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Gain without Pain: how the voluntary sector can help deliver the social care agenda for people with disabilities

Putting people’s needs at the heart of commissioning and rewriting the services manual from scratch can achieve remarkable results, as the case studies published here clearly demonstrate. It can increase the independence of service users, ensure more personalised care and support, and save money at the same time. What the case studies have in common is the innovation and expertise of the voluntary sector in working with commissioners, users and their communities to bring about inspired and cost-effective change.

The charities featured are all members of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group. Our examples include living support networks, facilitated by the charity KeyRing, in which a volunteer assists a group of people with learning disabilities as they gain the confi dence to live more independently, build links with their neighbourhoods, and help one another. Another example is the move away from day centres towards services promoting independence in Derbyshire, where the county council has brought in the charity MacIntyre to establish local skills development hubs because service users asked for help to make themselves employable.

These case studies, like the others, exemplify the particular qualities that the voluntary sector can offer to commissioners willing to engage in a constructive dialogue with them. They are the added value of volunteers, of long-term investment and occasional fi nancial contributions sometimes from the organisations’ own resources, the ability “to do what it takes” for service users fl exibly and without unnecessary bureaucracy, and the expertise, enthusiasm and fl air that are the hallmark of the sector. Equally distinctive is the role of service users themselves, where those who offer help are frequently also those who receive it.