Council cuts research paints troubling picture


Scores of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and other disability charities across England have had their council funding cut or removed completely this year, according to new research.

Including DPOs, more than 150 disability charities have had their funding reduced, as well as more than 100 adult social care charities.

The figures were obtained by the campaign group False Economy – which is backed by unions and anti-cuts groups – after submitting Freedom of Information Act requests to local authorities.

The research shows that charities will face net reductions in council funding of more than £110 million this year, with this total sure to increase as some councils are still to make funding decisions and others have yet to respond to False Economy.

Among DPOs hit is Central England People First (CEPF), one of the country’s leading self-advocacy organisations, which has lost its £23,000 funding from Northamptonshire County Council and is being asked instead to tender for new contracts.

Ian Davies, CEPF’s chair, said the organisation had enough funding to continue until Christmas, but would need to find alternative sources of money through new projects.

He said: “We have been very good at looking at how we can save money and make ends meet.”

He added: “I feel for the people who are here now and have come away from day services. My concern is if I have to send people back to where they came from, back to a setting that isn’t adequate.

“A lot of people have joined and have developed their own skills. Everybody in the office all came from day services. They have moved out and come to People First. That was their choice.”

Other DPOs facing significant cuts include the Council of Disabled People Coventry and Warwickshire (CDP), which has had its county council funding for its work promoting personalisation almost halved from £19,000 to just £10,000.

Tony Walsh, CDP’s chief executive, said the organisation would have to consider reducing its core staffing levels towards the end of this year if it was not able to secure new funding.

Two regional schemes have been set up to support DPOs in the Midlands because they had been closing down “left, right and centre”, he said, and there were still “major concerns for the future”.

The London-based arts organisation Shape is another user-led disability charity highlighted by the new research.

It is set to lose its entire annual £110,000 funding from the umbrella organisation London Councils in August. Earlier this year, it was told its Arts Council England funding would fall by nearly 40 per cent over the next three years, from £438,000 a year to £300,000.

Richard Muncaster, Shape’s communications and development director, said London Councils had obviously decided that access to culture for disabled people “just wasn’t a priority”, even though Shape was “well-respected” and a vital “social lifeline”.

He said the financial climate was “pretty difficult”, but the charity had secured some Big Lottery funding and was looking to other funders, and was “very much still here and still generating income”.

Shape was forced to make four of its 25 posts redundant earlier this year, but he said it hoped to avoid further job losses.

A string of other DPOs across England also appear to have had their council funding cut, many of them by about 10 per cent.

In addition to DPOs, many more non user-led disability and social care charities, most of them providing services to disabled adults, parents of disabled children and carers, have seen reductions in their council funding.

Charities providing mobility services to disabled people also appear to have been badly affected, with several local Shopmobility and Dial-a-Ride schemes facing cuts.

4 August 2011