Job losses at Disability Rights UK as user-led funding squeeze tightens

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A national disabled people’s organisation has had to make cuts of nearly 20 per cent to its staff, in a further sign of the financial difficulties facing many user-led organisations across the country.

Disability Rights UK (DR UK) is making four of its 22 posts* redundant, although as two of the posts are vacant it will be losing two members of staff.

DR UK told Disability News Service yesterday (Wednesday) that it was set for an annual deficit of about £165,000 for 2018-19 against a backdrop of “particularly fierce” competition for funding.

DR UK’s chief executive, Kamran Mallick (pictured), said the charity was “facing bigger challenges than we had hoped” but that “the future of the organisation is not at risk”.

He said: “We planned for a small deficit but like many voluntary organisations, we are feeling the impact of a shortage of statutory and public sector funding and grants.”

He said DR UK had not generated as much income from activities such as training and consultancy as it had hoped, and would now be focusing more on its research, policy and campaigning work.

Mallick said: “This restructure will help us get on a sound financial footing and focus more on our research, policy and campaigning work.

“This is all supported by plans for generating income.”

Last month, leading disability networks warned that user-led organisations were continuing to close across the country, with the sector even facing a “real threat of extinction”.

The news of the redundancies comes only two years after Mallick’s predecessor as chief executive, Liz Sayce, said DR UK was in a “sustainable financial position”, and was expecting to report a financial surplus, following past concerns about the charity’s pensions deficit.

That deficit arose unexpectedly following fluctuations in the financial markets, as a result of a final salary pension scheme which had been closed to new members years previously by RADAR, one of the three disability organisations that merged to form DR UK.

In 2014, DR UK staved off the threat of closure after reaching an agreement with the Pension Protection Fund to take over its defined benefits pension scheme, after developing an unsustainable pensions deficit of more than £3 million.

Mallick said he and colleagues had been working to make DR UK “more efficient” and trying to increase income, while it had halved its office rental costs by moving last January from Shoreditch to the Olympic Park in east London and had made savings by changing its IT and auditing service-providers.

He said: “We hope and expect the changes we have made will solve the immediate financial problems and put us on the path to surplus budgets for the year 2020-21.”

*Last year’s accounts showed an average of 22.2 full-time equivalent staff in 2017-18

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