Strengthening DPULOs Programme monthly bulletin, no. 10 (end of year edition) #dpulo

This is the tenth monthly update about the Strengthening DPULOs Programme. This is also the last update of 2012, so rather than the usual mix of links and stories (which will begin again in January) I thought it would be useful to reflect on where the DPULOs agenda has got to.

2012: a year for DPULOs?

At the start of the year I suggested 2012 could be the year for DPULOs. There were 3 reasons for this view:

  1. There was a detectable shift towards leveling the playing field for different types of providers in public services
  2. There was proof that DPULOs could be clear about the value they add in representing disabled people’s voices locally
  3. The evidence for the difference DPULOs make was starting to come through, and stakeholders were starting to take note.

What we’ve seen over the last 12 months is further evidence for each of the points above. For example:

  1. DPULOs, social enterprises and mutuals are starting to be treated differently – and for the better – in the way public services are commissioned. Liverpool is one good example and we’ll have more in the New Year
  2. There is now significant evidence of the difference the voice of disabled people in their local communities, represented through DPULOs can make. This isn’t just in saving money (though that’s important), but also in the improvements in people’s quality of life. Just look at the evidence here.
  3. There is also now much more evidence than there’s ever been of the unique value DPULOs add when they deliver local services. They increase choice and control. They’re trusted more. They deliver a return on investment. And they save money. The evidence is here.

As a result, there’s been a major shift in thinking: the question I used to be asked all the time was “What is a DPULO?” Now, the question I am asked is “Now I know the difference they can make, how can I get the most out of one in my local area?”

Government has taken note, too: where DPULOs used to be thought of mainly in terms of social care, now they are reflected in several areas of policy:

  • In the ODI’s Fulfilling Potential documents and Right to Control Trailblazers
  • In the Home Office’s Hate Crime Action Plan
  • In the DWP’s drive to increase take up of Access to Work
  • In the DfE’s new approach to SEN and disability
  • In DCLG’s Community Budgets work
  • In the Cabinet Office’s Open Public Services White Paper
  • (A full list is here)

Not only this, but the Strengthening DPULOs Programme has provided over £1m of funding through the Facilitation Fund to enhance the sustainability of DPULOs (see here) .

And we’re thinking ahead to the future, too: whilst keeping on with the good stuff we’ve been doing, we’ll be getting new work going  in areas such as:

  • Examples of DPULOs working well with commissioners
  • DPULOs and Making It Real in social care
  • DPULOs and local Healthwatch
  • DPULOs and young disabled people
  • DPULOs, social media and accessible engagement
  • DPULOs and fundraising
  • Mapping the DPULO sector
  • Further evidence on the return on investment DPULOs deliver.

What about 2013?

Despite all of the positives of 2012, it has of course been an incredibly challenging year. DPULOs have not been immune from this, partly because of the significant challenges that disabled people themselves have faced and will continue to face.

And we know that circumstances facing DPULOs are likely to be just as hard, if not harder, into the future as local government and others also face a tough time.

But I am optimistic. As Baroness Campbell said:

Disabled people are the best problem solvers.

In a year that will see lots of problems for lots of different people and organisations, what better people and organisations to have working with you than disabled people and Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations?

Over the festive period, I shall reflect on the incredible work that all of you have done through your DPULOs in your local communities, and think forward to what you will continue to achieve in 2013 and beyond.

I hope you have a restful and relaxing holiday.

Rich Watts

(On behalf of all at the Strengthening DPULOs Programme team)

Find out more about the Programme

To find out more about the Strengthening DPULOs Programme, you can visit our website. We also regularly update our Facebook the page with lots of information you will hopefully find useful, plus news from other DPULOs: If you are on Twitter, you can share information and find out more about DPULOs using the hashtag #dpulo. Please also remember to use the #dpulo hashtag if ever you’re tweeting about your work

You can find all 9 of the previous monthly updates here.

Contact us

For information, biographies, contact details and details of the areas covered by each of the DPULO Ambassadors covers, please visit the Ambassadors page.

If you have any questions about the Facilitation Fund or any part Strengthening DPULOs Programme, please contact

Please feel free to forward this information on to any DPULOs, networks or stakeholders you think might find it interesting.


Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations: a full overview

Information regarding Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations – the what, who, how, where etc. – tends to be found in very many places indeed.

With my centralising tendencies, I thought it would be useful to publish a post that links together some of the key information available here about DPULOs. In turn, these posts link on to a wide array of resources available.

This is by no means comprehensive, so please do let me know (in the comments, via @rich_w on Twitter or via Facebook) if there’s anything I need to add in.

What is a DPULO?

What DPULOs exist?

What do DPULOs do?

What value do DPULOs add?

See also the evidence section below

What does the government think of DPULOs?

What evidence is there concerning DPULOs?

#DPULO delivering services: 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 their unique service deliver. 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 typically have legitimacy and credibility from the perspective of both users and commissioners, and can provide a user-led contribution to all parts of the care and support process.

DPULOs operate on both the supply- (i.e. service delivery / business) and demand- (i.e. user representation / voice) sides. They balance these roles to uniquely add value to the local social care economy (and beyond).

DPULOs come in all shapes and sizes: some can have a long history and be well established in their local area; others can be newly-formed and emerging in response to local circumstances.

What this work looks like

DPULOs can deliver a range of services drawing on the lived experience of users. Such services typically support people to navigate the care and support system, rather than deliver services at the end. The offer of DPULOs can include:

  • Information, Advice & Guidance
  • Supported self-assessment
  • Support planning
  • Brokerage
  • (Non-complex) supported reviews
  • PA recruitment and employment support
  • Training for employers and employees
  • Advocacy services

DPULOs are increasingly delivering services that people can purchase with their Personal Budget too, including:

  • Domiciliary care and support
  • Payroll services
  • Equipment services
  • Leisure services

DPULOs can also act as hubs for coordinating and managing user-led and wider voluntary and independent sector provision.

Beyond social care, DPULOs also offer a wide range of services, including (but not limited to):

  • Welfare / benefits advice
  • Training, especially disability equality training
  • Access auditing
  • Hate crime third party reporting centres
  • Alternative format translation.

Evidence of effectiveness

  • Choice and control in service delivery is an important aspect of the social care economy – valued both by users and government
  • 89% of people in an area who experienced user-led IAG secured a Direct Payment, compared to 13% who used LA-led provision
  • POET survey and ODI’s Support, Advocacy and Brokerage project both indicated people who had support from ULOs had better support for navigating the care and support system and that achieved better outcomes
  • 100% of people who used independent, user-led support planning service secured a Direct Payment and felt that they had more choice and control, compared to 17% who used LA-led support planning
  • Charity Commission reported that 59% of people agree they trust charities more if they are providing services within their local community
  • This support is also deliverable in crisis situations – Leeds User-Led Crisis Service in Leeds saves commissioners £28k per year
  • Evidence from Right to Control Trailblazers indicates that ULOs can help people to coordinate their care and support across different funding streams. This is partly because ULOs are more nimble in responding to user needs and are able to “join the dots up on the ground” across different (public) bodies.

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:

  • Assess current provision of different types of support service, especially those that could be provided by a DPULO
  • Prioritise where DPULOs can make the most valuable contribution to strategic priorities
  • Consider piloting DPULO involvement in specific service development opportunities
  • Consider commissioning specifically from local providers only, particularly those in the voluntary sector or with specific expertise (such as DPULOs)
  • Consider using Article 19 of the EU Public Contracts Directive to reserve contracts for DPULOs
  • Ensure tendering processes are accessible for DPULOs
  • Use the agreed principles of the Local Compact to inform commissioning arrangements.

#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.

Outcomes for safeguarding – a #DPULO Ambassador writes… (by Lynne Turnbull)

Lynne Turnbull is one of the Ambassadors for the Strengthening DPULOs Programme. In her day job, she is Chief Executive of Cheshire Centre for Independent Living, and below writes about part of her work drawing on user voice in safeguarding.

As part of my role representing the Voluntary & Community Sector on the Adult Safeguarding Board in Cheshire East, I have expressed the importance of the Board’s work being driven by the outcomes wanted and needed by disabled people. As a result, alongside my role on the Safeguarding Board, as the CEO of a DPULO, I currently chair the ‘No Secrets Reference Group’. This is made up of disabled people and carers who may/have already, experienced abuse (including hate incidents, verbal abuse, physical abuse etc).

At the recent meeting, the group decided on outcomes that were important to them during a safeguarding process, but equally these could easily relate to any aspect of life – treatment in hospitals, social care, by police etc.

This reference group is now the main subgroup to the board and these outcomes underpin all board and sub group activities.

For example, Cheshire East Council is piloting a feedback form that was designed by this group and is also underpinned by these outcomes. This feedback form is to be piloted within a social care team so that we can capture to what extent the outcomes are achieved by disabled people experiencing abuse.

The group has created a picture of where disabled people felt they were, or had been, with regard to safeguarding. You can view this here:

User voice and outcomes for safeguarding

The hills demonstrate that there was still a way to go, but the sun represents the outcomes of where everyone said they wanted to be.

We would love to produce this on a postcard and distribute to every household in the area with contact details for reporting abuse – safeguarding really is everyone’s business!

DPULOs Making A Difference: disability hate crime – update

We know that disability hate crime is a serious issue which affects a considerable number of disabled people and those around them each year. The seriousness and extent of the issues – plus its causes and effects – have been captured in a series of reports and publications recently.

Alongside the role of various public agencies, the role of Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations in addressing all aspects of disability hate crime has been well described. Indeed, there are some good examples of how DPULOs have played a significant role in addressing disability hate crime. However, this role and the difference it has made hasn’t necessarily been well understood or publicised.

To address this, the Strengthening DPULOs Programme commissioned a collection of case studies of up to 10 DPULOs that have made a difference in addressing disability hate crime.

The work is being done by Access Dorset (a DPULO itself) and, after asking other DPULOs if they’d like to be a case study, we’ve just finalised the list.

I’m excited by what we’ll get back. Case studies include looking at areas such as:

  • Third party reporting
  • Partnership working and coproduction with the police and Crown Prosecution Service
  • Awareness training and confidence building
  • Working with young people and schools
  • Advocacy
  • Securing and maintaining funding from a range of sources for specific disability hate crime projects

The information I’ve seen already has confirmed what many of us knew: that DPULOs make a significant difference in addressing every area of disability hate crime. It will be great to share the final set of case studies with you (as well as the police, CPS, Home Office, local authorities and others) when they’re done – we’re aiming for June. As Shaw Taylor used to say:

Keep ‘em peeled

Your work on disability hate crime: be a #dpulo case study

A couple of weeks ago, I highlighted some work I was commissioning about the role Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations (DPULOs) play in addressing disability crime.

I’m pleased to say that Access Dorset has been chosen to coordinate this work: a collection of 10 good case studies of the varied and practical work that DPLULOs are undertaking in the area of disability hate crime, and the difference that they are making.

This work is part of the “DPULOs Making A Difference” series, commissioned by the Strengthening DPULOs Programme at the Office for Disability Issues (ODI). (You can find out more about the programme by visiting the ODI website or Facebook.)

How you can get involved

We are now looking for DPULOs who could potentially be case studies for the collection.

Though there is a lot of good work that DPULOs are doing to address disability hate crime, we are looking for case studies that will demonstrate to the police, local authorities and others the difference DPULOs can make. The case studies will be chosen on:

  • The different types of work that DPULOs are undertaking to address hate crime
  • The practical difference they’re making
  • The basis of geographical spread
  • Good coverage across impairment groups.

This means we won’t be able to include every DPULO who has been doing good work in this area (though we’ll happily promote your work!).

To help us choose the 10 best case studies, we’d be very grateful if you could let us know (max 150 words each):

  • What work have you been doing in relation to Disability Hate Crime?
  • What practical difference has it made? I.e. What outcomes have been achieved for disabled people? What evidence do you have that your work has made the difference? This could be numbers or feedback from disabled people / the police. Your work could be in any area of addressing disability hate crime, for example: increasing third party reporting; educating and increasing understanding; training delivered to police/local authorities; securing funding to carry out your work; securing contracts to carry out your work? etc.

Please send your reply by email to: Jonathan Waddington-Jones (CEO, Access Dorset), If you’d like to find out more about this work, please call Access Dorset on 01202 771336.

Closing date: Monday 2 April 2012. We aim to let you know if you are chosen as a case study by Wednesday 4 April 2012


The ODI and Strengthening DPULOs Programme recognises that producing case studies will be a call on your resources. They have agreed to pay for 1.5 days work at £275 per day (a total of £412.50) to each of the 10 organisations that are chosen to undertake this work.

Please share this information with any other people / networks who you think might be interested. Thank you.

DPULOs Making A Difference: disability hate crime – Expression of Interest

Update: Please note: the deadline for submitting Expressions of Interest has been extended to 5pm on Wednesday 7 March.


We know that disability hate crime is a serious issue which affects a considerable number of disabled people and those around them each year. The seriousness and extent of the issues – plus its causes and effects – have been captured in a series of reports and publications, particularly over the last 3 years, most recently reflected in the EHRC’s Inquiry into disability hate crime and the debate in Westminster Hall in December 2011.

Alongside the role of various public agencies, the role of Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations in addressing all aspects of disability hate crime has been well described. Indeed, there are some good examples of how DPULOs have played a significant role in addressing disability hate crime.

However, this role and the difference it has made hasn’t necessarily been well understood or publicised.

A collection of case studies

To address this, the Strengthening DPULOs Programme is bringing together a collection of case studies of up to 10 DPULOs that have made a difference in addressing disability hate crime.

The collection will cover:

  • What a DPULO has done to address disability hate crime in their local area
  • How they went about doing this
  • What the results were
  • What general lessons we can learn from DPULOs being involved in addressing disability hate crime.


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 aim to disseminate this report to each police force in the country, as well as each local authority.

The collection would also inform the work ODI is doing on disability hate crime at present, particularly in informing the Disability Strategy.

How you can get involved

It is vitally important that this work is done by DPULOs.

The collection of case studies will therefore be coordinated and written by a DPULO. Support will also go directly to the DPULOs whose work will be a case study 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.

We anticipate this work will take approximately 8-10 days in total.

Expressions of Interest

We would like DPULOs to submit a brief (no more than 2 A4 pages) Expression of Interest to coordinate this collection of work.

Your Expression of Interest should cover:

  • The DPULO’s knowledge, understanding and expertise regarding disability hate crime
  • The DPULO’s knowledge and understanding of how DPULOs can contribute to addressing disability hate crime
  • 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 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 by 5pm on Wednesday 7 March 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.

Strengthening DPULOs Programme, February 2012

Where DPULOs make a difference

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?

Speech to Leicester CIL about disability hate crime

Leicester Centre for Integrated Living – a disabled people’s user-led organisation deservedly with one of the longest and best reputations – kindly invited me yesterday to give a speech to their Annual General Meeting on the topic of disability hate crime.

On the back of the EHRC’s “Hidden in Plain Sight” report on the same topic, which was published on Monday, the timing couldn’t have been any better. I’ve thus reproduced the main body of my speech below, which conveys the main points I’d want to about the topic.

All feedback and debate welcome. It made for an interesting discussion, especially given there were police in the room listening to it…

Disability hate crime: the current picture

It is customary to tell the story of a particularly harrowing case of disability hate crime in order to demonstrate the extent of what can be done to one human being by another because of their impairment.

I’m not going to do that.

For me, any incident in which someone is subjected to any kind of poor treatment because of their impairment, no matter how great or small, is one incident too many.

Anyone who is shouted at across the street.

Anyone who is taken advantage of by their so-called friends.

Anyone who is subjected to a series of incidents that are never dealt with because they’re considered by the authorities to be “anti-social behavior”.

These are all incidents of hate crime.

And they should all be treated and reported just as seriously as some of the better-known cases that have made it into the newspapers and onto the television news reports.

Levels of reporting

If we know that hate crime is much more widespread than the authorities, newspapers and others would suggest, what is the true level of disability hate crime at the moment?

At a national level, the most recent figures said there were 1,569 reported incidents of disability hate crime. This was 3% of all hate crimes reported that year.

By way of comparison, hate crimes motivated by someone’s sexuality made up 10% of all hate crimes, and crimes motivated by someone’s race made up 82% of all hate crimes.

To put it another way: approximately 15% of the population – people from BME backgrounds or who are LGBT – suffered over 90% of hate crime incidents, whilst nearly 20% of the population – disabled people – suffered just 3% of hate crimes.

Of course, we shouldn’t compare these numbers in order to determine who is the worst off when it comes to hate crime, and I don’t mean to do this by my comparison.

But what these figures tell you, and what every bit of research about disability hate crime that has ever been written says, is that disability hate crime is a woefully under-reported issue.

To take a patch I know well: Essex.

Essex has a population of approximately 350,000 disabled people. In the figures that were released last week there was a grand total of 18 reported hate crimes.

As part of the series of disability hate crime work we did at ecdp, we convened a focus group of 20 people to share their lived experiences.

Each person in that room – every single one – had experienced at least one hate crime incident.

It sounds odd to say it, but I am secretly pleased every time there is an increase in the numbers of disability hate crime. I will stay pleased until the levels of disability hate crime represent a truer picture of what the situation really is and what the day to day experiences of disabled people really are.

Disability hate crime: the current problems

Unfortunately, under-reporting is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a long list of issues that contributes to the current problems regarding disability hate crime and how seriously it is taken (or not, as the case actually is).

I’m grateful in particular to the work of my colleague Faye Savage at ecdp and to colleagues at the Office for Public Management for their analysis, which I lift from heavily in what follows. My friend and ex-colleague Neil Crowther has also been a leading thinker on this topic.

One set of issues relate to how the police respond to hate crime incidents. The evidence is that they don’t particularly well, for which there are 3 reasons.

The first is that the police may not think a reported incident is serious enough to make them take action. They think of issues as anti-social behavior or “low level”.

The second is that the police have some negative stereotypes about disabled people, including thinking of them as “nuisance callers”, since they often make a lot of phone calls to report the very incidents the police also considers anti-social behaviour.

And the third is that there is evidence police can doubt the credibility of disabled people as victims of hate crime. For example, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped a case involving a victim with mental health conditions because they believed that the victim would not be a credible witness.

The involvement of the Crown Prosecution Service hints at wider problems within the system. Key agencies – such as the police, local authorities, schools, the courts and others – simply don’t work together in order to tackle hate crime. Each assumes it’s the other’s responsibility, and occasionally seem to hope the issue will go away.

As the Equality and Human Rights Commission put it in their Disability Hate Crime Inquiry launched yesterday, there is a “culture of disbelief” around hate crime.

But we have to believe – because we know and have experienced it directly – that hate crime exists. And we have to believe it’s not just an issue that affects disabled people: OPM in particular has stressed how hate crime goes much wider in its effects. As they note:

The waves of harm created by hate crime have far-reaching implications beyond the victims, and strike fundamentally at social cohesion, citizenship, and even national productivity.

Hate crimes have powerful symbolic and concrete impacts that extend far beyond the physical and emotional harm experienced by victims.

Family members of disabled hate crime victims, who may not be disabled themselves, can similarly be victimised.

Other disabled people who have never experienced hate crime also restructure their lives to avoid putting themselves at risk.

Hate crimes degrade the communities in which they occur.

Disability hate crime: what the solution could look like

Given the hugely dispiriting picture that has been painted about disability hate crime, we should look to finding solutions.

Based on the work we’ve done in Essex, the recommendations of the EHRC’s Inquiry and initiatives that have worked elsewhere, I think there are 4 main components to the solution, which we call the USER framework.

U stands for Understanding – There is clearly a general lack of understanding of the complex issues surrounding disability hate crime. This is the case both for disabled people themselves as well as for organisations that are meant to support them and address hate crime. In order to successfully address the landscape of disability hate crime there needs to be greater understanding of all the issues that surround it.

S stands for Signposting and Support – There are very few services for disabled victims of hate crime and increasingly fewer services to direct people to those that are in place. Organisations which signpost and support disabled people when they are victims of hate crime should be widely available and well-coordinated

E stands for Education – To ensure wider change for disabled people, we believe education work should be focused on three particular groups of stakeholders: disabled people themselves, professionals and wider society.

And finally, R stands for Reporting – The core issue of under-reporting can be addressed by supporting disabled people to report disability hate crime both formally and informally. Disability hate crime falls through the gaps all too often, and third party reporting through disabled people’s organisations is one solution that (a) provides a separate space for people to discuss their issues, (b) enables people to access wider support, (c) provides a way in which people can report issues to the authorities if they wish to. Stronger processes for reporting will increase the number of investigated and prosecuted cases, and so to lead to the rise in reported incidents that will present a truer picture of the reality of hate crime.

At a local level, , the USER Framework should:

  • Ensure disabled people are at the heart of all work undertaken to address disability hate crime and consulted at every stage of development
  • Ensure greater representation of disabled people on hate crime panels, or any strategic system which replaces them
  • Encourage partnership working at a strategic level to ensure that organisations share their (sometimes limited) resources to best meet the needs of disabled people. Going forward, this will involve working with other organisations to clarify a coordinated approach to hate crime within Essex.
  • Embed a system of peer support for victims and a space for them to share their experiences; for example through both online and face-to-face forums.

More generally, it will place disabled people’s user-led organisations  at the heart of addressing the problem of disability hate crime and mean we don’t have to rely on the police and the authorities to do something about it


The issue of disability hate crime sometimes feels like it starts and ends with the numbers of crimes that are reported each year.

What I hope I have done is share how this is simply not the case, and that it is an issue that goes right the very heart of how we as a society perceive and treat disabled people.

I’d like to finish with a quote from one of OPM’s report on the topic, which makes the point better than I can:

By doing nothing, we are making a damning indictment of our own sense of humanity and the kind of society we want to live in.

By thinking that disablist hate crime is merely a ‘disability issue’; that the characteristics of disabled people make them inherently ‘vulnerable’; that only the police, local authorities and services providers are responsible for dealing with it, we are allowing ourselves to be comforted by our lack of culpability in doing nothing.

This must change.

Hate crime against disabled people hurts all of us.