Scope’s chief executive has pledged that its commitment to empowering disabled people will remain undiminished by its decision to cull the department responsible for the agenda and its key champion.
Disability commissioner Andy Rickell, a long-time disability activist, is one of five senior managers made redundant by the organisation to combat a drop in income driven by the economic downturn. Among other cost-cutting measures, Scope has also scrapped its co-production department, responsible for leading its work on involving disabled people in the running of the organisation and its services.
Chief executive Jon Sparkes said the “credit crunch” had resulted in a fall in legacy income – because money is tied up in properties that cannot be sold or investments that are dropping in value. The value of its own investments and it has failed to sell a vacant property earmarked for sale.
Sparkes said Scope had had to focus on its core priorities – boosting fundraising, modernising services, including through empowering disabled people, and its key campaigns, such as improving communications services and tackling hate crime – while reducing costs elsewhere.
He said the staff cuts constituted “pre-emptive action” to deal with its financial difficulties, but denied the loss of Rickell would result in its commitment to empowerment being blunted.
Rickell, who has cerebral palsy and joined Scope in 2004, was formerly chief executive of the British Council of Disabled People (now the United Kingdom’s Disabled People Council), a coalition of disabled-led groups.
During his time at the charity, the number of disabled people it employed rose from 3.7% to 21%.
Sparkes said: “Andy Rickell was an inspirational colleague. In terms of Scope’s commitment to the empowerment of disabled people and co-production, our commitment is absolutely unchanged if not increased.”
As well as the increased proportion of disabled staff, Sparkes pointed to other disabled people in high-profile roles within the organisation, including chair Alice Maynard. He also said users were playing a key role in the design and delivery of its services.
Sparkes added: “Leadership on co-production needs to be mainstreamed across the organisation.”
The cuts have also seen the loss of executive director for external affairs Stephen Bowen and director of campaigns Andy James, but Sparkes insisted its campaigning would be more focused, rather than adversely affected.
Scope has turned round a parlous financial situation over the past few years, recovering from annual deficits of £6.8m in 2004-5 and £8.9m in 2005-6 to a small surplus in 2007-8.
Sparkes said: “The overall turnaround plan is on track but like many organisations we are going to have to dig a bit deeper and work a bit harder to achieve it.”