Working today for a better tomorrow.

Story shared 15.07.2021

Disability Solutions West Midlands is a Disabled Peoples User Led Organisation which is run by people with disabilities for people with disabilities, many of whom are volunteers. Formed in 1988, the organisation aims to enable people who are affected by disability to fully participate and integrate into all aspects of modern society through the provision of accessible, quality assured client led services that meet the needs of people with a disability or long-term, life-limiting health condition.

What difference has the pandemic made to the communities you serve and what impact did you see on your services as a result?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our community, it hit people with disabilities particularly hard.  Our local community is one of the most deprived in England. In addition, around 23% of local people has life-affecting disabilities or ill-health. Almost a third of local people living in poverty have a family member who has disabilities as the extra costs of living with a disability seriously impact on standards of living for the whole family.  We generally support around 8500 people each year. In 2019-20 we supported people into £17million in financial gains.

As many local support services closed due to lockdown and health and social care services were squeezed, many isolated people with disabilities were left in dire need of support.

Our charity made the decision to continue to provide our enabling service. Our ambition was to ensure that no person with disabilities within our community had to face the challenges of living during this pandemic alone and unsupported.

We faced multiple challenges along the way not least in the ways we had to change the way we delivered our services to ensure COVID security but also due to the impact that lockdown had on our ability to raise funds to keep our services going.

Nonetheless we took a proactive approach and using our datasets, contacted all of our current and former service users that were likely to be in need of support and ensured that health and social services could still signpost people in need of support to us.

What has the NET funding enabled you to do for those people you help?

We applied to various COVID Emergency funds and received a generous grant from NET.

This funding enabled us to support people with disabilities to access items that were essential to their health and wellbeing and which lockdown had made impossible for people to get hold of.

For example replacement white goods so that people could store medicines and food safely, cook a meal or wash their laundry; mobile phones so people could maintain contact with friends and family; loan of tablets so we could support people on a one-to-one face-to-face basis; sanitisation products, adult continence products, personal hygiene items, small medical aids and food to meet specialist diets.

The future of DPO’s - Why DPOs are important and why we need to invest in them and protect them in the future?

This period of challenge and the way our charity was able to mobilise to meet the urgent emerging needs of people with disabilities strongly illustrates why DPOs are important.

  • We are embedded in our community, and we understand how, why and when peoples’ needs change
  • We are pro-active and decisive
  • We are flexible enough to mobilise a swift response to crisis
  • We are experts by experience and provide empathetic and appropriate support
  • We are person-centred and provide an individual, holistic, tailored service
  • We are trusted

Few other organisations in our experience can do what we do, the way we do it and realise such positive outcomes for people with disabilities.

But the wider social benefit of our work is rarely considered.

Our service enables people with disabilities to live well, safely and independently. Consider how much money that saves the public purse.

Two years ago, an independent social cost-benefit analysis showed that every £1 invested in our charity generated £36 in social benefit. DPO’s are not only effective, they are cost-effective too, yet we often struggle to attract the funding we need to keep our doors open.

Read more about Disability Solutions West Midlands