Ann James

Closure  of the Welsh Independent Living Grant #SaveWILG

The following article was taken from the excellent blog by Luke Clements – a Professor of Law at Leeds University and a Solicitor. 

We really appreciate all the support from Luke Clements and the formidable Ann James in our bid to #SaveWILG. Let’s hope the Welsh Government actually listen to the mounting critics of their decision to close WILG.

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A case of Wales following in the footsteps of England?

While attention is focused on the countdown to leaving the European Union, one should not lose sight of the impending closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) which has been earmarked for the 31 March 2019.  The impact of the closure is already being felt by people who have transitioned from the WILG to Local Authority funded care and support.

A strenuous and valiant campaign to # SaveWILG has been led by Nathan Davies.

The sustained #SaveWILG campaign has gathered momentum in the final weeks before the proposed closure and has been given greater impetus by a letter from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services.  In this letter Julie Morgan, sets out the outcome of the Deep Dive Review that was put into place by the previous Minister to evaluate the process and outcomes of the re-assessment of WILG recipients who have been re-assessed for Local Authority Services. The letter notes that 157 disabled people (of the 1,174 people who have been re-assessed – i.e. 13%) have suffered a reduction in their care and support provision.

The Minister has since met with representatives of the #SaveWILG Campaign Group who have presented her with a dossier of evidence to reconsider her decision.

The BBC Wales Live news item https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0c0x936/bbc-wales-live-23012019(at 8 minutes 40 seconds) has highlighted the impact on disabled people who have been reassessed and the impact on carers. The long term costs of leaving disabled people with high level care needs with insufficient support was highlighted by Tanni Grey Thompson who supports the continuation of central government funding.

Nathan Davies on behalf of the #SaveWILG  has written an impassioned open  letter  to the First Minister for Wales https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/open-letter-to-first-minister-mark-drakeford-savewilg/  in which he sets out the deep concerns of disabled people who have been moved to local authority care and support, reminding him that during the campaign for the office of First Minister, and in response to a question from the BBC he said,

“… if an independent evaluation shows the new system is not working as well as the old one then I would be prepared to reverse it because this is money intended for a very specific number of people for a very specific purpose”.

One must reluctantly come to the conclusion that the Welsh Government is following in the footsteps of England, albeit three years later.  The closure decision has given scant consideration to the evidence from England on the effect of closure on disabled people and their carers and Wales has been prepared to continue along a trajectory that risks destabilising the established care and support  of WILG recipients.  A critical analysis of the intended closure of the WILG can be found by clicking here.

The Deep Dive Review, referred to by the current Minister for Health and Social Services, was intended to be an independent audit of the process, impact and outcomes of assessing WILG recipients for transition to local authority services. Embedded in the review was the possibility of reversing the decision. If not it was merely a cosmetic exercise.

The detail of the Deep Dive Review has not been made public as yet. There is neither information as to whether local authorities provided each previous recipient of WILG with independent advocacy nor if they offered a carers assessment to relevant carers.

It is an indictment of a review which was supposed to give reassurance to disabled people about the veracity of the evaluation of the process of transition to local authority services, that disabled people were not consulted about their experience of the process  and their satisfaction with the outcomes.  Local Authorities representatives were however consulted and provided reassurance to the Minister that no major implementation issues had come to light.

The letter from the Minister to the #SaveWILG campaign notes that some of the previous recipients of WILG are no longer eligible for social care and have been moved to NHS Continuing Health Care.

Unlike in England, recipients of NHS Continuing Health Care are prevented by statute from having a Direct Payment to arrange care and support. This is a significant impediment to independent living and yet this has not been attended to in legislation (although in England this barrier has been removed).

It now rests with the Minister of Health and Social Services to reverse the decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant and to offer a clear view on how Wales will meet the needs of disabled people with complex needs.

The case note R (CWR) v Flintshire County Council(2018) is a salutary reminder of the experience of a disabled person in need of care and support in Wales under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 and illustrates the understandable fears of disabled people when being assessed for care and support.

The case is also a clear reminder that it is possible to effectively challenge unfair, unlawful or irrational decisions by local authorities.

Closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant: In the cause of equality of provision for disabled people? #SaveWILG

The following article was written by Ann James and Luke Clements. It appears on their superbly informative website which can be viewed here.

We would like to thank Ann and Luke for their research and work in putting together such a comprehensive report.

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Local authorities in Wales are rushing to meet the new September deadline, set by the
Minister for Health, for the re-assessment of the 1,300 or more recipients of the Welsh
Independent Living Grant (WILG). In November 2016 the Welsh Government (following in the footsteps of the English Government) announced the closure of the WILG.

The transfer of care and support of all recipients to local authority provision has been
contentious and has left many recipients anxious and fearful that their right to Independent Living will be eroded by this decision. A strident campaign has been launched by recipients of the WILG (and the previous Independent Living Fund (ILF)) and their families and supporters under the campaign banner of #SWILG.

Closure of the Wales Independent Living Grant

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was established by the Department of Health and
Social Security in 1988 as an independent trust to provide a weekly payment to a
small number of severely disabled people who would have suffered very significant
financial loss as a result of the abolition of supplementary benefits ‘additional
requirements’ payments in that year.4 It is however thought that about one million
disabled people experienced considerable losses as a result of the 1988 changes.

The ILF existed in various forms until it was closed by the Department for Works and
Pensions to new applications in December 2010,  at which time it was providing support
to 46,000 people with complex needs to live in the in the community.7 At that time the UK
Government argued that it was an unsustainable cost; that it perpetuated an unfair funding of services to disabled people; that distribution of ILF was inconsistent across the four nations and within the four nations; and that the advent of direct payments and individual budgets in England obviated the need for ILF.8 The ILF closed in June 2015 and the funding was devolved to English local authorities and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments

The WILG was set up in 2015 following a consultation exercise and gave the Welsh
Government a period of moratorium to decide on how to proceed
.
The options before the Minister were:

• the extension of current arrangements;
• an arrangement with a third party to continue to provide payments to recipients in
Wales, and;
• to transfer the responsibility and funding to local authorities in Wales over a two-year
transitional period so as to eventually provide support through nIn November 2016, it was announced that the WILG would close in March 2019 and that all recipients would be assessed by their Local Authority for care and support under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act (SSWBA) 2014 by March 2018. The March deadline was extended to–September 2018 to enable local authorities to complete their assessments of WILG recipients.

The #SaveWILG campaigning group led by Nathan Davies continue to fight a vigorous campaign to persuade Welsh Government to retain the WILG and grow the provision in a similar fashion to Scotland.

The Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out in advance of the closure decision in Wales conveys a Panglossian view, that is to say an overly optimistic view of what the 2014 Act will deliver following the closure of the WILG in 2019.  It also fails to acknowledge and consider the potential adverse effect on individuals who may have significant changes to provision and how this will be addressed to ensure the recipients right to Independent Living.

The rational for the closure of the WILG is in keeping with the UK Government’s arguments for the closure of the ILF. Welsh Government argues that:

  • the continuation of the WILG will perpetuate a ‘two tier’ system of provision and that this is unfair on those who receive care and support solely through their local authority.
  • the cost of maintaining a Welsh version of the Independent Living Fund is financially unsustainable as money devolved to Wales from the UK Government’s closure does not have the capacity to respond to future need of recipients nor allow for the opening of the WILG to new applicants.
  • the SSWBA 2014 and Direct Payment provision will enable and support independent living and that the need for a discrete fund is not required.

 

Transition from the WILG to local authority provision: are there messages from England?

The analysis and studies of the impact of the closure on ILF in England are bound to give concern to WILG recipients in Wales. The Shakespeare and Porter 2016 study, which focused on the impact of the transition from ILF to local authority support, found high levels of concern and anxiety about Local Authority processes and provision during this period. The Department of Work and Pensions Post-Closure Review,found both positive and negative experiences of the transition. Those who had retained their provision or had an increase in provision or a slight reduction reported satisfaction without any loss to their independence. For those who had experienced a significant reduction there was a loss of independence, greater restrictions to their independence and an increased reliance on unpaid carers. There was also a concomitant impact on the emotional and physical health of these participants.

An emerging theme from the research and reviews is the post-code lottery faced by previous recipients of ILF. The finding in Inclusion London’s  review confirmed this factor and found in addition inconsistent practice in relation to NHS Continuing Health Care (NHS CHC) referrals for funding and failings in the implementation of the Care Act 2014 which left services users without essential provision.

Many disabled people who will be transiting from the WILG will be legally eligible for NHS CHC funding or at least NHS joint funding. In addition to the well-documented procedural hurdles they encounter in obtaining this support, in Wales a more troubling challenge exists.  The Welsh Government has made it clear that it will not permit direct payments to be made for people eligible for NHS CHC (unlike in England such payments can be made.  Many LHBs appear reluctant to facilitate direct payments via a trust arrangement (often referred to as an Independent User Trust (IUT)) even though the High Court has held this to be lawful (indeed necessary in certain situations).

Anecdotally it is also reported that LHBs are placing obstacles in direct payments being made where there is a joint funding arrangement even though the Framework guidance makes it clear that where ‘an individual has existing Direct Payment arrangements, these should continue wherever and for as long as possible within a tailored joint package of care’.

 

Concluding Comments

About 1,300 people will transfer from the WILG to local authority care and support under the SSWBA 2014 by March 2019. Many of the recipients and their carers are concerned that their right to Independent Living will be compromised as local authorities re-assess and establish their eligibility to services.

The R (CWR) v Flintshire County Council (2018) Case Note illustrates the challenges that a disabled person and his/her family can face in Wales as they seek to access care and support. This case note does however, highlight the statutory requirements for a comprehensive assessment of disabled people in need of care and support and their carers. It demonstrates too, that assessments undertaken in a cavalier manner can be challenged and local authorities held accountable for their assessment, determination of eligibility and care provision. This may provide some reassurance to WILG recipients although it is perhaps questionable how many will have the energy, knowledge and courage to pursue this option.

While the term ‘well-being’ may be used in a perfunctory manner in discussion about social care, the definition in section 2 SSWBA 2014 is comprehensive and includes control over day to day life (s.2(4) (a)) and participation in work (s.2(4)(b)).

Clements notes that section 6(3)(b) stresses ‘the importance of promoting the adult’s independence where possible’ and argues that this is amplified and bolstered by para 56 of the Part 2 Code of Practice (General Function) which states that the well-being duty ‘includes key aspects of independent living as expressed in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People in particular Article 19 which recognizes the right of disabled people to ‘full inclusion and participation in the community’; to choose where they live and with whom they live; and to have access to a range of community support services ‘to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community’. Assessment, eligibility determinations and decisions on how to meet need will need to be infused by these principles.

R (JF) v. Merton LBC highlighted the requirement for an assessment to have regard to the dimensions of well-being set out in stature.

A comprehensive overview of assessment, eligibility and meeting needs can be found at www.lukeclements.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Wales-SS-Well-being-Act-26.pdf page 9.

This ‘post’, written by Ann James and Luke Clements, appears in Rhydian: Wales Social Welfare Law on-line (2018) 23-26: to access this click here.

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R (Luke Davey) v. Oxfordshire CC Court of Appeal 2017 #SaveWILG

The following article is from a website produced by Luke Clements who is a Professor of Law at Leeds University and a Solicitor.

This is an invaluable piece of writing from Mr Clements who would certainly a good person to speak with and have as an ally for our campaign. I remember Sheila Meadows OBE mentioned the work that Mr Clements had been doing many years ago, but he recently came to my attention again following an email from Ann James who has a professional and personal interest in Social Care in Wales. She set up this journal with Luke Clements last Autumn and it is a resource which enables critical discussion and analysis of social welfare law in Wales. It also provides exposition of  the SS&WB (Wales) Act 2014, and provides briefings on aspects of the law.

It is really encouraging to have received an email from someone so knowledgeable at the start of a very important period for the #SaveWILG campaign.

Without further ado here is the excellent article that I will also email to all of my campaign team as we prepare for the Welsh Labour Conference on April 20-22.

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People in Wales in receipt of the Independent Living Grant, the Welsh Government’s interim measure to soften the blow of the closure the Independent Living Fund (ILF) would have followed R (Luke Davey) v Oxfordshire CC and the subsequent appeal with interest in the hope that the Court of Appeal would overturn the earlier High Court decision.

The Welsh Government has confirmed that the Independent Living Grant will continue in Wales until March 2018 and in the subsequent year all those who previously received the ILF will be re- assessed and have their care and support provided for by their local authority.

It is likely that many former ILF recipients will see attempts to reduce their care and support funding in the same way as Luke Davey.

In this case we have seen the High Court loathed to strike down the Local Authority decision as being irrational and the Court of Appeal found no reason to interfere with the decision of the High Court.

One should take heart that Davey does not give local authorities a carte blanche – and it should most certainly not be taken as creating an open season to cut services. It decides that the well-being duty is a legally enforceable obligation and that once a support plan has been agreed local authorities must provide the funds to meet every aspect of that plan. It also states – in terms – that once there is evidence that a direct payment is insufficient to secure suitably qualified carers then the local authority must address this by increasing the amount paid.

Davey is a case ‘on its facts’: disheartening and quite possibly a personal tragedy for Luke Davey. Cases of this kind come along infrequently but they do not upend the social care legal order.

For us in Wales, the excellent Merton decision and the facts of the Davey case, provides the basis for disabled people to expect an assessment that gives primacy to their well-being outcomes identified by the person being assessed or their advocates. It highlights that Local Authorities need to provide a rational for any changes in provision that will stand up to the test of irrationality should it be challenged in the Courts.

The transition to local authority provision for previous recipients of the ILF is not an automatic signal for a reduction in care provision for the individual who is eligible for care and support.