Welcome to DAD's 2021 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 2020 - 21

The pandemic has changed not only how Darlington Association on Disability (DAD) works, but how everyone lives. Numerous services from the private and public sectors either stopped or changed that much that many disabled people have not been getting the services or support they need.

I am extremely proud to say DAD managed to keep operating throughout, delivering vital services for disabled people. Adhering to government guidance meant our face‑to‑face services had to close, with some staff furloughed. However other services and projects within DAD adapted with some staff working in the office and others from home, new services were introduced to fill for the lack of face‑to‑face services like the Keeping People Connected program.

It takes an exceptional team of people who are dedicated, loyal and versatile to achieve this. A team that have worked extremely hard to ensure DAD continued to fulfil its commitments to disabled people. Many of them going that extra mile to not only support disabled people, but also each other, through these exceptional times.

I acknowledge the roles played by Chief Executive, Lauren Robinson and Deputy Chief Executive, Tracy Roberts who have done an outstanding job in heading up this team of staff and volunteers. I am immensely grateful and offer my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of them for everything they have done in these exceptionally difficult times.

One part of that hard‑working DAD team that often goes unseen is that of my fellow Trustees, I am indebted to them for their skills and dedication in their support of senior management. I am immensely grateful for the many hours of their time and my sincere thanks go to them.

Funding sources continue to be more and more competitive and harder to come by with fewer funders in a position to meet the demand.  I am extremely grateful to all our financial supporters and offer them my warmest thanks.

Gordon Pybus, Chair


Access Interest Group

The charity worked with the Local Authority and businesses across Darlington as the first lockdown eased to ensure that Town Centre measures for social distancing such as access to shops, bus stops, road changes etc. all were planned to ensure access for disabled people.  Many Licensing applications for pavement cafés were reviewed in a very short space of time to ensure disability accessibility to the pavement cafés as well as the areas around them.  Active involvement in local developments, such as the refurbishment of the Railway Station, 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.



Demand for all areas of Advocacy has increased throughout the pandemic, particularly as the impact on people’s mental health is realised. The service dealt with 1444 requests for support. During the early months of the pandemic the tragedy of deaths in care homes was very evident as the service had daily reports of people who we supported very sadly dying. DAD joined the national campaign against the blanket issue of Do Not Resuscitate notices that were being issued by the NHS. The campaign led to the withdrawal of the guidance however the reality is that many people lost their lives who may have otherwise survived, particularly people with a learning impairment.  Advocates were amongst the first people to be allowed into Care Homes when the restrictions were changed and continued throughout to ensure that people had their rights upheld by providing telephone and online support.  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 Service

Breaks for Carers was one of the services that had to be temporarily closed due to the pandemic however, recognising the huge impact this would have on families we were able to offer everyone support through the Keeping People Connected Project. The Hub and DASH were amongst the first services in Darlington to re‑open to provide face to face services. Strict Covid risk assessments were put in place, to enable people to have much needed support and for carers to receive a break mainly funded by the Better Care Fund.

Children and Young Peoples Service (ChYPS)

The charity was able to deliver DASH play schemes in summer 2021 to small groups with very stringent Covid measures in place. With careful management the service was delivered through every school holiday on a limited basis.  Support from funders including UK Youth and the Local Authority enabled the service to cover the extra costs of Covid measures.  Funding from LNER enabled Covid secure outings when safe to do so to ensure disabled children had opportunities to re‑engage with activities such farm trips, travel training and trampolining.

The Independent Living Hub

The service reopened in June 2020 for small groups in ‘bubbles’ to enable the service to operate safely. Many people who had previously attended regularly were facing isolation and raised anxiety and mental health issues and were in need of face to face support to prevent a crisis. The DAD accessible vehicle was able to provided transport in a Covid secure way and enable people to access the service. The Hub was able to continue to support disabled people to develop new skills, have access to education, leisure and social activities. The Independent Living Hub (ILH) continued to support disabled people to develop new skills, have access to education, employment, leisure and social activities.

Direct Payments Support Service

The service was at the forefront of supporting disabled people at the start of the first lockdown assisting employers to source essential Personal Protective Equipment, understand the options for Personal Assistants including furlough, sickness, dealing with shielding and other changes to Government schemes. Delivering payroll support throughout the pandemic has been a critical service to ensure employers could continue to access support. The service has also been instrumental in the vaccine roll out to Personal Assistants as part of the social care workforce.  The service continued to cover Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and included support for people to be employers (recruitment, insurance, payroll and management of finance).  Unfortunately DAD was not in a position to submit a bid to continue supporting people in Middlesbrough after June 2021. Despite the pandemic we were able to develop a new online training offer for Employers with support from Skills for Care which also included Infection Control training for Employers and Personal Assistants.

Information Provision

Information provision has been critical throughout the pandemic to ensure disabled people and carers could access the right support, have the Government Guidance explained and provide essential support to keep people safe. DAD still aims to be the first point of contact for disabled people and carers despite no specific funding available for the service we continue to deal with any request for information from disabled people and carers. The enquiries as a result of the pandemic increased demand by 65%.

Self Advocacy

Peoples Parliament, as the voice of people with a learning impairment in Darlington, were supported to move their meetings online and we were able to provide equipment and telephone support for people to be able to meet online, keep in touch with friends and provide practical support throughout the pandemic.

Keeping People Connected

This was established in response to the pandemic to ensure disabled people and carers were informed and supported to keep safe. Regular calls, online peer support groups, activity packs and support with care, medication, shopping and other vital services were delivered. As restrictions eased the 3R’s project developed to support people to reskill, regain confidence and re connect with their community delivering a range of Covid secure activities in community venues.

 Impact and outcomes

The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the value of a local user led organisation. DAD was able to quickly mobilise support to those who were most in need, we offered a check in service to everyone on our database through the new Keeping People Connected service to ensure that everyone had support, those who were isolated were identified and given targeted support and social media was used to reach out to any disabled person locally who needed support.

Over the 12 months we have; 

  1.  Continued to support people across a wide geographical area including Tees Valley and Co Durham and stretching to Newcastle and London. Over 25% of the people we support are outside Darlington
  2.  Kept people safe through the provision of Personal Protective Equipment, flexible support and accessible information providing over 2000 hours of Covid related support in addition to our usual service
  3.  Only missed one playscheme during one Easter holiday, ensuring children and young people impacted by the isolation of missing school were able to have fun and provide parents with a much needed break
  4.  Provided accessible transport to enable the first people in Darlington to receive their Covid vaccinations.
  5.  Worked with numerous organisations locally and regionally to ensure that people were supported throughout the pandemic and ongoing lockdowns.
  6.  Over 60% of people who received information felt this had enabled them to be more independent and have more choice and control over their lives.
  7.  We continued to support people of all ages from 4 to 100.  Over 30% of everyone who receives advocacy support is aged 65 to over 100 years of age.  Over 130 children and young people are registered to receive support after school and during holidays


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 last financial year was probably the most challenging in the history of the organisation, facing huge demand with very reduced resources and no certainty of what the future may hold. It could have been the ‘perfect storm’ of a huge rise in demand with insufficient resources or reserves. The closure of services meant income reduced overnight with ongoing costs still to meet.  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, in particular people with learning impairment’s and autism.  

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

Without significant financial support we would have been looking at a very different picture for the financial health of the organisation. We put all our efforts into financial survival, using the Government Job Retention Scheme to furlough approximately a third of the staff team. The amazing support from The National Lottery Community Fund and The Josephine and Hans Rausling Trust for core funding was critical to ensure that we could focus on what needed to be done rather than organisation survival.

The support received has ensured that the organisation could deliver essential support to disabled people and carers at a critical time whilst also increasing reserves to protect the organisation, in an uncertain future, to be sustainable in the medium term. Increasing the reserves position has enabled the organisation to be able to plan longer term and have security to cover the costs of services that have struggled to attract funding for some time such as volunteering and information and advice.

The incoming resources for the 12 month period amounted to £1,182,344 of which £138,464 was for restricted projects and £1,043,880 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. For the first time in the organisations history we have been able to increase the level of Free Reserves to nearer the equivalent of 4 months. Trustees have also agreed that a Designated Fund will be established to support unmet need and essential development. The level of free reserves at the year end is £359,290.

Contracts were in place with Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland Councils and the Clinical Commissioning Group. Grants were received from The National Lottery Community Fund, Police Crime and Victims Commissioner, Skills for Care, County Durham Community Foundation, The Julia and Hans Rausling Trust, Sports England, the Disabled People’s Organisation National Emergency Fund, Infection Control Fund, LNER and Inclusion North. 


Future plans

The difficult decision was taken not to submit a response to the invitation to retender for a combined Employer Support and Payroll service for Direct Payments in Middlesbrough which sadly meant the closure of the Middlesbrough Office in June 2021. This will enable us to focus on the upcoming retender for the Darlington service.

We are fully committed to continuing our strategy of operating as a Centre for Independent Living across Tees Valley. Advocacy provision is well established across the whole of Tees Valley and we will continue to support people across Darlington, Redcar and Cleveland to access Direct Payments with the wide range of support including payroll and Managed Accounts. Work to support people with Personal Health Budgets who wish to be Employers is also continuing. 

The Advocacy service continues to grow and we are working hard to ensure that we provide a high quality service across the Tees Valley. The staff team has been expanded to ensure we have capacity and we are working alongside partners across the Region to ensure that people have the support they need and demonstrate the difference that good advocacy support can make to someone’s life. 

Keeping People Connected has continued to support people, many of whom have experienced a decline in their mental health during the pandemic. In addition the 3R’s project has been created to respond to people needing support to return to regain independence by encouraging people to join activities, mindfulness, exercise and social groups.

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 and others work across all projects which DAD operates. 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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