The government must do more to recognise the value of small disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) as it develops its plans for a “Big Society”, according to an alliance of disability organisations.
Disability LIB, which provides support to help DPOs boost their performance, says the government must also ensure that its Big Society initiatives are inclusive and accessible to disabled people and their organisations.
Disability LIB was responding to a consultation from the government’s Office for Civil Society on how it should fund advice and support for charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups in England.
Stephen Lee Hodgkins, director of Disability LIB, said the government must ensure that DPOs can compete with other organisations bidding to run public services – a key part of the coalition government’s Big Society agenda.
He said: “The DPO sector is quite small. The government needs to pay attention to how small local organisations are supported.
“A lot of them are facing closure and having their capacity knocked out of them – a lot of them are working hand-to-mouth.
“The cuts will devastate the sector unless these opportunities are made much easier for groups of disabled people.”
In its consultation response, Disability LIB says the government must recognise DPOs’ need for “core funding”, rather than just finance for particular projects, and it calls for incentives for large disability charities to work with DPOs.
Hodgkins said the Big Society programme – including the new public services (social enterprise and social value) bill – provided opportunities for DPOs to further their independent living and personalisation agenda.
But he said there was also a risk that smaller user-led groups would not be heard and their value would be ignored.
And he called on the government to invest in research that would prove that DPOs “added value” in areas such as equality, reducing isolation and promoting inclusion.
Disability LIB also calls in its response to the consultation for more focus on supporting existing DPOs, rather than replacing them with new user-led organisations set up from scratch.
There have been concerns that the harsh financial climate – and the previous government’s demand for there to be a user-led centre for independent living in every area by 2010 – has led to a string of established DPOs being forced to fold, often to be replaced by new user-led groups and consortiums.
Disability LIB told the government that it was “important in the future to build upon the expertise and knowledge of organizations which already exist and build their capacity and encourage their collaboration with others, rather than creating something from scratch”.
11 January 2011