Brexit

More Questions than Answers…

It has been an exciting period for the #SaveWILG campaign after we made a huge breakthrough a couple of weeks ago. We are now in a position of working with Welsh Labour rather than campaigning against them, which is a position we are all happy with.

BREAKING NEWS… #SaveWILG

WREXHAM MAN’S DISABILITY CAMPAIGN WILL LEAD TO THOUSANDS OF LIVES BEING IMPROVED.

However, amidst all the congratulatory messages and kind words that I have received in the past few weeks, it has become clear that there is still much work to be done in order to protect independent living for WILG recipients.

While it is clearly a positive that the transition period has been paused and WILG recipients are now entitled to a independent social worker to help decide on their care package, there remains much uncertainty and confusion about the next steps. At the moment, WILG recipients – including myself – are stuck in limbo land between clueless local authorities and a Welsh Government that has to focus on Brexit. 

In the meantime, 1,300 or so disabled people with high care and support needs are suffering. We have every reason to be proud of what we have achieved, but there cannot be any celebration until each one of us are living the lives we deserve to be.

In the days since Deputy Health Minister Julie Morgan announced her new and exciting plans I have received many emails from confused recipients who want to know what happens now. People have been going through stress and worry about the loss of WILG since November 2016 and the confusion remains.

We need a clear timetable from the Welsh Government of when we can expect our reassessments to take place as people are continuing to struggle without adequate support. A timetable would allow people to plan their lives and provide them with tangible hope for the future.

Looking at the statement produced by the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services on February 12, I personally think that every WILG recipient should have a firm offer of a reassessment under the ‘revised arrangements’ with an explanation as to why this is happening. The onus should not be on the recipient to request a reassessment. Those who have had a reduction or had their care provision frozen should all be reassessed under the tripartite system.

Mark Drakeford’s new Welsh Labour brand, should be proud of listening to the concerns of disabled people and their families and acting accordingly,  but they need to act urgently to put their promises into action and provide us all with answers to our questions. We are doing our best to understand that the wheels of politics do not tend to run quickly, but unfortunately patience is not a virtue that WILG recipients can afford. 

We have written to the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services and await her response with anticipation. 

Thanks to Wikipedia for the following:

John Lester “Johnny” Nash, Jr. (born August 19, 1940) is an American reggae and pop music singer-songwriter, best known in the US for his 1972 hit, “I Can See Clearly Now“. He was also one of the first non-Jamaican singers to record reggae music in KingstonJamaica.[1]

Our opponents are the Tories, not each other

Just received the following email from Jeremy Corbyn and I feel that it needs sharing as widely as possible in the face of disloyal MP’s and a hostile mainstream media.

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Dear Nathan,

Our country is in crisis and needs a Labour Government.

Our opponents are the Tories, not each other, and it’s disappointing that a small group of MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945.

Labour won people over on a programme for the many not the few – redistributing wealth and power, taking vital resources into public ownership, investing in every region and nation, and tackling climate change.

The Conservative Government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a credible alternative, keeping all options on the table, including a public vote to stop a disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit.

When millions are facing the misery of Universal Credit, rising crime, homelessness and poverty, now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all. For those millions the only solution is a Labour Government that will invest in and transform our country.

That’s why we must be united – not for ourselves but to deliver a Labour Government.

Yours,

Signed, Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party

Nightmare on Finney Close

When I told my Social Worker that I was in need of 24/7 care in my own home, she actually laughed at the prospect of anyone in my local authority receiving such a level of care and support. Read the following paragraphs and you might discover why I NEED round the clock assistance to function as part of my community.

***

22.00: I was struggling to stay awake as I finished off my latest email to the Welsh Government, something that I knew in my heart of hearts would probably be ignored again. The #SaveWILG campaign has come so far and achieved a great deal, but still those in control refuse to listen and take note to Welsh citizens. The fight continues, but it would have to wait until the morning because I could hardly keep my eyes open…

22.45: Comfortably in bed, I watched the news on television and caught up with the latest chapter in the Brexit escapade. I am pretty confident that I could do a better job than the majority of politicians braying in the House of Commons. The success I have made out of the #SaveWILG campaign proves this, although as always I get by with a little help from my friends…

00.00: I am watching Porridge on Yesterday yet again, as I am too scared to go to sleep as I know I will probably wake up again in an uncomfortable position. This has happened far too frequently over the last 6 months and I have had to call my dad to straighten my legs, re position me in bed and rescue the duvet which often falls to the floor as I wriggle and fight to get comfortable. Hopefully, if Fletcher and company can keep me awake a little longer, I will be out for the count until the crack of dawn.

02.50: I’ve been asleep since about 00.30 but being awaken by massive cramp in my knees as my legs have bent during sleep. It is most painful and I just want to fully straighten my legs, but I can’t. After much effort, I managed to free my legs from my groin area and get them into a 45 degree angle which is as much as I can muster. In doing so I have managed to slide down the bed and my pillow has fallen on the floor. I shut my eyes determined to sleep some more as I can’t call my dad again…

04.36: I wake up again. My legs are in agony. I check the time on my mobile and hope it is 06.00 or 07.00 so that I don’t have to wait too long for my staff to come in at 09.00. I look at mobile and am shocked to see that it is only 04.40. There is nothing I can do, but call my dad. This is far from ideal as he has arthritis in both hands and is in agony whenever he is having to assist me but those at WCBC do not care about my dignity or the dignity of my carers. It is freezing outside and my dad finds his way to my house – a five minute drive away – in perilous conditions. It takes him about 20 minutes to reach my house where he proceeds to straighten my legs, re position me in the bed and give me some paracetamol, which I swallow with water. I hope this medication will send me to sleep and I hope I wont be woken until my PA arrives in the morning.

07.00: Not again. I’m awake this time because my bladder is full. I reach for the light switch but my dad has moved it and forgotten to replace it – something that can be forgiven at 5 in the morning. It is still pitch black, but I really need to use my urinal. The trouble is I can’t see at all. I manage to sit up and grab hold of the urinal, but it is a real struggle to get it in the right position. I am too far gone to be able to calm myself down and resist the inevitable… another two hours until assistance arrives means lying helpless in damp and demoralising conditions. On the plus side, the Welsh Government are soon to be washing their hands of their responsibilities and local authorities across Wales can screw disabled people for all they can by providing them with inadequate care and support whilst squirrelling away funds meant for the most vulnerable in society.

I am OK now after my PA came to the rescue, but one thing is for sure – this sort of situation can’t go on for much longer. WCBC MUST face up to the evidence that I have gathered from my GP, Neurologist, Urologist, District Nurses, Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapist that I need constant support in my own home for my physical and mental well-being. This shouldn’t be such a battle and that is why we need to retain and improve the Welsh Independent Living Grant as not all people who receive WILG can stand up for their rights in the way that I can.

I just want my home to become a comfortable place for me to exist. At the moment, I think I would be better off being banged up in HMP Slade and sharing a cell with Fletcher and Godber…

porridge-porridge-28475322-456-301

 

 

Open Letter to First Minister Mark Drakeford #SaveWILG

Dear Mark

This is an incredibly worrying time for all disabled people and their families across Wales.  There are only 63 days left before the Welsh Independent Living Grant is due to end, leaving individuals at the mercy of cash-strapped Local Authorities  who seem intent on cutting vital support packages across the board with no guarantee that further cuts will not follow.

The fact that this neo-liberal policy is still being forced through by a Welsh Labour Government is unbelievable: frankly, it makes it even worse. I always thought that I would be protected from the brutality shown by the Tories in Westminster, because I live in a land governed by a social, democratic party. Unfortunately, the Party that I know and love seem to have lost their way under the previous leadership, which is why I was overjoyed by your election victory to become our new First Minister.

I am confident that Welsh Labour is now travelling in the right direction towards a socialist future which you championed during the Leadership Hustings. In an interview with the BBC you also said the following about the future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant:

…”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”.

The deep-dive that was recently undertaken by the Welsh Government, to analyse the performance of Local Authorities relating to the WILG transition, is full of errors and quite frankly not worth the paper it is written on. How can an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the end of WILG be conclusive without having consulted disabled people who will be affected? My comrades dismantled the deep-dive results in our recent meeting with Deputy Health Minister, Julie Morgan AM.

The closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant is such a destructive move to disabled people’s rights and I do not believe that a progressive Party such as ours should be going down such an avenue.

#SaveWILG campaigners have presented the Deputy Health Minister with an 80 page dossier of evidence against the closure of WILG. In addition, we have the backing of Welsh Labour members who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Clwyd South motion to save WILG at Conference in April 2018. I believe you pledged to listen to the voices of members during the Hustings and they have certainly been vocal on this subject. We have also had support from Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP’s such as Chris Williamson, Ian Lucas and Chris Ruane. Film Director Ken Loach also supports our campaign.

Criticism of Welsh Government policy on Independent Living has also been made by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD):

However, various disability organisations in Wales had advocated setting up a national independent living scheme in Wales as aligning with a citizen directed system of support rather than the approach now adopted by the Welsh Government.

We recommend that the CRPD Committee asks:

Can the Welsh Government explain:

How it reached a decision to move all ILF recipients to normal social care provision from 31 March 2019, rather than setting up a national independent living scheme?

How it will ensure protection for article 19 rights of those formerly eligible for the Independent Living Fund after 31 March 2019?

I do not believe Welsh Labour should be having to defend themselves against the UN as I know your personal intentions are to ensure universal equality throughout Wales, but now is the time to take positive action and start listening to Welsh Labour members and disabled people and their families.

Personally, I have been treated abysmally by my Local Authority. I find myself in the position of having to teach my social worker about the Social Services and Well being Act. I am not being allowed to use my Direct Payments to meet my Personal Outcomes as described in the SSWBA and feel this vindicates my insistence on the need to maintain the tripartite system when deciding on and funding future care provision.

The reassessment process – which was originally due to end by September 30th 2018 and shows no sign of being completed soon – is really having a negative impact on my physical and mental health. When I first met with my social worker at the end of November 2018, she laughed when I suggested that I would need 24/7 support. She declared that no one in Wrexham gets such a thorough level of support [whether they require it or not?]. She said that even if we applied for such levels of care and support, that the panel would not accept such a request. This is a total departure from what the SSWBA promises. There is definitely no co-production going on and Local Authorities seem to be treating disabled people as a burden.

Without the overnight support I need to fully function in society, I have to stop drinking at 8pm at night, get ready for bed at 10pm and cannot wear my hand splints or use my leg supports during long and uncomfortable nights. I often find myself having to call on my 68-year-old father to assist me in the night, even though he lives a 10 minute drive away and has arthritis in both hands.

As Tanni Grey-Thompson said on Wales Live (23/01/19), it will cost the Welsh Government more in the long term to push ahead with this strategy of devolving funding to Local Authorities. It just makes no sense whatever way you look at it. Disabled people and their families never wanted such a situation to develop as was indicated in the original consultation that took place during 2015/16. I have been asking to see the consultation documents since October 2017, but I keep being directed towards a summary document. We all know that a summary can be manipulated and edited to suit the publishers. If the summary is accurate why can I not access original consultation responses?

It is often claimed by the Welsh Government that the original stakeholder group were united in agreement with the closure of WILG and the transferring of funds to local authorities.This is quite simply untrue. The members of the stakeholder group that I have spoken to have stated their frustrations with the whole process: “I disagreed with one side of the room almost continuously,“ and “I would be amazed to see minutes of a meeting where all participants agreed that passing this WILG over to the local authority beyond the ring-fenced period was the way forward.”  Others have said “I used to go home from all these stakeholder groups thinking we had agreed certain things to discover that was not what had been recorded.” and other activists argue that many officials and civil servants do not actually “know what Independent Living means – they still think ‘independent’ means managing without support”.

It would greatly assist me in understanding Welsh Government’s decision making process on this issue if the minutes of all of the meetings of the stakeholder advisory group can be provided, and I will submit a Freedom of Information Act request if necessary.

I could go on and on, but time is against me and I would merely be repeating much of what can be read in my attached dossier of evidence. At over 80 pages long, I believe it is a comprehensive guide as to why the Welsh Independent Living Grant should be maintained indefinitely. The dossier includes information of the success of the Independent Living Schemes set up in Scotland and Northern Ireland that shows the lack of imagination shown by the Welsh Government compared to our neighbours.

Please note that this letter is written with the deepest respect towards yourself and your cabinet members. I am a loyal Welsh Labour supporter and I have belief in the 21st Century socialism that you intend on developing. The problem is that we cannot wait any longer and the changes need to be made immediately. There is no sense in a proud socialist Government copying the exact same model rolled out by the Conservative Party in Westminster.  Moreover, if the original decision was wrong then your team needs to have the courage to simply reverse it.  Tinkering with the detail in a bid to spare the blushes of your predecessors is just not acceptable: in fact it’s morally dishonest.

I know that you are extremely busy with Brexit and other pressing concerns, but disabled people with high care and support needs across Wales are in need of your leadership now. I look forward to meeting you again in the near future and should you require any more information from the #SaveWILG campaign, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Wishing you strength and solidarity

In hope…

Nathan Lee Davies
#SaveWILG campaign

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

Brexit is Not the Only Game in Town #SaveWILG

I am playing a waiting game at the moment. While the world and its Mother seems to be obsessed with Brexit and the future of Theresa May, I am continuing my fight to save the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

It is a difficult environment in which to get heard, but I have every confidence in the new First Minister Mark Drakeford. The #SaveWILG campaign team are waiting on tenterhooks to see if the Cabinet reshuffle will effect the politicians dealing with the WILG transition process. If it does, we will be hoping that the next Minister working on WILG will be more communicative than his/her predecessors.

It is a really exciting time in politics, but for those of us at the mercy of the decisions of Ministers it is a very stressful and often dehumanising position to be in. Last night, I went to bed earlier than usual due to the shortage of hours of support at my disposal. I wanted to make sure I could Tweet, #SaveWILG messages throughout Wales Live. In preparation for this, I spent the afternoon writing Tweets with my PA. Unfortunately, Windows 10 decided to update whilst I was eating tea and therefore I lost all 20 Tweets. I didn’t discover this until Wales Live was underway, but I still chose to try to send some Tweets by writing them myself. I managed 3 Tweets in the 45 minutes that Wales Live was broadcast.

I can’t explain how frustrating it is when your body will not do as instructed. These feelings are made worse because I am one of 1300 people whose lives are being undervalued and disrespected by the Welsh Government and Local Authorities. My evening was spoiled because of this and several other issues that would not have been a problem if I had the necessary support in place. I am talking about issues such as having to stop drinking at 20:00, not being able to adjust my heating or open a window, lying in agony without being able to straighten my legs, struggling to use a urinal due to poor dexterity and generally feeling abandoned.

The Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care has stated that this is just a problem confined to one or two local authorities. He is mistaken. The evidence we have collected through our Freedom of Information requests and the emails that we receive clearly show that this is a nationwide problem. I am hoping to receive permission soon to share another story from a WILG recipient who lives in South Wales, this will appear on the WILG Voices page of this blog.

This is a crucial time for the future of Independent Living and Disability Rights in Wales and the UK. I just hope that Mark Drakeford and his Cabinet do not lose sight of this amidst the chaos of Brexit.

Nathan

 

Don’t You Forget About Me #SaveWILG

This is a Tweet that I composed last night amidst all the political shenanigans that are dominating news headlines and office conversations across the UK:

 Brexit may seem like the only game in town, but while politicians squabble over our withdraw from the European Union, disabled people with high care and support needs across Wales are in danger due to the loss of WILG.

I have also added a few paragraphs from Wikipedia about Simple Minds. I do hope there are no copyright issues over the use of this tune as I am giving the writers full credit and not claiming any credit for myself. In addition it is for the benefit of a very worthy cause as we attempt to #SaveWILG.

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Simple Minds are a Scottish rock band. They formed in Glasgow in 1977 and became the most commercially successful Scottish band of the 1980s.[3] They achieved five UK Albums chart number one albums during their career and have sold an estimated 70 million albums.[4] Despite various personnel changes, they continue to record and tour.

The band scored a string of hit singles, becoming best known internationally for their 1985 hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me)“, from the soundtrack of the film The Breakfast Club. Their other more prominent hits include “Alive and Kicking” and “Belfast Child” (UK #1). In 2016, they received the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors.[5]

The core of the band is the two remaining founding members, Jim Kerr (vocals, songwriting) and Charlie Burchill (guitars, keyboards after 1990, other instruments, songwriting). The other current band members are Ged Grimes (bass guitar), Sarah Brown (vocals), Gordy Goudie (guitar), Cherisse Osei (drums) and Catherine AD(vocals, keyboards, guitar). Former members include bass guitarist Derek Forbes, keyboardists Mick MacNeil and Andy Gillespie, drummers Brian McGee and Mel Gaynor(who first joined the band in 1982).

***

With sincere thanks to the prolific Brian Hilton for creating this meme.

image1 (6)

English Translation of article published in Junge Welt magazine – The Legacy of Brexit for Disabled People in the UK

Taken from Disabled People Against Cuts website

It’s difficult if not impossible to adequately define the outcomes of Brexit for anyone living in the UK let alone for disabled people. The result where a small minority of the electorate voted to leave the EU has so far caused massive political turmoil but no concrete proposals as the new unelected Prime Minister, Teresa May, thrashes around wildly clutching at straws.

What is certain is that the promise of an extra £350 million a week for our National Health Service has not and will not be forthcoming. In fact this promise promoted widely by the Leave campaigners in the Tory Party and a reason why many UK citizens were conned into voting to leave turns out to have been an outright lie.

Many of the more deluded disabled people who also voted to leave did so simply because they wanted to punish David Cameron the then Tory Prime Minister who was stupid enough to call a referendum in the first place. Having resigned first as Prime Minister and then a little later as a Member of Parliament I’m sure the multi-millionaire Cameron is indeed ‘suffering’. What is certain that disabled people will.

As soon as the outcome of the referendum was known Cameron together with a whole host of Leave politicians turned their backs on guiding the UK through the Brexit process – no doubt so they don’t get blamed for the ensuing disaster.

The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not want to leave the EU and in the case of Northern Ireland the Good Friday agreement and peace process means that there must be a parliamentary vote if Northern Ireland is to leave the EU. There is also a legal challenge to seek a parliamentary vote on Brexit as the outcome of the referendum is advisory only. So chaos reigns as the UK population dangle precipitously in limbo.

As well as months spent focussed on the referendum campaign, the immediate aftermath was an election for a new Tory Party Leader and a second internal party election to try to remove the previously democratically elected Labour Party leader. During these many months of political bat and ball and trips around the country by various politicians the rights of disabled people have largely been forgotten especially by the media. Serious campaigning has been put back months as the political focus has been firmly placed elsewhere.

On a plus point the fascist party UKIP which very much led the Brexit campaign on an anti-immigration stance have also fallen into disarray and appear on the verge of oblivion. There have already been several elections for a new leader with none of them being successful in finding someone who stayed more than a couple of weeks. As the old British saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining”

What is certain for the UK is that Brexit has led to a massive increase in race-related hate crime and there is no doubt those who perpetrate these crimes feel their actions are vindicated by the vote to leave. Xenophobia is rampant in parts of the country fuelled by some of the media as well as the Brexit campaign rhetoric. Disability hate crime has been rising year on year since 2010 in part thanks once again to the media-fuelled ‘useless eater’ and scrounger propaganda. For disabled people as well as those perceived to not be British hatred and abuse is only likely to increase in the post-Brexit frenzy that currently pervades the country.

Since Brexit as well the value of the pound has slumped which has already led to an increase in price for even essential daily items including for some the #Marmitegate tragedy where the price of Marmite has already risen in some cases by 12.5 % in shops.

Price increases for food and other essential items is likely to pose a particular problems for disabled people and others in receipt of UK Social Security payments as there is an austerity-led freeze on the amount of benefits which will be paid until at least 2020. The UK already has some of the lowest rates for out-of-work benefit payments in the EU so starting from a very low base rate the value of payments will fall even further as exchange rates fall.

On top of this fall in the value of the pound and freeze on increases in social security payments early in November an austerity-led cap on the total overall amount of benefit payments per household will result in massive reductions of £3,000 less per annum being paid to claimants. Many of those affected by this drastic cut will be disabled although other disabled people will be exempt from this cut.

From next April 2017 disabled people who make a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance and who are found not to be fit for work but able to undertake Work Related Activity which involved forcibly being made to jump though inappropriate and unacceptable hoops to continue being entitled to payments will also see their weekly income cut drastically by one-third. All of these changes will as already said be taking place at the same time the value of the pound falls against other currencies. Needless to say fuel prices are also continuing to rise and the number of UK residents on low incomes who have to choose between eating and heating because they can’t afford both continues to rise.

As disabled people and others wait for the mythical 35 million a day that we’re apparently saving by leaving the EU to be redeployed to help fund our National Health Service as promised we find our Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt putting in place plans to drastically reduce both the number of hospitals – down from 9 to 5 in London – and health service funding elsewhere in the UK through the implementation of Sustainability and Transformation Plans. This is very definitely not what Brexit promised for our health service. Hunt has also further undermined our NHS by stating that we want British only doctors in the near future in spite of the fact that around one-third of doctors currently are from other EU countries.

For disabled people who need personal assistance to live and take part in society Brexit is also bad news. Many people employ care workers/personal assistants from EU countries and now not only does the fall in the value of the pound affect the exchange value of wages paid but on a longer term basis no-one, neither the employers or the employees, have any idea about a future right to work here when the UK leaves the EU. It could of course be years before any more is known.

Workers rights generally are very much an unknown quantity at the moment as well. Teresa May has said the Conservatives want to protect those in place yet many people are on insecure zero hours contracts with no legal protections. The introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal hearings has also negatively affected worker’s rights to challenge unfair dismissals. All of these issues regarding employment rights continue to disproportionately affect disabled workers and the fear that once EU constraints on our employment laws are removed is causing major concerns for those disabled people who are in work.

For disabled people not in work the ending of Workfare and Work Choice schemes funded by the European Social Fund can really only be seen as positive. Neither of these schemes worked well in finding disabled people suitable or sustainable employment opportunities.

Workfare schemes in particular have been likened to unpaid slave labour which they were since claimants were forced to work for no pay under threat of having their benefits removed if they did not. Having said that there were a number of locally EU funded schemes to help disabled and other people into work which have worked well and for which there will now be no further EU funding available.

In other areas of life shared by disabled and non-disabled people the loss of European funding from the Social Fund, from the Common Agricultural Policy and from Regional Development grants will nevertheless be grossly detrimental to the overall standards of living and is likely to have a further negative trickle down impact on food prices. The idea that these funding streams will be replaced by our own government’s spending is laughable given their ongoing austerity agenda and determination to replace Trident nuclear weapons.