#dpulo representing the voice of disabled people locally: overview

research in practice for adults kindly asked me to write a contribution to their “Strategic Briefings” series, on the topic of Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations. Below I’ve extracted and amended the section about DPULOs and the voice of disabled people. The publication will be available from ripfa’s website soon.

DPULOs are run by and for disabled people and uniquely add value to the services they deliver. They have formal and informal mechanisms for representing the voice of disabled people locally.

Establishing an effective relationship with a DPULO can enable more choice and control for users of care and support. Conflicts of all kinds arising from voice-based activity (of interest, of independence) are generally anticipated in theory but happen rarely in practice.

What this work looks like

Representing user voice can be broken down into different elements: capturing views, aggregating views, analysing and synthesizing views and representing views.

DPULOs can:

  • Coordinate user networks, which are an effective way of channeling user views on their local social care system
  • Coordinate coproduction and user engagement mechanisms to contribute to every part of the commissioning cycle: analyse, plan, do, review
  • Call upon their local community networks and partnerships to ensure all seldom-heard groups are reached
  • Play a role in quality assurance: they can capture intelligence on how the local social care market is operating in practice.

If DPULOs also provide services, concerns about conflicts of interest rarely occur in practice. Indeed, DPULOs can work constructively with local authorities to develop the changing social care market and landscape. Furthermore, DPULOs can also harness the lived experience of disabled people to build and develop community capacity, for example in the form of peer support

Evidence of effectiveness

  • Harnessing the voice of disabled people locally has both quantitative and qualitative benefits
  • Data from Department of Health on LINks (HealthWatch from 2013), which empower people in the community to have their say or influence local health and social care services, suggests savings of £4.10 for every £1 invested in LINks
  • Studies on community development which harness local community’s social capital suggest this approach can save between £3 to £3.80 for every £1 invested
  • Community Navigator schemes save at least £900 per person engaged in the first year alone
  • The user-led mental health Personalisation Forum Group is estimated to save some £250,000 per year through using users’ social capital rather than only statutory services
  • Demos reported that coproduction between DPULOs and local authorities helped to mitigate or minimize effects of difficult decisions regarding budget changes and/or de-commissioning
  • Beyond social care, there is a higher incidence of reporting of disability hate crime where independent support services through DPULOs exist
  • An evaluation by the Scottish Government suggested coproduction of 2 local housing strategies in Scotland led to better outcomes for tenants and more efficient use of housing resources

Options for early, effective action

To make the most out of any local DPULO that exists, below are some effective options that are relatively easy to undertake:

  • Consider enabling DPULOs to administer existing or new voice-based mechanisms in the local area, such as Partnership Boards or HealthWatch
  • Consider establishing or maintaining a PB / DP User Network for regular qualitative input on progress towards personalisation
  • Share contact details of local DPULOs to every user of the social care system in the area
  • Consider establishing a strategic partnership with a DPULO(s) in the area. One practical effect of such partnerships can include seconding staff to the DPULO or having DPULO staff shadow Council staff
  • Broaden consideration of the role of DPULOs so they focus on issues beyond social care, e.g. disability hate crime, employment, access to goods and services
  • Take advantage of developments and their associated funding in other policy areas, e.g. HealthWatch.

Capturing and demonstrating the value and benefits of your services – Invitation to #dpulo

This information was recently published by Inclusion London. I’m replicating it below, though substituting “DPULOs” for “DDPO” so it’s consistent with the terminology used in previous posts.

Now more than ever DPULOs need to evidence the value and benefits they bring to the services and contracts they deliver.

Earlier this year Inclusion London commissioned the Office of Public Management (OPM) to develop an easy to use, accessible ‘added-value’ tool kit that would help DPULOs demonstrate to funders and commissioners the value and benefits they bring to service delivery.

The first phase of this project is coming to an end – a bespoke added-value tool kit has been developed and tested by 6 London Deaf and disabled peoples’ organisations.

We now have successfully secured funding to roll out the toolkit to a further group of London DPULOs. DPULOs chosen will receive free training and support to use the toolkit and will, by the end of the project, have:

  • Produced a case study, using the toolkit, that demonstrates the value and benefits of your services that can be used when applying for funding or contracts
  • Understand the different ways you can best demonstrate your value to funders and commissioners
  • Be able to use the toolkit across a range of your services and work

Inclusion London would like to invite your organisation to express an interest in taking part in the second phase of this project.

If you are interested please email your details to geraldine.ohalloran@inclusionlondon.co.uk. Closing date for expression of interest: 17 December 2012. Work with DPULOs chosen will begin in January 2013.

DPULOs Making a Difference: Working with commissioners – Expression of Interest


Commissioners working in all areas of the public sector – social care, health, children’s services, employment, justice system, education etc. – will be vital to the future strength and sustainability of Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations.

Yet the experience DPULOs have of commissioners – and that commissioners have of DPULOs – can be very varied. This gives rise to a wide variety of outcomes for DPULOs themselves and the work they do: from thriving and growing year on year to struggling to survive from one month to the next.

Great examples exist of where DPULOs and commissioners have worked well together for the benefit of disabled people in their communities. These examples include innovative use of commissioning and procurement, as well as through softer approaches such as partnerships and relationships. Such “working well” leads to:

  • The voice of disabled people being captured and represented in a local area
  • Innovative and effective service delivery by DPULOs.

However, these examples aren’t necessarily well known – to either DPULOs or commissioners. Furthermore, the factors underpinning why this work happens in some places and not in others isn’t as well understood as it should be.

A collection of case studies

Building on and extending work that others have done (such as SCIE and ripfa) the Strengthening DPULOs Programme is commissioning a collection of case studies to address these gaps. The collection will show how DPULOs and commissioners have worked successfully together and the reasons for this.

The collection will cover:

  • Examples of how commissioners and DPULOs have worked together
  • The practicalities of how the relationship worked
  • What the successful results were of this relationship
  • The key factors that enabled this success to happen
  • What general lessons we can learn from DPULOs and commissioners working successfully together.

Case studies could potentially include examples of:

  • Commissioners reserving contracts for DPULOs using existing legislation and regulations
  • Significant contracts being issued for voice/engagement-related work
  • How DPULOs and commissioners have worked together to deliver value for money at a time of austerity
  • Strategic partnerships between DPULOs and commissioners
  • Commissioners working with DPULOs to support their move into new service delivery areas
  • Effective engagement between DPULOs and emerging Health & Wellbeing Boards and local HealthWatch organisations.

Complementary work

This collection of case studies would complement other work we are doing on the role of commissioners in the sustainability of DPULOs. This other work includes:

  • Promoting DPULOs through funding and procurement – targeted work with local authority commissioners in a particular region
  • A piece of qualitative research with commissioners to understand their views and perspectives of DPULOs, and the barriers that may affect commissioners being able to buy the services of DPULOs.


The collection of case studies would be widely disseminated through the DPULO network associated with the Strengthening DPULOs Programme and all its communications channels, including the ODI website, monthly email and social media.

We would also wish to disseminate this report to each local authority in the country, as well as relevant representative bodies (such as the Local Government Association). A full stakeholder map will be developed as part of this work; any suggestions that people have of networks we should share this work through would be welcome.

The collection will also inform the work of the Strengthening DPULOs Programme and others on how best to support DPULOs in their work and relationships with commissioners.

How you can get involved

The collection of case studies will be coordinated and written by a DPULO. Support will also go directly to the DPULOs whose work is being profiled in order to support their effective contribution.

The role of the coordinating DPULO will be to:

  • Scope and agree potential DPULO case studies
  • Produce a case study template
  • Liaise with each chosen DPULO in writing their case study
  • Contribute to writing an introduction and conclusion for the collection
  • Draft the final collection
  • Support development of a stakeholder map for dissemination.

We anticipate this work will take approximately 10-15 days in total.

Expressions of Interest

We would like DPULOs to submit a brief (no more than 3 sides A4) Expression of Interest to coordinate this collection of work.

Your Expression of Interest should cover:

  • The DPULO’s knowledge, understanding and expertise regarding commissioners and commissioning/procurement
  • The DPULO’s knowledge and understanding of the barriers DPULOs face when it comes to commissioning and procurement
  • Demonstrable evidence of the DPULO’s networks and contacts with other DPULOs
  • The DPULO’s experience in project management
  • The DPULO’s experience in delivering high quality written materials in relatively short timescales
  • The DPULO’s capacity to demonstrate the ability to deliver this work within the next 2-3 months
  • Your proposed daily rate for this work.

This Expression of Interest will be considered and marked by the Strengthening DPULOs Programme team, and the coordinating DPULO will be chosen solely on the basis of the information provided. The work will be resourced through a grant to the coordinating DPULO.

Please submit your Expression of Interest to Richard.Watts1@dwp.gsi.gov.uk by 5pm on Wednesday 25 April 2012.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with Rich above. Similarly, if you know someone who may be interested, please pass this information on to them.

March 2012