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
Nathan Lee Davies