A “ground-breaking” report on co-production has created a blueprint for disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across the country to push for change from their own local authorities.
Disabled campaigners yesterday called for the report of the Hammersmith and Fulham Disabled People’s Commission to be shared with other local authorities and DPOs.
Speaking at its launch in west London, they said other councils should follow the example of Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham council, which commissioned the report.
Nothing About Disabled People Without Disabled People focuses on how to remove the barriers disabled people face in the London borough by embedding a culture of genuine co-production within the council.
Among the barriers that disabled residents told the commission about were disability hate crime; inaccessible shops and public transport; social isolation; a shortage of accessible housing; a lack of support for inclusive education; benefits cuts and poverty; and cuts to social care and support.
All the commission’s 10 members were disabled people, and their eight recommendations have each been accepted in full by the council.
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The commission spent more than a year examining research, running surveys for residents, council staff and councillors, and holding meetings and public events.
Among their recommendations, they call for the council to work in genuine co-production with disabled residents; to introduce an accessible communication strategy to promote co-production across the borough; to produce a new co-production budget; and to develop a long-term strategy for funding DPOs in the borough.
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, a user-led organisation which supports DPOs across the capital, said that none of the “same old consultations and listening exercises” carried out by other councils even came close to what was happening in Hammersmith and Fulham.
She said the council was “putting into practice one of the key principles of the disabled people’s rights movement: Nothing About Us Without Us”.
She said: “The power and the impact you’re already having is absolutely linked to this fundamental principle.
“You’re doing it, you’re not just talking about it. That is what is so exciting,
“You have created a report where disabled people are leading the change, are leading the transformation.
“It’s about identifying the solutions and the way to make lasting change. You have really got a blueprint here.”
She highlighted one of the report’s key recommendations, a pledge to provide long-term funding for DPOs in the borough, which she said was “ground-breaking” at a time when most London DPOs – of those that have not yet been forced to close – were facing “huge cuts”.
Lazard said that many boroughs in London no longer have a DPO, as she told Disability News Service last week.
She said: “Without implementing recommendation seven [on funding DPOs], none of the other recommendations in this fantastic report are going to be achieved because DPOs are absolutely critical.”
She said it was “still routine for disabled people to be silenced and marginalised and for non-disabled people to speak up on our behalf”, and she said the big non-user-led charities like Scope and Leonard Cheshire were “still hanging on to power”, which they refused to share with disabled people.
And she said these charities had been “silent in the face of the systematic attacks disabled people are experiencing”, pointing to their silence after the UK government was accused last autumn by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities of creating a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.
She won loud applause from the packed launch event when she said: “That’s because they really don’t speak for us, but our own organisations do.
“That is why what you are doing here is so important, because you are leading that change,
“This is so important for disabled people up and down this country. What you’re doing here is ground-breaking.
“Too often we are told that we can’t do this kind of work because of austerity.
“Hammersmith and Fulham shows you that political choices can be made and the right ones can be made. This is why it is so important to spread the word.”
Tara Flood, who chaired the independent commission and is director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education – although currently on a sabbatical – told the launch event that the council had also committed to reflecting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in all its work.
She said: “I cannot imagine there is another council in this country who is anywhere close to that and that is absolutely fantastic.
“What is going on here is very different to what is going on nationally and in other parts of the country.”
She said she was convinced that implementing the report’s recommendations would lead to “lasting change for disabled residents across the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham”.
Clenton Farquharson, chair of the National Co-production Advisory Group (NCAG) and of Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) – a national partnership committed to health and care personalisation and community-based support – said the report was “seriously impressive”.
He said that implementing its recommendations would see Hammersmith and Fulham “becoming a more inclusive and better place to live for disabled people and everyone”.
He said it set out an “ambition and direction that I would want to see happen across the country”.
Farquharson said he would bring the report to the attention of TLAP, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, NCAG, and TLAP’s other partners.
He added: “I would expect a lot of callers coming round to Hammersmith and Fulham to find out what is going on.”
Sue Fennimore, deputy leader of the council, said the commission’s report should be a model for disability equality across the country.
She said the council had realised that disabled people were probably the most “disenfranchised” and “patronised” section of the community and were “furthest from being able to access services that are designed for them without them being at the table”.
She said: “We hope that people will be listening very carefully to the work that has been done by the commission and will be able to model that across other local authorities.
“Our vision for this commission is to be the best council in the country for disabled people to live in, to work in and to socialise in.
“That’s the vision. Nothing more, nothing less.”
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com