The centre for independent living (CIL) in Britain’s second largest city has collapsed, following months of infighting.
Birmingham Centre for Inclusive Living (BCIL) had been receiving more than £400,000 a year in funding from Birmingham City Council to provide information, advice and advocacy to disabled people.
But the council withdrew its funding in June after BCIL fell far short of its performance targets. It was supposed to provide advice to 522 disabled people a year, but reached just 13 in six months.
Shirley Cooper, who agreed to become chair in April at the annual general meeting in a bid to resolve BCIL’s problems, said: “The council have withdrawn funding since June 17 because we hadn’t met our service level agreement, which I quite agree with.”
But she said the closure of BCIL was a severe blow to disabled people in the city, and that the council should have given her more time to provide a rescue plan.
She said: “It is very bad news for disabled people in Birmingham.”
Cooper was ousted as chair by two of her four fellow directors last month, just five months after taking over. She said this decision was “not valid” because the correct procedures were not followed, and that there were “a lot of angry people” concerned at the action that had been taken.
Charles Alldrick, one of the two directors who ousted Cooper, and who took over as acting chair and helped take the decision to close BCIL, said: “We have not decided to shut it down. It had to shut down because it had no money.”
He said the closure would be “quite hard on quite a lot of [disabled]people”.
He agreed that providing advice to just 13 disabled people in six months was “not a good service”, and added: “If I had been a councillor, I would probably have said the same: pull out.”
A council spokeswoman said: “The council withdrew funding in June because BCIL had not performed the services it was contracted to deliver and could not perform because of a number of internal issues.”
She said BCIL had been “repeatedly unable or unwilling to provide information to the council or produce a recovery plan”.
She said the council wrote twice to BCIL following meetings in February and March, and there had been repeated contact from council officers concerning a “range of operational, internal and other issues”.
She said the council had now received a letter from BCIL saying it had “ceased to operate”.
The council is now considering how it will meet the requirement for every area to have a user-led CIL by the end of 2010, with one possibility that it could tender for a replacement.
BCIL was launched four years ago following the closure of another disabled people’s organisation, the Coalition of Disabled People, Birmingham.
13 October 2010