Apr 162013
 

If you missed it all -the Disability Action Alliance or DAA[i] has had a strange and tortured beginning. It was set up in 2012 to help with the new disability strategy. The merged organisation of RADAR, Disability Alliance and the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) AKA Disability Rights UK (DRUK) got the’ job’ of co-organising the DAA. This was a great surprise to all, not least the United Kingdom Disabled Peoples’ Council (UKDPC). The great surprise was that this ‘job’ hadn’t been advertised or put out for tender. After initial rumbles of shock and discontent DRUK said that they would not be paid for this ‘job’ so it didn’t matter, or words to that effect -and we all forgot about it.

Another issue was that this Alliance would include charities, presumably big disability charities as well as small ones, and private companies or corporations. This caused more rumbles of shock and discontent because some of us had been taught and still believed that any ‘disability movement’ was about disabled people leading it, was user-led and rights not charity based, we weren’t sure how to deal with this astounding corporate thing being added on either.  DRUK said DAA would be advising on government policy and would not supplant the role of disabled peoples’ organisations so it didn’t matter, or words to that effect -and we all forgot about it.

Then there was a flash new website called unsurprisingly: Disability Action Alliance. At the link if you want to have a look https://disabilityactionalliance.org.uk/ or join

A site with pictures, a bit government branded in style, but what can we expect.  The ‘About us’ section says:

During the development of Fulfilling Potential – Next Steps, the idea of a new way of working in partnership emerged and ODI agreed to set up the Disability Action Alliance.  Disability Rights UK agreed to convene the Alliance to ensure ‘nothing about us without us’ – so that disabled people’s voices and experiences drive change, locally and nationally.

The ODI or Office of Disability Issues (an adjunct to the DWP) also set up a network called the ‘Network of Networks’ in 2010 so that disabled peoples’ voices could drive change, locally and nationally’ with a pure base of 12 user-led disabled peoples’ organizations, which they then disbanded, unceremoniously, shortly after the development of Fulfilling Potential.  So the ‘nothing about us without us’ does ring a bit hollow, especially with the potential corporate business and big disability charities in the ‘us’ bit.

Maybe a more apt chant would be ‘something about us without us again’ led by Government departments, sorry ‘disabled peoples’ voices’

Alliance Declaration and Membership Agreement

There was some more shock and discontent over the DAA ‘membership agreement’ on the web site. For example the section states members must:

‘Respect the views of other members, and not represent their views unless they are given permission’

It is unclear what this means exactly, but it doesn’t sound particularly empowering to disabled peoples’ voices. Does it mean that a group cannot represent another groups views ‘unless they are given permission’? or that they cannot represent their own views? It all seems a bit defeatist to us. Also included is that members must:

‘Protect the integrity of the Alliance and not bring it into disrepute’

Again, what does this mean? Why would any group want to bring the alliance into disrepute? And what is the ‘protect’ element about?

We also see members must: ‘Not campaign or lobby in the name of the Alliance (this would not affect whether members campaign or lobby on behalf of their own organisations)’

Oh well, that’s good then and…in the spirit of incorporating others into the new world order, members must:

‘Identify existing groups/alliances/networks who may already be acting and could be engaged’

Already be acting….?

Anyway, the drive for members of the quango, sorry, new exciting network of disabled peoples’ voices was launched and anyone could join up, presumably providing they could understand exactly what the Alliance declaration and membership agreement actually meant. At the time of writing there are 102 members. As we seem to have waited so long to find out who they are let’s see if our anticipation has paid off…

Members of DAA so Far….

Members include some disability type organisations, plus: the Department for Works and Pensions, the Department of Climate and Energy Change and presumably the ODI. Also Lloyds bank is there and big charity Shaw Trust. There are a number of companies but no big names such as Atos or Capita which is reassuring, for the moment anyway; a couple of DIAL’s (taken over by SCOPE a few years ago), a regional unison, and a local council.

For those who filled out or took part in completing the consultation on the disability strategy (Fulfilling Potential), the outcome of the DAA is all slightly surreal. There we were with our disabled voices trying to affect change and here we are with a hotchpotch of unforeseen organisations who are going to talk about it-providing they get ‘permission to represent’ their? Our? the DWPs? Views-oh who really knows anything about what’s going on with this anymore?

There was more surreal stuff to come when the TUC Disabled Workers Committee were approached by the government to join the Alliance- eh? –‘approached by the government’ must have been some kind of an elongated typo on the TUC website there…but anyway they said no. Why did they say no?

TUC Disabled Workers Committee says no to DAA

According to a piece in Disability News Service and on the TUC website: the TUC disabled workers committee were approached by the Government-OK-so not an elongated typo- to join the DAA. They said no. According to the TUC web site, they said no because:

Disabled trade unionists feel very strongly that joining the DAA – an organisation recently set up by the Office for Disability issues to encourage groups representing disabled people to work together – would restrict the TUC’s ability to campaign against government policies that are affecting disabled people.

Representing disabled people? Does Lloyds bank really represent disabled peoples’ views or do the DWP or those other government departments?

No, we didn’t think so either. But Sean McGovern (chair of disabled workers committee) gets to the heart of the matter and maybe to the focus of the real disability strategy when he says:

The government has been attacking the living standards of disabled people for almost three years now and things are getting worse.

Unions are working with disabled people against these brutal and inhumane cuts, and are campaigning against the government’s unnecessary and damaging austerity drive.

The ATOS work capability assessments, the closure of the independent living fund, the switch from disability living allowance to the personal independent payment, and the bedroom tax – every single one of these changes is punishing and impoverishing disabled people and their families.

Joining this government-inspired alliance now would be to pretend that none of this is happening.

We want to see all disabled people and the organisations that represent them continuing to oppose government policy and not conned into becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution.’

And this is exactly where any growth of a real disabled peoples’ led disability action alliance must be focused for anyone aware of what is really happening to disabled people under this government and its disability strategy

 You can join up at www.dpac.uk.net

We already have over 12,000 members and supporters, and not a government department in sight. You know it makes sense.



[i] Not to be confused with Disability Awareness in Action a user-led organisation

Sep 252012
 

The United Kingdom Disabled Peoples Council Response to the Fulfilling Potential Disability Strategy issued by the DWP.
The United Kingdom Disabled Peoples Council (UKDPC) initially had welcomed the long awaited publication of the Government Disability Strategy, Fulfilling Potential.

This important document would have guided the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and been a public declaration of intent to support disabled people to exercise full participation in every aspect of society.

UKDPC was surprised and disappointed to find that the action plan, Fulfilling Potential Next Steps, has set out the intention of creating a Disability Action Alliance, convened by Disability Rights UK, (DRUK). This alliance is apparently intended to be a partnership of ‘organisations from the voluntary, public and private sector who have expertise and influence’.

UKDPC is unable to support this action based on the following:

  • The contracting of DRUK to convene such a group was not obviously opened to expressions of interest or tendering by any other organisation. Alongside the appointment of the CEO to lead an employment review commissioned by Lord Freud without public tender, this places DRUK in a position of preferred supplier to the ODI.
  • The continued contracting of DRUK by the ODI and the convening of an unaccountable group could be construed as the creation of a Quango, which is against the principals of co-partnership and accountability.
  • This is a ‘top down’ structure that excludes disabled people from setting the agenda or defining the terms of reference. The creation of this alliance by the government is antagonistic to the principals of the CRPD which advocates the value of consulting and full involvement of disabled people.
  • Without clear terms of reference there is the possibility that the service providers or corporate employers represented would have a potential conflict of interest, eg if participating in government backed schemes such as Workfare or if being awarded contracts determined by changes in the benefits system.
  • The use of the name, Disability Action Alliance, gives rise to potential confusion with Disability Awareness in Action, a human rights based disabled peoples organisation that closed last year, with a well earned respect not just within the sector but also internationally.
  • As UKDPC considers the convening of the alliance as a flawed process then it follows that the function of such a group would similarly be flawed.
  • UKDPC wishes to state these concerns publically, and calls for:
  1. The process of contracting DRUK as the convenors be questioned and an open response be sought from government.
  2. The potential for forming a Quango be questioned and an open response from government.
  3.  Any proposed alliance be guided by disabled people with agreed terms of reference drawn up by the participants.
  4. Any further move to implement this alliance be suspended pending the questioning and satisfactory response to these concerns.

DPAC says….

We’d also like to add some further concerns as the inclusion of corporate partners and private for profit partners is not something DPAC endorses due to the activities of ATOS, UNUM and CAPITA being involved in actions through government partnerships and contracts that have clearly led to devastating outcomes for many disabled people. These outcomes have impacted on the core principles of independent living, dignity, respect and equality for disabled people throughout theUK.

We also feel that involving those who will profit from their exploitation of disabled people is against the intentions of the UNCRPD and the involvement of disabled people in self-determination of their lives and may lead to a conflict of interests with DRUK’s ability to carry out their functions.