The West of England Centre for Inclusive Living (WECIL) asked me to talk about Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations at their Annual General Meeting today, which was a pleasure and a delight.
After talking about the Strengthening DPULOs Programme (on which more here) and hearing from one of the Ambassadors for the programme (you can find out who they are here), I talked briefly about the difference that DPULOs can and do make.
In social care, for example, I noted that were DPULOs provide support services, they can make a significant difference to the choice and control disabled people (and service users more generally) can have over their support.
To take one area: in Essex there is an independent support planning service which is run by and for disabled people. As a result of the different approach, 100% of the people who use this service end up with some form of cash payment – essentially giving them more choice and control. This compares to around 20% for the local council.
Similarly, across Essex, Thurrock and Cambridgeshire, an average of 92% of people who use an independent and peer-led information, advice and guidance service to find out about the social care process end up with a Direct Payment. This compares to global figures in social care of approximately 10% of users on a Direct Payment.
Even if it’s not quite comparing apples with apples, those are pretty significant differences that indicate the underlying difference DPULOs uniquely provide in enabling people to have more choice and control.
(The Office for Disability Issues published a significant report on the role of Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations in Support, Advocacy and Brokerage here.)
As well as thinking about the role that DPULOs can play in addressing disability hate crime (covered in a separate talk to Leicester CIL earlier this week), I also looked forward to two areas I think greater involvement of DPULOs could make a difference.
The first is Access to Work.
This was recently called the government’s “best kept secret”. I think there is a significant role that DPULOs can play in bridging the gap between Job Centre Plus, employers and potential employees in letting them all know about Access to Work: how to find out about it, how to get it, what to do with it.
The benefits from this won’t just be for disabled people or businesses, either: for every £1 invested in Access to Work, the government gets nearly £1.50 in tax and National Insurance contributions.
At a time when the economy needs to grow, this seems like a pretty good thing to do.
The second area is HealthWatch.
One of the areas that is potentially strong in the current NHS reforms is HealthWatch – the bit that is going to ensure the representation of the voice of service users and patients in the new system.
There’s an argument to say that Local Involvement Networks haven’t fulfilled the overall potential they had to hold health and social care to account. I’d argue that this was partly because it was the wrong types of organisations who were trying to run LINks. As far as I know, only two DPULOs were formally LINks bodies. If we can ensure that more DPULOs take on this function as HealthWatch, I have no doubt it will make the health and social care system better.
After outlining the difference I think DPULOs can make in just one or two particular areas (their effects, of course, aren’t just limited to these) I finished my talk with WECIL with a question to its members, which I’d like to offer more widely to readers and interested parties here: as the Strengthening DPULOs Programme continues to develop and make the case for DPULOs to decision makers and stakeholders, what messages do you think they should know about regarding DPULOs?