For nine years, the Consumer Audit Project at SCIL has provided an innovative service where community care services could be assessed by whether they actually delivered positive outcomes for users rather than merely measuring meaningless numbers.
Consumer Audit trained and supported disabled people to develop the skills that were needed in order to engage with the users of the services being audited to discover whether the service was actually meeting these outcomes. Many auditors like myself developed the confidence and skills that enabled them to secure paid employment both at SCIL and in other organisations.
Consumer Audits were not just tokenistic ‘consultation’ exercises, they were a truly different way to provide services with information about how to improve and develop. This new way of auditing garnered press and publicity not just in Hampshire but across the country. Hampshire County Council were rightly very proud of the project, as they were the main funder.
And then the letter came…… ‘We regret to inform you……blah blah’. Hampshire County Council were withdrawing the funding from the end of September 2006.
It seems particularly ironic that just two months before the introduction of the Disability Equality Duty, which require public authorities to engage with Disabled People, Hampshire County Council were withdrawing funding.
Chris Hunt, who has been with Consumer Audit virtually since it began, left SCIL this week and we wish her well in the future. Despite losing the funding, SCIL has built up a great deal of expertise in this field in nine years, and we have proven that true involvement of Disabled People can reap rewards. We hope that other organisations will continue to see the benefit of Consumer Audit and will be willing to purchase the service. The core funding of Consumer Audit may have gone but our expertise and our belief in the methodology continues at SCIL.