Thurrock Centre for Independent Living

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Thurrock Centre for Independent Living is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Highlighting best practice
Disability Rights handbook
CEO John Paddick and
some of his team
Established in 1999, Thurrock Centre for Independent Living
is a charity that offers support and advice on a variety
of issues that affect disabled people. Based in Thurrock,
Essex, TCIL is a member of the Thurrock Coalition, which is a
“user-led organisation” for local people in Thurrock, offering
general advice, benefits advice and advocacy. CEO John Paddick
discusses their strategy in turning TCIL around.
There are plenty of vulnerable people and families out there, in desperate need of the
help and benefits they qualify for. For many of them, the process and complexity of
receiving what they deserve drives them to desperation and crisis. The re-engineering
and redesign of the benefits systems and processes may have helped the government
achieve its aims of controlling cost and improving the internal processes involved,
but it has done nothing but build and reinforce institutionalised barriers that inhibit
people accessing the resources the system is meant to provide for them. Stroke
survivors who have lost the ability to read or write will still be expected to complete
a 42-page questionnaire in order to begin the application for financial help.
Overcoming difficulties
In 2007, after 23 years in retail banking and six years as a consultant, I applied to
become the chief executive of TCIL, a small charity in financial trouble. TCIL is a user-led
organisation that advocates for the social model of disability. Our directors all identify
as disabled, not by virtue of their impairment, but because of the obstacles in our
society that “disable” them from doing what they want, be they physical, attitudinal
or institutional. It is their experiences that shape and guide the services TCIL provides,
meeting the real grassroots needs of people trying to live the best life they can.
»CEO: John Paddick
»Established in 1999
»Based in Thurrock, Essex
»No. of employees: 7
»Services: Information, advice,
advocacy, work experience
programmes and other
services for disabled or
vulnerable people, their family
and carers and corporate
services to other charities
Thurrock Centre for
Independent Living
These insights are not enough on their
own, with many a good cause failing
for want of money and commercial
insight. In 2010, the financial crisis had
a dramatic impact on local authorities,
and this led to commensurate cuts
being made to third-sector funding.
We had very little funding, no reserves,
a lack of leadership and no commercial
or financial expertise; the future
The redesign and restructuring of TCIL
began as a result. New leadership was
introduced through the appointment
of a new chair, there was an increase
in focused commercial design aimed at
cost-cutting and there were attempts
to refocus the charity on helping the
people who needed us most.
For the following four years, annual
spend in every category came down,
yet the demand for services grew,
as did productivity. New sources of
funding were found, new expertise
recruited, and with a growing credibility
and reputation, new joint ventures
were formed with other local providers
to strengthen the pool of talents and
successfully bid for some of the newly
outsourced services previously provided
by the localauthority.
So strong was its commercial and
turnaround reputation, the charity
began to support other organisations
with highly competitive consultancy,
payroll and bookkeeping services –
today supporting seven organisations
with turnovers up to £3 million – and
by so doing was able to supplement
Our services, while refocused, are wide
and varied, from assisting disabled
and vulnerable people to prepare for
or return to work, to being part of
a consortium supporting carers with
information and advice, and hiring
specialist off-road wheelchairs. The
biggest demand continues to be
helping vulnerable people to navigate
their way to the crucial financial and
other support they need to live now
and in the future.
Payroll and bookkeeping
Many a good
cause failing
for want of
money and
Highlighting best practice
Navigating the system
For many disabled and vulnerable
people, the prospect of tackling a
lengthy, complex application form
presents a formidable obstacle to
getting the financial or other help they
need. Often their impairment leaves
them unable to cope, and they often
seek help, either from a carer, relative
or friend. This route has mixed results
in our experience.
The DWP’s own figures show that in
Thurrock, only 40 per cent of new
PIP claims are awarded – 45 per cent
nationally. This cannot be solely due
to applicants not being sufficiently
impaired according to the guidelines.
For those then challenging the award,
things don’t get much better. The
mandatory reconsideration results in
84 per cent of new claims yielding no
change to the award. When the case is
taken to appeal though, there is a 71
per cent success rate in overturning the
DWP decision.
For TCIL, where we are asked to help
in completion of the initial form, our
success rate is extremely high, and
where unsuccessful claims for PIP have
been made and our help sought for the
appeal, it is in excess of 90 per cent.
This is not because of new information,
but purely because we can guide our
clients through the complexity of the
form, get them to answer the question
and collate theevidence.
The cost of rework within the
system is huge, far in excess of any
acceptable maxim in the private
sector, and yet there is little or no
funding from government at any level
for organisations that connect the
individuals with the help they need.
Few people would argue that the style
and veracity of assessment are wrong
in their nature and objective, but where
is the help for those most vulnerable in
our society to access what is rightfully
theirs and often desperately needed?
Way forward for TCIL
TCIL still exists today because we were
prepared to change with the times. We
sought and secured skills, particularly
commercial skills, that have become
the backbone of its offering and we
have relied on our disabled trustees to
guide the shaping of our services to
meet the most crucial needs.
Such has been the demand for our
form of advocacy that we have
broadened our scope, with the
encouragement and training of
the Office of the Public Guardian,
to provide assistance to vulnerable
people in completing Lasting Powers
of Attorney for free – saving clients an
estimated £290,000 in legal fees so
far – and wills. We all live in a society
that rightly demands accountability
and legitimacy in qualifying for help,
but let’s not institutionally discriminate
by creating barriers in the path of
those most in need, or at least fund
organisations that can assist them in
overcoming those barriers.
TCIL still exists
today because
we were
prepared to
change with
the times
User-led, professionally

This article was sponsored by Thurrock Centre for Independent Living. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.