New research will seek crucial evidence of the “serious crisis” facing disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across England.
Inclusion London has secured £80,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund to research the state of England’s “chronically under-resourced, fragmented and precarious” DPO sector.
It will produce proposals for long-term improvements to the regional and national DPO infrastructure and build a “clear picture” of the support the DPO sector needs.
The research will be used as the basis for future funding applications.
The new funding follows calls by DPOs during April’s national conference of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance – of which Inclusion London is a member – for more to be done to ensure the voices of disabled people and their user-led organisations are heard at both regional and national levels.
Inclusion London says that about a quarter of DPOs have closed since 2015, while many others are “hanging on by a thread”.
It says that life for disabled people “is getting worse not better”, with “exclusion and discrimination coupled with rising poverty and inequality as a result of austerity, welfare reform and cuts to public services”.
As well as an austerity-driven financial crisis, it says, there are also “considerable challenges” in “developing new leaders, having our voices heard, losing contracts to organisations and charities run by non-disabled people and a lack of diversity and representation reflective of the whole disability community”.
The lack of resources means DPOs cannot carry out vital projects, such as outreach work with disabled people in institutions, developing the skills of its members, and tackling the “systematic exclusion” disabled people face.
Inclusion London warns that it is still “culturally acceptable, indeed the norm, to have non-disabled people representing us with funding disproportionally going to the large disability charities that are not run or controlled by disabled people and do not represent or even amplify our voice”.
Tracey Lazard (pictured), Inclusion London’s chief executive, told April’s conference that there was a need to “call out the charities and tell them to move over and stop taking our space”, while Mike Steel, from Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living, said the influence of the charities meant that local grassroots and community groups were excluded from decision-making.
Lazard told Disability News Service this week: “The funding from NLCF to carry out grassroots research on the capacity building, policy and voice and movement building needs of DPOs across England is critical funding that will enable us to gain in-depth insight and evidence of the needs of our sector and movement.
“We will use this evidence to collectively develop strategic funding ‘asks’ to provide the strategic long-term investment we need for our sector and then work with funders on how best they can meet our asks.
“Tackling structural inequality must become a top priority of funders and to do that funders must re-set how they work with DPOs and start prioritizing long-term, core funding support to DPOs and other grassroots community user-led organisations from all communities blighted by structural inequality.
“All of this is only possible if DPOs take part in this research.”
As part of the research, Inclusion London is asking DPOs in England to take part in a survey.
Lazard said: “We know your time is precious but this is a rare opportunity to gather the evidence we need to secure long term strategic funding so please do take part in our survey and the range of on-line focus groups taking place up and down the country.”
The new research will be carried out by disabled consultants and DPOs in the six regions of England – the north-west, the north-east, the Midlands, the east, the south-east and London, and the south-west – and is expected to be completed within nine months.
Inclusion London is working on the research with seven regional DPOs: Equality Together in Bradford; Disability Sheffield; Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People; Disability Resource Centre in Birmingham; Equal Lives in East Anglia; Spectrum Centre for Independent Living in the south-east; and West of England Centre for Inclusive Living.
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