25th Mar, 2019

Campaign stepped up to save Solihull disabled support charity

Felix Nobes 12th Mar, 2019 Updated: 12th Mar, 2019

A CAMPAIGN is being stepped up to save a support service which helps more than 1,700 disabled people in Solihull.

A public meeting attracted nearly 130 residents fighting for the future of disabled charity DIAL.

It received funding as part of the long-standing CASB contract with the council – which has now been awarded to Age UK instead.

Chief executive Alice Singleton says winding up the charity is now a realistic prospect, and it is already operating a ‘skeleton service’.

DIAL has lost all its council funding – about £114,000.

As with the CASB, DIAL will be without a home when the current contract arrangements expire at the end of March.

DIAL was served an eviction notice by the council to vacate its fully accessible premises in The Parade, Kingshurst, by April 1.

DIAL provides free information, advice and advocacy for disabled adults, children and their carers.

Last Thursday (March 7) a meeting was held by DIAL chiefs at St Barnabas Church in Over Green Drive, Kingshurst.

Council officers including chief executive Nick Page were invited to attend and answer questions from service users but they did not show up, DIAL chiefs claim.

Solihull Council has offered to extend the charity’s stay at its premises rent free but would not grant any interim funding to DIAL to safeguard its future, they add.

About 130 people – with all manner of disabilities – attended to voice their concerns and many were distressed service users who now also face an uncertain future.

DIAL now has no funding sources and is seeking charitable donations to keep services available.

Ms Singleton said: “The council has not admitted that our service is either valued or even needed at all.

“We hoped that council officers were going to come and explain to our service users why they haven’t consulted with them.

“Why there was no impact assessment done and why their views were not being listened to.

“They wanted answers.”

She added the charity is concentrating on being granted funding to deliver ‘gaps in the service’ which they have identified.

One full-time staff member has already been made redundant, and another has been served their notice.

Chiefs say they provide expert and easily accessible debt and insolvency advice – including representation at tribunals.

The council’s new contractual arrangements with Age UK from April state it will “provide specialist information, advice and support for people presenting with a Long Term Condition (LTC) or disability enabling them to plan for the future and stay as healthy and independent as they can for as long as possible, enabling people to realise they have an important role in self-managing their condition and have the knowledge about factors affecting their condition and the skills and confidence to do so.”

Solihull Council insists the new provider, Age UK, will offer an improved service in the place of CASB and DIAL.

The new services, including for disabled people, will be on offer at the Advice Hub in the Core and Chelmsley Wood library.

We have contacted the council to comment.

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