MDF – Manchester Disability Forum

I have yet to find a definitive history of MDF. This might be because its closure around 1996 was under a cloud. Without breaking confidentiality, a broad summary of events is as follows.

Since the 1980s MDF had received a modest annual grant from Manchester City Council’s (MCC) chief executive’s department and could afford to employ a small number of staff, initially just one, a co-ordinator. From around 1990 the staffing was expanded beyond a single co-ordinator, including Cathy Avison in the team, until she died in 1992 (her biog is on this site).

Around 1993 MDF took on the running of the Frank Taylor Centre for “day care services” with a second grant from MCC’s social services department.

For whatever reason, by 1996 things had become a bit rocky in terms of MDF’s governance by the management committee generally such as in keeping proper minutes and following correct HR processes. Things came to a head when the treasurer resigned and wrote a letter of concerns to MDF’s auditors, and copied it to MCC, their funders. Given such a letter, there had to be an investigation by MCC and their findings agreed that the concerns raised were well-founded. To be fair, MCC also criticised itself for not spotting the difficulties sooner as part of the usual monitoring of funding. The MCC report dated 1 July 1996 for the social strategy sub-committee is marked “Part B – not for publication” because it names some individuals.

Conversations at the time indicate that Cathy Avison also had had concerns regarding MDF, but her untimely death four years earlier had stalled that line of enquiry.

As a consequence of the report the grants to MDF were withdrawn. However, the money was “ring fenced” or kept to one side to fund another organisation controlled by disabled people. There was a general view that the access work being done by MDF was functioning well and was highly regarded, thus it seems, around 1997 that ring fenced funding was moved across to the new Manchester Disabled People’s Access Group, MDPAG.

There might have been another new organisation being proposed at this time – a Manchester Disabled People’s Collective. Details are still being researched.

Constitution (draft, not registered at Companies House) – Manchester Disabled Peoples Collective – Constitution – c. 1996

Brian Hilton adds: “Following the demise of MDF, two workers were employed to work on the creation of a new organisation. This must have been around 1995-96 and the workers (Liz Neville and Tina) were based at GMCDP. … the organisation established would become MDPAG and their remit was always going to be specifically related to access rather than ‘civil rights’.”

Martin Pagel, former councillor and deputy-leader at MCC adds: “When MDF folded I arranged the funding to be ring-fenced to ensure it could only be used to support a disabled people’s organisation (DPO). The discussions that followed were about how it could operate alongside (and avoid duplicating) the work of GMCDP and Breakthrough UK. In the end the only proposal that came forward was for an access group [and not a Collective]. In the absence of such a [wider] group I established the Disabled People’s Liaison Panel at the Council. This brought together any group operating in Manchester and was to be attended (on a rotating basis) by each executive member and chief officer. The purpose was to allow DPOs access to service plans and to ask questions and suggest priorities. I was keen to hold myself (and others) to account by DPOs even though the Council had moved away from equality sub committees.”


These documents below all relate to the early years of MDF – the Manchester Disability Forum.

1984-09-25 Manchester Disability Forum – Management Committee Minutes

1985-05-14 Manchester Disability Forum – AGM letter

1984-10-29 Manchester Disability Forum – Management Committee letter

1984-10-08 Manchester Disability Forum – Letter on Society of Community Medicine 

This archive contains a small selection from the papers of Kevin Hyett (1958-2004), a good friend of mine and Lorraine. He was a radical activist for the rights of disabled people.

All these documents have a Creative Commons licence for non-commercial use, based on the share-alike and attributed principles. Share-alike means the same Creative Commons conditions must be kept with all copies.

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