Make way for more user-led disability charities, says Inclusion London chief

Tracey Lazard tells the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering that 'we are frankly sick' of being spoken for by charities that aren't run by disabled people

Tracey Lazard
Tracey Lazard

Disability charities that are not run by the disabled people they serve should "move over" and make space for user-led organisations, the chief executive of the disability charity Inclusion London has told MPs.

Tracey Lazard told a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering this morning that many charities had a paternalistic view of their beneficiaries, but there should be more focus on allowing disabled people to speak for themselves.

"We are frankly sick of disability charities that aren’t run and controlled by disabled people purporting to speak on our behalf," said Lazard.

"They need to move over, and we need to be able to claim our space and our voice."

Lazard, who is disabled, also criticised what she saw as the view at many charities that the chief executive was a "superhero" who could be parachuted into any role and help to solve any problems.

Instead, she said, charities should focus on team-building and supporting leadership in a less hierarchical way.

"What it has done is to enable and justify a culture of outrageous pay for an elite under the guise of meritocracy, but with complete disregard for the team and the community," Lazard said.

"I think this focus on charismatic super-leaders is potentially really dangerous if you are ignoring the wider team, community, organisation or, dare I say it, society."

She warned that leadership qualities were not held only by white, non-disabled, middle-class men, but society was still run as if that was the case, with exceptions only proving the rule.

Lazard said there was therefore a risk that talent was not being tapped into and that some people were being over-promoted into powerful positions for which they were not suited.

Tesse Akpeki, lead consultant at the governance development programme Onboard, spoke about the need for charities to travel outside London and south-east England.

She told charities to "go where the people are".

"The connection and engagement comes from being with people," Akpeki said. "And those people are not necessarily within the M25."

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