Posted 05.08.2021

Recent stories we’ve shared highlight the importance of Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) across the UK.  But many people do not know what is meant by a DPO. A clearer understanding of the value of DPOs and how they differ from non-user-led disability charities is needed.

  • DPO is an acronym for Disabled Peoples Organisations
  • DPOs are led, directed and governed by disabled people for disabled people and have an implicit or explicit commitment to the social model of disability and promoting/advancing the human rights of Disabled people.
  • A DPO is an organisation whose constitution requires it to have a membership and board with a majority of Disabled people and whose objectives are the rights and equality of Disabled people.
  • DPOs have lived experience. Not just the experience of something but also a greater understanding of disabled people's needs, choices or decisions made and their impact and, in particular, experience of the barriers that cause oppression and disability.

*Extract below is from a recently launched research report from Inclusion London (one of the DPO COVID-19 Coalition partners) 'Understanding the needs of DDPOs in England' - which is very relevant to ALL regions of the UK. Authors Tracey Lazare and Mark Harrison.

DPOs have been at the forefront of the Disabled people’s rights movement. As organisations run by and for Disabled people, DPOs have led the way in bringing about social change and in transforming the lives of individual disabled people.

DPOs developed the rights based, social model understanding of disability and secured the introduction of anti-disability discrimination legislation at a national and international level.  The understanding that disability is a human rights and social justice issue, rather than a medical or charity issue is a direct result of DPOs work over the last 40 years.  DPOs also led the innovation and transformation in social care; away from ‘one size fits all’ dependency creating services, to personalised ‘self-directed support’ models that enable independent living, choice and control.

DPOs continue to play a vital role in enabling and supporting individual Disabled people and communities of Disabled people to access services and entitlements, challenge discrimination and exclusion and create a more inclusive and accessible world. DPOs do this by running a range of accessible and innovative community-based, peer-led advice, advocacy and support services and by bringing the ‘added -value’ of being user-led to the work they do.

This added-value includes:

  • expertise of lived experience: greater understanding and insight into Disabled people’s needs; greater knowledge of issues; stronger relationship between the organisation and service user leading to more effective and better designed delivery
  • peer support: Disabled people supporting each other builds resilience, skills, networks of support, participation and community capacity
  • accessible: high quality and tailored support; higher take up by groups of Disabled people unable to access mainstream / universal services
  • holistic: DPOs meet the needs of the whole person resulting in greater positive impact and more cost effective interventions
  • local knowledge, authentic voice and community asset: DPOs, as organisations set up and run by local Disabled people, have a better understanding of local issues, barriers and opportunities as well as local Disabled people’s need and views. They tend to be more accountable to their community, have strong social model and Human rights values and increase Disabled people’s participation in the wider community and in local decision making. DPOs often play a key role in making local services more accessible and actively enable public bodies to meet their Equality Act duties.

General Comment 7 from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Disabled People (CRPD) sets out why disabled people need representation and how DPOs should be resourced to support and provide that. Click here to read the full General Comment 7.

Read Inclusion London's full research report 'Understanding the needs of DDPOs in England'