I would walk 500 miles… Visiting #dpulo in Scotland

After my visit to Wales, I made the enjoyable 12-hour round trip to Edinburgh to meet with a range of Scottish Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations.

(I say it was an “enjoyable” trip because I had some excellent books to keep me company, alongside the usual work stuff. I’d recommend Justice by Michael Sandel and The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Ill Fares the  by Tony Judt was fine and, though I agree with its diagnosis, I’m not so sure about the symptoms it identifies nor the remedies it recommends.)

It has been some 5 years since I last worked in the disability scene in Scotland through the Scottish office of the Disability Rights Commission, so I was looking forward to hearing about the current set of issues DPULOs face.

And there are certainly lots that gave me food for thought. Alongside the ones we might normally associate with disabled people’s organisations and the voluntary sector (funding, governance, communications, impairment “versus” pan-impairment, infrastructure) there were some issues specific to Scotland, too.

The ones I was particularly left with were:

  • The significant rurality of Scotland. I heard tales of three-day roundtrips for a 2-hour meeting and the associated complexities of working across 32 local authorities
  • The challenge of two significant pieces of legislation traveling through the Scottish parliament at the same time – one on Self-Directed Support in social care and another on Health and Social Care integration – and how they do (or don’t) join up and what this means for DPULOs looking to develop services for commissioners and individuals to buy
  • The particular relevance of big “P” Politics and its more pronounced impact on decision making, particularly in commissioning and procurement.

At the same time, though, I came away from a meeting with around 20 disabled people’s organisations feeling inspired and optimistic about the future in Scotland. There are some fantastic people there doing some great stuff, and the Scottish Government feels to have acknowledged some of the more pressing issues. (This includes, for example, through the work of Independent Living in Scotland and Self-Directed Support Scotland to name but two of very many excellent organisations).

As with Wales, so it will be fascinating to see how Scottish DPULOs individually and collectively respond to the challenges and opportunities that exist at the moment and over the coming years.

Thanks to Lothian CIL for hosting the visit and for the contributions of everyone who was involved. I shall look forward to a chance to learn more on a further visit towards the end of July.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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