The government has refused to say which organisations it approached in advance about setting up a new “alliance” of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), charities and private and public sector organisations.
Concern at the proposal to set up the new Disability Action Alliance (DAA) – which will be tasked with producing new disability policies for the coalition – mounted this week as influential parts of the disability movement gathered in London to discuss setting up their own separate campaigning network, in a bid to unify the disability movement.
The user-led disability charity RNIB is among those angry at the decision to appoint Disability Rights UK to lead the government’s new alliance.
Steve Winyard, RNIB’s head of policy and campaigns, said his organisation had “profound reservations” about DAA.
He said: “It is not at all clear why the government should think it is able to make decisions on behalf of disabled people about who represents them and who forms alliances.”
RNIB is the latest DPO to say that it was not told about the plans for the new alliance until the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) published its Fulfilling Potential – Next Steps document last week.
Winyard said RNIB would be writing to ODI to ask “for clarity about the process that led to DR UK being appointed”.
He added: “What rights do ODI and the Department for Work and Pensions have to be king-makers?”
So far, Inclusion London, the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), RNIB and Scope have all said that news of the new “alliance” had taken them by surprise when it was announced by the government last week, even though the Next Steps document states that “a number of organisations have already expressed an interest in joining the alliance”.
DR UK has this week clarified its involvement with the alliance.
Last week, it told Disability News Service that there “will be a fee for convening” DAA, but now it has stressed that although it will receive money to “facilitate other people’s involvement”, it was not “being paid” for its work.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said the idea for the alliance had “emerged from the regular meetings that were held with a group of disability organisations during development of Fulfilling Potential – Next Steps”.
She said: “We spoke to a number of organisations about providing quotes for Fulfilling Potential – Next Steps, and in some of those discussions organisations expressed an interest in being part of a partnership or alliance.”
She said DR UK offered to work with ODI after saying in its response to last December’s discussion document that it wanted the government’s disability strategy to be “action focused”.
She said: “As the idea of the alliance firmed up it was clear that DR UK were well placed to convene the partnership as they are a UK-wide, pan-disability organisation led by disabled people, and with a presence in local communities… so they were invited to take on this role.”
UKDPC has already said it was “shocked and disappointed” by DR UK’s appointment, which it said had taken place “behind closed doors”.
It described the alliance as another “quango”, and said it would represent the views and interests of big business and service-providers.
UKDPC is among DPOs planning to approach MPs to ask questions in the Commons about how DR UK was appointed.
27 September 2012