Bureaucratic battle

Recently I have become busy trying to raise funds for my local
People First group and the consultative group to which Ibelong
which has gone independent. It used to be run by Mencap. It’s
exciting to be our own group, but I think we would have liked to
stay at Mencap, where we had been for 20 years. That’s not
possible, because Mencap had run out of money for our group. So we
are trying to raise our own money by filling in forms to apply to
trusts and things.

Forms are difficult and they have too much jargon. If you want to
get money, the trusts want to know what you have spent money on.
They want details for several years, and things like the
constitution – it’s just maddening. If you are starting out, you
don’t have this information, and you worry that the trusts won’t
fund you. If we did not have support, we could not fill in the
forms and we wouldn’t get any money. We also need help to keep the
books in the way the trusts want them.

We are also becoming an independent charity as some trusts give
money only to charities. We need to register with the Charity
Commission – there’s more work to do for that. We need to open a
bank account – we have to get two people to go to talk to them –
and probably fill in more forms! We are trying to write our
constitution. I don’t know what this means, but I know we have to
have one.

The group is spending its meetings trying to understand these
things. But what we want to be doing is going to different places
for meetings, training the students – we’ve trained doctors – to
understand people with learning difficulties, visiting schools to
tell schoolchildren to stop bullying disabled people, and running
forum days when we can meet other people with learning difficulties
to talk about things such as transport, bullying and being able to
do what you want. Instead, we have to fund-raise to pay for our
supporter, for taxis for the people in our group who can’t travel
on their own, for rent for meeting rooms, and for refreshments,
stamps and photocopying.

My local People First group has also been trying to get money but
they don’t know how to go about it, so they’ve rung me and I am
going to help. We need to raise the money because otherwise the
group can’t meet. We think we’ve lost our meeting place as we
cannot pay the rent. When we first moved to the meeting place, we
were told there was no rent to pay, but now we have to pay rent.
They know we haven’t got any money, so I’m trying to sort it out.
At People First, we have a supporter who helps to do the teas and
washing up, and comes into our meetings if we want her. We have 100
members. If our supporter is sick, we have to wait until someone
has time, and there just aren’t enough people to help us.

Sometimes we are told “You just have to apply for the money and you
can have it” – but it’s not that easy. We need support to do

Mabel Cooper is a service user with a learning

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