The new head of the UK’s leading disabled people’s organisation has described his appointment as a “fantastic opportunity” to help rebuild its credibility.
Jaspal Dhani is the first permanent chief executive of the United Kingdom’s Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) since Andy Rickell left to join Scope nearly six years ago.
Leading UKDPC figures have been working in recent months to review and restructure the organisation.
Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, said the board was “very, very pleased” with Dhani’s appointment. “UKDPC is stronger than it has been for some time and this is a very good time for a new chief executive to be appointed. He’s energetic, he has fresh ideas and a fresh perspective.”
Dhani agreed that his appointment provided a “fresh start” for UKDPC. He said UKDPC would now be “very focused” on key themes and not “thrash ourselves so much that we do not have impact in any area”.
UKDPC will now develop a new strategy, with input from other disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), but an immediate priority is to strengthen those DPOs in their battle for survival, as many councils put the services they provide out to tender.
By strengthening DPOs, Dhani hopes they can be more influential at a local level and have an input into the national – and international – agenda via UKDPC.
He also wants to collaborate with other organisations that are “strongly represented by disabled people”, such as RADAR and the new London-wide body Inclusion London.
Some other priorities are already emerging, such as monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and working with local DPOs to encourage the reporting of disability hate crime.
And Dhani said he was still deeply concerned about the government’s plans to abolish disability living allowance and attendance allowance for those over 65 and fold the savings into council care budgets.
Despite ministerial reassurance that no-one will lose out financially, Dhani believes such a policy could easily lead to another postcode lottery of support.
Dhani will draw on his experience in management roles in DPOs, including eight years as director of Disability Action in the Borough of Barnet. He is also chair of his local DPO, Redbridge Disability Association, in Essex.
He said UKDPC has “had its ups and downs” and that close friends “have told me how crazy I must be” and have even called the job “a poisoned chalice”.
But he said: “I don’t feel that way. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity. UKDPC is an organisation that is well recognised and respected.
“I have an opportunity to redevelop the agenda, to redevelop the brand to really get more people involved and make an impact in terms of disabled people’s lives. I am also a sucker for challenges.”
He added: “I am also coming into the post without baggage. My only agenda is to develop UKDPC into that credible organisation that everybody believes it could be.”
20 January 2010