Deep Dive

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.

MINISTER URGED TO RESPOND TO DISABLED PEOPLE’S CONCERNS OVER SCRAPPING OF WELSH INDEPENDENT LIVING GRANT #SaveWILG

Below is a press release sent to me by Mark Isherwood AM who has been very supportive of the #SaveWILG campaign over the last three years. We would like to thank Mark for his continued support which will hopefully benefit all disabled people across  Wales.

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 Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, Mark Isherwood AM, has called on the Welsh Government to respond to concerns regarding the scrapping of the Welsh Independent Living Grant which were raised at a meeting in North Wales earlier this month.

The Welsh Government are transferring the Welsh Independent Living Grant to local authorities and many of the estimated 1,300 disabled people in Wales who received the Grant are reporting that their personal care packages have been greatly reduced.

 Mr Isherwood has previously described the move as “a betrayal of  the right of disabled people to live independently and make their own decisions”.

 In yesterday’s Business Statement, he called for an Oral Statement on the grant, stating that he had been asked by attendees of the packed meeting of the Assembly Cross Party Group on Disability, which took place in  Wrexham 12 days ago,  “to get answers, because time is running out”.

Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Isherwood, who is Chair of the Cross Party Group, said:  

 “We know that when the Independent Living Fund (ILF) was devolved by the UK Government in England to Local Authorities, and in Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland to the respective Governments, that Scotland launched ILF Scotland to ensure recipients have choice and control. Northern Ireland chose to join the Scottish scheme, and disabled people and disabled groups in Wales said they wanted to join it too, but instead the Welsh Government gave the money to local authorities.

 “In May last year, we were told in a Written Statement by the Welsh Government that Local Authorities were reporting that most people were receiving similar support to that they’d had with their ILF payments, with no significant issues being raised, but we know, since, there has been extensive coverage of disabled people suffering because of the decisions made.

 “A particular point I was asked to raise at the meeting in Wrexham by a packed room of people, many of whom were disabled themselves, was to emphasise this is about the difference between staying in bed or getting out of bed, about having dinner or not having dinner, about having control or being controlled. They said, ‘They just don’t understand the importance of one word to disabled people – independence – and the impact on mental health and well-being, and the ability to interact with society’.

 “That’s lived experience, articulated again by Nathan Lee Davies at the meeting in North Wales, who has led the (Save the) Welsh Independent Living Grant Campaign on behalf of recipients of the grant – including himself, but also very many others.

 “As we approach the final point on this, when nobody will be left in receipt of Independent Living Grant, will you as a Government, for once, in this case, deliver an oral statement and answer the questions that disabled people across Wales who were in receipt of the ILF are increasingly asking?”

 Replying, the Minister for Finance, Rebecca Evans, said the First Minister has asked the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services to review the progress that there’s been to date in terms of moving across to the new system of receiving care and support, to decide what further action might be necessary to ensure that there is a fair outcome for everybody concerned.

 She added: “You’ll be aware, of course, of the Deep-Dive Review, which took place to ensure that where there were changes to people’s support it was appropriate and not compromising, in any way, that person’s ability to live independently. I understand that work has been completed, and the review will be shared with the Petitions Committee, and I know that there’ll be opportunities to question the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services on her approach in due course.”

 ENDS

Letter from Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM – #SaveWILG

I received the following letter from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM ahead of our meeting tomorrow.

I was a little disappointed and confused by this letter and the whole host of concrete evidence that it ignores in favour of working towards saving the Welsh Independent Living Grant. We will reserve these arguments for our meeting tomorrow and look forward to working with Julie Morgan to help safeguard independent living for disabled people with high care and support needs in Wales.

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21 January 2019

Dear Nathan,

I am looking forward to meeting both you and Sheila Meadows at your home on 24 January to discuss the position on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). In advance of this I thought I would let you know of the outcome of the recent “deep dive” review which local authorities were instructed to do before Christmas. This was so that we were assured of the position on the transfer of people’s support to authorities’ social services.

As you may know to be assured of this position the former Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care instructed all local authorities to review all cases where, following an assessment of someone’s care needs, there was an intention to reduce the local authority’s direct support to the person in what would have been the WILG element of their overall support. This was to identify the reasons for these, the exact scale of any reductions and to receive from each authority a personal assurance that where this was to occur it was appropriate and did not impact on that person’s ability to live independently in the community.

These deep dive reviews were undertaken at the end of 2018 and a summary of the
outcome is attached for your information. Of the 1,174 people who had completed at that time their future care review as part of this transfer, only in 157 cases (13%) was a reduction in the former WILG element of their support proposed as a result. In the majority of cases people’s care reviews had identified them as requiring future care of a similar nature and level to that they currently received, while people were to receive a higher level and intensity of care following their review in a slightly higher number of cases to that where a reduction was proposed.

Where a reduction was proposed, the level of this varied from individual to individual depending upon their particular circumstances and the reason for their reduction. Hence most people to receive a reduction in the former WILG element of their support were to receive a reduction of between 1-14 hours a week, with a wide range of reasons for this.

Of particular note were instances where a change in social care support, either in the way this is provided or of a different type, has had a consequential effect on the level of formal care a person requires. There were also a number of cases where people had developed a need for healthcare since the ILF’s last care reviews undertaken in 2015 and hence no longer have a requirement for social care. In addition, there were instances where changes were to be made to the commissioning arrangements or level of support for a person, due to the full value of their funding not being fully utilised previously. Often this was at the request of the person or their family.

To ensure local authorities had undertaken these deep dive reviews correctly, the former Minister met at the end of last year local authorities’ relevant social care Cabinet Members and all Directors of Social Services (or their representatives) on a regional basis. This was to question them on the outcome of their deep dive reviews to ensure the support they were putting in place for people was genuinely helping them to live independently and to give authorities the opportunity of raising any implementation issues they were encountering.

During these meetings local authority representatives provided their personal assurance that where reductions were to occur these were appropriate, did not impact on that person’s ability to live independently in the community and, in the vast majority of cases, had been agreed with the person concerned. Where they had not been agreed with the person authorities were seeking to resolve this with them. In addition, no major implementation issues were raised by authorities as being of concern.

There is, as I am sure you will agree, a critical need to ensure that the completion of this transfer of support for those people affected is undertaken correctly in a manner which does truly support their ability to continue to live independently. As a result, to ensure I have a full picture of the issues I am currently getting myself appraised of the background to this issue, the action to date and the implications of the outcome of the deep dive review the former Minister undertook.

Perhaps we could discuss this outcome when we meet, as well as your and Sheila’s concerns, so that I can decide what further action may need to be taken to ensure the transfer is effective in supporting independent living.

I am copying this letter and its attachment to Shelia Meadows and look forward to meeting your both this Thursday.

Yours sincerely

Julie Morgan AC/AM
Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services