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

Why develop and strengthen ULOs: The added value of ULOs

Watch Professor Peter Beresford, Chair of the national ULO Shaping Our Lives, explain the benefits of working with ULOs

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The policy endorsement of ULOs is based, in part, on the fact that ULOs offer unique added value. This is because ULOs are founded on shared, core values which have arisen from the lived experiences of local people who use services.

A brief summary of the broad difference ULOs can make is outlined below.

ULOs can be a one-stop-shop

ULOs can act as a single point of contact and information for commissioners, service providers and local people who use services. They are a one-stop-shop resource with expertise in areas such as advocacy, accessibility, self-help and peer support.

ULOs help deliver effective services and commissioning

The knowledge and skills held by ULOs – such as knowledge about the needs of local people who use services, and the impact of services in the local community – can help make local services and the commissioning cycle more effective.

ULOs can support personalisation

ULOs can support the implementation of personalisation by helping people who use services navigate the health, social care and benefits systems. Research indicates that direct payments have been more successful in areas where there has been a ULO to support their implementation (see for example, Bewley and McCullock, 2004; Murray et al 2006).

ULOs are an authentic voice

The voice of ULOs is legitimate and credible, both to commissioners and other people who use services, because it is based on direct experience. ULOs hold strong values that reflect local people who use services’ views. They are uniquely placed to understand how local people who use services experience services and what they need. ULOs can also help commissioners reach seldom-heard people who use services.

ULOs can help to tackle social exclusion

ULOs provide an opportunity for people who use services to get involved in running their own organisations and through doing this increase their skills and confidence. They can also be a pathway for people who use services to get involved in all aspects of service delivery and development, for example, through supported service user representation on partnership boards. ULOs can help address health inequalities by supporting people who use services to access the support that they need (DH 2007).

The evidence of value added-by ULOs: user voice

User-led organisations have formal and informal mechanisms for representing the voice of disabled people locally.

Establishing an effective relationship with a ULO can enable more choice and control for users of care and support. Conflicts of all kinds arising from voice-based activity (of interest, of independence – for example campaigning and/or lobbying) are generally anticipated in theory but happen rarely in practice.

Representing user voice can be broken down into different elements: capturing views, aggregating views, analysing and synthesizing views and representing views.

ULOs can:

If ULOs also provide services, concerns about conflicts of interest rarely occur in practice. Indeed, ULOs can work constructively with local authorities to develop the changing social care market and landscape. Furthermore, ULOs can also harness the lived experience of disabled people to build and develop community capacity, for example in the form of peer support.

Evidence of effectiveness

The evidence of value added by ULOs: service delivery

ULOs typically have legitimacy and credibility from the perspective of both users and commissioners, and can provide a user-led contribution to all parts of the care and support process.

ULOs operate on both the supply- (i.e. service delivery / business) and demand- (i.e. user representation/voice) sides. They balance these roles to uniquely add value to the local social care economy (and beyond).

ULOs can deliver a range of services drawing on the lived experience of users. Such services typically support people to navigate the care and support system, rather than deliver services at the end. The offer of ULOs can include:

ULOs are increasingly delivering services that people can purchase using personal budgets too, including:

ULOs can also act as hubs for coordinating and managing user-led and wider voluntary and independent sector provision.

Beyond social care, ULOs also offer a wide range of services, including (but not limited to):

Evidence of effectiveness