The consortium will be able to build on some of the expertise developed by local DPOs that are already providing employment and skills support for disabled people, but on a much larger scale.
Alex Hendra, business development manager for Inclusion London, which is supporting the consortium’s development, said: “We know DPOs have a great track record in challenging barriers and getting people into real work, and they also have a good track record in employing disabled people themselves.”
She said DPOs had high success rates in finding work for disabled people, while mainstream programmes like the Work Programme and Work Choice have “really low percentage rates”.
Although mainstream organisations were starting to recognise this expertise, there had not yet been any interesting ideas about how to take advantage of it.
Hendra said: “Definitely the DPOs have great ideas. The difficulty is getting any funding or recognition.”
The aim of the new consortium is to develop a “collective voice” and create a large enough partnership to allow it to bid for funding from schemes such as the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), which has allocated London £678 million between 2014 and 2020, although each successful funding bid must be matched by a UK source.
One of the organisations that will be providing matched ESIF funding in the UK will be the Big Lottery Fund, which the consortium is likely to approach.
Hendra said: “We are trying to make sure that disabled people benefit from the ESIF programme.
“Rather than go in as individual organisations for those kinds of funds, we want to go in as a partnership that will demonstrate how well we engage with people across London.
“It is a really exciting time for us because it is not something that DPOs have done before.
“DPOs usually work in single services and do fantastic work. Some work across two or three [areas], but each are quite similar. This is a bit of a first, bringing DPOs across London together.”
Inclusion London has brought together nine London DPOs that are set to join the consortium.
Hendra said: “They can pool their resources and ideas and really make a difference. It also starts a process of DPOs working much more in partnership together to show why what we do is different and how user-led services do make a difference and get results where other approaches do not get results.”
The consortium is following the same path as a smaller partnership of five London DPOs – again led by Inclusion London – that successfully bid for £500,000 funding to help disabled people engage in sport and physical activity.
If the employment consortium is successful, said Hendra, the idea could be extended to other areas in which DPOs could work together, such as health and social care.
But it is unlikely – at least in the short-term – that the consortium will be big enough to bid for funding from the government’s mainstream Work Programme or its specialist Work Choice scheme.
The first funding bid is likely to be submitted around November.
2 July 2014