One of the UK’s two major disabled people’s representative organisations will lose its last paid member of staff next month, after it accepted defeat in a lengthy struggle to secure sustainable funding.
UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) will continue to operate in the short-term through the work of its unpaid trustees and volunteers while it continues its search for funding.
Its work on producing a shadow report on the UK’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will continue, with the help of project funding, and will be followed by an interim report, expected this autumn, and a consultation process.
And it still has a small amount of funding to continue its work engaging internationally with other disabled people’s organisations.
But at the end of this month, UKDPC’s chief executive, Jaspal Dhani, will be made redundant and not replaced.
He said he hoped the funding situation would provide an opportunity for members and trustees to “re-evaluate and reassess what it is that UKDPC wants to do”.
He said: “It does not mean we are going away. It does not mean we are closing shop. UKDPC will still continue to operate.
“We are still campaigners, we are still campaigning, we are still fighting for our rights.”
He said it was essential that the disability movement had “as strong and as diverse a voice as we possibly can in order to be heard, in order to be taken seriously”.
And he insisted that UKDPC still had a role in that – despite the lengthening shadow of Disability Rights UK (DR UK), which has been competing on similar ground since it was formed last year – particularly with its strong “international presence”, and its focus on human rights and the UN convention.
Dhani also insisted that UKDPC – with its roots much more firmly planted within the disability movement – had more “grassroots” influence than DR UK.
He said he could continue working part-time without payment in the short-term – if UKDPC’s trustees agree – while he continues to search for a way to secure the organisation’s future.
He added: “I am passionate about what I do and I do feel a sense of personal responsibility.”
His efforts to secure UKDPC’s long-term survival – he said it could not continue without core funding in the long term – include talks with other disability organisations that might be able to provide free office space, or financial support.
This could go as far as a “partnership”, although Dhani insisted that there would be no mergers, the route followed by RADAR, the National Centre for Independent Living and Disability Alliance when they formed DR UK in January 2012.
He said: “It is not a merger discussion. It is about how an organisation that works in the disability sector and works with disabled people can work alongside UKDPC on a shared agenda basis.
“It would have to be an organisation with resources that UKDPC can benefit from and with the capability and willingness to support UKDPC with its vision.”
Dhani said the main cause of UKDPC’s problems had been its struggle to secure funding for its core costs.
He said: “We have made applications, we have been invited to make applications, and followed those through. We just have not been able to secure an interest from funders to meet our operational costs.”
One of the key “challenges” UKDPC has faced is that it does not provide services, but focuses instead on campaigning and building the capacity of its member organisations.
Dhani said UKDPC was living in a world in which it was almost impossible for a disabled people’s organisation to survive unless it provided services.
He said: “The majority of the funders will say, ‘How many people are going to benefit from this?’”
And he said the organisation had also been affected by the closure of The Platinum Trust – which was funded by pop star George Michael – which until last year had been providing £20,000 a year towards UKDPC’s core costs.
Despite repeated attempts to confirm that the trust had now closed, its representatives, accountants SRLV, refused to comment.