The week before last, the Government made an announcement that disability employment support services will be focused on individuals rather than institutions. This was in response to the Sayce Review and how the £320m protected budget for disability employment could be used more effectively to support thousands more disabled people into work.
As part of the announcement, the Government guaranteed an £8m package of tailored support for up to 18 months to support all disabled Remploy staff affected by the changes.
As some of you might know, my work focuses on what Disabled People’s User- Led Organisations can and already do contribute to public service reform and society more generally. This includes looking at ways of (a) how to ensure there are more DPULOs, and (b) how to ensure they are sustainable.
After the disability employment support announcement last week, some people on Twitter and in other places highlighted that there could be a role for disabled people’s user-led organisations and voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations to play in providing support or opportunities in the changes taking place.
For example, Julie Newman of the UK Disabled People’s Council suggested:
Disabled Remploy workers should be supported to set up user-led social enterprises.
Similarly, Mark Brown (of One in Four magazine) asked:
How about each threatened #remploy factory looking at becoming #dpulo (disabled people’s user led org) or #socent? Do you think it might work?
(A question that was reported in Society Guardian Daily, no less!)
Such suggestions very much informed and tallied with thinking on how best the support package could be distributed or used.
What I’m very pleased to say, therefore, is that the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller MP, highlighted that part of the £8m support package announced – some £1.5m of it, in fact – will be made available to DPULOs and VCS organisations through a dedicated Community Support Fund. (This was mentioned in the oral statement and the Commons debate – columns 952 and 965 here.)
This Community Support Fund will provide grants to local DPULOs and VCS organisations to support Remploy employees in making the transition from sheltered employment to mainstream employment. The CSF would be focused particularly in the geographic areas in which Remploy employees will live, and so will include working in Wales and Scotland as well as England.
What that support looks like, though, is very much down to the local DPULO to determine, working with the people they support and taking account of local circumstances.
Personally, I think this is a tremendous opportunity for DPULOs to show how they can provide local, personalised support that responds directly to the requirements of disabled people in their local communities. They will specifically make a difference to people affected by the announcement made about disability employment support services. We have some funding to support this role and have a great opportunity to positively and constructively shape this so the support is made available in the best way possible.
You can keep up-to-date on the DPULO work I’m involved in via Twitter (@rich_w), through the Strengthening DPULOs Programme Facebook page or use the #dpulo hashtag.