Visiting two DPULOs – an Ambassador writes… (by Mark Baggley)

This is a post from one of the Ambassadors for the Strengthening DPULOs Programme, Mark Baggley. You can find out more about the programme on the ODI website or on Facebook.

As an Ambassador for the Office for Disability Issues Strengthening DPULOs programme, one of the best parts of the job is getting out and actually seeing other groups, what stage of development they are at and meeting the faces behind the organisation.

This week, thanks to the lack of snow, I was able to visit two such groups.

The first of these was the Personalisation Support Group in Doncaster.

The PSG is a group of people with mental health issues that supported each other when there was a refusal to give anyone with a mental health condition in a particular area a Direct Payment. The group asked other disability groups for support, but didn’t receive any and eventually successfully challenged this using a judicial review.

The group is supported on a voluntary basis by Kelly Hicks (Independent Social Worker), who has recently been named Social Worker of the Year.

The group has recently applied for and were successful in getting a grant from the Strengthening DPULOs Facilitation Fund grant for a project called Support Buddies, This funding is for a variety of training courses, marketing and promotional materials.

Meeting the group was a fantastic experience as I could actually see the benefits of the grant we had made. The group meets weekly in a church hall and are lively, committed to the project and to each other.

They support each other not just in an emotional way, but also in practical ways: in one fantastic example a member had recently moved house and around 10 members had assisted her, from changing light bulbs, decorating and moving furniture.

The group have loads of ideas and want to have premises, new services and one member is making a film of the work they are doing. They are keen to work with other organisations and have just started joint meetings with Active Independence, who have also received funding from the Facilitation Fund and are also a relatively new group.

It really was an excellent visit and the group had lots of questions for me as to how they can develop, but also wanted to express their thanks to the Strengthening DPULO programme for their support.

My second visit was to Lincolnshire Independent Living (LIL).

LIL is a small user led organisation formed in 2011, that is aiming to cover the whole of Lincolnshire, covering both large urban areas and isolated rural communities. Currently, they have no office base, around 90 members and have two part time staff .

They have small funding for two projects:

  • To develop a peer-to-peer support user network (aiming to support disabled people and carers)
  • A Quality checking service, looking at organisations from a disability perspective.

They have an idea that they want to develop a “virtual CIL” which may rely on workers using laptops and mobile phones, rather than having an office base, due to the size of the geographical area. This is an interesting idea, but they need to develop a clear idea of what services they want to run. They have ideas around information, Direct Payments, etc and I tried to give them some ideas of how other CILs have developed.


DPULOs and public service delivery

At the start of the Strengthening Disabled People’s User-Led Organisation Programme (on which more here) I wrote an article that unfortunately wasn’t published. (I’ve never been renowned for my engaging writing style, it has to be said.) Following Peter Beresford’s thoughts on the same topic, below is that article on disabled people’s user-led organisations and their role in service delivery (one of the many facets of things they do).

Organisations which are run by and for disabled people should play a vital role in providing important services that enable disabled people to have choice and control over their lives.

The reason for this follows from a very simple premise: with their experience as service users, disabled people are often best-placed to know what they want from organisations and so are best-placed to run them.

This is a crucial time for disabled people and their organisations.  As well as some under-representation of people with learning disabilities or mental health conditions, disabled people’s user-led organisations (DPULOs) have been seen mainly within the context of adult social care over the last few years. This is to miss the difference they can and do make in many areas of life.  DPULOs should be central in addressing issues like disability hate crime, in securing the representation of disabled people in health and social care through local HealthWatch organisations, and in encouraging a greater uptake of Access to Work (recently called the government’s “best kept secret”).

The new Strengthening DPULOs Programme provides a range of practical and financial support to address the challenges DPULOs face and make them stronger and more sustainable for the future. The Programme includes 12 Ambassadors who will champion DPULOs in their local areas, influencing commissioners across the public sector to recognise and value the contribution DPULOs make.

Similarly, experts – drawn from a variety of different backgrounds – will support DPULOs (when they ask for it) to translate the “what” they want to do into the “how” to do it.

Lastly, a £3million Facilitation Fund will provide some financial resource to DPULOs that they otherwise could not easily secure for things that will make a difference to their strength and sustainability.

The Government’s recent Open Public Services White Paper was a clear articulation of its aims for reforming public services. It called for greater diversity in the mix of providers to deliver different types of services: by the private, independent and voluntary sectors, as well as by mutual and employee-owned organisations (so-called “John Lewis”-type organisations).

Disabled people’s user-led organisations should be a part of that mix. Not only this, but DPULOs also have a role as a representative voice of disabled people at a grass-roots level, influencing and lobbying at a local, regional and national level. They can also raise expectations and change attitudes when it comes to disability equality more broadly.

The main value that DPULOs can add is that of legitimacy and credibility, based on a fundamental understanding of the lived experience of their members and clients that other organisations don’t have in the same way.

As with the voluntary sector more broadly, the question of independence is one that comes up regularly: can a DPULO delivering a service under contract to a local authority, or one that receives ongoing grant funding, bite the hand that feeds it? It’s a question the recently convened Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector will be grappling with. In gathering their evidence, they may want to take on board the perspectives of members or Trustees of DPULOs up and down the country who navigate this day-to-day complexity with passion, determination and nous.

As well as being the authentic representative voice of disabled people at a grass-roots level, DPULOs can play a vital part in the public service reform agenda. Amongst the undoubted challenges that they and their members face, DPULOs should also seize the opportunities the reform agenda presents.

The £3m Programme is one means by which this can be realised: it is up to all of us who demand disability equality to ensure the opportunity is taken.

Another #dpulo Ambassador writes… Mark Baggley (updated)

Following the thoughts of Berni on being an Ambassador for the Strengthening Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations Programme, her fellow Ambassador Mark Baggley (from Choices & Rights) has also written a few thoughts, shared below:

I was pleased to be appointed as one of the ODI’s Ambassadors for the Strengthening DPULOs Programme.

The Ambassador Day – when all 12 Ambassadors came together for the first time – led to some interesting discussion,s as well as giving all the new Ambassadors the opportunity to come together and meet for the first time.

As well as the debates about what our roles could cover, how we can be most effective and how the Facilitation Fund can be put to best use to strengthen DPULOs, there was also the lighter side during the ice breaker sessions.

For example, we discovered amongst our group that our personal experiences included:

  • Someone who used to be in a Karen Carpenter Tribute band
  • An individual who had been involved in bomb disposal
  • A fan of Bollywood soap operas
  • Someone who’s sister is friends with comedian Peter Kay.

Surely, with that range of experiences, plus our experiences of disability issues and organisations, we should be able to deal with just about anything!

Some perspectives from other Ambassadors can be heard on Audioboo (captured in my Storify post here).

My own reflections on the Ambassadors is here. More information specifically about the Ambassadors is available here. More information about the programme as a whole is available here.

Update: Mark was also featured in his local newspaper talking about the programme: article here.

DPULO Ambassadors

I am in a fortunate position to be part of a programme that aims to build the strength and sustainability of disabled people’s user-led organisations (DPULOs – an acronym that could do with sharpening up a bit). This is so they can provide a strong voice for disabled people at a local level, as well as provide services to support disabled people to have more choice and control over every aspect of their lives (for example, employment, social care, health and leisure).

The programme has 4 key components: Ambassadors, Experts, the Facilitation Fund, and someone who links it all together (which is my role).

In this (personal) post, I wanted to briefly talk about the Ambassadors.

They are an absolutely vital part of the programme. They provide the “missing link” between the energy, ability and sheer inventiveness of local disabled people who want to make things better and the resource, scale and leverage/links that central and local government can provide.

Having met individually with each of the 12 Ambassadors involved in the programme, covering almost every area of England, last week they all came together for the first time. Some photos of the day are here.

It was a privilege to be in the room with so many people that had made such a difference in the work they do in the lives of disabled people. The expertise that each of the Ambassadors had – in areas as diverse as leisure and culture, disability hate crime, housing, employment, volunteering, enabling peer support, social care and health – was quite something.

Inevitably, in a programme that aims to support organisations as diverse as DPULOs, there is no template for what an Ambassador might do. Broadly, though, there are 3 areas they’ll focus on:

  1. Reacting to the queries, questions and requests that DPULOs ask of them. With their experience, expertise and networks, Ambassadors can support DPULOs to have the right conversation or right piece of information at the right time
  2. Being proactive and making the case for DPULOs. Not only that, but Ambassadors can talk with commissioners, businesses and local people to see what they’re doing to support DPULOs and suggest ways in which they can work together with them
  3. Making sure the Strengthening DPULOs programme is working as well as it can be. This includes making decisions on which applicants to the Facilitation Fund will receive a financial award and ensuring that all learning from the programme (and beyond) is captured and shared

There is no doubt it’s a demanding role. But having met each of the Ambassadors and learning about what they’ve done, I know we have the right people doing the business!

If you’d like to know more about the Ambassadors who are involved and snippets about their experiences, you can read about them here.

If you’d like to know more about the programme in general – and especially if you work for a Disabled People’s User-Led Organisation – then feel free to get in touch with me.

A #dpulo Ambassador @queensmill writes…

Yesterday, I blogged about the people that I’ve met as part of the Strengthening Disabled People’s User-Led Organisation (DPULO) Programme. These are the 12 Ambassadors for the programme: people who bring a wealth of experience and expertise to strengthening and building the capacity of organisations that are run by and for disabled people across all impairment groups.

Importantly, they also provide a local focus to the work the programme is doing.

Berni, an Ambassador based at Southampton Centre for Independent Living, has blogged her own thoughts on being an Ambassador and the Strengthening DPULOs Programme. You can read her thoughts here.

She highlights what drove her to become an Ambassador in the first place:

My decision to apply for the position was fuelled by my passionate belief that all Disabled People regardless of impairment, background or experience have an equal right to be included in society and have choice and control about the way we live our life.

Berni then highlights what the programme is seeking to achieve with DPULOs and her role in that:

DPULOs are essentially about personal development, a shared identity and collective purpose. They are about telling our stories, growing together and ultimately using the whole of our combined experience to bring about change in our local communities and society as a whole.

By building co-productive relationships with commissioners, partners and community agencies, DPULOs raise awareness of the discriminatory barriers that Disabled People face on a daily basis which in turn shape policy and service delivery.

My role as an Ambassador will enable me to use my experience and skills – key tasks will include:

  • Raising awareness about the role and potential of DPULOs.
  • Building capacity across local regions by sharing good practise, attending meetings, training, mentoring, etc.
  • Supporting DPULOs with successful applications to the “Facilitation Fund” – a cash limited fund that will enable DPULOs to make a specific difference to their future sustainability.

Berni talks about her role a bit more here. It’s great to have her on the programme, along with the other 11 Ambassadors.

(Personal note: this is a personal post, not official!)