Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services

Disability News Service: Appeal to hundreds across Wales to seek independent assessments of support needs #SaveWILG

The following article was written by John Pring and appears on the excellent Disability News Service website, which can be accessed by clicking here.

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A disabled campaigner is encouraging hundreds of recipients of support through the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme to consider taking up the government’s offer of an independent re-assessment of their care package.

The Welsh government announced in February that it was pausing the closure of the WILG scheme – and its replacement with a system of council-funded support – following a campaign by disabled activists and allies.

Julie Morgan, the Welsh government’s deputy minister for health and social services, then wrote last month to all WILG recipients to tell them they could ask for a reassessment of their care package if they were unhappy with the outcome of their local authority’s assessment of their post-WILG needs or if that assessment had not yet taken place.

And she assured them that the Welsh government would pay for the independent assessment and any extra care and support they might need as a result.

Morgan has now written to Nathan Lee Davies, the WILG recipient who led the campaign to halt the closure of the scheme, updating him on the government’s progress.

She told him that only 26 WILG recipients had so far requested a re-assessment, across 10 local authorities.

Morgan said in her letter: “It is important that those people who wish to have an independent assessment are able to access it, but this is also in the context of the large number of people who we know are content with their new arrangements.”

Davies believes about 1,300 disabled people are eligible for a re-assessment, and fears that many WILG recipients are being held back from requesting a re-assessment.

He is now calling on all those WILG recipients who are not happy with their care and support package to ask for an independent assessment.

Davies, who has himself requested an independent assessment, said: “I started this campaign four years ago, after a social worker warned me that without the WILG my hours of support would be reduced from 86.5 hours a week to just 31 hours per week.

“I would be unable to maintain any quality of life without a substantial increase in my support and any reduction would leave me struggling to exist rather than living the life that I choose.

“The use of an independent social worker allows me to be assessed purely on my physical and mental needs.

“I feel that social workers from local authorities are under pressure from their managers to reduce costs, whatever the consequences.

“Assessments are therefore skewed from the outset and I fear that a number of WILG recipients are not receiving the support they deserve.

“Let’s not forget that all WILG recipients are disabled people with high support needs.

“This means that many need a strong network of people around them to give them the confidence to press for improvements.

“The fact that only 26 people have asked for a reassessment suggests that many WILG recipients are being held back by a combination of inertia, lack of support and advice and a sense of ‘better the devil you know’.

“I feel that an independent service will provide people with disabilities with greater security for the future.”

He added: “The government have listened to campaigners, reviewed the evidence and acted accordingly to ensure people get the support they deserve to live independently within their local communities.

“WILG recipients and their families need to investigate the opportunity that is in front of them to help ensure they have piece of mind for the long term future.”

WILG was set up – with UK government funding – as an interim scheme following the UK government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in June 2015.

The Welsh government is now closing WILG for good and transferring the funding to local councils, and by April the 22 local authorities were due to be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

But Morgan announced the “change in direction” in February because a government review had shown a significant variation in how support packages were being cut by different councils.

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#SaveWILG Update: Letter from Julie Morgan

I received the following letter from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services to update me on the progress of WILG assessments.

It makes for interesting reading. I will be writing in response to this letter soon, but for now I think it is important to make sure that everyone is fully informed of their rights.

Thanks to Julie Morgan as ever for her sterling work in making the independent assessments, a reality.

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Dear Nathan

Following my letter of 18th of April to former recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) regarding their ability to have an independent care assessment, I thought I would provide you with a brief update.

All local authorities have now have confirmed that they have circulated my letter to their former WILG recipients.  Clearly people will need time to consider whether to have an independent assessment.   I have asked recipients to let their local authority know their intentions by 14th June.  To date, I understand that twenty-six former recipients have expressed an interest in having an independent assessment of their care needs.  These are spread across ten authorities.

This number may well increase over the next three weeks.  It is important that those people who wish to have an independent assessment are able to access it, but this is also in the context of the large number of people who we know are content with their new arrangements.

As regards to the sourcing [of] the independent assessments, the tender process is about to close.  The bids we receive will be evaluated against bidders’ ability to meet quality and timeliness criteria, including to ensure the appropriate standard of social workers for the assessments are recruited.  This is with a view to a contract being agreed in early June, with the practical arrangements being finalised during June, for the assessments themselves to commence from July.

I trust this is helpful.  Please feel free to communicate this information to your network of former WILG recipients.

Yours sincerely

Julie Morgan AM
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services

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BBC Report: Wales disability support cuts: Care to be re-assessed in July #SaveWILG

Elderly man in wheelchair

Re-assessments of severely disabled people unhappy with their care packages will not begin before July.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant has ended with councils funding care for more than 1,000 people receiving it.

In February, the Welsh Government announced anyone unhappy with their new council care package would be offered independent re-assessments.

Plaid Cymru said the wait was “way too long”. The Welsh Government has been asked to respond to the criticism.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the Welsh Government told BBC Wales it has set aside up to £60,000 to pay an independent organisation to do the reassessments.

It anticipates the contract will be awarded by the end of June and re-assessments will begin in July.

£2.4m per year has also been budgeted, “for planning purposes”, to cover the potential costs of any increased packages.

157 people out of 1,174 assessed by their councils by the end of last year had had their support reduced.

There have been big regional variations, with cuts most common in Wrexham, Newport and Ceredigion.

Julie Morgan

The WILG was introduced in Wales to replace the UK-wide Independent Living Fund (ILF), which was closed down by the UK government in 2015.

In a letter to ex-WILG recipients, Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan said their “patience” would be appreciated.

“I do not want people to be waiting for an independent assessment,” she said.

“However, it is important to organise these independent assessments properly, so that they meet the required standards.”

Plaid Cymru’s social justice spokeswoman Leanne Wood questioned whether the reassessments were necessary.

“Initially many of these people were given an award for life and going through a reassessment process is extremely stressful,” she said.

“Particularly if you have a condition that everybody knows is not going to improve, it’s only going to deteriorate.

“So putting people through those reassessments is potentially problematic but at the same time this does need to be resolved quickly.”

‘Irresponsible’

Nathan Davies, a Labour member and founder of the Save WILG campaign, said the wait was “inconvenient” but criticised the previous Welsh Labour Government, led by Carwyn Jones, which made the initial decision to transfer the responsibility to councils.

“The fact that they [the current Welsh Government] are having to do this work now is because the previous neo-liberal regime did not listen to our campaign team and disregarded the evidence that we presented.

“The fact that we are having to endure an uncomfortable few months is totally down to them and a number of irresponsible local authorities.”

You can see more on this story on the BBC Wales Live programme at 22:30 BST on Wednesday BBC One Wales, and then on BBC iPlayer

Letter to WILG recipients from Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM #SaveWILG

All WILG recipients – and their families – should be alerted to the following letter, which explains what happens next in the WILG transition process. This is particularly important for those of us who are unhappy with the level of support we’re receiving from local authorities. I am happy that we have made further progress, but now is not the time to celebrate. We have to make sure that local authorities implement the instructions that they have received from the Welsh Government.

An official response from the #SaveWILG Campaign to this letter will follow after the Easter break.

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To: All former recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant

Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) – Update

As we reach the end of the two years where people who used to receive payments from the WILG have been transferring to local council support, I would like to share an important update with you.

Since 2017 local councils have met nearly all people who used to receive WILG payments and agreed with them what care and support they will receive in future to help them live independently. Some people will now be having all their support arranged by their local council and others will be receiving direct payments so they can purchase this support themselves.

For the vast majority of people their new care and support is similar to what they had using their WILG payments. In some cases it has increased, to support their ability to live independently.

For a small number of people, the new package of care and support is smaller than what they had previously received through WILG. This can be for a range of good reasons, for example where people’s needs are still being met but just in a different way. We know from our enquiries that many people are content with the new support they are receiving, even when that package of care is smaller than before.

However, some people disagree with the outcome of their local council’s assessment. Everyone in Wales deserves support to live independently. As a result I have concluded that people who used to receive the WILG and now disagree with their council’s assessment of their care needs should have the option of having their needs looked at again by an independent person.

If you agree with the package of care and support from your local council, then this update does not affect you and you do not need to respond in any way.

However, if you disagree with the outcome of your new care arrangement, please contact your local council to ask for an independent assessment. Or if you have not started or completed your assessment yet, and would prefer for this to be done independently rather than by your local council, please also let your local council know about that. In either case, if you would like an independent assessment please let your council know by Friday 14 June 2019, at the latest. Your current care will remain unchanged until after the independent assessment has been completed.

The Welsh Government will be paying for these independent assessments and meeting the cost of any additional care and support a person might need as a result of them. Because of this, for people who used to receive WILG, while care arrangements may change in order to better meet people’s needs, this should not be in order to make any savings.

I do not want people to be waiting for an independent assessment. However, it is important to organise these independent assessments properly, so that they meet the required standards. We plan to have the arrangements for the independent assessments in place by the end of June so as to begin these from July onwards. Your patience, therefore, will be appreciated, while the details are worked out.

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

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“Gimme Shelter” – #SaveWILG Version

What my #SaveWILG campaign is in need of right now is an updated theme tune. At the moment, WILG recipients find themselves in a state of limbo without any clear direction on the way forward. Local authorities are of little support and the onus seems to be upon the Welsh Government to push through their new policy – that will replace the Welsh Independent Living Grant – ASAP.

I have received several encouraging emails from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services and the civil servants who are responsible for creating a new policy from scratch. I am confident that the work is going on behind the scenes, but it is really frustrating that there has been little progress since the Welsh Government announced that they were listening and protecting WILG recipients, back in February.

Leanne Wood AM has been calling on the Welsh Government to publish a timetable for the WILG transition process. she asked the Welsh Government, when the warm words of support they have given will be matched by deeds?

It would help a number of us who are really struggling at the moment to have an opportunity to plan for the future. I have spent the last two Christmas periods chained to my laptop and unable to join in with family celebrations due to the pressures of this campaign. Will I have to spend a third Christmas in such a way?

I hit upon the idea for this blog while watching the Rolling Stones Story at Glyndwr University on Friday night. This was a really good gig and an excellent tribute act to the ageing rock band. All of the hits were played in familiar fashion with an energetic “Mick Jagger” giving an excellent performance which married supreme confidence with a camp as Christmas performance. One of the many highlights of the show was the performance of the classic Stones hit Gimme Shelter.

Without permission, I have took it upon myself to change the words to this popular hit, in order to make it fit with the campaign. Anyway, see for yourself with the video of the Rolling Stones posted below the lyrics, so you have no excuse not to sing along. I have also added a few paragraphs from Wikipedia about the Rolling Stones. 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.

I hope you like my new version.

“Gimme Shelter”

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

Hope, comrade, it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
Hope, comrade, it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away

Ooh, see the clock is tickin’
On our rights today

Fighting for our futures
We will not fade away

Hope, comrade it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
Hope, comrade, it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away

Peace, freedom!
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
Peace, freedom!
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
Peace, freedom!
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away

The floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away

Hope, comrade, it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away

I tell you death, comrade, it’s just a tick away
It’s just a tick away
It’s just a tick away
It’s just a tick away
It’s just a tick away
Tick away, tick away

Gimme Shelter” is the opening track to the 1969 album Let It Bleed by the Rolling StonesGreil Marcus, writing in Rolling Stone magazine at the time of its release, praised the song, stating that the band has “never done anything better”.

Although the first word was spelled “Gimmie” on that album, subsequent recordings by the band and other musicians have made “Gimme” the customary spelling.

The recording features Richards playing in an open tuning on electric guitar. The recording also features vocals by Merry Clayton

 

Statement on the Welsh Independent Living Grant transition

Following the Welsh Government’s announcement on February 12th that they were pausing the WILG transition and allowing all WILG recipients to recruit an independent social worker to work alongside clueless local authorities, there has been little obvious progress.

There is much going on behind the scenes as the Welsh Government work around the clock to establish a new policy.  I have received several encouraging and reassuring emails from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services as well as the civil servants who are working flat out to assist disabled people with high support needs and their families.

Of course, it is going to take time to implement the new system.  This is something that many of us cannot afford, but now is not the time to be critical of the Welsh Government – who have listened and are making the appropriate changes.

WILG recipients should all be receiving a letter from Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan to explain the next steps in the reassessment process.  Let us hope that we receive this letter sooner rather than later as many of us are continuing to struggle.  We have won a huge battle, but there is little reason to celebrate at the moment and we have to remain patient while continuing to struggle for a few more weeks or months.

This is precious time we are wasting, but we cannot forget the huge strides we have made and have faith that the Welsh Government are doing what they can to help transform our lives under 21st Century Socialism.

We are so close to our goal and we must make sure such mistakes are never allowed to happen again…