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Kamran Mallick's Christmas and New Year message

19 December 2019

I wanted to wish you all a Happy Christmas and to thank you for your membership and faith in us in 2019.

It has been a busy year, and at times a difficult one. At the beginning of the year, we restructured. We said goodbye to some colleagues and friends who had worked tirelessly to achieve our aims and objectives as an organisation, and we established new functions and welcomed some new faces. Our new structure places us in a much stronger position to represent the disabled community within the UK and to take up new opportunities.

I am delighted to welcome new colleagues and to have started new projects this year. I cannot list everything we’ve done here but I wanted to end the year with an overview of all we have achieved for disabled people in 2019. 

We are after all here to impact the lives of all disabled people and those with long term health care needs. We want to create and drive a vision of the society we want and layout our plans together with our allies.

We began to refresh our strategy and business plan for the next five years. We are creating systems that will better demonstrate our impact and measure our outcomes – the changes we want to make in society for disabled people.

We launched our Right to Participate website giving disabled people information about the Equality Act, the means to advocate for themselves and to share their stories with others.

We have built on the great work done through our Get Yourself Active campaign by securing three more years' funding and creating a strategic relationship with Sport England.

We launched the EnAble Fund for Elected Office to support disabled people in England wishing to stand for local elections. The fund supported 41 individuals for the May local elections with 19 successfully going on to be elected as local councillors, bringing their lived experience to local decision making.

Through our handbook, helplines and FAQ sheets, tens of thousands of disabled people were able to get the benefits they are entitled to and to challenge wrong decisions. They were also able to navigate the complex social care and health care systems. Disabled students have been able to receive advice about their rights and access to financial support. As a result of these services, disabled people have been supported to live their lives, make choices and to be more independent. 

Our new commercial offering ensures we are creating longer term, deeper relationships with companies. We want to support them to create profound cultural change within their businesses that will see them become better employers of disabled people and provide their disabled customers with better products and services. Those companies looking for a quick tick box approach will have to go elsewhere. 

We are building new relationships across a range of commercial sectors. We have a particular ambition of working with transport providers, both regionally and nationally, to bring about a step change in disabled people’s experience of public transport. We are talking to some major train operating companies and hope to make an announcement in the New Year. This promises good things for disabled people and I look forward to the day I and others can turn up and go with no more need to book in advance.

We are focusing in on how we can better support Disabled Peoples Organisations around the country so that they can support disabled people locally. We want to develop a two-way relationship that benefits our national work and supports them while they cope with increasing need and local cuts. We will focus on the next generation of disabled people through our partnership with UCL, Loughborough University, the Global Disability Innovation Hub and Plexal - launching the East London Innovation Enterprise Zone in 2020 (we are laying the groundwork now).

The DRILL programme is in its final year. This unique piece of work has created the first body of evidence co-produced by disabled people’s organisations and universities. DRUK’s own part of this research is into the attitudes of young people to disability, which we will be publishing shortly. 

We will be working with a new government in 2020. Recent disability history tells us that governments with a healthy majority are more likely to be decisive and vote in progressive legislation. This is one reason to be optimistic. Another is the strength of our position as a user-led organisation. Our board, our staff and our ambassadors provide a strong voice and a message firmly rooted in the social model. Our members provide the evidence we need to back up our messages with their lived experience. Our allies help to amplify our voice and reach new audiences. Together we speak truth to power.

Our staff have met many of you this year. And I would like to thank you all for your input into the conversations we have had, and for your willingness to go the extra mile for our community. I am immensely proud to serve our community at DRUK. We are looking forward to making even more of a difference in society for and with disabled people in 2020.