BBC News

BBC Report: Mark Drakeford may overturn Independent Living Fund changes

The following article was published on BBC Wales News Online  and this blogger takes no credit or responsibility for anything written below.

Welsh Labour leadership candidate Mark Drakeford has told supporters he is willing to reverse changes to funding for disabled people if there is evidence they are losing out.

Councils have been put in charge of support for 1,300 former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

But research by BBC Wales found that about 100 people had care packages cut.

Mr Drakeford blamed the UK government for breaking up “that part of the welfare state”.

The money was protected until earlier this year when the Welsh Government scrapped its Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG), and passed the responsibility to councils.

The ILF was provided by the UK government until 2015, when it was transferred to English councils and devolved governments.

Research by the BBC Wales Live programme showed about 100 of the 600 recipients who have been reassessed have had care packages cut.

In response on Wednesday, the minister in charge, Huw Irranca-Davies, said he did not believe there would be any “losers” as a result of changes.

Mr Irranca-Davies has previously said he will not “rethink the policy in its entirety.”

But at a leadership campaign event in Blackwood on Thursday, Mr Drakeford 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”.

He blamed the UK government for “breaking up that part of the welfare state”, saying the ILF had “more or less disappeared” in England.

 

“I do understand that people who rely on the Independent Living Fund say to me when it was in a special grant we knew it was there and we had confidence that money would come to us,” Mr Drakeford said.

“The money is the same as it always was and most local authorities I believe are doing a decent job of continuing to hand the money on.

“But we are beginning to pick up information that in some places that is not happening and the money isn’t going to ILF recipients in the way that it would have been last year.”

Huw Irranca-Davies

 

Mr Irranca-Davies had agreed to the evaluation, he said, adding that it would be carried out by someone “who is nothing at all to do with local authorities or the Welsh Government”.

If evidence shows the payments work as well as before “then I think we should carry on with what we are doing now”, Mr Drakeford said.

“But if the evidence is the opposite – that the money isn’t reaching people for whom it is intended – then I think I will be prepared to look again and go back to the system that the recipients of ILF have had confidence in up until now.”

The promise drew applause from a small audience of supporters at the event in Blackwood where Mr Drakeford laid out plans to help the least well-off in society.

He said he would be prepared to set targets to reduce the number of children taken into care and promised he would appoint a cabinet minister responsible for housing.

Campaigner Nathan Lee Davies with Jeremy Corbyn

 

Welsh Labour’s Spring conference passed a motion supporting a campaign to reinstate the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

‘Save WILG’ has been run by Labour member Nathan Lee Davies and has had backing from Welsh Labour politicians and Welsh Labour Grassroots – the Welsh arm of the left-wing Momentum campaign group.

But the Welsh Government has pressed ahead with the transfer of the money and the responsibility to local authorities.

More on this story

 

Wrexham council proposal must be scrapped

I am stressed beyond compare. Yesterday, I was stuck in a waste-of-time meeting all morning and I missed an important request from ITV Wales to be interviewed today for my opinions on the scandalous proposal by Wrexham council to introduce charges for Blue Badge car parking in the town centre.

More on this story can be read here:

BBC NEWS: Wrexham council planning charges for disabled parking

Unfortunately, ITV Wales missed the chance to speak to me, but they are not going to stop me from having my say on this blog and in letters to the local and national press.

Disabled people have been unfairly targeted by penny pinching local authorities and government for too long now. Wrexham council stand to make £25,000 per annum by introducing such charges to Blue Badge holders. This is a miniscule amount in the grand scheme of things, as it is not even as much as a weekly salary for a decent Premier League football player.

It will only serve to increase isolation and segregation. Many disabled people are already struggling to make ends meet and will be unable to afford extra parking charges. As far as I know, parking charges do not apply to the Chief Executive or his official minions at the council. Equality is a distant dream…

I would also like to remind the council of their legal duties under the Equality Act to avoid disproportionate impact through equality impact assessments. There are also numerous sources of information which tell us that disabled people are being hit disproportionately through ideological austerity, including reports from the European Human Rights Commission.

I, for one, would refuse on principle to pay for Blue Badge parking for the same reason I refuse to pay for the Care Call System that I used to have in my home. I needed this system due to my progressive, genetic disability, but I can no longer access this service as Wrexham Council unfairly decided to charge for a service that they know I need. Since having Care Call uninstalled I have had no option but to call the costly ambulance service on two occasions during the night time when I receive zero care or support.

Wrexham council have also threatened me with a reduction in my care hours should we lose the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). This grant pays for my package of care along with Direct Payments from the council. Back in 2015, I was told that without WILG my hours of care and support would reduce from an already inadequate 86.5 hours per week to a totally useless 31 hours.

The actions of our Tory/Independent council deserve to be shared. You need to know what a repressive shower you’ve unwittingly elected and should not be distracted by new developments such as the soon-to-be-opened Arts Hub, while the homes and hungry freeze on our streets.

In the meantime, we can only keep fighting because at the end of the day, this is our multicultural town and community…

The Man on the Telly

I made my TV debut today and have spent the day enjoying plaudits from friends and family who are all very proud of me for coming across well.

BBC Wales Today: My TV Debut

After conducting the interview a few days before I flew into a blind panic as I’m my own worse enemy. On Facebook I wrote:

Been interviewed by the BBC. I suppose it went OK, but I’m never happy with my TV performances. It was all over in about two minutes and really I could have talked for 30 minutes about how Welsh Labour have sold former ILF recipients down the river. I did manage to have a go at Welsh Labour though so I shouldn’t worry too much.

Why didn’t I say this? Why didn’t I say that? I had a sleepless night…

***

The report was actually well-produced and presented with my name being thrown about as a well-known disability campaigner across Wales. I’m more than happy to accept this mantle and my five-foot Wrexham AFC badge was clearly visible on the wall behind me [Surely this makes me the most exciting talent to be associated with the club in the last couple of seasons?].

So job done, surely?

Yes, but..

I’ve never fully faced and accepted my own disability and it was a struggle to watch myself fighting to put a sentence together while sitting in a powered wheelchair. This is not how it’s supposed to be. I could see that Friedreich’s Ataxia is eating away at me, limiting my abilities and proving a tough opponent. This was difficult viewing for me as although I embrace and celebrate difference in others, I can’t accept my own.

Still, yet again I overcame the odds to put words into the mouths of BBC reporters and presenters while adding to my reputation as an activist who is not afraid to speak out.

In 2017, I will learn to accept Friedreich’s Ataxia is embedded in my body and even though it may have won a few internal battles, it’ll NEVER rob me of my spirit and win the war.

Birmingham’s Big Hoot owls raise over £500k for charity

TAKEN FROM THE BBC NEWS WEBSITE

An auction of giant decorated owl statues, which were part of a city-wide art exhibition, has raised £508,000.

The Big Hoot art trail has seen 89 owls, 5ft 5ins (165cm) tall, dotted around Birmingham for 10 weeks.

The statues were designed by artists, celebrities, community groups and schools.

Money raised from the sale at Thinktank, Birmingham’s science museum, is to go to the city’s children’s hospital for a new rare diseases unit.

A statue called Re-Tail by internationally-recognised graffiti artist Temper attracted the highest amount, £18,000, the hospital said.

Ozzy’s Owl, which was co-created by Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne and another artist, fetched £12,500.

Osbourne gave a video message saying how much he had enjoyed designing it and having the statue put in Birmingham.

Dr Hoot, based on Dr Who’s Tardis, fetched £10,500.

Paul Larkin, a market trader in Birmingham, was part of a group which paid £8,500 for an owl called Unity Within Diversity.

He said “traders from Birmingham rag market all pitched in together” to buy it “for such a good cause” – the hospital – and the owl would go in the market entrance.

Asked if he had a big shed at home, Mr Larkin said: “No. This is better off in the market… It’s going to stay in Birmingham. The people of Birmingham can enjoy it.”

Following the 10 weeks, the decorated owls, individually designed by professional and amateur artists, went on public display again at Millennium Point on Saturday and Sunday before the auction on Thursday evening.

An app to accompany the project was downloaded over 13,000 times and people have scanned the owls with phones more than 323,000 times, organisers have said.

Speaking at the auction, hospital director of fundraising Louise McCathie said: “It’s just been outstanding. We knew it was taking off, we knew it was big,