Dewis CIL

Response from Huw Irranca-Davies to Open Letter #SaveWILG

Same old story…

***

4 June 2018

Dear Nathan,

Thank you for sending the link to your blog https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com
on which you have posted an open letter to me, dated 10 May 2018, seeking my support to retain the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). I was also grateful for the opportunity to meet you at your home earlier in the year, and to discuss your concerns with you in detail. I reiterate again that the Welsh Government is firmly committed
to ensuring a smooth transition from the temporary WILG to the new arrangements, as
agreed with the stakeholder advisory group, and to ensure the focus at all times is on the
well-being and independent-living outcomes of every individual.

I note what you say about the information you have received from local authorities about their experience of the transition process to transfer people’s future support to their social services provision. You will understand that without sight of this information it is not possible for me to comment, and I would therefore be grateful if you could pass  any information on to me. However, I can report on progress on the transition to date, and the feedback we have received from local authorities through the periodic monitoring of the transition.

As of 31 March this year local authorities have reported they have completed, or are in the process of completing, around 1,000 of the reviews they need to undertake as part of this process. These are to agree people’s well-being outcomes and how they can be met in
future. As a result, around 400 people have now gone on to receive their support from their local authority – nearly a third of the total number of 1,250 who were receiving ILF payments as at 31 March.

In terms of outcomes, authorities report that a large number of those now receiving their
support from their local authority are receiving support similar to that they received from the ILF. Some people are receiving a slightly different level of support than previously and this includes people whose level of support has increased. Overall, local authorities inform us that no major concerns have been raised about the support received. Clearly there will be some individual circumstances where people will be uneasy about the nature and level of the support their authority considers appropriate in their case, but where this has occurred authorities are discussing this with the person concerned.

Local authorities providing support in this way is, of course, not new, as most individuals
would have had to receive this from their authority as part of the eligibility to receive ILF payments. Implementing this change in a managed approach, with the two-year transition period we have put in place, has ensured there is an appropriate period of time in which individuals can consider and agree their well-being outcomes with their authority, and agree all of the support they require to deliver these outcomes, not just the support they previously obtained through their ILF payments. To facilitate this, the funding of £27 million a year, which is provided by the UK Government for this purpose, has been distributed in its entirely to local authorities on the basis of the level of grant funding they previously received. This is to ensure they have the level of funding they require to maintain payments to people while their future support package is agreed and provided, following which this funding can be used to meet the cost of that support package.

Let me turn to matters you raise in respect of the stakeholder advisory group. This group
was established by the then Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM,
with the purpose of agreeing a way forward following the temporary two-year transition
period. The group comprised of representatives of Disability Wales, the Dewis Centre for
Independent Living and the All Wales Forum; a service user’s parent; and representatives from local authorities and the Welsh Local Government Association.

As I advised the Chair of the Petitions Committee, David J Rowlands AM, in my letter to him of 14 November last year, which I believe you have seen, no formal minutes of the meetings of the stakeholder advisory group which considered this issue were made. Instead short summary emails were sent to members setting out agreed action points arising from meetings.

The advisory group considered a number of potential options to provide future support.
These ranged from perpetuating the WILG indefinitely, or for a set period of time, to
establishing similar arrangements in Wales to that of the ILF outside of local authorities’
provision. The advantages and disadvantages of each option were considered, in terms of its effectiveness to support people who had previously received ILF payments and its fit with supporting the larger group of disabled people in Wales who had been excluded by the UK Government from receiving support from the ILF following its closure to new entrants in 2010.

There was a fine balance between these issues and on occasions members had slightly
differing opinions on the potential options. Nevertheless, the stakeholder advisory group on balance favoured the option of future support being provided by local authorities as part of their social care provision. This it considered was, overall, the best way forward for individuals and the most effective way of utilising the limited funding available for their direct benefit. It also acknowledged that this matched the support other disabled people in Wales were already receiving and was in keeping with our person-centred ethos for social care being delivered through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. It therefore removes the inequitable two-tier approach which existed, with some disabled people receiving only support from their local authority while others could receive this in addition to dedicated payments from the ILF. At the time of this decision, and indeed since, no member of the group or any organisation represented on it has indicated they disagreed with the advice given to the then Minister upon which he made his decision.

I am happy to agree to your request to meet to discuss matters relating to the WILG. I met you earlier in the year to hear your concerns, as outlined again in your open letter, and to explain how this decision was reached and the future action I am taking. It would be good to follow up on that earlier discussion. My Diary Secretary is, I believe, already in contact with you to arrange the details of this. In the meantime, I would be grateful if you would post this reply to your letter on your blog.

Yours sincerely,
Huw Irranca-Davies AC/AM
Y Gweinidog Plant, Pobl Hyn a Gofal Cymdeithasol
Minister for Children, Older People & Social Care

Letter from Minister for Social Services and Public Health to the Chair of the Petitions Committee

David J Rowlands AM

Chair

Petitions Committee National Assembly for Wales

SeneddPetitions@assembly.wales

21 August 2017

Dear David,

Thank you for your letter seeking my views on a petition submitted to the Petitions Committee by Nathan Lee Davies in relation to the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

As Mr Davies outlines in his petition, the Welsh Government put in place in 2015 the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) with local authorities to enable them to maintain payments to recipients in Wales of the Independent Living Fund (ILF). This was following the closure at that time of the ILF by the UK Government. We introduced this grant to ensure continuity of support in the short-term for recipients. This was to help them meet the additional costs of living independently in the community in a similar manner to the financial support they received from the ILF. This arrangement was to provide time for us to consider the most appropriate way to provide support to recipients in the longer-term, so as continue their ability to live independently.

As Mr Davies indicates, to assist with our consideration of what that longer-term support should be a stakeholder advisory group had been established. This had representation from the organisations which represent and act for disabled people in Wales (such as Disability Wales and the Dewis Centre for Independent Living), representation from local authorities and some recipients themselves. The majority of the representatives on the advisory group were, as Mr Davies says, from the third sector or had themselves received payments from the ILF. This was because we wanted advice from those who fully appreciated the outcomes disabled people seek and what they required from the arrangements we were to put in place to support their independent living.

The advisory group considered a number of potential options to provide support in future to those who used to receive payments from the ILF. These ranged from perpetuating the WILG indefinitely, or for a set period of time, to establishing similar arrangements in Wales to that of the ILF outside of local authorities’ provision, to having support provided in future through local authorities’ social care. The advisory group considered the advantages and disadvantages of each option in terms of its effectiveness to support former recipients and its fit with supporting the larger group of disabled people in Wales who had been excluded by the UK Government from receiving support from the ILF (as it had in 2010 closed the ILF to new entrants).

I am not sure why Mr Davies thinks the advisory group wished to keep the WILG. On the contrary, overall it accepted that the arrangements we had put in place through the WILG could only ever be temporary while a longer-term solution was found. After considering the potential options in the light of the issues I set out above, the advisory group on balance favoured the option of future support being provided by local authorities as part of their social care provision. None of the members of the advisory group opposed this recommendation.

The advisory group favoured this option as it matched the future support former recipients would receive with that being provided generally to disabled and older people in Wales. This is through our new person-centred ethos for social care being delivered through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. The Act came into effect from April last year and changes the way people’s needs are assessed and the way support is delivered. People now have more of a say in the well-being outcomes they wish to achieve and the care and support they require to deliver those outcomes. This is similar to the ethos behind the original establishment of the ILF. The Act also contains stronger powers to keep people safe from abuse and neglect.

The advisory group also saw this option as the way forward as it removed the inequitable two-tier approach which currently exists to supporting disabled people in Wales, with some receiving only support from their local authority, while others can receive this as well as dedicated payments from the WILG.

It is also important to note that prior to the advisory group’s considerations we undertook a public consultation on a number of possible options to provide support in future. While it is true that the majority of those who responded favoured arrangements in Wales similar to those of the ILF, this was not the option favoured by all recipients who responded. Indeed the vast majority of recipients did not respond to the consultation at all. Nevertheless, my officials did contact those in the Scottish Government to establish the basis of the dedicated support arrangements for former ILF recipients in Scotland and the possibility of those arrangements being extended to Wales.

While ILF Scotland could administer and make payments on behalf of the Welsh Government, it became clear it would not be in a position to do this for a considerable period of time. In addition, it required significant set-up and operating funding to administer our payments, totalling in the first year of operation well over £1 million with annual operating funding in excess of £0.750 million. Such funding would have needed to be top-sliced from the overall funding available to support former recipients in Wales, thereby substantially reducing the funding available for their support itself. On this basis we did not believe that these arrangements would be acceptable given the reduction in support to which it would lead, or that they provided good value for money. Overall the advisory group shared this view and was keen that already limited funds were not used disproportionately on establishing and maintaining separate arrangements to provide support.

Consequently, I accepted the stakeholder advisory group’s advice to have support to former ILF recipients in Wales provided in future by local authorities as part of their social care provision. To put this into place the advisory group also recommended that there should be a two year transitional period, whereby in the first year authorities establish all recipients’ desired well-being outcomes and agree with them the support they require to achieve these. In the second year recipients would transfer over to receiving all of their support from their local authority, with their payments under the WILG ceasing at the point at which this occurred. I also accepted this recommendation in full, with as a result the transitional period commencing from 1 April this year and due to conclude on 31 March 2019.

Clearly those who wished to see a different option chosen will be disappointed with the decision taken. However, that decision did not ignore the advice of the representatives of disabled people in Wales on the stakeholder advisory group but was fully in accordance with it.

Yours sincerely,

Rebecca Evans AC/AM

Gweinidog Iechyd y Cyhoedd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Minister for Social Services and Public Health

 

Enabling Wales celebrates

Disability Wales is celebrating the achievements of the Enabling Wales project which finishes this month after a very successful three year run.

A unique project, Enabling Wales was set up to deliver:

“An enabling society in which disabled children and adults enjoy the right to independent living and social inclusion”

Graduates of the training course, in Active Citizenship, Equality and Democracy, have already gone on to create change in campaigning on disability equality issues, locally and nationally.

Nathan Lee Davies, course graduate said:

“Two years ago, I had a very important decision to make: Do I swim or do I sink in the face of cuts to benefits and the support I am entitled to?

I knew I had to keep fighting for what is right – both for me and others – but I did not have any idea of where to begin.  The Enabling Wales programme changed all of this by giving me the knowledge and encouragement I needed to become a disability rights activist.

I truly believe that the Enabling Wales course changed my life for the better.  It empowered me and taught me that the only thing I have to lose are my chains.”

 

Enabling Wales is a Welsh Government funded project run by Disability Wales in partnership with DEWIS CIL and the Wales Co-operative Centre. The project has been working to strengthen and establish Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) in parts of Wales where disabled people are under-represented. Training programmes have developed disabled young people as ambassadors.

Today’s celebration will also launch two new Centres for Independent Living, created as social enterprises, and the Enabling Wales toolkit and website to support the continuation of the work.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales’s said:

“Enabling Wales has empowered disabled people to change their own lives and others’.  We live in times where the rights of disabled people are increasingly under attack and we must challenge this in our local communities and at the highest levels of Government.

The more information and knowledge disabled people have, the stronger we are together in fighting inequality and social injustice.” 

Young activist Mair Elliott said:

“Since completing the Young Enabling Wales project, I have gained some incredible experiences. My campaign work has been fruitful and I have become an accomplished spokesperson (something which I never thought possible in the past).

The skills and knowledge I learned from the course has made an immeasurable difference to my work and confidence. In October 2016 I was awarded a Welsh Government award for making a difference, which really allowed me to see how my work has impacted Wales.”