The Department of Health has set up a £850,000 fund to help user-led organisations for disabled people and those with learning disabilities after concerns about the survival of the groups.
Government policy requires each local authority with social services responsibilities to establish its own service user-led organisation (ULO) by 2010. But ULOs have so far found it difficult to compete for limited funding.
The new fund was announced on 22 October and will be distributed to 10 ULOs in 2007-8. But the DH has set a limit of funding one ULO per local authority area and is encouraging joint bids where two or more organisations may apply. The maximum grant that can be applied for is £100,000.
The fund is split into two categories, one to help a ULO to become a “mentor and foster” to organisations, and to improve the capacity of under-developed organisations. Research into existing ULOs has highlighted the wide variations in expertise and interests across the sector and the DH said that their approach was driven by the need to find practical solutions to local issues.
Lorraine Gradwell, chief executive of disability-user led organisation Breakthrough UK, cautiously welcomed the announcement. “Potentially that’s a good start,” she said. “It depends on the guidance given by the DH and whether it’s too prescriptive.”
Gradwell had criticised the initial funding regime in April. At a Centre for Independent Living conference, she said: “The competitive tendering is resulting in many organisations losing out on large proportions of their funding, making survival in a commercial environment almost impossible.”
User-led Organisations Project Team
Tel: 020 7972 3058