Welcome to DAD's 2020 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

The chairman presents his statement for the year. This year has been a year like no other, it started for Darlington Association on Disability (DAD) with the usual pressures and struggles that most disability organisations face. But ended in an extraordinary way, with a pandemic that changed not only how DAD worked, but how everyone lives.

When there is a negative impact on society, in general, there is usually a double negative impact on disabled people and sadly this pandemic has been no different, with many disabled people not getting the services or support they need. Disability discrimination has manifested in many ways with the changes. 'Making reasonable adjustment' to meet disabled people's needs has almost been forgotten, even though nothing has changed under the Equality Act. Consultation on government bills that will have a massive impact on many disabled people's lives, has been poor. Nevertheless DAD has done its best to contribute to what consultation there has been, making the views of disabled people known.

By law, some DAD services had to close, with staff furloughed. However, I am extremely proud of the way DAD adjusted to keep the organisation operating wherever it could, continuing to support disabled people, and even starting up new ways of delivering support. This could not have been achieved without loyal dedicated staff and volunteers, I am tremendously grateful to them all and I thank each and every one for their commitment and fortitude.

Obtaining sufficient funding as always, is a struggle, however with change comes opportunities and I am delighted in the way DAD's management have used their skills to seek out funding for the organisation, in these exceptional times. I am indebted to Chief Executive, Lauren Robinson and Deputy Chief Executive, Tracy Roberts for their skills, commitment, hard work and professionalism, and I thank them for the way they have adapted and managed the situation, as it has unfurled.

My sincere thanks go to my fellow trustees / directors for the support they have given me and their willingness to adjust to new ways of working and in overseeing the finance and governance of DAD.

Gordon Pybus


The Trustees who are also directors of the charity for the purposes of the Companies Act 2006, present their annual report together with the audited financial statements of the Charity for the year 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. The Annual Report serves the purposes of both a Trustees' report and a directors' report under company law. The Trustees confirm that the Annual Report and financial statements of the charitable company comply with the current statutory requirements, the requirements of the charitable company's governing document and the provisions of the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) applicable to charities preparing their accounts in accordance with the Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland (FRS102) (effective 1 January 2019).

Since the Charity qualifies as small under section 382 of the Companies Act 2006, the Strategic Report required of medium and large companies under the Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Directors' Report) Regulations 2013 has been omitted.


Objectives and aims

a) to relieve the needs of disabled people and carers, for the public benefit, resident but not limited to, Darlington and the surrounding areas. In particular, but not exclusively by the promotion of equality, diversity and independence through the provision of services, support, information and training; and

b) to direct, promote and support the efficient working of charitable organisations, voluntary bodies and statutory bodies in their work to relieve disability ("the Objects"). 

Significant activities Darlington Association on Disability (DAD) was established in 1986 as a voluntary and charitable organisation led by disabled people. It exists to promote independence and choice of disabled people and supports disabled people and carers through the provision of services, support and information and by tackling issues affecting disabled people locally and nationally. DAD promotes the Social Model of Disability and as part of that ethos is actively involved in promoting disability equality and awareness raising. As an organisation, DAD endeavours to ensure that its services are responsive and not prescriptive.

  • DAD has five strategic aims that it works to achieve;
  • • Promote the Social Model of Disability.
  • • Ensure disabled people and carers are involved in all its work.
  • • Provide high quality services to promote independence and choice.
  • • Improve access to services, consultation and involvement for sensory impaired people, younger people and people from minority ethnic groups.
  • • Ensure that DAD has a secure, sustainable and independent future.

These aims are met in two ways:

Firstly, DAD acts with disability groups, individual disabled people and carers to jointly tackle issues affecting them in Darlington and the surrounding area and to enable involvement and consultation with service providers, voluntary, public and private sector.

Secondly, DAD develops and delivers services with direct involvement of disabled people and carers. All of the organisation's work relies on volunteers who receive ongoing support and training to ensure that they can make the most of their volunteering role, developing new skills and self-confidence. Many disabled people act as role models and mentors for other disabled people to volunteer. Many young people volunteer to support the children and young people's service.

Members play a vital role in the organisation ensuring that DAD remains user led and anyone who is new to the organisation is encouraged to become a member in order to be able to influence the organisation, 188 people are registered and over 70% are disabled people.

Public benefit

In setting objectives and planning for activities, the Trustees have given due consideration to general guidance published by the Charity Commission relating to public benefit, including the guidance 'Public benefit: running a charity (PB2)'.

The Charity's aims and achievements are set out within this report. The activities set out in this report have been undertaken to further the Charity's charitable purposes for the public benefit. The Trustees have complied with the duty under Section 4 of the Charities Act 2011 to have due regard to public benefit guidance published by the Charity Commission and the Trustees have paid due regard to this guidance in deciding what activities the Charity should undertake.

DAD continued to monitor, evaluate and develop all of DAD's projects to ensure that each is providing the best possible service and is supporting disabled people and carers to increase opportunities and choice. 


DAD maintained and developed all our key projects and services including:

Access Interest Group

The group continued to work with organisations and businesses across Darlington promoting equality and ensuring good access to facilities and services. Promoting the Equality Duty is a high priority alongside the need for training where ever possible. Active involvement in local developments, commenting and advising on all planning applications and audits have all continued.

Involvement with Durham & Darlington Police and the Police and Crime and Victims Commissioners office (PCVC) has continued to raise the issues around recognition of Hate Crime and support for victims. This has led to continued investment in the development of a Hate Crime Advocacy Service by the PCVC to support people, across all the equality strands, facing Hate Crime.


DAD has developed its work across all strands in Tees Valley including; general statutory Advocacy, Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA), Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA), Relevant Persons Representatives (RPR) and Care Act advocacy for local Councils and Clinical Commissioning Groups. All advocates hold, or are working towards, the National Advocacy Qualification to ensure that the team have the up-to-date knowledge and skills necessary to support people to access the services they need and to ensure that their rights are upheld. 

Carers Support

DAD has continued to actively support carers through the provision of short breaks, funded by the Better Care Fund. Parent carers received breaks using DASH play schemes whilst The Independent Living Hub supported people of all ages to try new activities in order that the carer and the person, they care for could have a break. Young people were supported through our Mentoring for Independence sessions to gain independent living skills including travel training, cooking, confidence building and making friends.

Breaks for carers improve their health and wellbeing and enhance dignity and respect by providing carers with an improved service, and affording them recognition for their vital role.

Children and Young Peoples Service (ChYPS)

ChYPS continued to deliver DASH play schemes, weekly social and leisure opportunities for young people, support Young Leaders to have a voice on issues affecting young disabled people. A partnership project with Tees Valley YMCA, through the Big Lottery Funded Youth Investment Programme, has enabled us to continue to deliver a wide range of activities including a new regular Monday evening session for young disabled people. 

The Independent Living Hub

The Independent Living Hub (ILH) continued to support disabled people to develop new skills, have access to education, employment, leisure and social activities.

Peer Support is ongoing and is the foundation of all activities at the Hub. Health and Wellbeing activities such as Wiggle & Giggle, Art Therapy, Pony Therapy and Mindfulness have also proved popular. Subway Health Hearts grant funding has supported these activities.

The Hub took on the management of the accessible vehicle, previously operating as a taxi, and has been able to offer much needed transport, with support, as an addition the service.

Direct Payments Support Service

This service continued to enable people to manage a payment from the Local Authority or NHS (Personal Health Budget, PHB) for their assessed needs, and to have choice and control over how their needs are met, to lead independent lives. This includes the provision of managed accounts. The service now covers Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and includes support for people to be employers (recruitment, insurance, payroll and management of finance) including peer support for people to share experiences and expertise.

Skills for Care

A grant only available to user led organisations enabled us to continue to deliver training for people with a Direct Payment or Personal Budget including; First Aid, Manual Handling, Disability Equality and Mental Capacity Act.

Information Provision

Information provision continues to be delivered from across the organisation. DAD still aims to be the first point of contact for disabled people and carers. We have dealt with regarding changes to peoples' social care packages, equipment, housing, welfare rights and charges for services. At our Stakeholder meetings members continue to raise issues of welfare rights and housing and ask DAD to provide more support in these areas.

Self Advocacy

Young Leaders continues to support and facilitate two groups. A Young Leaders group to voice and represent the issues affecting young disabled people locally and Peoples Parliament as the voice of people with a learning impairment in Darlington. Peer support drop ins were held monthly where people discussed aspirations, social media, hobbies, labels people can be given, hospital passports, volunteer work and current issues in people's lives.

The Parents Forum that DAD has supported for a number of years prepared and planned, throughout the year, to be a new legal entity. They made a successful transition to be a new organisation at the beginning of the year.

Impact and outcomes

Over the 12 months we have supported almost 2500 people through our work and many more have accessed e-bulletin and information via our website and social media. Campaigning, training, and involvement all lead to positive changes. A change to a planning application, or highways scheme, or a service provided, can benefit many disabled people well into the future.

We have supported people across a wide geographical area including Tees Valley and Co Durham and stretching to Leeds and London. The majority in Darlington, Middlesbrough and Stockton.

We support people of all ages from 4 to 104. Over 30% of everyone who receives advocacy support is aged 65 to over 100 years of age. Over 150 children and young people receive support after school and during holidays. 

The majority of people who received support felt this had enabled them to be more independent and have more choice and control over their lives.

The pandemic then changed things overnight with an increase in demand of 65% in telephone enquires with people needing information to understand the lockdown, support their families, deal with shielding, source essential PPE, understand the options for Personal Assistants including furlough, sickness and other changes to Government schemes, get information in formats such as easy read that could be understood, gain access to goods and services such as prescriptions and essential shopping, support for peoples mental health and much more.

Disabled people began to be massively impacted on all fronts and demand for support increased very rapidly whilst at the same time DAD had to reduce staff, where services had to close, and rely on a small team of essential staff who continued to keep the office open, along with home workers, to deliver this essential support throughout the first lock down.


Review of financial activities and affairs

The financial affairs of the Association were managed by a Trustee sub-committee which met throughout the year and reported to the Trustees.

The organisation was already being very prudent to manage the complexities facing the organisation, with reductions in funding and increased demand. Then, faced with the pandemic, it looked as though it could be the 'perfect storm'. Insufficient reserves, closed services without income and building costs to cover, huge rise in demand and possible cessation of contracts.

DAD had to invest quickly in new laptops and IT support to ensure as many staff as possible could quickly begin home working. We were fortunate that in previous years we had invested in the software needed, in most cases, to enable access to online systems.

Along with many other organisations we began to talk to our networks and funders to make them aware of our situation locally and regionally. Cashflow would be critical and Local Authorities, PCVC and the CCG were all very supportive during March and April to ensure prompt payments for the work we continued to do.

We turned first to our Business Continuity insurance, only to find that cover was not available, we have joined the legal challenge that is currently being pursued by many businesses.

Our prudent management, and funders generosity to support us, ensured that we ended the year with a small surplus. We then put all our efforts into financial survival, using the Government Job Retention Scheme to furlough staff, applying for micro business grants to cover rent of closed buildings and looking at any opportunity for support during the first lockdown to continue to provide essential services.

The incoming resources for the 12 month period amounted to £1,040,232 of which £91,037 was for restricted projects and £949,195 was attributable to general funds before expenditure.

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. This is the level assessed by Trustees that would enable the organisation to manage risks associated with a sudden loss of funding. In the current climate it is very difficult to come close to this level. The level of free reserves at the year end is £212,092.

Contracts were in place with Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland Councils and the Clinical Commissioning Group. Grants were received from Tees Valley YMCA to deliver the Youth Investment Fund and UK Youth, Police Crime and Victims Commissioner, Skills for Care, County Durham Community Foundation for Health and Wellbeing activities and the Small Sparks Fund.

Covid-19 impact

The impact of the pandemic initially was a sudden loss of income due to closure of services and significantly increased demand leading to a forecasted loss of approximately £150,000. This has been offset by access the Job Retention scheme to cover costs of furloughed staff and a micro grant for Business Support of £10,000 towards the rent of Council premises at West Lodge. Funders have supported the organisation with core grants; The National Lottery Community Fund granted £50,754 including £8,754 attributable to reserves and The Julia and Hans Rausling Trust donated £42,396 toward care costs to protect the sustainability of the organisation. Additional grants from County Durham Community Foundation and Inclusion North totalling £35,954 to support people who have been isolated and NET Emergency Funds of £13,500. These have put the organisation in a strong position with an anticipated surplus of approximately £90,000 including restricted grants to be carried forward into the next financial year. This will be vital to enable the organisation to manage changes to contracts in the coming year.

Future plans

The first quarter of new financial year was probably the most challenging in the history of the organisation, facing huge demand with very reduced resource's and no certainty of what the future may hold.

We could only do our best, on a day to day basis, to support disabled people and carers facing the impact of the pandemic.

However, by the summer, funders large and small had risen to the challenge of supporting the sector with the speed that was needed. We are immensely thankful to County Durham Community Foundation and Inclusion North (with funding from the Integrated Care System) for enabling us to quickly establish a support system, Keeping People Connected, to make regular calls to people, ensure they were safe, provide information and online activities to disabled people, particular people with learning impairment's and autism.

The Lions Club and Darlington Borough Council provided additional funds to enable us to deliver 'socially distanced' playschemes, as we came out of the first lockdown, for disabled children and young people. The Independent Living Hub and Peoples Parliament re opened for face to face support and outreach. This has been vital for people who are isolated and for carers who have been coping alone for many months without a break.

The National Lottery Emergency Fund agreed a grant to contribute to core costs along with the Julia and Hans Rausling Trust fund to ensure that front line organisations like DAD would survive these turbulent times in order to continue supporting disabled people beyond the pandemic. This core funding will be critical to ensure that we can focus on what needs to be done rather than organisation survival, at least in this financial year.

Funding for core costs has been very rare over the last few years for the sector, particularly Disabled Peoples Organisations who have been amongst those hardest hit over recent years. This year has clearly demonstrated what a huge difference it has made to our organisation and hopefully this will be part of the learning as we rebuild, post pandemic, along with the 'levelling up' that disabled people and carers require in terms of priority and equality.

We are already seeing the impact on people's mental health and wellbeing with referrals to Advocacy rapidly increasing, particularly for those who have had to receive hospital care. Undoubtedly we will see the negative impact on disabled people's lives for many years to come.

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. Volunteers are the backbone of the organisation and our thanks and appreciation go to all of them.

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.

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