Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) need to work together to raise their profile and find ways to cope with a drastic fall in their income, disabled activists have been told.
Research by Disability LIB, a partnership project of seven organisations – most of which are DPOs – found that the total income of 100 representative English DPOs fell from £40 million in 2009 to £33 million in 2010.
Between 2005 and 2009, total income had risen by £12 million.
Stephen Lee Hodgkins, director of Disability LIB, contrasted these figures with the size of the disability industry, which includes companies and large charities that manufacture and sell equipment, provide support services, and carry out research and policy development.
He said: “It is a multi-billion pound industry and disabled people and DPOs do not get too much of that.
“There is a real need for us as groups to move forward and try to think how we can gain access to that and put it to better use for disabled people.”
At an event held to mark the end of Disability LIB’s funding, Hodgkins warned that the support a disabled person needed to be an “involved citizen” might not be there in the future unless DPOs come together to “speak out about what we need for inclusion”.
Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, a Disability LIB partner, said: “We are moving into dangerous times. We have to find other ways of working with each other. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided.
“Things are changing in ways we have no direct influence over, and the only thing we can do is make sure our voices are heard.”
The figures were included in a new report highlighting the work of Disability LIB, which has received £4.5 million from the Big Lottery Fund over the last four years to provide capacity-building support to DPOs across England.
The report says the profile of DPOs is still too low, with a need for more work to highlight their “unique role, profile and added value”.
It also stresses the importance of working in partnership with other organisations on large-scale projects.
The report says the Disability LIB project has raised the profile of DPOs as “distinct, innovative and genuine agents of disabled people’s inclusion and social change” and has “inspired and given confidence to many DPOs to recognise the role and positive value they can offer”.
And it says that Disability LIB has emphasised the importance of “recognising disability as a human rights, and international issue”.
The report makes a number of recommendations, in areas such as access to mainstream capacity-building initiatives; developing a way for DPOs to show their “added value”; tendering for public sector contracts; training in human rights legislation; leadership; and networking.
One of the key elements of Disability LIB’s “legacy” is its website, which includes 30 short films it has produced about DPOs, leadership, human rights, equality and campaigning, and running a DPO.
The partnership also facilitated 65 events for DPOs, including eight intensive human rights residential training sessions; developed more than 60 resources; carried out research; ran leadership initiatives with young disabled people, and disabled people from black and minority ethnic communities; and distributed grants to 40 small DPOs.
Members of the partnership were the Alliance for Inclusive Education, Disability Awareness in Action, Disability Equality North West, Equalities National Council, People First, Scope, and the UK Disabled People’s Council.
7 September 2011