GDA restructure to “GDA Lite”

The committee regrets that the changes detailed below mean that our work to change attitude towards, and raise awareness about, disability and our ability to undertake some other important functions of the GDA have been impacted by lack of funding.

The committee believes that the chosen option offers the best way to allow our members to continue to exercise their right to be closely consulted and actively involved, through the GDA, in the development of policies to implement the Disability and Inclusion Strategy and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other decision making processes concerning issues related to persons with disabilities.

It is extremely disappointing that these changes mean that we will lose the services of Karen Blanchford who has been such a powerhouse of enthusiasm and ability and has done so much to nurture the membership and to empower so many disabled islanders to have their voices heard. Karen’s reach within the community has been extraordinary and through her tireless efforts, many of the islands businesses, service providers, industry bodies and third sector organisations have been actively engaged and are better informed about disability.

The committee would like to put on record its thanks for Karen’s extraordinary dedication and service and hopes that Karen may be able to continue her association with the GDA in some other way into the future.

Background GDA member communique – GDA restructure to “GDA Lite”

At the AGM on Tuesday evening, the GDA Executive explained, in detail, the plans it had to deal with the Alliance’s funding shortfall.

Despite considerable efforts over the past year the committee has concluded that the best structure for the GDA, one that would allow it to carry out its member services, its social policy and legislation work and its awareness raising activities is simply not financially sustainable.

Having looked at various options, the committee has reluctantly chosen to restructure to what has become known as “GDA Lite”.  This structure allows us to halve our current costs but severely curtails our ability to deliver some of the Alliance’s current objectives.

What services will be maintained?

The GDA Lite option will allow us to maintain our core task of representing disabled people in the work to implement the Disability and Inclusion Strategy and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including the detailed and complex issues of establishing the discrimination legislation and the Equality and Rights Organisation.  The GDA’s research work will continue and we will also be able to respond to States’ consultations.  It is vital too, if we are to remain representative of disabled people and their organisations, that we maintain our membership and can consult and communicate with you clearly and effectively.

What will change?
The big change is that Karen Blanchford’s employment will cease in December. (Karen is currently responsible for Partnership services and the We All Matter, Eh?campaigns). As a result, the GDA’s awareness raising activities (We All Matter, Eh?, etc.) will be put on hold indefinitely and our ability regarding:

  • signposting for persons with disabilities,
  • awareness raising at various levels in the community and fostering respect for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities,
  • media engagement and encouraging media to portray persons with disabilities in a manner consistent with the Convention,
  • advising States Committees (other than ESS),
  • advising businesses and third sector organisations (other than limited advice to GDA members),
  • representing disabled people in other social policy work (CYPP, SLAWS, etc.), and
  • accessibility projects (partnering with Access for All)
  • social media and public

will be restricted or will cease.

Karen’s roles, firstly as Executive Director and lately in Partnership Services, have allowed her to play other significant roles and represent the GDA and disabled people within other organisations.  Most notable amongst these roles are her positions within the Association of Guernsey Charities, Access for All, the Equality Working Group (which Karen founded) and HSC Care Watch.  Karen’s ability to continue in these roles is uncertain and will depend on the demands and flexibility of her future paid employment.

Other changes include:

  • fewer newsletters,
  • fewer GDA meetings and guest speakers,
  • less able to respond to increases in social policy work,
  • less able to empower disabled people to speak for themselves (WAME, etc.),
  • limited GDA representation at third sector events and forums (depending on strengthening of the committee),
  • unable to assist and guide employers, service providers and States Committees (outside of ESS)

Further considerations
We are particularly concerned that signposting and information for disabled people, something identified as a priority within the Disability and Inclusion Strategy, will be negatively affected.  Although we never intended to provide signposting, there is an innate expectation that we offer such a service, and, in the past, we have met that demand.  Other recent changes to the Health Information Exchange, the Disability Champion’s team and indeed the recent change in States’ Disability Officer, will leave disabled people at a disadvantage with regard to signposting and advice.  While the Signpost.gg website is useful, it is not yet the “go to” source of disability information, and it is not accessible for all disabled people.  We have written to the Committee for Employment and Social Security to consider how it might respond and fill the gaps that will result from the GDA’s reduced abilities and activity.

Considerable challenges remain, including the need to strengthen the committee (we are still without a chairperson) and our fundraising activities.

The new operational structure
The GDA’s restructured operations team includes three part time staff (total 30 hours per week).  Rob Platts continues to work voluntarily, principally assisting with the legislation, enforcement and ERO work and responding to States’ consultations.

To maintain and improve our social policy work, we are establishing a Disability Policy Impact Assessment Group.  This group will operate through a confidential and closed social media platform and, although administered by the GDA, it will be independent. Members of the group (all volunteers) will assist the GDA by studying and commenting on States’ billets, policies, legislation, and the like.

Rob Harnish

GDA Vice Chair

socialpolicy@gda.org.gg