A commissioner’s guide to developing and sustaining local user-led organisations
How do I overcome problems: What are the barriers for ULOs?
ULOs are usually small organisations that have similar problems to other locally based small organisations in the civil society. They can have difficulties in attracting long-term finance that covers their core running costs, and can struggle to find enough volunteers to keep the organisation running.
Research from the University of Leeds School of Disability Studies (Barnes and Mercer 2006), the National Centre for Independent Living (2005) and Maynard-Campbell on behalf of the Department of Health (2006) has identified six barriers that are particularly associated with ULOs.
Where ULOs lack income they can become inward looking as they desperately try to maintain their core service. This can result in an unwillingness to work with other organisations.
Lack of resources
A lack of resources more generally can foster an intensive competitiveness even with other ULOs in the locality or region. The focus is then on survival rather than working to a longer-term strategy.
Lack of business acumen
By their very nature ULOs are often run by people who have been excluded from areas such as employment. This means their opportunities for skill development have often been limited.
Exclusion from other parts of the civil society
Parts of the civil society whose remit is development and training, such as councils for voluntary service, are not necessarily good at reaching out to ULOs. This can mean that ULOs are excluded from programmes such as mainstream organisation development and capacity building.
Tendering processes favour large firms
Much tendering and contracting by statutory agencies favours large organisations with the specialist resources to respond to tenders. Large organisations can also offer savings through the economies of scale.
Lack of value of what ULOs do
ULOs can find that the unique support that they offer to people who use services is not valued locally.
Other barriers include ...
There are a number of additional barriers that many ULOs face, including:
- local authority lacks confidence in ULOs
- local authority lacks will, or tokenism
- local authority and others use inaccessible information and language
- local authority focuses on the outcomes of user involvement, rather than the process
- lack of user representatives on decision-making bodies, including local authority recruitment panels
- lack of infrastructure such as premises and office equipment
- lack of clarity in contracting processes.