Strengthening Voices, Realising Rights - Disability Initiative

Strengthening Voices, Realising Rights is an initiative set up by Trust for London to bolster the capacity of Deaf & Disabled People's organisations (DPPOs) to protect, promote and advance Deaf and Disabled Londoners' rights.

This initiative aims to invest in, and encourage collaborative approaches to advancing equal rights for Deaf and Disabled Londoners  

The programme is funded by Trust for London and City Bridge Trust. It was set up following representations made to funders by Inclusion London on behalf of DDPOs across the capital. 

The inaugural funding programme - Phase 1 - closed for applications on 17th October 2018 with awarded grants announced on 3rd December, on the International Day of Disabled Persons.

Phase 1 is currently funding user led organisations to offer advice, and casework in social welfare law to support Deaf and Disabled individuals in exercising their rights and in obtaining their entitlements. You can see a list of funded organisations in Phase 1 here.

We launched Phase 2 of the Strengthening Voices Realising Rights in March 2020 and applications were accepted until June 2020. Phase 2 looks at work that addresses the root causes of poverty and inequality facing Deaf and Disabled people. It will fund Deaf and Disabled people’s organisations to undertake policy advocacy, campaigning and other work that seeks to influence decisions, policies and practices, and holds policy and decision-makers to account for protecting, promoting and fulfilling Deaf and Disabled people’s rights.

What are we doing?

Strengthening Voices, Realising Rights responds to evidence that austerity cuts and welfare reform are stalling progress towards equality and inclusion for Deaf and Disabled people. The initiative aims to help spur a renewed emphasis on Deaf and Disabled people’s rights through:

  • Providing funds to user-led organisations to:
    (a) support individuals to assert their rights and obtain entitlements to lead independent good lives in the community
    (b) carry out work to ensure that the collective rights of disabled people are protected, promoted and fulfilled.
  • Invest in the sector’s capacity by supporting DDPOs to become more connected, impactful, resilient and sustainable; 
  • Share learning within the UK funding community to contribute to disability-inclusive funding practices and strategic approaches to supporting the issues championed by DDPOs.
  • Pilot the involvement of people who identify as Disabled to provide expertise stemming from lived experiences, to inform and shape decision-making. 

The money comes from a pooled fund which is managed by Trust for London, and currently supported financially by Trust for London and City Bridge Trust. The fund has 3 elements:

  1. Individual grants to increase the capacity of DDPOs, and support Disabled people to exercise their rights and access services.
  2. A capacity building programme to support DDPOs to grow in effectiveness. 
  3. Strengthening DDPO’s advocacy capabilities. This is a ‘learn and adjust as the programme develops’ component.

Why we are we launching this programme

Deaf and Disabled people have been disproportionally affected by austerity, bearing 29% of all public expenditure cuts in the UK.  The impacts are severe. A vast body of evidence shows that Deaf and Disabled people now face increasing levels of poverty, exclusion and discrimination, effectively turning the clock back on years of progress towards greater equality for this group. 

Disabled people and families with a disabled member make up 48% -nearly half- of all people living in poverty in the UK. In London, 34% of people with a Disabled adult in the household are in poverty, compared with 25% of people without a Disabled adult in the household.  A survey in 2014 found that nearly four out of 10 disabled adults (36%) were failing to have basic needs met (i.e unable to eat, wash, dress, get out of the house) due to underfunded services. 

A 2017 review of the Government’s progress in fulfilling commitments to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found evidence of persistent poverty, a treadmill of punitive assessments, and of unmet social care needs which exclude people from community life and the life chances and opportunities we all come to expect.  The Review qualified these findings as  

"grave and systematic violations of Disabled people's rights"
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The UN Review Team recognition of what disabled campaigners have been saying for years highlights the need for a renewed focus on Disability rights. Key to this new focus is the recognition of the vital role of organisations run by and for Disabled people in protecting and advancing equality for disabled people. Informed by lived experiences of disability, Deaf and Disabled People’s organisations (DDPOs) have a formidable track record of amplifying the voices of Disabled people both in terms of policy and campaigning work, as well as developing services as part of the solution. 

However, DDPOs have been historically under-funded and are facing significant losses in capacity due to funding cuts, and losing out to larger generic agencies that are not user-led. Many funders struggle with the concept of disability as a system of social restrictions imposed on people with impairments and hence in acknowledging the importance of Disabled people driving their own agendas for change.  Just as women lead the struggle for women’s equality, and BAME groups are at the forefront of demands for racial justice, disabled people demand the right to be the leaders of their own movement for equal rights and social justice. 

What's the evidence?

Disability Justice Fund

Disability Justice Fund

Disability Justice Fund

A £3 million fund from Trust for London and City Bridge Trust, towards a strong, vibrant, diverse and sustainable Disability justice movement

Find out more