Welcome to DAD's 2016 Annual Report

Darlington Association on Disability is an organisation led by disabled people, which exists to promote independence and choice. DAD supports disabled people and carers through the provision of services, support and information and by tackling issues affecting disabled people both locally and nationally.

Chair’s Report to Members 2015 - 2016

National and local cutbacks have continued to hit disabled people and carers hard. They are also having immense negative impacts on voluntary sector organisations and Darlington Association on Disability (DAD) is no exception.

Sadly DAD's Shopmobility service was one service badly affected by the cuts. With the funding for the service stopping completely and the rent on the premises increasing, it had become a financial liability that could not be sustained. The funding to run the service had stopped three years previously however the need for the service was so great that DAD continued to fund it out of core funding while looking for funds. However, despite the best efforts from all in DAD, funding could not be found and the Shopmobility service that many depended on for many years had to come to an end. I thank all who have worked so hard to keep the service going and share with them the disappointment of having to let it go.

The austerity cuts have not just affected funding from national and local government; they have also hit hard organisations that the voluntary sector looks to for financial support. With fewer funders in a position to meet the demand, funding is a constant challenge. With this in mind, I cannot overstate how appreciative I am to all our financial supporters and offer them all my heartfelt thanks.

As the negative impacts on disabled people and carers' increases, the demand for DAD's services also continues to increase. I offer my sincere thanks to all DAD staff and volunteers for their tremendous hard work, loyalty, dedication and professionalism in meeting this demand and delivering a quality service.

The Trustees and Management of DAD are committed to continue supporting disabled people and carers by tirelessly seeking funding opportunities. I express my immense gratitude to Chief Executive Lauren Robinson and Senior Managers Tracy Roberts and Rosemary Berks for their commitment and hard work in an ever changing social and financial climate.

Last, but not least, I acknowledge the roles played by my fellow Trustees / Directors who do an outstanding job giving their time and using their skills not only to ensure DAD meets its lawful obligations but in their support of the senior managers. I offer them my warmest thanks for their commitment to DAD and for going that extra mile with their many hands on roles within the organisation.

Gordon Pybus

Chair, Darlington Association on Disability

Access Interest Group

This works with organisations and businesses across Darlington promoting equality and the disability issues within the Equality Act. Disabled people have continued to work with agencies, including the Local Authority, to ensure good access to facilities and services. These have included; refurbishment of the Civic Theatre and development of the children's theatre; consultations on pavements and dropped kerbs for new housing schemes; advising on the re-design of the area outside the town hall to accommodate new coach stops. All planning applications are monitored and formal comments are made on disability issues identified.

Issues facing disabled people using taxis have been fed into the new licensing policy with particular attention on carrying guide dogs following a local case against a driver for refusing to carry a guide dog. Positive discussions have been held with Licensing regarding disability equality training for taxi drivers. Involvement with Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner has continued to raise the issues around recognition of Hate Crime and support for victims. Our Chief Executive represents North East Disabled Peoples User Led Organisations at the National Disability Forum run by the Office of Disability issues and in September the whole agenda focused on Disability Hate Crime. We were able to discuss directly with the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, and others at the head of the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office our concerns around reporting and support for victims. Work is ongoing with Virgin Trains around the re-development of Darlington station including the creation of a new platform. DAD fed into the national campaign led by Guide Dogs for the Blind to keep pavements clear. DAD secured a ban on 'A boards' in Darlington in 2002. We continue to monitor this and we have been proactive in trying to reduce parking on the pavement.

An outcome for Individuals - An Accessible Information guide was produced for a Councillors training session on how to make meetings and information accessible with aim of leading to improved access to Local Councillor Surgeries for disabled constituents.


DAD has a contract to deliver general statutory Advocacy, including Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA), Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA), Relevant Persons Representatives (RPR) and Care Act advocacy for the Local Council and Clinical Commissioning Group. Over 600 referrals were dealt with in the year, an increase of 25% on the previous year, with an increasing demand for the new Care Act service as required by the new legislation and the RPR service for people in Care homes.

Outcomes for individuals - a Relevant Persons Representative provided advocacy for a couple in a care home who were having to live on separate floors as one of them experienced dementia and had therefore been placed on the 'dementia floor' of the home. They had a long and happy marriage before moving into the home and both were being affected by living apart. The advocate supported them to move to two adjoining rooms, using one as a bedroom and the other as their own lounge enabling them to continue to be a married couple.

Similarly someone who received advocacy support commented that the advocates input 'produced more movement with my 'care team' than has happened in probably well over a year.'

Advocates have received ongoing training to be prepared for the requirements of the Care Act, to increase our capacity to deliver IMCA and to ensure advocates have a thorough understanding of the Court of Protection procedures. The issues that people require support with are wide and varied from housing, issues on discharge from hospital, ongoing care and safety, legal processes and tribunals.

Carers Support Service

Offers information and one to one support, development of support groups for carers and facilitation of consultation and involvement. Funding from the Better Care Fund also enabled the service to provide personalised grants, short breaks, health and wellbeing days and return to work support for carers. Over 400 carers received in depth support during the year. There were 369 new referrals and 178 of those agreed to join the carers register for Darlington.

Outcomes for individuals - DAD was successful in securing extra funding for wellbeing days for carers; feedback from a carer who attended a relaxation event said 'I found it so helpful, it was uplifting.'

The support service was also successful in obtaining a Personalised Grant fund from the Clinical Commissioning Group and Local Authority to enable carers to identify what worked best for them as individuals for a short break from their caring responsibility. The service also holds the register of carers locally, on behalf of the Local Authority including parent carers. A Health Link worker promotes awareness of carers in GP surgeries and with hospital staff. All surgeries and the main entrance at the hospital have DAD notice boards which are kept up to date with carers’ information.

Children and Young Peoples Service (ChYPS)

Delivers support and activities for play and leisure, facilitates the Parents Forum to ensure opportunities for parents to identify and influence issues of importance for them and their children, supports Young Leaders to have a voice on issues affecting young disabled people and provides Independent Supporters to provide advice and information to children, young people and families who have a right to an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan.

Over 170 children and young people, aged 3 - 19, attended play and leisure activities during school holidays throughout the year and a further 19 had one to one support at weekends and evenings to access mainstream activities. They were supported by a team of trained and qualified staff and 53 volunteers to have equal access to opportunities.

Young Leaders met regularly throughout the year and a second group was developed for a younger age group.

Independent Support dealt with 58 referrals for support for Education Health and Care plans.

Outcomes for Individuals - a family and their 8 year old daughter asked for support when it was identified that, due to increasing support needs, they had accepted a move to a specialist school. The family had little knowledge of the changes to the statementing system and EHC plans. An Independent Supporter met the family several times to support them. The family commented that this had made a huge difference to them as they felt included throughout, they knew more about the support available locally, it made the transition to the new school easier and, most of all, it took the pressure off them as parents.

The Independent Living Hub

Supports personal development plans and the development of new skills, access to education, employment, leisure and social activities. Mentoring for Independence also supports young disabled people to develop independent living skills. On average 40 people per week access the Hub for up to 3 days per week where they receive support to access activities, courses or support to be independent in the community. A wide range of activities take place to meet personal development plans including; information sessions from local groups such as Credit Union and Workers Education Association; health activities such as meditation, holistic health and understanding mental health; job related activities include CV writing, interview skills and using the internet. Peer Support Training, level 1, has also been offered to people during the year to equip them with skills to support others.

Funding for short breaks for carers has enabled 26 people to attend and be well supported to try new activities whilst their carer has a break.

Outcomes for individuals - comments from those attending regularly include "I don't know what I would do without the Hub, it's been my lifeline" and "I have learned so much by coming here, I would not have done this without the Hub." One also said "Coming here gives me the chance to be with people who understand me."

Direct Payments Support Service

Enables people to manage a payment from Social Services for their assessed needs, and have choice and control over how their needs are met, to lead independent lives. This includes the provision of managed accounts. The service has also begun to support people with Personal Health budgets. The service supports 250 people who use their direct payment to employ Personal Assistants and a further 110 people to have a managed account. Support includes the provision of payroll including auto enrolment for pensions, employer support, recruitment and HR information. The service answered almost 8,000 queries in the year as well facilitating a regular peer support group. DAD invested in new software during the year to ensure the efficiency of Managed Accounts.

Outcomes for individuals - a group of 3 young people were supported to set up a trust in order to use their direct payment to employ staff to support them when they moved in together. This enabled them to remain fully in control of their support.

Significant support was provided to people who were affected by the Government's decision to close the Independent Living Fund to enable people to understand the changes, liaise with the Local Authority, ensure that people had sufficient budgets to meet their needs and that the transition did not cause undue stress.

Information Service

Provides high quality information and advice on options to disabled people, carers, students and professionals. Based in the town centre until the end of March with the Shopmobility service, it provided a central point for anyone to drop in, call or email with enquiries and was open six days per week. The service dealt with up to 200 enquiries per month often signposting to other DAD services, such as carers and statutory and voluntary agencies as appropriate. An information worker dealt with, on average, 30 in depth enquiries per month. Information requests are wide ranging including where to get a Blue Badge, accessible hotels, welfare rights and benefits information, support services, equipment and adaptations as examples. Increasingly the Information Worker has supported people to access grants to cover the costs of holidays, equipment and essentials.

Outcomes for individuals - a short term pilot with CAB enabled information workers to undertake the initial gateway assessment and book appointments leading to people being well supported to access timely support for the vast changes affecting disabled people in regard to changes to Personal Independent Payments, closure of the Independent Living Fund and alterations to Housing Benefits

People's Parliament

A user-led group aiming to be the voice of people with a learning impairment in the Darlington area and tackle issues which affect them such as bullying, housing, anti-social behaviour, hate crime and health. The group met weekly and held wider network meetings on a monthly basis and have looked in detail at several issues, particularly Transforming Care, co-working, voting and negative communication.

Some Members took part in the Tomorrow's Leaders course and, as a result, three people were employed by DAD as co-workers to undertake an evaluation on behalf of Inclusion North who ran the course and the evaluation was presented to their Board.

Outcomes for Individuals - As a result of co-working two people felt they had gained more confidence to apply for other jobs.

The network wrote an open letter to professionals asking them not to use the term 'LD' to refer to disabled people as it groups people together and makes people feel like objects instead of individuals. This was discussed at several meetings of public bodies including the Health and Wellbeing board and agencies agreed to adopt more person centred language.

Members also sat on DAD recruitment panels, fed into the NHS Accessible Information Standard consultation, raised awareness of the Safe Place scheme and how to report a Hate Crime.

Accessible Taxi Service

Finally, after having overcome many barriers, the accessible taxi service was launched as a pilot in December 2015. The service had been developed by disabled people to provide an accessible hackney taxi to ensure a high quality service and, to our knowledge, is the first of its kind in the country.

Outcomes for individuals - a new customer emailed to say "I just wanted to say that I used your new taxi and wanted to praise the driver. He was extremely polite, helpful, competent and very friendly. The vehicle itself is fantastic! It had plenty of room for my electric wheelchair and it was superbly clean inside too. I know that I will definitely continue to use this taxi and it really is going to improve my quality of life.  Another lady had not been out of the house for two years as she was unable to get access off the high pavement outside her home to get into a taxi and had therefore lost her confidence. The DAD taxi driver used a portable ramp carried in the vehicle for such purposes and was able to provide reassurance to access the vehicle. The lady is now a regular customer going on weekly shopping trips with her daughter.

Voluntary Sector Brokerage

A unique partnership with Age UK Darlington and Darlington MIND where voluntary sector brokers work in Multi Disciplinary Teams in every GP practice in Darlington, to provide support to older and disabled people who have attended Accident and Emergency departments. The community support provided by a range of organisations aims to support them to stay safe in their own homes and prevent admission to hospital. Over 125 people were supported by brokers in six months to the end of March 2016.

Outcomes for individuals - have been wide ranging and varied. People have accessed support for housing, benefits advice, drug and alcohol misuse personal health budgets, carers issues and befriending for people who are isolated. GP's and other health care professionals have also gained knowledge of how to access a wide range of voluntary sector support for their patients.

DAD has also provided brokerage support for carers and patients in hospital, where the need for residential care has been identified and to choose an appropriate home on discharge from hospital. The service has been as flexible as possible to ensure access for carers who may work and to provide timely support by operating evening and weekends over seven days a week, therefore supporting the reduction of delays in discharges. During the five month pilot DAD supported 48 individuals and carers.

Outcomes for individuals - Carers felt the brokerage service provided information and support which led to the person having increased choice over the care home they were discharged to, and the support needed for this process to go smoothly and timely at what is a very emotional and stressful time for the family.


Has provided the hire of powered or manual wheelchairs and scooters to access facilities in Darlington town centre enabling barriers to be reduced for people to shop independently and generating income for local businesses. The service has been operated by DAD since 1993 and supported on average over 80 new customers a year with equipment being hired over 2000 times per year. Despite having grant funding stopped from the Local Authority for the three previous years, the trustees managed to keep the service going by making a charge for the hire of equipment until March this year. A combination of factors including a move to a multi storey car park, the anticipated loss of funding for the information service operating from the same premises and an overall loss for the organisation led the trustees, very reluctantly, to make the decision to close the service.

Outcome for individuals - comments taken from the service evaluation forms have included "I would not come into town by myself as I was not able to walk long distances but since discovering Shopmobility it has been a lifeline to me, I can go shopping, meet friends for lunch and best of all have my independence back."

Financial Position

The financial affairs of the Association were managed by a trustee sub-committee that met seven times throughout the year and reported to the trustees.

DAD has faced a very complex set of circumstances in the year that have led to significant financial pressures and losses. Challenges were faced in restructuring staffing when two major national grants came to an end in the previous year and applications for continuation funding were still being considered and not finalised until September 2016, making decisions extremely difficult. Trustees agreed to fund some continuation of posts and staff were transferred to other projects in the short term rather than lose a significant amount of experience and expertise. Unfortunately those grant applications were not successful.

Local Authority budget cuts and re alignment of services also led to three enforced office moves in a twelve month period with no time to plan or identify funding to cover the costs of the moves and difficulties in capacity to undertake the work needed to manage the office moves and the unforeseeable IT issues that needed to be resolved to minimise the impact on the work of the organisation. A Project Management and IT company were brought in to support the management team through this difficult transition.

Trustees agreed to locate as many projects and services together as possible in Enterprise House, Valley Street, consolidating the premises into two locations, and agreed to fund improvements to the premises and IT services from reserves with the aim of achieving savings and efficiencies in the future by shared space, hot desking facilities, a single reception and a move to cloud based IT systems to secure the organisations information and enable flexible working.

Trustees actions have now led to a more positive forecast of a balanced budget position for the coming 12 months despite further proposed Local Authority cuts.

The incoming resources for the 12 month period amounted to £978,477 of which £40,064 was for restricted projects and £938,413 was attributable to unrestricted funds before expenditure.

Implementing charging for services to be purchased with personal budgets has led to an increase in Other Trading income totalling £346,519 compared to £310,218 in the previous year reflecting the changing nature of the organisation’s funding.

Reserves Policy

The trustees established a policy whereby the unrestricted funds not committed or invested in tangible fixed assets ('the free reserves') held by the charity should be between 3 and 6 months of the resources expended in general funds which would equate to between £275,000 and £550,000 based on this year’s expenditure. This is the level assessed by trustees that would enable the organisation to manage risks associated with a sudden loss of funding and in this year that has proved a very prudent approach.  The level of free reserves at the year end is £146,140.

Contracts with Darlington Borough Council during the period were received for Advocacy, Direct Payment Support Service, Carers Support Service, Information Worker and the Independent Living Hub, Independent Support and Accessible Transport.

Contracts were also in place with Age UK for MDT and the Clinical Commissioning Group for Hospital Brokerage. Grants were received from Children in Need, the Department for Education, Department of Health, Darlington Borough Council, Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group, Skills for Care, Contact a Family and The National Children's Bureau (NCB).

DAD wish to thank all funders and supporters of the organisation. In particular the many people who give hours of their time, expertise, skills and knowledge to ensure that DAD continues to be a successful organisation. Volunteers work at all levels of the organisation. As a User Led Organisation, disabled people and carers volunteer as trustees, work across all projects which DAD operates, get involved in co-production, consultation, impact assessments, web site development, management, mentoring, fundraising, one to one support and many more roles. The value of this volunteering could be estimated at over £50,000 per year if calculated at minimum wage for almost 7,000 hours of donated time to the organisation. Volunteers are the backbone of the organisation and our thanks and appreciation go to all of them.

Future Plans

DAD will continue to work hard to be at the centre of supporting disabled people and carers who will be impacted by the multiple cuts proposed to the Local Authority budgets which will affect everything from social care, to housing and transport. This is in addition to the swathing cuts to the welfare system and the closure of the Independent Living Fund at a national level.

Trustees, the Chief Executive and the Senior Management team have worked to secure a balanced budget for the forthcoming year whilst minimising the impact on staff and the support we can offer. Although our town centre base has had to close we will be ensuring that where ever possible we promote the work of the organisation and what we can offer to ensure disabled people know where to go to for support.

DAD will continue to raise the issues which affect disabled people and carers locally, regionally and nationally including Hate Crime, 'Better Health' proposals for changes to NHS services in the region, Personal Health budgets, support for employment and training such as Access to Work and the implementation of the Care Act.

Partnership working with others in the voluntary sector and across public sector organisations is likely to have a larger impact on the organisation and create opportunities to influence and press for genuine co production.

Continued support for the groups DAD facilitates such as Young Leaders, Peoples Parliament and Parents Forum, will be crucial to ensure people have a voice and opportunities for self-advocacy and co-production. Securing resources for them to continue will be a high priority.

DAD will continue to ensure that the organisation has a strong presence going forward, promoting the organisation as a Centre for Independent Living available to support all disabled people and carers. DAD, a User Led Organisation, is proud to be part of the Independent Living movement and one of a growing number of organisations across the country that are run by disabled people and carers, as they are the experts in knowing how best to support people to be independent.

Return to annual reports

How you can support us

As a local organisation we very much rely on the support of our local community, and continue to support people flexibly to have greater choice and control and remove the barriers that disabled people and children experience in their everyday lives. We support over 2,000 people every year.  But we need your help.

Click here to find out how you can support us

Return to top of Page