Among the user-led groups that have joined the Disability Action Alliance (DAA) are the British Deaf Association, Equalities National Council, the Fed Centre for Independent Living, Inclusion Scotland, the National Survivor User Network and People First (Self-Advocacy).
But many other disability groups, including leading disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) such as Inclusion London and the UK Disabled People’s Council – as well as the TUC’s Disabled Workers’ Committee – have not signed up.
Some of the large disability charities have also not joined DAA, with Scope, Mencap and Leonard Cheshire Disability not yet appearing on the list of members, while there are far fewer large companies than expected, with just First Group and Lloyds signing up so far.
Disability Rights UK (DR UK) is acting as convener of the new alliance – which now has more than 100 members – and it is being chaired by Liz Sayce, DR UK’s chief executive.
The intention appears to be that DAA will advise the government on “implementation” of policy and focus on how existing policies can be improved at a local level.
Sue Bott, DR UK’s director of development, said: “I am not surprised that some DPOs see some value in the alliance. It is a chance for them to get their views heard and feed in local opinion.
“I do think it is important that disabled people are there [in the government’s Office for Disability Issues], co-producing areas of work.
“What marks co-producing out as distinctive is we can have our ideas right from the very beginning. It is not just responding to other people’s ideas.”
She added: “It is far too early for people to condemn it out of hand. I think it should be given a chance.
“If it gets ignored or the government goes against something that it is saying, that is the stage when you might say, ‘this is a waste of time and we are going to withdraw.’”
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said her organisation had decided not to join because of “a number of concerns”, several of which had come from her attendance at DAA’s launch meeting.
She said there had been no information at the meeting about how DAA would fit in with other structures designed to allow the government to engage with disabled people, particularly Equality 2025 and the Network of Networks.
And she said there appeared to have been a lack of “strategic” thinking about what the new alliance should do.
She said there had also been no reference to the learning that has already taken place on “big issues” such as independent living, inclusive education and hate crime, and “no sense that any thought had gone into that”.
She said: “We were concerned that it might be just starting from scratch.”
Lazard said the “bomb-shell” that the alliance would not receive government funding had also played a part in Inclusion London’s decision, while the Office for Disability Issues – even when pressed – was unable to give any idea of the support it would provide for disabled people’s access needs.
She said: “We came away thinking that this has not been thought through, and there was no evidence of why it was needed. We felt there was a real danger it could be tokenistic.”
Lazard said these concerns had since been reinforced by the latest Equality 2025 meeting being cancelled, while she said the Network of Networks was “effectively not functioning”.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said it was “pleased that a lot of disabled people’s user-led organisations have signed up to the alliance”, and was “keen to involve more organisations from private, public and third sector”.
She said more organisations were joining DAA every day, while DWP was “providing support to set it up”.
She said member organisations would “work in partnership to take forward actions”, and she pointed to the government’s Age Action Alliance, which “has over 300 members and has achieved many things through partnership”.
18 April 2013