The government has announced £3 million of new funding to help local disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) improve the way they are run.
DPOs will be able to bid for money from the fund from July for projects that will “make a significant difference to their development and sustainability”.
The announcement came on the same day that thousands of disabled people, including leaders of many DPOs, marched in London in protest at the coalition government’s spending cuts and welfare reforms.
Campaigners have increasingly been raising concerns that the local authority spending squeeze – caused by the government’s deficit reduction plan – has been putting the future of many local DPOs at risk.
In March, People First (Self Advocacy) said that 80 per cent of its members could be forced to close, or had already done so, because of cuts to their funding by local authorities.
In the same month, a string of DPOs that had secured short-term grants from the Department of Health told Disability News Service of their fight for survival in the wake of public sector spending cuts.
The government said DPOs “will have a say” in how the new fund will be administered “and what the criteria for receiving a grant will be”.
Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, welcomed the new funding but said it was vital to have “an open discussion about how that money is allocated and what the criteria are and what the application process is”.
She added: “It needs to be open to scrutiny and it needs to have a very clear paper trail.”
Disability LIB, which was itself set up to build the capacity of DPOs, said the funding would help DPOs “build on their previous successes in developing independent living activities, skills and services that enable disabled people to be active and equal citizens”.
Stephen Lee Hodgkins, director of Disability LIB, said DPOs “provide leadership and promote inclusion and equality for disabled people, by disabled people”.
But he said they “often have less money than other civil society organizations and face numerous challenges when developing and running services and activities because of the systematic exclusion disabled people face within society”.
The government is to recruit a leading figure from a DPO to be seconded to the Office for Disability Issues to act as a “focal point” for the project.
It is also seeking “ambassadors” to share their skills and experience with DPOs in their region, as well as “talented individuals” from business and voluntary organisations to share their expertise in areas such as human resources, financial management and IT.
Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, said: “Grassroots organisations are the experts in their local communities. That is why we are investing £3million to help these organisations play an even greater role in shaping the decisions that will affect their lives.”
12 May 2011