Are disability campaigners right to criticise Scope?

A “head to head” debate between disability campaigners and a representative of the disability charity, Scope, was published in the Guardian yesterday.

The key point made by disability campaigners, represented by DPAC and Allfie, was that Scope cannot be thought an ally of disabled people because it continues to run ‘segregated’ settings like residential homes and special schools. Scope’s main response is that they are trying to make independent living a reality, but that it can’t happen overnight.

Who is right?

The problem is, things in this world are rarely clear-cut.

For example, DPAC itself vehemently argued that Remploy – a segregated work environment for disabled people – shouldn’t have its subsidy removed by the government. Similarly, Allfie was a partner with Scope in the excellent Disability LIB alliance, which supported over 200 Disabled People’s Organisations between 2007-11.

And where shades of grey exist on the ‘side’ of disability campaigners, so the same goes for what the focus of Scope’s work has been.

Below is a table which highlights particular areas of expenditure from Scope’s 2008/09 and 2012/13 financial accounts respectively.

Area of cost Amount spent (£000s) – 2008/09 (p34) Amount spent (£000s) – 2012/13 (pp32-33)
Fundraising 5,678 (5.7% of total costs) 8,524 (8.2% of total costs)
Charity shop costs 24,411 (24.8%) 22,569 (21.8%)
Residential services for adults 22,863 (23.2%) 22,923 (22.2%)
Education Services 21,304 (21.7%) 21,697 (21.0%)
Campaigning and capacity building 5,290 (5.4%) 2,652 (2.6%)
Total costs 98,299 103,310

What this table shows is that the amount that Scope has spent on its residential services for adults has decreased by1% in that 4-year period – from 23.2% of all its expenditure in 2008/09 to 22.2% in 2012/13. Similarly, its spend on education services has decreased by 0.7% over the same period and now constitutes some 21.0% of all of Scope’s spend. Traditional charitable activities – including fundraising, running charity shops and providing services – made up just over 75% of Scope’s activities in 2008/09 and 73.2% in 2012/13.

At the same time, though, spend on “campaigning and capacity building” dropped from 5.4% of expenditure to 2.6% – a reduction of  £2.64m, but still leaving £2.65m spent on such activities.

The answer to the question of this post’s title, then, is: “Yes and no”.

Disability campaigners are right to criticise Scope because such a large part of their expenditure is on traditional activities that reflect a segregated model, and their spend on campaigning and capacity building is around half what it was 4 years ago.

But there have been small decreases in the proportion of money Scope has spent in its more traditional activities. Furthermore, the arguments and actions of DPAC and Allfie would suggest it’s not always clear what is the ‘right’ type of segregation and when is the right time work in partnership with big disability charities and when isn’t.

Where does this leave us? For me, it shows that focusing on common goals and the contributions that everyone and every organisation can make is the best thing to do. Fighting or criticising each other – as tempting and as easy as it can be (and I’ve certainly been guilty of it myself) – probably won’t help in the long run.


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

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