Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS) is a user-led pan-disability charity operating primarily in Buckinghamshire. We are a successful, dynamic and influential charity, focused on fixing the big issues facing disabled people. We do this by permanently removing barriers facing disabled people and finding answers to the big issues facing them. During the year, our projects and partnerships delivered results that helped nearly all the 41,000 disabled people in Buckinghamshire plus many beyond our county.
Removing barriers and finding answers
Disabled people face huge barriers preventing them from living normal independent lives – physical barriers and barriers caused by bad attitudes and lack of knowledge. As a social model charity, we believe it is these barriers that disable people, not their medical condition or impairment. BuDS helps disabled people by finding practical, affordable solutions which permanently remove these physical or attitudinal barriers, so people are no longer disabled by barriers and become part of the wider community.
BuDS does not primarily help individuals but aims to fix the big structural issues that create barriers for lots of disabled people, such as bad attitudes, lack of information, the design of structures and places, and how services work. The fact that we are the only independent pan-disability charity in Bucks, made up primarily of disabled people, gives us unique insight and knowledge, especially as our volunteers include hugely experienced experts and professionals. As a result, BuDS can find new, innovative, permanent and sustainable answers to the big problems disabled people face every day.
How BuDS works
BuDS works differently from most disability charities, because we have found that our approach is the only feasible way to get the change that disabled people really need on the issues that affect them most. We are different in three main ways:
- BuDS proudly maintains its independence from local and national government so it can be an effective advocate for disabled people. This means we do not deliver services on behalf of councils, the NHS or government.
- We focus on delivering permanent, sustainable change which benefits large numbers of disabled people by tackling the outstanding problems most important to disabled people themselves. We do this by informed, innovative thinking, sustained lobbying and influencing, and by forming strategic delivery partnerships with a very wide range of council, NHS, business and voluntary sector bodies. We can also take a long-term view and focus on issues over several years, making steady incremental progress, rather than the quick and often temporary wins often sought by commissioners or some funders.
- We rely on volunteers rather than paid staff and our sustainable business model keeps our costs very low – BuDS costs less than £30 a day to run. This gives us the flexibility and agility to respond to real needs and ensures our independence
A voluntary charity
BuDS is entirely voluntary without any paid staff. Some 95 per cent of our volunteers are disabled people , and 75 per cent of our Trustees identify as disabled . Typically, these include jobseekers, retired people, working people and professionals. While we do not have a checklist of impairments, nearly all disabilities are found among our volunteer group, including hearing and sight loss, learning disability, autism, neurological conditions, mental health issues and mobility impairments.
In 2017, we had 35 active volunteers giving us 1,920 hours of their time. This equates to 4.5 full-time staff. They attended 105 external meetings (two per week).
BuDS Trustees have mostly ‘executive’ roles within the charity, leading on projects or taking charge of one of our priority areas. However, two of the eight Trustees have deliberately hands-off non-executive roles so they can bring challenge and oversight to the Trustee Board. Click here to find out more about the Trustees.
Volunteers in BuDS are given written role descriptions and volunteer agreements. They work either on our projects, which is a largely office or home-based role, or at events that we are helping to make more accessible and inclusive, or both. About a third of our volunteers change every year , many going into work or education after a spell with us to build confidence and skills. Click here to find out some of our volunteer stories.
Our networks and strategy
BuDS has an informal membership of around 400 disabled people and, of course, nearly all the BuDS Trustees and volunteers are disabled people, with all impairment groups represented. We are connected to the community of 41,000 disabled people in Bucks by our volunteers’ participation in scores of disability groups, societies and networks. BuDS is also represented on 38 formal consultation bodies ranging from local authority partnership boards to police advisory groups.
This very wide network gives us unique understanding of the issues affecting all disabled people and the barriers they face. We use this insight to identify a very large list of changes disabled people need. We then refine and prioritise that list by asking ourselves three questions:
- How important is the issue to disabled people, and how many are affected? We prioritise the issues that disabled people really care about and most affect their life, especially broad cross-cutting issues affecting disabled people from many impairment groups in many places. In this way, we maximise our impact.
- Is the work already being done satisfactorily by someone else? BuDS actively avoids duplicating work already being satisfactorily done by others. We aim to fill the gaps by tackling the important issues other groups are neglecting or avoiding, usually those for which funding is not available or which are controversial or just hard to solve.
- Can BuDS make a real and distinctive contribution to solving the problem or removing the barrier? Not every issue is appropriate for the BuDS way of working and there are some areas where BuDS would struggle to gain traction and achieve results. In these cases, we seek to get another group or body to take on the problem, perhaps a statutory group or council, or another voluntary group.
From the list of potential projects, using the above criteria, the Trustee Board selects specific objectives for BuDS to achieve. Work is then done by project volunteers to generate project plans containing defined objectives, timescales and details of how they will be achieved. In practice, these projects all fall within the five long-term project categories BuDS adopted in 2010 and which we find equally valid today:
- Welfare Reform and Disability Benefits
- Employment and Work
- Accessibility and Inclusion
- Attitudes and Hate Crimes
- Bucks’ Paralympic Legacy
The Trustee Board undertakes a formal strategy review annually and reviews all projects regularly. In addition, all projects are advertised to the wider membership and through BuDS networks, and feedback is gained. The AGM also formally endorses BuDS projects as part of the debate on the annual report.
BuDS never has enough volunteers to work on all its identified projects, and the regular ebb and flow of people also affects project work. For this reason, at any one time some projects will be suspended or resting, others will be partially active, and others will be forging ahead. To enquiry about volunteering click here
If you are looking for specific information please get in touch.