Oct 142011
 

Mike Higgins kindly allowed us to re post his letter here – first published on the DISABILITY-RESEARCH@JISCMAIL.AC.UK listserv.

An anonymous and perhaps facetious call out today was made for DIAL staff across the UK to attend the Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) annual conference at the end of October and, as the old comedy series had it: “take it from here”. For a less cryptic clue, e-mail me off-list.

Cynics like me will of course say “I told you so”. Spookily enough, SCOPE (yet again) appears to have hoodwinked a section of our movement controlled by Disabled People, stolen its clothes, money, reputation, good will and status (or as SCOPE would have it: it’s ‘branding’). Lock, stock and both barrels, SCOPE hijacked the DIAL network a couple of years ago, subsuming it within SCOPE’s monopoly. This meant that  with a couple of chews, a gulp,  swallow and suppressed burp, SCOPE could enhance its pretension to be part of the Disabled People’s Movement.

In-line with its providing space for window dressing (such as the project led by Andy Rickell and others) and the subsequent office space it gave to Disability LIB, SCOPE has ended its short-term whoring with DIAL. Having slept with DIAL, it is now administering the morning after pill to the DIAL network. Closing down DIAL’s national office and sacking all of DIAL’s nationally employed staff as of next month, November 2011, is just one of the ways in which SCOPE is ensuring that any established expertise in network support for Disabled Peoples’ Organisations is expunged.

SCOPE has abolished the national trustee body for DIAL and is instead imposing a SCOPE-appointed (i.e. unelected) steering group with responsibility for SCOPE dis-information services. As part of its declared ‘regionalisation’, SCOPE nationally is appointing a top-heavy management structure with an emphasis upon recruiting people with backgrounds in health and social care services (rather than in the Disabled People’s Movement). Staff at a national level within DIAL, including many disabled staff, are apparently surplus to requirements. The new ‘regionalised’ version of SCOPE will in reality compete directly with DIAL groups for funding. As we know from all too bitter experience, SCOPE has the power and resources to play dirty and win contracts away from local Disabled People’s Organisations. It seems to me at least extremely likely that this will happen as part of the latest moves by SCOPE  – thinly veiled as ‘restructuring’ – to silence and suppress the only self-organised groups to be associated with it.

Just in case you’re thinking, is this about money? The answer from SCOPE is ‘no’. Of course it is! It is about taking money from Disabled People’s Organisations. It is not however about a cash shortage within SCOPE, according to their own official propaganda about this ‘change’.

Please circulate this information to anyone you know who is involved with a DIAL group so that their network can discuss openly how to respond to this predictable attack upon its integrity and viability. I personally am not involved with DIAL UK (or SCOPE) but would hope that as a minimum the DIAL network will decide to dissociate itself from SCOPE and refuse to lend it any further credibility, publicising this decision as widely as possible. Whilst DIAL UK national staff are under strict instructions from their erstwhile employer not to share information about the attempted back door abolition by SCOPE of the DIAL UK network, I am under no such restrictions or constraints. The National DIAL office has also made it clear that whilst SCOPE is attempting to tie their hands, they will not avoid answering direct questions put to them by interested parties. Those who want the inside track on these developments could therefore call the national office directly to discuss strategy for resisting these attacks on telephone:             01302 310 123      .

This is also perhaps a chance for a timely reminder to those in bed with SCOPE, through for example such networks as the Disability Benefits Consortium and other public campaigns, that the hardest hit appear to include SCOPE’s disabled staff, a number of whom are being made redundant. In passing, didn’t something similar happen to Leonard Cheshire’s latest pretend network of User-Led forra about a year ago when they also sacked a swathe of Disabled People?

I would say that Disabled People’s Organisations need (again) publicly to dissociate themselves from SCOPE and the latest in its long and chequered series of attacks on our Movement. SCOPE continues to pretend to be a friend of Disabled People’s Organisations as part of its long-term cynical endeavour to plan the decimation of organisations run and controlled by Disabled People and their replacement with a consortium of unaccountable charity businesses in their own image, like Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire et al.

I will leave it to others to formulate demands and a strategy as regards dealing with the immediate fallout from this latest debacle, as I am proudly ignorant of the internal workings, structures and mechanisms for putting pressure onto SCOPE. Suffice to say, from my perspective as an activist, this latest news simply reinforces the vital need to rebuild our Movement from the grass roots up (for the avoidance of doubt, I mean the Disabled Peoples’ Movement of organisations run and controlled by Disabled People) perhaps starting with the excellent example being set by DPAC.

Best wishes,

Mike Higgins (in a personal capacity)