ODI’s future questioned after DWP refuses to calculate spending cuts


newslatestThe future of the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has been cast into doubt, after the government claimed it was unable to calculate how much of its budget had been cut since 2012.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has told Disability News Service (DNS) that it would be too expensive to work out how much had been spent on the ODI’s responsibilities.

In an answer to a DNS Freedom of Information Act request, the DWP claimed it would take more than three-and-a half working days to calculate the figures.

The ODI has its own web page and is responsible for supporting the cross-government role of the minister for disabled people; developing and monitoring the government’s disability strategy; and coordinating the cross-government implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It also supports the government’s Disability Action Alliance and Fulfilling Potential Forum; strengthens disabled people’s user-led organisations; is responsible for the “Paralympic legacy”; oversees the Community Support Fund for disabled ex-Remploy employees; and encourages the use of the social model of disability,

But there have been growing concerns that the ODI is being downgraded in importance and might not survive another Conservative-led government.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “The ODI has played a vital role in the past.

“It is charged with a very specific and important set of responsibilities. For them not to know how much they are investing in that unit is extremely surprising.”

She said there was a “growing sense” that ODI might not be around after the election, which would be “extremely concerning”.

She said: “It is more important than ever, given the disproportionate impact of cuts that disabled people have experienced over the last five years, that there is expertise working strategically and across government that understands disability equality and understands co-production and works with disabled people’s organisations.

“It is absolutely vital and there are huge question-marks about whether ODI has the resources and the capacity to do that.

“I know a lot of personnel that were really key to the success of the ODI have left over the last five years and I have heard anecdotally about significant reduction in the ODI staff capacity, and that seems to be reflected in the question marks [over its funding].”

DWP said in its Freedom of Information Act response that ODI became a division within its Disability Directorate in April 2012, and that “finance is managed at the directorate level using one cost centre code which does not allow for easy identification of any part of the directorate’s spend”.

In September 2014, it said, there was a further merger between the Disability Directorate and the Health and Wellbeing Directorate to form a new Health, Disability and Employment Directorate.

8 January 2015