I received the first response to my letter to the four main political party leaders in Wales from Kirsty Williams AM of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. I thank her for her prompt and detailed reply to my concerns over the future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG), which I have shared below.
I have a lot of time for the Welsh Liberals thanks to the hard work of Aled Roberts AM who has been a dedicated and empathetic supporter of independent living for disabled people for many years.
Liberal ideals should be applauded, but unfortunately we live in right-wing times and are controlled by a bias media that dismisses or ignores ideas from sources other than the ruling elite.
I remain confused and uncertain over the future of WILG past March 2016, although it is encouraging that Kirsty Williams believes that the Health Minister has stated that he will continue the scheme until March 2017. This would give me a stay of execution and give me time to increase my campaign for independent living, but I won’t believe it until I get written confirmation.
In the meantime I look forward to receiving replies from the other party leaders soon.
Dear Mr Davies
Thank you for your email regarding the Independent Living Allowance. I fully appreciate the concerns of many people such as yourself given the uncertainty over the future of this allowance.
As you say the funding has been guaranteed until March 2016. However, the Health Minister [Mark Drakeford AM] has stated that he will continue the scheme until March 2017 and in a written statement in March of this year announced that if funding continues to come from Westminster based on actual numbers then he would consider setting up a permanent Welsh body to administer the ILF.
The Liberal Democrat General Election manifesto in May included a wish to “deliver Home Rule to each of the nations of a strong, federal United Kingdom by transferring power to control a range of benefits for older people, carers and disabled people.”
It is also our goal to push for improvements in the benefits system for disabled people, based on the principle of one assessment, one budget. This will bring together support like Personal Independence Payment, Employment Support Allowance, a replacement for the Independent Living Fund and health and social care entitlements.
Unfortunately of course we are no longer in position at Westminster to deliver this.
In Wales we will do all we can to ensure a fair and equitable benefits system which is administered on a Wales wide basis and not subject to any Local Authority “postcode lottery.”
Kirsty Williams AM
Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats