Crippen hears about the continued lack of support for DPOs

Our friends at Disability News Service have focused our attention once again on the National Disability Strategy and in particular its lack of any real support for disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

More DPOs are closing as new figures provide further evidence of the “extremely hostile” environment they are facing. The disabled people’s and service-user network Shaping Our Lives (SOL) has revealed that 33 of its member organisations across the UK – nearly one in 10  – have been forced to close in the last two years. Also, the National Survivor User Network raised concerns about the fall in the number of user-led groups, due to austerity cuts and other trends affecting their funding.

These new concerns come after a report by Tracey Lazard, of Inclusion London, and Mark Harrison, of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), who warned that DPOs across England were in an “increasingly precarious situation”, with many existing “hand to mouth” with “little ability to carry out long term planning or invest in staff and service development”.

Becki Meakin, SOL’s involvement manager, told Disability News Service that the user-led sector was experiencing “an extremely hostile funding environment” at the same time that the pandemic has seen demand for their services soar.

She added: “The COVID-19 pandemic saw disabled people’s organisations leap to support people in their local communities, providing basic equipment … at a time when many of the people helping were also most at risk of COVID-19. The government was much slower to act, and without the work of disabled people’s organisations, many people would have been totally abandoned.”

Mark Harrison, a member of the ROFA steering group, said there was no recognition in the government’s “so-called strategy” of the plight DPOs were in.

He said: “We have to remember that Justin Tomlinson [the former minister for disabled people] created and then closed down a DPO forum after three meetings. There is no commitment from the government either to engage or co-produce with DPOs or fund DPOs. (Also) because there is no statutory duty around funding DPOs, it is inevitable that many have closed, and many will continue to close over the coming years.”

Read the full story in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Two white people sit upon sacks of money under a sign that reads: ‘Charities for the disabled – nothing about them without us!’. £100 notes and gold coins are also scattered on the floor by their feet. Opposite them stands Boris Johnson. At his feet are two Disability News Service pages. One reads ‘No money for DPO’s’ and the other ‘More DPO’s close due to lack of funding’. They each have a glass of champagne which they are raising in a toast. Boris is saying: “Here’s to maintaining the Status Quo!”. One of the charity people is saying: “Cheers!”

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