DPO welcomes ‘ground-breaking partnership’ with elected mayor

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A ground-breaking new partnership between disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and Greater Manchester’s elected mayor could become a “template” for future work with local authorities across the region, according to one leading DPO.

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) said this week that it believed that Greater Manchester was the first combined authority in the country to establish a formal partnership between DPOs and the elected mayor.

The authority, led by Labour’s Andy Burnham, is now set to approve funding this month which will ensure that the lead of a new disabled people’s panel will be a paid position.

That will contrast with last month’s announcement by Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, who said that the chairs of nine new regional groups that will make up her new Regional Stakeholder Network would not be paid.

GMCDP is now asking disabled people to apply for the new part-time post, which will have a pro rata salary of £31,100 a year.

The successful candidate* will lead on work to set up the disabled people’s panel, which aims to “strengthen the voice of disabled people and their organisations in shaping, challenging and influencing strategic policy issues that are important to disabled people across Greater Manchester”.

Brian Hilton (pictured, right), GMCDP’s digital campaigns officer, said: “We are really pleased to be working with the mayor’s office on this important piece of work.

“We hope this can become a template for future work, not only with the mayor’s office but across all Greater Manchester authorities.”

He said the debate around how much disabled people should be paid for their labour, skills and expertise was “not a new phenomenon”.

He said: “The government is not alone in trying to devalue disabled people by paying us peanuts or, in the case of the regional disability network, nothing at all.

“The current political climate allows such things to happen.”

He pointed out that MPs from both sides of the House of Commons, including Philip Davies and Frank Field, have in recent years suggested that paying some disabled people less than the minimum wage would be a positive move forward.

He said: “The reality of course would be that it further divides our society into Us and Them.

“Often the rationale for paying us less is that we are less productive and that firms are doing us a favour in the first place by employing us and by doing so keeping us occupied.”

But he said that paying disabled people less – or nothing – was “not the answer”.

He said: “The only long-term solution is to remove the barriers that prevent us from gaining employment, retaining our jobs and advancing in our chosen careers.

“Not only is it important that disabled people and DPOs are recompensed for their time and expertise, but it’s also important for and benefits the mayor’s office.

“Paying for our expertise allows the mayor’s office to make demands on the work we do and the input we provide.

“Similarly, we are more focused, invested in the work being undertaken and committed to making the ongoing engagement a success.”

The partnership is likely to be seen as a campaigning success for GMCDP, which said before Burnham’s election as Greater Manchester’s first elected mayor in 2017 that it hoped to persuade the successful candidate to make the region a trailblazer for disability rights in England and “develop ground-breaking initiatives to tackle disability”.

In contrast with the Manchester post, Newton made it clear last month that all those taking part in her new regional stakeholder network – including the nine chairs – would have to work for free, apart from travel expenses and funding for disability-related costs.

Newton also made it clear that non-disabled people and charities and other organisations not run and controlled by disabled people would be invited to join the network, potentially even as some of the regional chairs.

*For details of the post and how to apply, visit the GMCDP website. The closing date is noon on Monday 18 February

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