard to find grant funding for.

But in this respect we have had some good news this week.  Two separate charitable trusts have donated a total of £1200 towards meeting the cost of our home visits in the county of Northamptonshire.  These visits are obviously the most expensive for us, because of the distance that Natalie has to travel to get to them and the time that they take.   So we must say a big thank you to the Maud Elkington Charitable Trust and the Earl Fitzwilliam Charitable Trust for giving us much needed support in their area.

Do you know of any funds or foundations in your area?  Let us know.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

DAST Get Upclose and Personal

Fundraiser Sarah writes:

One of the nicest things about my job is reading the letters and cards that come with the donation cheques.  On many days our postbag contains some very heartwarming messages, thanking us for our help and describing to us how our work has made a difference to the sender and their family.

DAST get a lot of these cards and letters because we offer such a personal service.  As soon as someone makes contact with us asking for help we arrange to go and visit them within a matter of days.  We take our service into their own front room, no matter where they live.  Even though we are based in Chesterfield, we have pledged to personally visit anyone in the East Midlands area that needs our help.  That often means Natalie or Paul being out for a full day visiting people as far afield as Northamptonshire.  On occasion, we have even been asked to go to Norfolk or Cambridgeshire.  And as soon as they return, they attack the paperwork in order to get claims processed as soon as possible.  They are available to advise and reassure throughout this claim process.  As someone once said on one of our questionnaires:

“The people at DAST were a lifeline...they became friends.”

The cost of delivering such a personal service is high, which is why we are so grateful for the donations that people send to us.  We have received a lot of requests for home visits in Lincolnshire in recent times.  Each visit to Scunthorpe costs us in the region of £135, while each visit to the Louth area costs us around £160. This includes transport costs, worker time and administration.

So thank you to anyone who has ever donated to DAST – it is you that keeps this service running and allowing us to throw out that lifeline to people affected by asbestos.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Putting the Support in DAST

Next Friday (19th September ) we will be holding a coffee morning in Kettering for anyone in the area who is suffering from an asbestos related disease. Of course, those attending are welcome to bring spouses, relatives, friends or carers along, as they are also affected by the diseases in question.  But for some time now, we at DAST have felt aware that more support needs to be on offer to the loved ones.  This is especially the case if they suffer bereavement.  Those left behind usually contact us with the sad news, but we have no official services that we can offer them, only our sympathy.   We think that this needs to change.

First of all, we have secured a small grant from the Evan Cornish Foundation, which we are going to delibrately use to support the bereaved. We are in the process of organising a coffee morning for those affected, to be held next March.  This will be held in Lincoln and the local branch of Cruse Bereavement Care have agreed to come along and give a presentation, then stay to handle any questions.

We have also had some promising news from the Big Lottery Fund.  For a good year now, we have been trying to get through to the final stage of their grant application process – and we have now finally achieved this. We are asking for a three year grant to employ a bereavement support worker.  They will give initial telephone support as well as organising a befriending project and a regular forum meeting. We have to submit some further information about this proposal within the next couple of months, and we will hear early in 2015 if we have been successful.  Please keep all of your fingers crossed that this bid is successful – it will mean direct help from a trusted organisation for the predicted hundreds of people who will be accessing our services over the coming years. 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Walk a Mile for Mesothelioma

This year we are launching what we hope will become an annual event – Walk a Mile for Mesothelioma. We are encouraging people who want to support DAST and publicise the effects of Mesothelioma to take a short stroll.  Gentle exercise is recommended to those suffering from asbestos related diseases, and we hope that people affected can also join in with this event, choosing a suitable route through a local park. By wearing our DAST logo vests, telling others about their walk and collecting sponsors it can help to raise the profile of our work.  If you want to organise a walk, then contact Sarah on sarah.dast@hotmail.co.uk and ask for a sponsor pack.  You can hold your walk where ever you choose – an online map provider can help measure out a mile long route.  It doesn’t need to be exactly one mile either – no-one’s checking!

Here at the DAST office, we are also planning our own walk.  We are holding this in Nottingham and we hope that a few locals will be able to come along and join us.  Sarah and Joanne will definitely be there and possibly a couple of our volunteers too.  This will be a great opportunity for our Nottinghamshire supporters to get together for a ramble and a chat, and to raise a bit of sponsor money at the same time.  We have chosen to hold the walk at the Forest Recreation Ground, because it has its own tramstop and there is ample parking. There is also a pavilion with toilets and a café.  This will serve as our meeting point on Friday 5th September.  We will begin gathering at 10.30 and will start the walk at 11.00, making two small circuits of the park, which passes the pavilion again at the halfway point if you only feel up to half a mile. Weather permitting, bring a picnic or alternatively you can visit the café afterwards.

If you want to come and join us in Nottingham, again contact Sarah for your sponsor forms and just to let us know that you are coming so that we can look out for you.

This is proving to be a popular choice of event with around a dozen walks being set up already.  We have also received several donations sponsoring Sarah and Joanne for their Nottingham walk. Thank you to everyone taking part. Let’s make Walk a Mile for Mesothelioma  DAST’s big event!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Telling Their Stories

When campaigning for the rights of those affected by asbestos, and trying to raise funds to support our cause, it is always helpful to hear human stories.  Nothing brings home the impact that asbestos has on lives more than listening to someone who has lost a loved one through exposure to this deadly substance.

This was brought home to us last week when we attended the Nottingham City Homes Staff Conference. We are Nottingham City Homes' Charity of the Year and we needed to go along and demonstrate to staff why they should get behind DAST. Because this was held over two days and some distance away from our Chesterfield office, we asked two local ladies, Angela and Yvette, to come along and support our information stall. On the second day, they were asked if they would speak to delegates about their experiences. They both bravely agreed to stand up in front of a room full of people and tell them how asbestos had affected their family.  Both lost their husbands to Mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the workplace. This immediately engaged the audience. Their stories could do so much more than an information stall with leaflets and pens could ever do.  Hopefully now, many more NCH staff members know why they are supporting DAST this year, and have been encouraged to organise a fundraiser or donate.

Thanks to Yvette and Angela, NCH staff know why they should support DAST
Lauren Ross addresses the seminar
Meanwhile, the annual seminar of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group took place in London earlier this week. Jim Sheridan, the Chair of the Group, presided over the session which featured presentations covering legal, medical and political issues.  But the session was launched by another personal story. Lauren Ross, whose husband Frank died of mesothelioma in 2007,  detailed the terrible price paid by generations of workers who had died prematurely from occupational accidents and diseases. Before her husband had been diagnosed with mesothelioma Lauren, who had lost her grandfather and great uncle to work accidents, had “thought that deaths at work were a thing of the past.” “The reason I have come here today is,” she said “because I know that unfortunately this is not the case.” Frank was only sixty years old when he died; had it not been for mesothelioma, he could have lived another 24 years.  What a brilliant way to make sure that people take the seminar seriously.
If you have a Mesothelioma story that you would like to share, then do tell it to us.  You can post it on our Facebook page or email it to me for a future blog post at sarah.dast@hotmail.co.uk.  It would also be useful to have stories to include in our annual report which gets posted out to funders, who are always interested to hear how our work directly benefits people.
Share your story and help DAST at the same time.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Pledge to Beat Mesothelioma

We all know that medical research is our best hope for improving treatment and discovering a cure for asbestos related diseases like mesothelioma. We also know this will require commitment and resources. That is why we have launched the mesothelioma pledge- our call for the Government to ensure proper funding for research.
We would like your help today:
·        Please print off and sign this pledge yourself (using the form below)
·        Please ask your MP to show their support by signing Early Day Motion 995 in Parliament (the wording of the motion is below)
Early Day Motion 995- Mesothelioma

This Early Day Motion has been set down by Tracey Crouch MP. Early Day Motions are put down so that MPs can show their support for issues such as this. It is already supported by over sixty MPs. Please write to your MP and ask them to sign today. If you would like information on how to contact your MP please write to us.

The Early Day Motion says: That this House notes with concern that mesothelioma is an invasive form of lung cancer caused primarily by prior exposure to asbestos; recognises that there is currently no cure for this devastating disease and that mesothelioma patients frequently have a very short life expectancy and experience complex debilitating symptoms; further notes that the UK has the highest rate of the disease in the world and that over the next 30 years more than 50,000 people will die of mesothelioma in the UK unless new treatments are found; believes that investment in research into the causes and potential cures for mesothelioma is desperately needed; pays tribute to the great work of the former hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe and Sale East, the late Paul Goggins, to raise the profile of the need for long-term investment into mesothelioma research; and calls on the Government to facilitate the establishment of a long-term sustainable mesothelioma research scheme funded by the insurance industry.

The Mesothelioma Pledge
I am proud to sign the Beat Mesothelioma Pledge:
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer and the UK has the highest number of sufferers in the world. There is currently no cure. Over the next 30 years more than 50,000 people will die in the UK unless new treatments are found. Investment into researching the causes and potential cures for mesothelioma is desperately needed if we are to find those treatments.
That is why we are calling on the Government to facilitate the establishment of a long-term sustainable mesothelioma research scheme funded by the insurance industry.

Name:                                              Signature: 
Post Code:                                      Date:

Friday, 13 June 2014

Lend DAST a Hand

Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team are unfortunately dealing with an increasing amount of cases. We are now carrying out around 10 home visits each week – and when some of those cases are as far away as Northampton or Grimsby this is a big strain on our resources. Natalie carries out the majority of the visits, while Joanne helps out where she can fit them around her own workload.  We also now have occasional support from Paul Marklew, who usually works for Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres.  Even so, it is proving to be a strain – and if Natalie wants to take a much-needed holiday it causes chaos!

We are currently advertising for support in carrying out our home visits.  We were recently awarded a grant from Derbyshire Community Foundation to recruit and train two new advice volunteers to cover our home county.  We have also been advertising for volunteer drivers.  If we can find someone with their own transport who enjoys driving (with petrol expenses paid) that would be a great help.  Our policies state that home visits shouldn’t be carried out alone – plus having someone to drive Natalie to her visits means that she can put some of the travelling time to good use.

Unfortunately, we have had very little response to our calls for help. Do you know anyone who might be interested?  We’d be very keen to talk to them!

William Bear wants to know if he can volunteer to help eat that cake
Sarah has also recently put out a call for voluntary help in the fundraising department.  As DAST go out and help more people…then their families and friends all want to help us in return.  Events are being organised throughout the region and because we are such a small staff, it can be tricky for us to give support to everyone.  We are asking if anyone out there would like to become a regional DAST community fundraiser, who would act as our representative in their county. Again, all reasonable expenses would be paid.

Volunteering is good for you!  Why not give it a go…?

Friday, 6 June 2014

Action Mesothelioma Day

Each year Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team is instrumental in organising Action Mesothelioma Day.  This is an opportunity for anyone to reflect and celebrate the lives of those affected by this asbestos cancer.  As usual, the 2014 AMD will take place at Leicester Cathedral.

The date of the event is Friday 4th July.  There will be a cathedral service of Reflection and Hope commencing at 3.30pm.  DAST’s Joanne Gordon is on the list of speakers, along with:
·        Lady Jennifer Gretton
·        Professor Dean Fennell
·        Dr Mick Peake - Consultant in Respiratory Medicine
·        Alastair Ault - Patient
·        Jill Lemon – Mesothelioma UK

After the service there will be a dove release and then an afternoon tea, giving people the opportunity to meet and share thoughts and experiences.  You can also sponsor a message on one of our dove shaped cards.

If you would like to attend the day, or sponsor a message, then please contact Joanne at mail@asbestossupport.co.uk

Message cards are hung on these trees for everyone to read and reflect.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Charity of the Year!

Welcome to the all new Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team blog!

The purpose of this new venture is to keep you all updated on a more regular basis on our current work, schemes and plans.  Feel free to comment with your ideas and thoughts, either on here or on our Facebook or Twitter sites.  If you’re not following us on social media yet, find us on @dast24 (Twitter) or search for us on Facebook.

Most posts will be written by me, Sarah, the Funding Development Worker, so there may be a bias towards our fundraising ventures.  However I hope that Natalie will be able to share the occasional case study with you and that Joanne will pass on information on our campaigns and events.

At the forefront of my work at present is a partnership with Nottingham City Homes, who have kindly made us their Charity of the Year.  We will benefit from all of the staff fundraising initiatives over 2014 and our special thanks go to the trade union representatives there (Neal and Mark) who have worked hard to make this happen for us.

We have also been a Waitrose Charity of the month twice this year, once in Buxton and once in Ashbourne.  Here’s me collecting a cheque from a store manager.

A bag pack in a Derby Sainsbury’s also yielded a great donation for us.

Earlier this year we received a donation from The Caterillar Cares Society on recommendation from one of their employees. And of course we must mention our panel of Solicitors, who are always glad to help with our funding needs (Thompsons, Graysons and O H Parsons).

Please have a little think now.  Do you know or work for any companies that might possibly adopt us on your recommendation?  Please ask…perhaps your company will match funds raised during a sponsored event, or let you out to volunteer for us for a day.  We can write proposals for you or make presentations…talk to us!  The best way to get hold of me is through my email address – sarah.dast@hotmail.co.uk

Don’t forget to send us your fundraising photographs too, so we can put them on our social media and in our publications.  We look forward to hearing from you!