The government has been accused of showing “contempt” and “indifference” towards disabled people, after announcing large grants to 13 disability charities but failing to offer a penny to organisations run and controlled by disabled people.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced this week that it was awarding £2.4 million to charities such as Mencap, Leonard Cheshire, Scope, the National Autistic Society, RNIB and RNID.
The money will fund services that provide advice and support for people affected by the pandemic.
But none of the funding will go to disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), many of which have provided vital support to disabled people during the pandemic.
Joe Whittaker, a board member of The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said the decision meant it was “business as usual” for the government, which was continuing to fund “the big business charities, rather than listening to the authentic voice of disabled people and their organisations”.
He said the government had yet again failed to engage with disabled people in recent months and continued to “treat disabled people with contempt” by funding “multi-million pound charities”.
He said these charities were managed by non-disabled people on six-figure salaries “telling disabled people what’s good for them”, which “perpetuates practices that lock disabled people into cultures of dependency”.
He added: “From day one of this pandemic, DPOs provided much-valued support and information to disabled people.
“Simultaneously, DPOs, during the pandemic, have gathered much-needed data about the way local and national governments have failed to provide essential services to large numbers of disabled people, resulting in large numbers of unnecessary deaths.
“DPOs are denied basic funding to continue their work.
“This failure to listen to DPOs, who have the experience and expertise gathered over many decades, will result in the same failed policies and systematic disability discrimination, preventing society from gaining from the huge contributions of disabled people from around the UK.”
Mark Harrison, a member of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance steering group, said: “Given that no DPOs who are members of ROFA have received a penny from the government during the pandemic, these grants just confirm their outdated attitudes to disability and disabled people.
“It also shows complete contempt for their duties under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and a human rights-based approach to disability.
“The charities ‘for’ disabled people receiving these grants are like dinosaurs and should be extinct and condemned to the dustbin of history where they belong.
“However, the government is trying to breathe life into institutions that are part of the causes of our oppression.
“They have learnt nothing from the #MeToo, LGBTQI and Black Lives Matter movements and the need to fund DPOs, not organisations or charities led and managed by non-disabled people.
“Our research shows that 25 per cent of DPOs have closed over the last five years and many are on the brink due to lack of financial support from local and national government, which makes these grants even more contemptible.”
Fazilet Hadi, head of policy for Disability Rights UK, said: “We always welcome funding that enables disabled people to live active, independent lives.
“However, it is very disappointing that DPOs were not invited to apply for funds and that the vital role they play is regularly overlooked.
“Most DPOs have provided extra support to disabled people during the crisis and would have benefited from additional resource.
“DPOs have so much value, but often so little resource.
“It is vital that the government’s national disability strategy takes action to strengthen DPOs and the voice of disabled people.”
Jumoke Abdullahi, communications and media officer at Inclusion London, said that DDPOs* “rarely have enough of anything” and are “always trying to make do with what is already not enough”.
She said: “Funding is the key that opens the door for greater capacity to do the important work that is needed by our communities and ourselves.
“To learn that the Department of Health and Social Care has announced new COVID grants to 13 disability charities, with none of the grants going to any of the already struggling and severely underfunded DDPOs is frustrating to say the least.
“However, this is indicative of the lack of care and attention that the government has paid to disabled people and our organisations for more than a decade.
“It does not come as a surprise that the organisations that rightly critique the constant and consistent failings made by this government are once again ignored.
“The government’s own minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, failed to carry out meaningful engagement with disabled people’s organisations during the early months of the pandemic.
“Even though this is happening during a time when DDPOs need funding the most, we will press on.
“Rather than feel resigned, we will continue this necessary fight because we are used to disabled people being underestimated and counted out.”
Asked to comment on the concerns, a DHSC spokesperson said: “We are committed to support charities which have provided national support to people impacted by this global pandemic.
“This funding has helped to facilitate specialist national helplines, combat loneliness and provide practical support to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of thousands of disabled people nationally, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The organisations funded are uniquely placed to provide targeted support at scale to disabled people across the country for needs arising as a direct result of the pandemic ensuring this grant funding will have maximum impact in terms of the numbers of disabled people supported nationally. “
*Deaf and disabled people’s organisations
Picture: (From left to right) Joe Whittaker, Jumoke Abdullahi and Mark Harrison
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