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Self-advocacy packs 'helping to empower disabled people' in face of spending cuts

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Self-advocacy packs 'helping to empower disabled people' in face of spending cuts

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Housing

Self-advocacy packs 'helping to empower disabled people' in face of spending cuts Self-advocacy packs 'helping to empower disabled people' in face of spending cuts

Self-advocacy packs are helping to empower disabled people in the face of public sector cuts, as well as reducing the workload of frontline workers, writes Richard Shrubb.

The packs, which are designed to give people a voice and the ability to raise awareness of their individual situations, have become an increasingly useful tool when applying for support such as welfare benefits and Disabled Facility Grants (DFG).

Despite a year-on-year increase in calls for support, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s (MDC) Advocacy Service’s workload has decreased due to the publication of their self-advocacy pack earlier this year.

MDC’s Advocacy Officer David Moore-Crouch said: “In 2012 we have seen around an 56% decrease in the number of actual cases we have received. This is despite an increase in the number of advocacy enquiries [of nearly] 22%.”

Nationally, advocacy organisations are being pinched with public sector service cuts, with increases in calls for support yet frequently getting cuts to funding themselves.
Last year the advocacy umbrella organization Action for Advocacy (A4A) published a report called Advocacy in a Cold Climate.

A4A’s report found that: “Funding for 45 percent of respondent advocacy organisations has reduced during the last 12 months – by 36 percent on average”. This is despite a significant increase in calls for support due to public sector service cuts: “62 percent of respondent organisations told us that demand has increased – in most cases between 10 and 40 percent.”

David Moore-Crouch added: “Our self-advocacy packs have enabled us to focus on the harder cases such as DFG appeals while empowering clients to start their applications, which require a lot of legwork initially.”

Claire’s 13-year-old son Andrew has Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative condition that affects young people, frequently killing them in their late teens. They had a local authority house built for them, but on moving in found that this was unsuitable for Andrew.

Claire felt that the home was a “one size fits all home for people with mobility problems”.

She explained: “I was going out with a fireman at the time, and he said that there was no way of getting Andrew out of the house quickly if he was upstairs in a fire”.

She fought for over a year to get proper adaptations made to their home before going to MDC for help. Claire added: “One of the excuses the local authority gave for not going down the DFG route was that they should only be given if we were going to be there in five years – Andrew will probably be dead in that time”.

MDC’s advocacy service brought in their pro bono law firm Hogan Lovells. It may still take 12 months to go through the process but for the family, they could not fight alone any more.

Moore-Crouch says that such fights empower families. “One of the issues families with disabled children have is that they lose their independence and this impacts on their outlook in general.

“Through self advocating they are empowered, giving a sense of normality”.

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