A commissioner’s guide to developing and sustaining local user-led organisations

Where am I now? A self-assessment

Watch John Nawrockyi, Director of Adult Social Services for Greenwich, explain what commissioners can do to develop and sustain ULOs locally

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Aim

The aim of this section is to help you, as a local authority commissioner, understand more about ULOs in your area, including what they do, who they serve, and how they are funded. You do not need to know all of the answers – but trying to find the answers will help you get a clearer picture of what you need to do to develop and strengthen ULOs where you are, and to enhance their relationship with the local authority.

The questions

Thinking about ULOs in your area…

What ULOs are you aware of in your area? There are a number of directories that can start you on the path to finding ULOs in your area:

  • The ULOs programme at the Office for Disability Issues has the most comprehensive and recent map of all ULOs in the country
  • SOLNET: Shaping Our Lives runs a networking website, SOLNET, where you can look up groups in your area by region.
  • Disability Rights UK: Disability Rights UK has a list of all its members organisations on its website
  • UK Council of Disabled People  has a list of its members on its website

What groups are represented by local ULOs in your area?

  • are all service user groups  – learning disability, long-term health conditions, mental health conditions, physical and/or sensory impairment – represented in your area? Also, are carers and older people represented in your area?

What impairment or social care user groups are not represented by local ULOs?

  • You may need to develop a ULO that is able to represent any overlooked or seldom-heard groups, or encourage existing ULOs to broaden their remit so that they are more representative of the local community.

Are there networking or partnership arrangements between local ULOs that you are aware of?

  • For example, do you know of any formal network of ULOs in your local area? Are there any formal partnerships between ULOs in your area and neighbouring areas?

What services do the ULOs provide?

  • For example, information, advocacy, benefits support, employment support, direct payments support and so on.

Thinking about each ULO in your area…

How many people on the management committee or similar are people who use services?

  • This information is vital. At least 50 per cent of the management committee of a ULO must be made up of people who use services, and to meet the Department of Health’s design criteria this figure should be 75 per cent. If less than 50 per cent of the group’s management committee are people who use services, the group is not considered to be a ULO.

How long has the organisation been operating?

  • Knowing how long an organisation has been operating will give you some indication of its strength and sustainability. This information will be particularly useful if you also explore the funding sources of the ULO.

Do you know how to contact the ULO, and what their opening hours are?

  • If you want to work with local ULOs, you will need to be proactive in reaching out to them.

How many paid staff does the ULO have?

  • Knowing how many paid staff an organisation has will give you an idea of its strength and sustainability. For example, a group that relies entirely on volunteers, or a single paid worker, will be more vulnerable to collapse.

Do the staff in the ULO reflect the full diversity of the organisation’s constituency?

  • The Department of Health design criteria state that ULOs should have paid employees, many of whom must reflect the organisation’s constituency. Therefore, ideally, ULO staff will reflect local diversity.

Does the group work only in your area or does it work in others as well?

  • A ULO that provides services in more than one area is likely to be more sustainable, as it will be less reliant on funding from one commissioning authority.

Do you know what the main values of the organisation are?

  • For example, does the group work from the social model of disability and principles of independent living?

Thinking about the commissioner’s relationship with each ULO in your area…

Does your local authority currently provide any funding to the ULO?

  • For example, this could be through a core grant, a Service Level Agreement, or a contract, or by commissioning it to undertake specific pieces of work.

If so, how much were the different types of funding worth?

  • This information will help you to understand the overall reliance of the ULO on funding from your local authority, and so the robustness of its overall funding arrangements.

How long have these arrangements been in place?

  • This information will help you to understand how long the ULO has been reliant on the different types of income. This will enable you to understand both how the organisation approaches its funding over a long period of time, as well as how well established its various strands of activity are.

What services/projects/programmes does the ULO provide for this funding?

  • For example, does the organisation provide an information and advice service? Advocacy and peer support? Support in using Direct Payments (for example, IAG [information, advice and guidance], payroll, brokerage and so on)? Assistance with self-assessments? Any form of disability equality or other training? Support for the implementation of the Disability Equality Duty?

Does your local authority provide any other form of (non-financial) support to the ULO?

  • For example, do you provide premises for the ULO at a reduced or negligible rental rate? Do you provide the ULO with any IT equipment or furniture? Have you provided any staff time or training to the ULO?

Does anyone else provide any funding or support to the organisation for the work it does?

  • For example, does the ULO have agreements with a national body or charity, or receive funding from a civil society organisation?

Does the organisation generate any income of its own?

  • For example, through providing training to other organisations, undertaking access audits, selling publications, its own membership arrangements, or providing research services

Thinking about service user engagement and co-production in your area…

 What arrangements does your local authority have in place for engaging different groups of disabled people?

  • For example, do you have any existing partnership boards, such as those for people with a learning disability? Or do you have a reference group of several civil society organisations?

How effective are these in engaging people?

  • For example, do they ensure in-depth engagement with the commissioner on decisions, or do they inform the general discussion about service design? Does engagement take place at every level – that is, operational as well as strategic?

How many people who use services sit on different decision-making bodies?

  • For example, is there one representative of all disabled people on an entity like the Transformation Programme Board within adult social care (or the equivalent)?

How are under-represented or seldom-heard people who use services involved in your work? For example, are black and minority ethnic groups (BME) or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups involved in your work? What about gypsy and traveller communities? If so, are these groups represented in different or similar ways to disabled people? Who is involved within the local authority for coordinating this work?

  • For example, is this coordinated by a Public Body Officer, or is it coordinated on your behalf by a ULO?

Thinking about service user engagement and co-production in your area…

What arrangements does your local authority have in place for engaging different groups of disabled people?

  • For example, do you have any existing partnership boards, such as those for people with a learning disability? Or do you have a reference group of several civil society organisations?

How effective are these in engaging people?

  • For example, do they ensure in-depth engagement with the commissioner on decisions, or do they inform the general discussion about service design? Does engagement take place at every level – that is, operational as well as strategic?

How many people who use services sit on different decision-making bodies?

  • For example, is there one representative of all disabled people on an entity like the Transformation Programme Board within adult social care (or the equivalent)?

How are under-represented or seldom-heard people who use services involved in your work?

  • For example, are black and minority ethnic groups (BME) or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups involved in your work? What about gypsy and traveller communities? If so, are these groups represented in different or similar ways to disabled people?

Who is involved within the local authority for coordinating this work?

  • For example, is this coordinated by a Public Body Officer, or is it coordinated on your behalf by a ULO?

Summary

How did you do? It is ok if you don’t yet know the answers to these questions. By making contacts with ULOs, and by understanding your internal user involvement structures, you will be in a strong position to develop positive relationships with ULOs in your area. You will also ensure that if you develop a new ULO, it is because there is a genuine need.