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Equal Lives

Equal Lives is an organisation run by and for disabled people. They deliver personal budgets support for the local authority and every year they give them back over £2m in savings.

Equal Lives is an amazing example of how local organisations deliver outstanding results as well as huge savings. Keep it Local works. Pledge your support for our campaign for better, locally delivered public services.

Mark Harrison from Equal Lives

The story of Equal Lives

We’ve been working alongside the local authority for the past 16 years administering direct payments and that give disabled people the opportunity to manage their own care and employ their own staff. We were involved in the early individual budget pilots which then turned into personal budgets.

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It costs 30% – 50% less if disabled people manage their own care

The short story is that it’s much more cost effective if disabled people manage their own care. It costs between 30-50% less than if the local authority manage it or if private agencies deliver it but also it gets much better outcomes.

If disabled people are in control of their own care they also lead much more fulfilling lives; they’re much more active within their communities, they’re active citizens and they go out to work.

We give back over £2m a year

We’ve got 1,700 service users and we give over £2m back to the local authority every year, because disabled people manage it as though it’s their own money, they’re very prudent with it, so that can then go back to the local authority and they can reinvest it in services. I don’t know, and the local authority treasurer doesn’t know, of any private agency that ever gives them a penny back, whether they deliver the services or not because if you’re on those block contracts they will just invoice whatever happens for those one-size-fits all services.

Young people at the Equal Lives Youth Forum in NorwichThe Equal Lives Youth Forum

The local authority will have 50% less, but hasn’t reshaped its services

By the end of next year the LA will have half the money it had at the beginning of austerity and we’ve got rising demand and rising need.

The failure has been that the LA hasn’t remodelled or reshaped its services so we’ve got the horrid situation where all the cuts are being passed to the front line and you’ve got salami slicing so services are just being cut or they disappear. That has a knock on effect into the health service, into the criminal justice system into the mental health services, which is criminal really because there’s no need for that. But trying to have conversations to reshape the offer and to expand and extend what we do is proving very difficult.

People lead more fulfilling and independent lives

If you scale up what we do from five 5,000 users to 10,000 you can see the sorts of savings you can make.

Not only do people lead more independent and fulfilling lives but you make huge savings on agency care. But it’s very difficult in such a traumatic situation for those planned innovations to take place. Actually what we’re seeing is a levelling off of the growth in personal budgets and in some places things are going the other way which is loading more costs in so more cuts are going to have to be made so you’re in a vicious circle that’s racing to the bottom. It’s very depressing.


Mark Harrison
CEO of Equal Lives