Incompetence #SaveWILG

Even though events in February suggested that we had been successful in our attempts to #SaveWILG, I am still struggling to live a comfortable, independent life.

The problem is that Wrexham County Borough Council are simply incompetent, and failing in their duty of care towards me. This has recently been highlighted by the fact that I have run out of money in my Direct Payments/WILG account.

This is hardly surprising as I have been forced to use the funding I receive for 86.5 hours of support per week on 24/7 support instead. This is due to the fact that I live with a progressive, genetic disease of the nervous system. I have always known that this condition will deteriorate, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that I am need of extra support. This is not something that I am choosing, rather something that I categorically need.

I struggled to pay my staff their well-deserved wages earlier this month. This was due to a £2,200 bill from HMRC, which was unexpected and was a bombshell to my financial affairs that I could not recover from. WCBC agreed to pay an emergency payment, but this did not arrive in my account until eight days later. In the meantime, I had to borrow money from family members to ensure that my staff were paid on time. I do not like having to borrow money, but I had no option. This was both embarrassing and stressful.

I have since been told that senior  management have refused to sanction any further emergency payments, which is obviously very stressful for my staff and myself. I am supposed to be having an independent reassessment soon. This cannot come quickly enough, and is really a matter of urgency as I do not have any confidence that WCBC will resolve this issue.

I informed WCBC back in October/November 2018 that my condition had deteriorated to such an extent that I would need 24/7 support. This was met with scoffing and I was told that no one in Wrexham receives such a care package. This is why I have not been in contact with anyone from WCBC who have failed to provide me with the support that I need to live independently. It is clear that WCBC have failed in their duty of care to myself, and in all probability, many others.

I feel that WCBC have put me under physical and mental stress by denying me the freedom to live the life that I choose. If I did not need support 24/7 I would not ask for it.

I think it likely that the threatened refusal to make a second emergency payment breaks the law. The Code for Part 4 does not limit emergency payments to a single occasion: Para 158 states very plainly that local authorities must be prepared to make emergency payments when they are needed. Welsh Government civil servants have alluded to this in emails when I have been warned that I  “need to watch closely and alert the council if this situation looks like it is to occur again.” I read this to mean that I need for support is paramount and that if it looks like I will run out of funds again I should ask the authority who must ensure that I do not run out of money.

While this reassessment  process takes its time, I wonder what are they going to do to provide the basic level of care needed with regard to the next payment day (September 2nd)? WHO exactly refused the emergency payment and on what grounds? What do they think the consequence of that must be?

I have done everything in my power to show that I am not misusing Direct Payments. I am transparent in everything that I do. Pity the same can’t be said of senior management at WCBC, who are merely proving that local authorities cannot be trusted to provide social care, as #SaveWILG campaigners have been highlighting for four years.

I believe my situation will be sorted out by independent social workers, as I have little confidence in WCBC. I will keep readers up to date with this diabolical situation in the hope that it will provide guidelines to other WILG recipients.

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

 

Memory Match – 30-01-37

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

30/01/37

Wrexham v Oldham Athletic

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-1

 Wrexham: McMahon, Evans, Hamilton, Mitchell, Lewis, Snow, Barrow, White, Lapham, Lawrence, Burgon

Goalscorer: White

 Oldham Athletic: Caunce, Hilton, Price, Williamson, Milligan, Gray, Jones, McCormick, Davis, Robbins, Downes

Goalscorer: Gray

Attendance: 2,511

Season 1936/37 got off to an awful start, with a 4-1 drubbing at Chester. Under the guidance of manager Ernie Blackburn, Wrexham soon forgot this calamitous defeat and rose to a mid-table position as we entered the New Year. However, our 2-0 reverse against Stockport County at Edgeley Park on January 2nd proved to be Blackburn’s final game in charge.

Hull City tempted Blackburn away from the Racecourse and a committee was responsible for selecting our starting 11 for the next three games. This included an FA Cup third round clash with Manchester City at the Cae Ras which was witnessed by 20,600 spectators. The Division One side won the match 1-3, but Wrexham pushed them all the way and could be proud of their performance.

Ahead of our home encounter against Oldham Athletic at the end of January, the club appointed Captain James Logan as their fourth manager. We had won our previous two League games under the leadership of the selection committee, so hopes were high that we could continue this form against fifth placed Athletic.

Less than 2,500 supporters braved the wintry weather to spend a chilly afternoon watching their heroes try to play football, on a pitch that more closely resembled a skating rink, with a light dusting of snow. Subsequently, conditions threatened to spoil the game, but Wrexham adapted themselves and pursued a policy of passing that disorientated the scrappy and disjointed Latics.

The home team were on top in the early stages. According to the scribe in the North Wales Guardian: “[Archie] Burgon was like a terrier on the touchline, worrying the defence whenever the ball came anywhere near him, by his eagerness in seizing on the slightest chance”.

Oldham’s tactics seemed quite cynical, and when Burgon was brought down in the box by Billy Hilton, the crowd clambered for a penalty. However, the referee waved away these claims to the satisfaction of our friend from the North Wales Guardian, who suggests that the Nottingham-born winger simply slipped.

Alfie White got on the scoresheet after 35 minutes, following a free-kick that was given for another assault on Burgon. George Snow delivered a delightful ball from the resulting set-piece, that White headed past Lewis Caunce in the Athletic goal. Logan’s new charges then spent the final 10 minutes of the first half, bombarding the visitors’ goal, Matt Lawrence in particular had two shots in quick succession and was unfortunate to see them saved by Caunce.

The second half failed to produce as much goalmouth action, as the first 45 minutes had. The heavy cloud led to poor light, “which seemed to blur the players’ figures in to mere silhouettes, and make it difficult to distinguish individuals”. Pat McMahon was pressed in to action more often as the game progressed, but there seemed little sting to the visitors’ raids.

The Latics eventually capitalised on a mistake by McMahon late in the game. The Glasgow-born goalkeeper made a fatal mistake by punching away a threatening ball, when it seemed much easier to have gathered the ball safely in his arms. The feeble punch was insufficient to clear the danger, and landed at the feet of Matt Gray who returned a low, rasping drive past McMahon’s despairing dive.

***

 In the Leader, ‘XYZ’ highlights a number of elderly spectators who had attended the game on such a brutally cold day:

“One old player, who gained a Welsh cap fifty-nine years ago was present! Another of the old brigade, who was at Newton Heath in the eighties’, stood in the enclosure and a third sporting veteran who had seen seventy-three, or four winters – Mr T.H. Jones (‘The Artist’) – occupied his ‘box’ seat in the paddock, and smiled at the cold.”

***

I cannot move on without mentioning the other headlines that I discovered while looking through local newspapers from January/February 1937. Several articles tell of Wrexham footballers being embroiled in a licensing prosecution. It turned out that four prominent members of our playing staff – George Snow, Jack Lewis, Alfie White and Ambrose Brown – were caught consuming alcohol after permitted hours at the Horseshoe Inn, Bank Street on the evening of January 16th 1937. This was the same day that we had pushed Manchester City all the way in the third round of the FA Cup.

All the defendants pleaded not-guilty, but after a lengthy retirement the Chairman said that the bench had decided to convict in the cases of all four players. They were each fined 10s 6d for daring to enjoy a post-match pint after 22:00 following a gutsy Cup display. Heaven forbid.

Tinder Surprise

I have recently decided to join the herd of sheep and become a member of Tinder. I don’t know where this will lead, or if I will ever get someone swiping right on my profile, but we live in hope. I guess that you have to be part of the game if you ever want to end up victorious.

The fact that I have led a campaign against the Welsh Government and seen this through to the glorious end, has been really good for my confidence. I now have a secure sense of self-worth, but I am the most popular lonely person that I know. Time to do something about this I think.

For years, I have been a member of dating website Plenty of Fish. This has mainly been a waste of time, but I have decided to copy my dating profile into this blog. This shows my open nature and if it attracts a random surfer then all the better. You never know.

Now excuse me while I try to capture the flying pigs that are perched on my garden fence…

***  

I am a 42 year old writer who thinks life is too short and tries to live each day to the full. I have no patience for time-wasters. I am an extremely loyal person.

I have a BA (hons) in American Studies from the University of Nottingham. I also attended the University of Illinois for a six month exchange period. In 2017, I was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Glyndwr University for my work on disability rights.

I am a published Author and Activist with a great sense of humour.

I have a disability, but that does not define who I am. I am a very out going and confident person who loves to socialise in my spare time. I’d like to think of myself as a gentlemen with a kind heart who is just wanting to find that someone special.

I enjoy all sorts of music from Beethoven to Oasis including Radiohead, Stereophonics, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Frank Sinatra, The Kinks, Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Zutons, Cerys Matthews.

I am looking for someone to share fun and happiness with – no tight definition just a considerate person who agrees that life’s too short.

Memory Match – 12-10-35

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

12-10-35

Wrexham v Tranmere Rovers

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

Wrexham: McMahon, Jones, Hamilton, Lawrence, McMahon, Richards, Mustard, Gardiner, McCartney, Fryer, Gunson

Goalscorers: McCartney (3), Fryer

Tranmere Rovers: Gray, Platt, Fairhurst, Curtis, Newton, Hopkinson, Eden, Macdonald, Bell, Woodward, Urmson

Attendance: 9,497

Following the previous season’s form, many Wrexham fans would have thought that the only way was up. They should have thought again…

Three wins on the bounce at the start of the season, had inspired confidence and performances were not too bad – if a little inconsistent – until the festive period. From Christmas until March, Wrexham failed to win a single game. In fact, they only recorded four more victories during the rest of the season.

Our unpredictable form was beginning to become apparent, when we welcomed Tranmere Rovers to the Racecourse in October. Since the explosive start that we had made to the season, there had been five defeats and two victories in the run up to this game. A week earlier, Gateshead beat us 2-0 at Redheugh Park, thanks to a double from Jack Allen.

Expectations must have been low, going in to this encounter with our cross-border rivals – not only due to our erratic form, but because Rovers were unbeaten in their opening nine games. During this period, they had notched 17 goals in comparison to our modest tally of seven.

Playing with a dazzling sun in their faces, Wrexham quickly got off the mark. Inside right Archie Gardiner, was a constant attacking threat and his decisive through ball left Jack Mustard with an open goal, but he somehow shot over the bar. It was an impressive start by the hosts, and Tranmere goalkeeper Bert Gray made some fine saves before Jack Fryer put the Town in front after 26 minutes.

Tranmere briefly rallied before the break, but Billy Eden’s shot went narrowly wide of the target. The away side still posed a threat, but within only two minutes of the restart Wrexham went further ahead – Charlie McCartney ran in to volley Gordon Gunson’s cross in to the net.

With a two-goal cushion the Blues dared to sit back on their lead, but within seconds Rovers ran clean through to score – only for the effort to be disallowed for an apparent infringement. Visiting players appealed strenuously against this decision, and were obviously determined to get back in the game. Pat McMahon’s goal led a charmed existence, with only the cross-bar saving him on one occasion.

A breakaway on the left led to McCartney making the issue safe, with a spectacular left-foot drive. The Stamford born centre-forward completed his hat-trick near the end of the game, following clever work by Gunson.

***

It is sometimes confusing when reading match reports from the Leader and North Wales Guardian, as they often contain conflicting accounts. According to ‘XYZ’ in the Leader, Tranmere had two goals disallowed, but only one was mentioned in the North Wales Guardian. XYZ reckoned that “twice the ball was placed in the Wrexham net, but the referee declined to award a goal. In the first case Bell… seemed to be definitely offside. In the second instance, I was not so sure where Alfred Jones was at the all-important moment. The referee Mr Isaac Caswell, however, was adamant and he brushed aside the Tranmere players who appealed for a goal, and steadfastly declined to allow it”

***

Wrexham ended the 1935/36 season in an uninspiring 18th position and our cup form was equally disappointing. Barrow dismissed us in the first round of the FA Cup after beating us 4-1 at Holker Street, while we received byes in the Welsh Cup up to the Sixth Round stage where we lost to Rhyl (2-1) at Belle Vue after a replay.

The Third Division North Cup saw us draw 2-2 at the Racecourse against Chester, who punished us in the replay by coasting to a 4-0 victory.

Disability News Service: Failure to extend ILF transition funding would be ‘another nail in coffin’ #SaveWILG

Following the positive news from the Welsh Government in providing an independent reassessment for WILG recipients should they be unhappy with the reassessment from local authorities, comes more uncertainty.

I had been looking forward to spending the rest of my life without having to worry about the ability to live my life independently. However, the following article by John Pring of Disability News Service, underlines the uncertainty that disabled people with high support needs face, due to fears that the buffoons in Westminster will fail to provide the vital grant that former ILF recipients need. 

I would like to ask those who have worked hard to protect recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant, if we will still be protected if the grant from Westminster fails to be continued?

Just when I thought I could relax…

***

The government has failed to ease fears that it plans to scrap a vital grant that has been supporting former users of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) for more than three years.

The four-year Former ILF Recipient Grant was agreed in February 2016, with the government agreeing to provide £675 million over four years to local authorities in England.

The announcement of the grant was a significant victory for disabled activists, whose direct action protests had ensured that the plight of former ILF recipients remained a high-profile issue after the fund’s closure on 30 June 2015.

The recipient grant was not ring-fenced, so councils were not forced to spend it supporting former ILF-users, but it has allowed thousands of disabled people with high support needs to continue to live independently since ILF’s closure.

But disabled activists have now pointed out that the four years of funding is due to end next April, and there has been no mention by ministers of any extension to the grant.

And when Disability News Service contacted the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government this week, it refused to say if an extension of the funding was being considered.

Instead, a spokesperson said: “The upcoming [cross-government] spending review will be our opportunity to look at funding for local authorities in the round and work is well underway to secure the resources and flexibilities councils need to deliver services for communities across the country.”

John Kelly, a former ILF-recipient and prominent campaigner, who lives in south-west London, said that any decision to end the grant would be “another nail in the coffin”.

He said: “I don’t want to be alarmist, but things are so awful at the moment that we could be saying goodbye to our rights to independent living, where the limited options on offer could be going back to living in care homes.

“Our predictions when ILF closed have all come true. We said it would be a postcode lottery. It is.

“We predicted the closure would be a drip, drip erosion of our ability and rights to an independent full life.

“We said that people’s packages may be cut. Some disabled people’s packages have been cut.

“We said local authorities wouldn’t be able to cope with applying the principles of independent living to our lives, because all they would be worried about was very basic care needs, because their budgets have been cut. That’s happening.

“We’re in a crisis. That’s not our words, that’s the directors of social services saying it.

“We knew local authorities wouldn’t be able to cope with the freedoms that ILF did give. Those freedoms are being threatened more and more.

“And we knew that ILF was working and those freedoms should have been given to more disabled people, not less.”

He added: “In the spending review, they must ensure that that money continues, but critically our rights to independent living must also be reconsidered, protected and actually furthered.

“My life is more than a one-hour call to make sure I am fed and watered.”

Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said the government had been “shamed” into providing the transition grant through the efforts of disabled activists.

One example was DPAC launching a direct action protest in the lobby of the House of Commons, days before ILF was due to close, with activists nearly succeeding in breaking into the main Commons chamber during prime minister’s questions.

But she said the transition funding provided by the government, including the four-year extension agreed in 2016, was never ring-fenced.

Clifford said: “Even before the ILF closed some local authorities started making dramatic cuts.

“It has been a complete postcode lottery from area to area.

“If the grant is ending, it will be a terrible blow to former ILF recipients whose local authorities have been protecting their support packages.

“We would be likely to see an even greater level of re-institutionalisation, neglect, denial of opportunity and dehumanisation of people with high support needs living in the community and a greater pressure to go into segregated institutions against their wishes.”

She called on disabled people and allies to support the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance’s Independent Living for the Future campaign, which calls for a new national independent living service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support, and finally make the right to independent living a reality.

ILF was originally funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and when it closed on 30 June 2015 it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.

But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred to councils in England and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland, to cover the period until April 2016.

It then agreed to extend that funding to English councils for another four years.

There were separate arrangements in Scotland and Wales.

Scotland set up its own Scottish Independent Living Fund on 1 July 2015, after the closure of the UK-wide ILF.

In Wales, a temporary replacement for ILF, the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme, ran from July 2015 but was due to close this spring and be replaced by a system of council-funded support.

But the closure was paused, after campaigning by disabled activists and allies, to allow all WILG recipients to request an independent reassessment of their new council support packages, with the Welsh government promising to fund the reassessments and any extra support they might need as a result.

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Kick in the Teeth…

The following statement has been published on the Wrexham Supporters Trust website and as you can imagine I am far from happy for a number of reasons.

Basically everything that I wrote in my previous blog, entitled Making a Stand , still holds true as nothing that we requested in our original resolution has been fulfilled with the building of a hugely unpopular second platform that is light years away from the inclusive nature of disabled facilities recommended by Level Playing Field and similar organisations.

I would also question why the authors of the original resolution, or the DSA itself, were not regularly consulted as the WST undertook their binding duty to fulfil the wishes of club owners. Yet again I feel that the disabled fan base have been let down and fobbed off by a self-interested committee who have little interest in providing equal access for all.

A new acquaintance of mine has summed up the dire situation at the Racecourse perfectly with the following quote:

I have been a Wrexham supporter for 40 years. There have been high points, low points but consistently throughout that 40 years I have felt a sense of belonging. An albeit small part of a common bond that cements me not only to Wrexham Football Club, but my town. I have no doubt that every Wrexham fan feels exactly the same way. That feeling every match day when we get together with our friends and enjoy that unity in supporting the club we ALL love.

Now imagine for a moment that the people who we have entrusted to oversee our joint investment in OUR club feel that not every fan should enjoy that feeling of being included within the Wrexham AFC family. Imagine if you will, that on matchday you are told that you cannot be amongst your friends, that you cannot feel part of that ground swell of anticipation as the team press forward, imagine being told for instance that you cannot feel part of that, that you have to forsake that because you have a disability!

Would any fan without a disability feel happy feeling that in some way that they were being segregated? I guess not, imagine turning up on matchday with your mates and being singled out as not being included. Imagine that this was said to you by a supporters trust whose very purpose was to promote an inclusive community club. Just imagine that, a community fan owned football club who cannot grasp who their community is. An “inclusive” football club who fail to include. Not really the dream that the WST sold us, is it?

Every trust member, every Wrexham AFC fan needs to be aware of what is going on, and every WST board member needs to be aware of their responsibilities. This is not a jolly for them, they have to be held accountable for every decision they make and we all have to keep making them aware of that.

***

The following statement has been published on the Wrexham Supporters Trust website:

Following a meeting with representatives of Wrexham Supporters Trust, Wrexham Association Football Club board, Wrexham AFC Disability Liaison Officer and Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association on Wednesday evening we can inform members work on construction of the new viewing platform will begin in early September.

The new viewing platform will be available for use by both home and away supporters as the location is suitable for either set of supporters to feel a part of the atmosphere with their fellow fans. The platform will be constructed on the land between the Tech End and BKoncepts stand in the stadium. Due to its placement giving a front on view of the pitch, the viewing platform will be suitable for use by supporters with neck and spinal injuries as recommended by Level Playing Field ( https://www.levelplayingfield.org.uk). Representatives of WST and Wrexham Association Football Club have been in regular dialogue with Level Playing Field and they have offered their support for the platform location.

The construction project will also include a refurbishment of the existing toilet blocks in that area to ensure they will be suitable to be used by all supporters accessing the platform. Supporters catering needs will mirror those currently used at Platform 1 in the Hays Travel Stand.

Wrexham Supporters Trust and Wrexham Football Club are committed to improving facilities for all supporters and are currently working on numerous projects to improve the match day experience. We will continue to keep members updated of the progress and would like to take this opportunity to thank our members for their patience in the building of the platform. We are sure every member and supporter of Wrexham AFC is looking forward to seeing the platform in use.

What Do I Get?

The following blog is a random collection of thoughts from a sexually frustrated member of the disabled community in 21st Century Britain. 

I have a lot on my mind.  I will soon be starting my reassessment with an independent social worker, am working on an art exhibition related to the #SaveWILG campaign, am trying to work out how you publish a book on Kindle, and I continue to support all of my many friends and comrades within Welsh Labour Grassroots/Momentum and  Disabled People Against Cuts.

I am doing all of this of my own back, because it is the right thing to do. I have a strong set of principles and beliefs that I continue to live by. Without these, I am nothing. I don’t want to become part of the mainstream and hop onto the capitalist wheel that only goes round in ever decreasing circles and sucks the enjoyment out of everything.

I am lucky that I answer to no one. I cherish my independence and believe that I have achieved so much since leaving Inverness in 2009. The only thing that continues to evade me is the search for sexual intimacy and friendship. This is a particularly difficult topic to discuss on this blog as in no way do I want to come across as an inappropriate pervert who is only after one thing. This is not the case at all…

According to John Donne, “no man is an island”. I am enjoying my independence, but this island I find myself stranded on, does get lonely at times. It is important to underline that in no way am I looking for another wife. I have been there and done that. It was a miserable period in my life and I feel that I have achieved so much more when I have been able to focus on myself.

I guess I want my cake and be able to eat it. What is wrong with this? I believe everyone – male or female – has the right to be free and enjoy life for the precious time we have on this earth. Intimacy is surely a human right for all of us, something that is best explained in the following article by Chuka Nwanazia :

Sex care in the Netherlands – helping the disabled find intimacy

The above is an illuminating article that makes me wish I lived in Holland, rather than backward Britain where attitudes towards disability and sexuality remain almost Victorian in nature. It is not as if I haven’t tried, but keep hitting brick walls and outdated attitudes. Maybe the answer is to try to set up a sex care organisation of my own to provide disabled people across Britain with the intimacy they crave.

This is certainly something to think about while trying to get to sleep in my half empty bed…