I am Nigel Watts and as I am unable to participate in “walks” or “runs” to raise funds for MS-UK, instead I have volunteered my time, either at home or in the MS-UK office, to help with identifying potential 3rd parties to approach for future funding and to provide taxi transport for some of the clients who attend its wellness centre, Josephs Court. I have also contributed to the existing Choices leaflets, proofreading for consistency, grammar and spelling.
In addition, I have completed an MS-UK Helpline case study and I am one of the founding members of the MS-UK Steering Group which meets every two months. Even under the current lockdown measures, we still meet using Zoom!
The MS-UK Steering Group is made up of seven volunteers who use Josephs Court and is led by Centre Manager Dean Jeffreys. The purpose of the MS-UK Steering Group is to discuss how the centre is working to satisfy the needs of members who use the facility, any suggestions of improvement or change. It is also a great place to just chat about life in general. Anything discussed in the group stays in the group.
Outside of Josephs Court, I am still able to volunteer through putting together mailing lists online for MS nurses, neurologists, MS therapy centres and pharmacies.
I have found my time volunteering both at home and at Josephs Court very fulfilling as the challenges have kept my brain working. Volunteering is also a pleasant change from playing Solitaire or Sudoku!
I wanted to let you know that MS-UK staff are now working remotely to ensure that we can keep as many of our services available to support people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) as possible.
Due to a high volume of calls, responses from our helpline service may be delayed. However, if there is no one available to take your call please leave information about your query, email address and telephone number and a Helpline Information Officer will get back to you as soon as possible. Please note that it is likely that we will be able to respond to emails faster than telephone messages and that you may receive responses outside of office hours. To contact the MS-UK Helpline email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 783 0518.
The MS-UK Counselling service will continue to run as normal and is unaffected. To register for MS-UK Counselling visit www.ms-uk.org/counselling.
If you attend Josephs Court, we will be ensuring you hear from us regularly and have created some exercise videos to support your activity at home. You can find them on our YouTube channel.
We appreciate your support and wish you all well during this challenging time.
Amy Woolf, CEO of MS-UK
We hope you are keeping well during this difficult time. As we are sure you are all aware, by now you should all be self-isolating and minimising your social interactions. We know how important it is for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) to exercise, it can keep you MS at bay, help you maintain your mobility and it's also good for our mental health. Which is why our wellness coaches from Josephs Court have put together several accessible exercise and mobility routines which can all be done from the comfort of your own home!
All of the videos are available on our Youtube channel www.youtube.com/ms-uk so give them a try and let us know what you think! Is there something else you would like to see? Let us know and we can create more great content just for you.
If you are having any specific mobility issues or would like advice from our wellness coaches on exercise and mobility, please do not hesitate to send us a message on our Josephs Court Facebook page.
Enjoy and stay safe,
Click the images below for links to each exercise video
I just wanted to let you know our opening hours for the festive period as we get closer to the mince pies!
Tuesday 24 December - Open 9am to 1pm
Wednesday 25 December to Wednesday 01 January - Closed
Thursday 02 January - Open from 9am
If you attend our wellness centre in Essex, Josephs Court, we will also be opening for a couple of days so you can continue your exercises throughout the festive period. Josephs Court will be open from 9am to 1pm on Friday 27 December and Monday 30 December.
During the holidays, you can always contact our helpline team and we will respond in the New Year when we return.
If you would like to speak to someone before then, the Samaritans are open 24/7 and you can contact them in a variety of ways. You can visit the Samaritans website or call them on 116 123.
Wishing you a merry time if you are celebrating Christmas and a very happy New Year from all the teams here at MS-UK!
Head of Services
MS-UK’s Helpline team recently worked with MS-UK’s wellness centre Josephs Court in Essex to run an information session relating to services and support organisations working with people in its local community.
The session was well-received with one attendee saying: ‘I enjoyed the variety of different topics and the speakers. It was informative and gave us the opportunity to meet new people and share experiences.’
The MS-UK Helpline and Josephs Court teams worked together to bring in a range of guest speakers from a variety of organisations to give short presentations on their services, the support they provide and how they can help people with a disability.
The first speaker was Lesley Bysouth, Head of Communications for Motability. Lesley spoke about the fact that since it was set up in 1977, the Motability Scheme has provided over 4.5 million vehicles and has helped millions of disabled people and their families to enjoy the ‘road to freedom’. She let us know that last year they awarded more than 8,000 grants for wheelchair accessible vehicles, driving lessons for disabled people, advance payments for leased vehicles, adaptations, powerchairs and mobility scooters.
To join the Motability scheme, a person must be in receipt of the following benefits:
• Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
• Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
• War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement (WPMS)
• Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)
An individual interested in joining the scheme will need to have at least 12 months remaining of their allowance when they apply.
Click here to find out more information about how the Motability scheme works.
Next, we heard from John, a volunteer for Age UK Essex. John spoke passionately about his volunteering role and then spoke about the range of services the local charity has on offer for the over 50s. It was impressive to hear about the full range of services the local charity has to offer. They deliver information and advice, befriending, home help and much more.
Age UK Essex is a charity in its own right but is affiliated to the national organisation Age UK. Age UK has a range of detailed factsheets, a helpline and other services and they support and work with many other local Age UK charities. To find out what is in your area and the support they provide click on this link. You may well find that your local Age UK gives a wide range of options from practical help with welfare benefits and handyman services through to emotional support such as befriending and companionship support.
We then heard from Georgina Delves an Assistant Engagement Officer with Community 360, a Community and Voluntary Services hub organisation working across Colchester, Braintree (with some services in Tendring too!).
Georgina talked about the support the organisation gives to charities and third sector organisations and the services that they directly deliver such as community transport schemes and Shopmobility. Then Georgina let us know about the ‘My Social Prescription’ scheme, this exciting project helps people with a social need connect with local and appropriate community groups, clubs, peer networks and much more. Their skilled and knowledgeable team will help people map out the resources that are in the community and helps people find the right service, in the right place, the first time.
The Kings Fund has written about social prescribing and how it is being adopted up and down the country. There may well be a service in your area. If this is of interest to you, it is likely that either your GP practice or your local Community Voluntary Services hub will know.
After a cup of tea and a biscuit (or two!), we heard from Yvonne and Rosie from Carers First. Carers First is a large organisation working with and for unpaid/family carers across Kent, Essex, Lincolnshire, and some London boroughs. Yvonne and Rosie told us about the local services the organisation delivers and also talked about the rights that unpaid or family carers have to a carers assessment as well as rights in employment. It is almost certain that there will be a carer support organisation working in the area in which you live. Your local council will have information on how to get in contact with them if you are not already.
The next organisation we heard from was from a housing and support organisation that provides floating support or community outreach services. Peabody’s outreach support is a service that will work with people with a ‘housing-related need’ on a short term basis. The service is there for anyone in Essex over the age of 16 who needs support, guidance or advice. They can work with anyone regardless of their housing status, for example currently homeless, living in local authority homes, privately rented properties, as a housing association tenant or an owner or occupier. They can give help to resolve benefit and debt issues, help with problem neighbours, support people to gain skills to live independently and help people feel more confident.
Floating support or housing related outreach services are fairly common up and down the UK, some local authorities only fund it for certain groups of people (for instance people that are homeless or who are under 25 and have a housing need). If you want help to find a similar service in your area. Feel free to contact our MS-UK’s Helpline team and we will happily see if we can help find a relevant service.
The services and groups covered in our information session are just a snapshot of some of the services and support organisations working across the local area to Josephs Court.
Ryan, a Helpline and Information Officer with MS-UK’s Helpline then spoke about ‘filling some of the gaps’ and let the attendees know about just some of the other local options for getting help:
We are sure that there are other services, organisations and volunteer-led groups out in your community, up and down the country and often across the whole UK doing great work and giving the help that you and others need.
If there’s an organisation that you value that you think we should know about, please do get in touch on 0800 783 0518 or email us on email@example.com.
This week is national Volunteers' Week and we are celebrating by saying a big thank you to our amazing volunteers. Last year over 130 people volunteered with MS-UK in all sorts of ways. Together you donated 500 hours of time to MS-UK and helped us be here for people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). We literally couldn't do it without you, thank you!
This year we have lots of opportunities to get involved. You could join our fantastic cheer squad and support our fundraisers to make it over the finish line at a national event. Or you could come into our offices in Essex and get stuck in behind the scenes. We are also currently looking for volunteer counsellors to help us offer telephone counselling to more people who may need it across the UK.
Whatever you decide to do, we'll be here every step of the way to support you. You can share your skills and develop new ones, gain some experience working with a national charity and we provide you with a full induction and ongoing support.
In the mean time, you can find out more about Volunteers' Week across the country on the NCVO website. If you already support MS-UK, don't forget to download our Twibbon to show the world you are part of #TeamPurple.
Best wishes and happy volunteering!
Sarah Wright, General Manager
Over the past year we have been following the progress of five people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) and capturing, in their own words, an insight into what it is like to live each day with the condition.
These eye-opening stories were recently published in our ‘A year in the life of…’ booklet, a project designed to explore the real-life experiences of MS through topics such as independence, mental health and physical wellbeing and to show how the funding from the National Lottery Community Fund has had a positive impact on the work of our Josephs Court wellness centre.
To celebrate the publication of this booklet, we were recently visited by Jess Leonard, Funding Officer of the National Lottery Community Fund, who met the incredible people behind the case study over coffee and a slice or two of cake.
Diana Crowe, Head of Services said, ‘It was great for our clients who participated in our case study project to meet Jess.
‘It gave them an opportunity to discuss how much they have enjoyed writing for MS-UK and reflecting on their own experiences.
‘Jess really enjoyed the afternoon meeting some of those who were benefiting from the funding awarded to MS-UK’s Josephs Court.’
From Diana and Dean, and the rest of the MS-UK team, we want to thank Jess for visiting us last week.
MS-UK will be closed on the bank holiday following this weekend, so just to remind you of the times:
Friday 24 May - open from 9am - 5pm
Monday 27 May - closed
Thank you all and do have a lovely bank holiday!
Best wishes, The MS-UK team
'Before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), I was very keen on sport and was always very active participating in sports teams, such as when I joined Colchester Ladies Hockey Club and later on, a Colchester badminton team. I also started playing golf in my mid-thirties and was a very active gardener as I got older.
'However, pre-diagnosis, I had an unexplained ‘attack’ which left me very fatigued with a tendency to quickly hit a ‘fatigue wall’ during any physical exercise, even just walking to the shop. This meant that my very active lifestyle came to something of an abrupt end, even though my mind still thought of myself as fit and active. Suddenly, I just couldn’t do the things that I used to do. Despite my mind telling my legs to run, jump or whatever, my muscles just weren’t able to comply. The messages from my brain just weren’t getting through. It was a very scary time and I began to get scared of trying to carry on doing any physical activity.
'I remember one time when I was still just able to trot a bit and I was walking across a field to our campervan, and it began to rain. I started to ‘run’ towards the van for shelter and took a big tumble which twisted my ankle, wrenched my back and gave me big bruises and muddy clothes. Luckily, I’d fallen on grass but as I’d not fallen over since I was a toddler according to my Mum, it gave me a big shock! This episode really dented my confidence and my physical activity reduced considerably after that.
'Once I received my MS diagnosis, I was overwhelmed by so many fears, worries and confusion. I found it difficult to take in and understand all the advice and information I was given. I didn’t ask about physical exercise or about many other things related to MS because I didn’t know enough to know what to ask, my mind was in a spin. All I remember was being told that ‘overdoing it’ could bring on a relapse, and to rest and pace myself or I would ‘pay for it’. This made me very worried about doing any physical exercise in case it brought on a relapse.
'After my diagnosis, I now exercise twice a week at MS-UK’s wellness centre Josephs Court on a Therabike and on the Vibeplate. I joined Josephs Court two years ago and have been aiming to strengthen my arm and leg muscles to help compensate for my severe fatigue and to reduce the risk of falls. I’m really pleased with my progress and I’m now able to do a lot more than I was able to do before I hit my ‘fatigue wall’. I’ve also learned how to pace myself better through the excellent coaching at Josephs Court and the MS-UK Mindfulness training.
'I now appreciate doing the exercise as it enables me to garden regularly, as long as I’m strict with my pacing! Now I have four grandchildren under the age of four and another on the way, and I have begun to feel that I would be missing out on enjoying family time together, but my increasing fitness and activity has meant that while I still find it very tiring to play with the three year olds, alongside looking after the one year old twins, I’ve been able to find ways to cope with them all and enjoy them without exhausting myself.
'I also have advice to those who are affected by MS and are nervous about exercising. I would say that I feel that good information is the key to living positively with MS. When I was first diagnosed 13 years ago, I didn’t ask questions. I was in denial for about 10 years before I finally plucked up the courage to go to Josephs Court. By then my fitness and strength had deteriorated massively impacting negatively on my general health and wellbeing, so I wish I had been able to ask the questions I needed to earlier in my diagnosis. I have found in the last two years that mental and physical wellbeing, with keeping yourself as fit and healthy as possible, are so important if you’re living with MS, or a similar chronic condition. When I started exercising at Josephs Court, I hit my fatigue wall almost immediately but with the help and encouragement of my Wellness Coach, Jay, I was able to slowly improve.
'Another benefit that I found with exercising is the social part of it. I loved meeting other clients, something I was very nervous about to start with. But chatting with other clients, comparing notes and encouraging others has been a lovely but unexpected bonus, and has really helped me look much more positively on myself with MS. Also, joining the social group and attending social events such as the regular coffee mornings, has been a very enjoyable revelation for me, and helps me to think so much more positively about MS.
'Finally, I find the exercising therapeutic, I feel really well after an exercise session – I am more relaxed and subsequently sleep better; and by the next morning my back and leg pain and spasticity are very much reduced. It improves my strength and stamina and increases my sense of wellbeing. Now, I can also enjoy time with my family and friends without constantly feeling exhausted. “I don’t feel ‘ill’ anymore!"'
I have been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) for thirty-five years. In 2014 I noticed that walking was becoming more difficult and my MS nurse recommended that I contacted Josephs Court, MS-UK’s wellness centre in Colchester, Essex. I attended twice a week to exercise and became a founding member of their Steering Group. Before I was diagnosed with MS, I exercised every weekday walking for 10-15 minutes to the office where I worked in London. At lunchtime I would occasionally go for a 30 minute walk if the weather was kind, and this felt like it was a sufficient form of exercise. However I was unfortunately diagnosed with MS, but nevertheless I continued exercising in the same way for another 13 years until I eventually changed jobs in 1996. By then I commuted to Basildon by car – therefore my exercise regime came to an end.
But now, I visit Josephs Court two mornings a week, for 2-3 hours each time, and use most of the equipment available. I’ve also increased my exercise since the arrival of the latest university students, as one of them has given me some rigorous exercises using the parallel bars.
Now I feel that doing gentle exercise gives me a feeling of “getting one over on my MS” – it isn’t going to stop me from doing something that I enjoy, and there is a social aspect too. We are all suffering with the same disease label yet we don’t talk about it, we just enjoy one another’s company. The social aspect means I now have someone else to talk to, and shows that I needed something to relieve the boredom of not working, as I spent three years applying for jobs with no luck.
Finally, I thoroughly enjoying working with the student physiotherapist Becca, as she has brought new ways of exercising to me. I also find volunteering for MS-UK therapeutic – it is another reason for existing and gives me purpose.