Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in Cheshire hope a new disabled people’s panel will allow them to work in co-production with the public sector across the county, after being inspired by ground-breaking projects in Greater Manchester and a London borough.
Five DPOs in Cheshire – Cheshire Disabled People Against Cuts (CDPAC), Deafness Support Network, Disability Positive (formerly known as Cheshire Centre for Independent Living), Dial West Cheshire, and Disability Information Bureau – have set up the new Cheshire Disabled People’s Panel (CDPP).
Although the panel is unfunded so far, its members hope to act as a new collective voice for disabled people in Cheshire, and to work to ensure that disabled people’s rights are understood and upheld in the county.
They were inspired by a similar panel in neighbouring Greater Manchester, as well as the earlier work of the Hammersmith and Fulham Disabled People’s Commission.
Although there is not yet any commitment from the public sector, the panel will host a meeting next month with senior representatives from local councils, emergency services, the local NHS clinical commissioning group and MPs, where members “hope to secure their commitment to working with the panel”.
The panel will hold virtual meetings every month and will initially prioritise accessible transport, health and social care and “embedding the social model of disability”.
They also hope that other DPOs in Cheshire will join the panel.
CDPAC and the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel first approached Disability Positive about the idea of creating a panel in Cheshire last year.
Lynne Turnbull, chief executive of Disability Positive and CDPP’s chair, said the idea had “fitted in perfectly with Disability Positive’s strategic aims to work in partnership and amplify the voice of people with lived experience of disability and long-term conditions in Cheshire”.
She said: “Too often, there are no disabled people in the room when key decisions are made that directly affect the lives of disabled people.
“This is an outdated way of doing things.
“Disabled people’s organisations in Cheshire have seen new and inspiring ways of working in Greater Manchester, which we need here.”
She said the panel now wanted to work in co-production with “public sector decision-makers at the highest levels”.
The new panel has received backing from the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, whose office funds the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel.
Burnham said: “It’s great to see that the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel has provided a model for our colleagues in Cheshire.
“The panel was the first of its kind and, from the beginning, was developed in partnership with disabled people’s organisations here in our city-region.
“They’ve been a powerful voice in vital conversations about inequalities and accessibility, and the work of the panel shows our continued commitment to working with disabled people to bring about transformative change to our public institutions, environment, and transport systems.
“I am proud that here in Greater Manchester we are leading the way on tackling inequalities and adopting pioneering approaches to democratic engagement and policymaking with people in our city-region.
“I wish our colleagues in Cheshire all best in their work.”
Helen Rowlands, who co-founded the Cheshire panel, said: “From my work with Cheshire Disabled People Against Cuts and disability rights campaigners across England, I know the discriminatory impact and distress caused by unfair social care charges, and the frustration disabled passengers experience at the lack of access to our rail network.
“The CDPP offers co-production opportunities to senior public sector decision-makers in Cheshire to deepen their understanding of the rights of disabled people and the barriers disabled people routinely face in dealing with public organisations, environments, and public transport.
“The CDPP’s work will focus on the increased engagement of disabled residents in Cheshire’s local democracy.
“This approach has brought about inspiring, transformational changes to the lives of disabled people in Greater Manchester and Hammersmith and Fulham.”
Keith Roper, chief officer at Dial West Cheshire, said: “As a disabled people’s organisation with a mission to empower disabled people to live sustained, independent lives, we are delighted to have the opportunity to work in partnership with like-minded organisations as part of the CDPP.”
*For more information about the panel’s work, email [email protected]
Picture: A meeting of the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel
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