Disability Wales

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.”

 

Disability Wales Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

Disability Wales in Geneva to take evidence of human rights violations to UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People

Disability Wales and Disabled People’s Organisations from across the UK join forces in Geneva today to meet with the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People.

During the first ever investigation of the UK Government’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, we will be providing evidence of systemic failure to support disabled people to live independently and to have access to social, educational and employment opportunities.

This is the first time the Committee will review a State that it has previously had under Inquiry for violating the Convention.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales says: “Disabled people are being failed by the UK Government and we will not be quiet whilst our rights continue to be violated.

Not only have the UK Government been dismissive of rights violations noted by the Inquiry, they have continued to progress policies and cuts that attack the rights and lives of disabled people and their families. We will continue to hold our Governments to account and put pressure on public institutions to value and uphold the rights of disabled people in Wales.”

In a closed three hour session with the Committee, DPOs will be identifying issues that have the most severe impact on disabled people in the UK. We will request that the Committee ask questions of the UK and Welsh Governments on actions they will take to progress the rights, access and inclusion of disabled people in all areas of their lives.

Returning from Geneva, Disability Wales will launch the Wales report on 15th March at the Cross Party Working Group on Disability.

The three key messages from Wales are:

  • To strengthen the Framework for Action on Independent Living by ensuring greater local accountability for delivering the Framework to enable genuine choice and inclusion in all areas of life, including employment.
  • Ensure that upcoming infrastructure projects are fully inclusive in creating an accessible Wales, from transport to provision of information and services and access to the built environment.
  • To address the barriers in accessing justice by improving provision of advice, advocacy and specialist legal representation.

Wendy Ashton, Chair of Disability Wales said, “It is important that disabled people realise that we do have a voice and are using this process to make the world aware of how we are being failed in the UK.

In Wales, devolution provides the opportunity to do things differently and we will continue to work closely with Welsh Government to press for implementation of our calls for action. We must make sure that a human rights based approach identifies and meets the needs of disabled people living in Wales and call upon Welsh Government to support us as we fight for a better future for all disabled people.”

 

Disability Wales Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE DISSEMINATION

Open letter to oppose Government’s disability benefit cuts

Ahead of next week’s Budget, Disability Wales are supporting a UK wide call for the Government to reconsider planned cuts to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of the disability benefit Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which will see new claimants lose out on £30-a-week, £1500 a year.

Wales has a higher proportion of disabled people than the rest of the UK with a greater proportion of disabled people also living in poverty.

The UK Government claims this cut to ESA will ‘incentivise’ disabled people to get in to work, despite a recent Work and Pensions Select Committee report highlighting that evidence towards this is ‘ambiguous at best’. Disability Wales argues that instead of halving the disability employment gap, the cuts will directly undermine this aim pushing disabled people closer to or into poverty, with a survey of over 500 disabled people finding:

* Almost 7 in 10 (69%) say cuts to ESA will cause their health to suffer

* More than a quarter (28%) say they sometimes can’t afford to eat on the current amount they receive from ESA

* Almost half (45%) of respondents say that the cut would probably mean they would return to work later

* Just 1% said the cut would motivate them to get a job sooner

A recent Disability Wales survey highlighted the desperate struggle of many disabled people dealing with the stress of a system that continues to obstruct and not support. We will be calling upon Welsh Government to put pressure on UK Government to reverse the policies of further cuts.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said:

“The UK Government has been heavily criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for breaching the rights of disabled people through its ongoing programme of austerity and welfare reform.  To continue to target disabled people with further cuts is beyond comprehension or humanity.

Poverty, poor housing, lack of access to transport, local services, education and skills training means that the odds are stacked up high against disabled people seeking employment. Increasing insecurity and distress by cutting income will do nothing but bring more harm to disabled people in Wales.”

Disability Wales will be taking evidence to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on March 13th which will demonstrate how the UK Government is continuing to fail disabled people in Wales and across the UK. The delegation will lobby for recommendations to be made to UK and Welsh Governments to take action to reverse the impact of these severe attacks on the rights of disabled people.

Open letter

“Dear Prime Minister,

“We urge the Government to reconsider the £30-a-week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit facing sick and disabled people. The cut has caused deep concern among the sector and unease among MPs from all parties and we remain united as a sector in our opposition.

“The cut to new claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group of ESA and within Universal Credit (UC) from 1st April 2017 will affect many people found currently ‘unfit for work’ but will also impact many disabled people in work and on low wages due to the way UC works.

“Almost 70% of sick and disabled people surveyed said this cut would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would probably not be able to return to work as quickly, therefore undermining the Government’s attempts to halve the disability employment gap – something we wholeheartedly support.

At a time when 1 in 3 households with a disabled member are living in poverty, £30 a week can be a huge loss in income. We therefore urge the Government to halt this cut immediately.”

Notes to editors:

1. Disability Wales is the national association of disabled people’s organisations in Wales championing the rights, equality and independence of all disabled people.

2. The Disability Wales response to the “Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability” Green Paper highlights the detrimental impact of welfare reform on disabled people seeking work and accessing benefits such as Employment Support Allowance. It can be accessed here: http://www.disabilitywales.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-Disability-Wales-response-to-Improving-Lives-Green-Paper.docx

3. The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities investigation throughout 2017 will assess what steps the UK has taken to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee is a body of experts, nominated and elected by governments, the majority of whom are disabled people.

4. The committee postponed its assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to investigate a complaint of the violation disabled people’s rights as a result of welfare reform. This was brought under the optional protocol of the Convention. That investigation looked only at a part of the UN Convention – with a particular focus on the impact of austerity measures and welfare reform. The current report looks at a much wider set of issues, including our laws on mental health and mental capacity, policies on employment and education and more.

5. For media enquiries, please contact:

Natasha Hirst on 029 2088 7325 or via Natasha.hirst@disabilitywales.org

Welsh government has ‘sold disabled people down the river’ on post-ILF plans

BY JOHN PRING – DISABILITY NEWS SERVICE

The ruling Labour government in Wales has been accused of “selling disabled people down the river”, after deciding that local authorities will be handed all financial responsibility for supporting former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

The Welsh government has decided that, after a short transition period, the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales will be passed directly to councils.

There will be no new Welsh ILF – even though such a scheme has been set up in Scotland – and no continuation of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme the Welsh government has been running as a stopgap since the fund closed in June 2015.

Instead, Rebecca Evans, the social services minister, said in a statement – following a public consultation and advice from a stakeholders group – that funding for WILG would continue in its current form through 2017-18, but would transfer to local authorities during 2018-19.

All former ILF-recipients will have their support needs met solely by their local authority by 31 March 2019.

The Welsh government has not yet decided whether the funding it will transfer to local authorities during 2018-19 will be ring-fenced for former ILF-recipients, or even for social care spending.

Evans appeared to mirror the arguments of the UK government when it closed ILF last year, claiming that continuing under the present system would “provide support to former ILF recipients in a different way to which care and support would be provided to other disabled people in Wales”.

She added: “As a result I have concluded future support to former ILF recipients through normal social care provision from local authorities would be the most effective approach.”

But David*, a former ILF-user from Wales, said he felt “let down” by Evans’ decision.

He said it appeared that the Welsh government had “simply sold disabled people down the river by washing their hands of all responsibility for social care to former ILF recipients and transferring the pressure onto irresponsible local authorities”.

He said he would now be at the mercy of his “heartless” local authority for provision of the care and support he needs.

He said: “This is not something I am confident about due to the fact that my social worker has already stated that without WILG I would face a reduction in my hours of care from more than 80 hours a week to a ridiculous 30 hours per week.

“I cannot cope with such a reduction as I am an active member of my community and like to think that I contribute positively to society.”

He said he was struggling to live independently because he had a progressive condition and already needed more support than he received.

He added: “I have been using all my time and energy to try to retain the hours I currently have and obtaining more seems like an impossible task.”

Disability Wales, the national, user-led organisation representing disabled people in Wales, had been pushing the Welsh government to create a Welsh ILF.

Rhian Davies (pictured), chief executive of Disability Wales, said Evans’ decision was a setback for the independent living movement in Wales.

She said ILF had been a “valuable resource” for many years for former recipients and had “supported their ability to live independently”.

She added: “The concern is whether that will be able to continue.”

She and David both said they were concerned that former ILF-users in Wales would now experience similar cuts to their support packages to those that have been seen in England.

Only last month, Channel 4 News reported that 80 per cent of councils in England had cut the care packages of some former ILF-users in the wake of its closure, while two-thirds had not ring-fenced the money given to them by central government.

Davies said: “Everything is pinned on the hopes that the new Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act will lead to people being able to access a range of support in the community, but obviously that is a big ask in a climate of cuts in local authority services.

“Given the act only came in in April, it is not a lot of time to transform the way social services are delivered.”

David said he believed the Welsh government would “hide behind” the new act.

He said: “This is a highly-regarded piece of legislation that promises much if it is rolled out correctly.

“It would be great to live in a society which was co-productive and full of accessible, well-funded social enterprises to help me live independently.

“I won’t hold my breath, though, as for such an inclusive society to exist we need major investment into infrastructure and cultural changes to our disabled-unfriendly society.”

Asked whether the funding that will be passed to councils from 2018-19 would be ring-fenced for former ILF-recipients, or even for socal care, a Welsh government spokesman said: “As funding is not due to be transferred to local authorities until 2018-19, the exact basis of this will be subject to future discussion between the Welsh government and local authorities.

“Whatever the outcome at the point of transfer, local authorities will become responsible for providing the support that former ILF recipients in Wales require, and for meeting the cost of this.”

*Not his real name

Multi-million pound disability research programme seek proposals

Press Release

Embargoed until 00.01 9 May 2016

The UK-wide Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) Programme invites research teams led by disabled people to respond to its first call for proposals. DRILL is a partnership of 4 national disabled people’s organisations across the UK, including Disability Wales.

Funded by a £5 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund, DRILL is the world’s first major research programme led by disabled people. It aims to produce robust academic research and pilot projects to advance understanding of what independent living means for disabled people, and to influence policy and practice to improve disabled people’s lives.

An essential criteria is that research teams are expected to coproduce projects in equal partnership with academics, policy makers and others. This innovatory approach is designed to put disabled people in control of producing research, instead of merely being research subjects.

The Programme’s main theme is participation, including in the economy, community and social life, civic and public life, and other areas of importance to disabled people. 

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive Officer of Disability Wales, said:

“Our aim is to produce new evidence on what would support disabled people to access their right to independent living and take full part in society. The Programme includes potential for pilot projects to test the evidence in practice and find out what will make a real difference to the quality of disabled people’s lives. We’re looking forward to receiving some exciting proposals”.

 Dr. Tom Shakespeare, Chair of DRILL’s Central Research Committee for DRILL, added:

“The starting gun has been fired on a very exciting competitive research process. We are looking for teams that have great ideas, true partnership between researchers and disabled people, and with real chance of improving the lives of disabled people. This is the first round of a five year funding programme that will change disabled people’s lives for the better.”

This is the first call for applications, with three more anticipated over the next 4 years. The deadline is 27 July 2016.

Organisations can apply for grants of up to £150,000. Proposals will initially be assessed by a National Advisory Group.  The Central Research Committee consisting of disabled people, academics and policy experts will make a final decision on which projects receive funding.

Fast Track Applications will find out if they have been successful in September 2016.  Larger applications using a 2 Stage Application process will find out in March 2017.

Further information about the DRILL programme, including details of the grant application process, is available at http://www.drilluk.org.uk

 

ENDS

Game for a Laugh

Something needs to change.

It was my 39th birthday a few days ago and my pathetically weak circle of friends is in dire need of attention. This is due to a number of different factors that have combined to turn a charming, sophisticated and popular young man into an isolated recluse, stranded on the fringes of society.

I live with a progressive, genetic disease known as Friedreichs Ataxia and use an electric wheelchair for mobility purposes. This is a challenging condition but I have come to terms with it and successfully adapted my life around it. However, it is not so easy to find myself living within a disabling society.

For example, I recently went out for a meal with a carer. I booked a table in advance at The Druid Inn – a venue that I’d not frequented before and I was looking forward to a tasty meal that I had already chosen from their online menu. I got spruced up – a big job – and arrived on time, but when I got there I found that there was no wheelchair access. This is 2016 for god’s sake. I’m not going to let this drop and believe the landlords should make it clear that they’re running a wheelchair unfriendly establishment. Better still they could avoid negative publicity by installing ramps, improving toilets and making their venue accessible to all.

Just as bad is the fact that I can’t buy tickets for Public Image Ltd at Glyndwr University. This is just around the corner from my house but as it is standing only the bloke on Ticketline said that there was no provision for wheelchairs. [I’ve just returned from Glyndwr University where they apologised for my experience with Ticketline and sold me two tickets for the designated wheelchair section in William Aston Hall for the post-punk gig]

Neither am I helped by the fact that we live in such technological times. I have over 200 Facebook friends, over 300 Twitter followers and regularly update this blog to a legion of empathetic readers. However, in real life I have few friends to interact with and often the only people that I see during a week are my personal assistants.

In addition, I can’t work due to my disability so miss out on the social side of the workplace and the great friends that I made at university are scattered around the country or abroad.

So what can I do to improve this situation? How do I integrate further into mainstream society? I am already doing all I can with my involvement with Disability Wales, Wrexham Football Club and Outside In at Glyndwr University. Still, more needs to be done as I am still suffocated by loneliness and can’t afford to waste any more time feeling sorry for myself…

***

I’m embarrassed to admit that lonely nights in my half-empty bed are often spent watching programmes that excite and titillate me. I’m old enough to know better but I think I’m addicted. I just can’t get enough of the nostalgic thrills and outdated tension of Challenge TV – from Bullseye to Catchphrase via Family Fortunes and the quasi-intellectual Going for Gold. Add modern day classics like The Chase and Pointless and you have a heady combination that appeals to my competitive side and love of trivia.

I’m not sure that I’d ever apply to be a contestant on such a game show as I wouldn’t enjoy the pressure or fear that I’d embarrass myself by getting an easy question wrong on national TV .

I’d also struggle to be first on the buzzer and the majority of shows do not cater for disabled contestants. I wouldn’t stand a chance with any of the games on The Cube. So much for equal opportunities…

However, this doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy board games based on some of my favourite shows. Indeed, classic board games in general, such as Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble et  al, are just as entertaining and conducive to positive social interaction. This is just what I need. [I draw the line at role-playing games as life with a disability results in life on the fringes of society as it is without marginalising myself any further by joining a fantastical group of middle-aged geeks with a vocabulary as challenging to understand and learn as Chinese]

I am therefore proposing the establishment of some sort of board game league 🙂 Basically, I just need people to play games against at a venue to be decided. I currently have a cupboard full of games for two or more players but without anyone to compete against they are merely gathering dust.

I have given this idea much thought and we could even have trophies and certificates for champion contestants. Is anyone interested in developing such a club with me? Not only would this enable you to improve your social life, playing board games also helps to develop strategic thinking and basic common sense while having a laugh.

Is this a good idea or am I simply a nerd named Nathan?

Keep on keeping on

So, the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) has been extended to March 2017. This is a reason for celebration and is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people over the last 12 months to protect independent living for disabled people across Wales.

However, we cannot rest on our laurels and must start thinking about what we are going to do this time next year. We are still looking for a long-term solution to the problems that the Tories caused when they closed the Independent Living Fund (ILF) .

We also need to analyse the letter which was sent to Paul Swann at Disability Wales who acts as Secretary of the Cross Party Group on Disability. The full letter can be downloaded here:  Minister’s response to CPGD re ILFWILG.

As stated above, Mark Drakeford AM (Minister for Health and Social Services) has confirmed that the draft Welsh Government budget contains £27 million to enable WILG to continue until March 2017. However, it is clear from the letter that the current level of funding form the UK Government is only sufficient to maintain recipients’ payments at the same level as they previously received form the ILF. It does not cater for any changes in a person’s circumstances or any changes in the level of support they require. The Minister confirms that the funding provided by the UK Government does not include any funding in respect of administration costs.

The Minister does recognise that a long-term solution is required and he has confirmed that he hopes to be in a position to respond more fully with regard to the scheme within a month.

With an election on the horizon in Wales the Assembly Members will be preoccupied until May but this does not mean we can’t do our homework in building a strong case as to why we need a more lasting Welsh ILF system – similar to the ones that have been established in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

I intend on meeting my prospective AM and getting their commitment to safeguard independent living in writing, I’ll write to the Welsh national press to make this issue a political hot potato and in a change of tact I also hope to get back in touch with Ian Lucas, my local Labour MP, who has always represented me well in Westminster. I would like to ask him to press the Tories hard about the amount of money they give to the devolved governments to cover independent living. It is not good enough to simply pass on the same amount of money distributed in 2015 as this does not account for new claimants or changes in circumstances. As someone with a progressive disability, I fear that the time will come – sooner rather than later – when I won’t be able to pay for the hours of care needed for me to remain living independently in the community; The Tories must be challenged and stopped from pushing ahead with fascist plans that boil down to nothing less than systematic social cleansing.

Writing and campaigning is what I am good at. Back in December, I wrote a blog entry entitled Fighting for independent living in Wales in which I appealed for assistance from recipients of ILF in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I wanted their opinions and experiences on how their national ILF schemes functioned since the closure of the UK-wide ILF in the hope that it may prove an inspirational model for us to follow in Wales.

I received the following comment in response to my blog: 

Hi Nathan – My name is Charles Rainey and, in 2012, with my wife set up the ILF User Group NI, dedicated retaining the ILF in NI should Westminster decide to replace it. With the support of relevant charities and individual politicians we drove the decision to set up the current situation where users have basically noticed no difference going from one to the other. Send me an email and I can send you more details on our approach.

I sent an email to Mr Rainey and set up a telephone call in which I’d discovered that my new found friend from Northern Ireland had done wonders in setting up a User Group that actively lobbied for the retention of an ILF for Northern Ireland. Mr Rainey is an accountant by trade and deserves enormous credit for all his hard work in helping to create a stable future for disabled people in Northern Ireland. I wish that I could follow his inspirational lead, but I am just not cut out for all the paperwork and bureaucracy that is involved in establishing such a protest group. Therefore all I can do is appeal to any professionals with a conscience based in Wales to take up a similar challenge to Mr Rainey and help provide hope for disabled people nationwide.

On top of this I am also concerned about my own staffing situation. I currently have a vacancy for a personal assistant for 16 hours per week with every chance that this will lead to more hours. This is a great opportunity to work with a small team in a rewarding environment. Rates of pay are £7.26 (between 7am and 8pm) and £9.64 (between 8pm and 7am) and training opportunities are available. However, this position has been advertised for over 12 months with little response and even when I do receive applications from candidates and invite them for interview then I find they are far from suitable.

I believe this is a sign that we live in an increasingly uncaring society.

I guess this is a call for anyone in the Wrexham area, preferably female, with a caring attitude to read the following job advertisement and consider applying to become a member of my staff.

http://www.penderelstrust.org.uk/recruitmentDetailsPA.php?recruitment_id=5211

I don’t bite, honest.