There will be a debate in the Senedd on Wednesday to call on the Welsh Government to retain the #WelshIndependentLivingGrant – this follows @nathanleedavies presenting an 80 page dossier of evidence to the First Minister. https://t.co/Nxrn7Q6hWL #SaveWILG
— Disability Wales (@DisabilityWales) February 11, 2019
Minutes of the Cross Party Group on Disability
Friday, 11th January 2019, Wrexham Glyndŵr University,
Mold Road, Wrexham, LL11 2AW
Present: Carol Gardener, Jo Woodward, Tom Hall, Mark Davies, Eric Owen, Sorrel Taylor, Maureen Lee, Sharon O’Connor, Chris Roberts, Jayne Goodrick, Paul Johnson, Lynne Jones, Lynne Davies, Nathan Davies, Sandra Morgan, Bill Fawcett, Vince West, Laura Seddon, Lisa Pollard, Simon Green, Michelle Brown AM, Eluned Plack, Eluned’s carer, Jacqui Hurst, Kathryn Shaw, Brian Harrison, Rhian Davies, Martyn Jones, Zoe Richards, Mark Isherwood AM, Gareth Davies, Rebecca Phillips.
Apologies: Llyr Grufydd AM, Jan Thomas, Helen Mary Jones AM, Rob Williams, Kathryn Jellings, Andrea Wayman, Stephen Ben Morris, Louise (WCD), Owen Williams, Glenn Page.
1. Welcome and introductions
Mark Isherwood AM welcomed everyone to the meeting.
2. Minutes of the last meeting.
The minutes were approved as an accurate record.
Rhian Davies – Draft Framework for Action on Disability
Rhian provided an overview of the Welsh Government’s Draft Framework for Action on Disability. The document was created following a review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living, produced in 2013 to provide a strategic approach to independent living across Wales and to promote the social model of disability.
Disability Wales strongly believe that the Framework for Action on Disability should be under-pinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. Disability Wales worked with its partners in Scotland and Northern Ireland to produce a Manifesto for independent living and identified six calls to action:
1. Improved access to information, advice, independent advocacy and peer support services.
2. Availability of accessible and supported housing to meet individual requirements.
3. A comprehensive range of options and genuine choice and control in how social care and support is delivered.
4. Improved access to person-centered technology.
5. Barrier-free transport system that includes all forms of transport.
6. Enabling access, involvement and social economic and cultural inclusion of all disabled people.
There was a ministerial agreement to review the Framework for Action on Independent Living, three years on. This resulted in the Independent Living Steering group, comprising representatives from disability organisations across Wales, chaired by Rhian, to re-convene. The group reflected on what had been achieved since 2013. They recognised that whilst the introduction of the Framework was ground-breaking, progress on the ground was very slow and that national policy set by Welsh Government had not translated into local action. There was limited evidence in the change in culture, particularly by local authorities and local health boards in terms of taking on board a more rights-based approach to disabled people and to tackling barriers to independent living.
This was endorsed in 2017 during a Welsh Government consultation. The general feedback was that very little had changed in the lives of many disabled people and has even got worse which was also a key finding from the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. The UN Committee in Geneva was very critical of the UK Government in that they had regressed in their local policies.
The steering group’s aspirations for the revised version is that it should be much stronger in terms of the UN Convention of the Rights of Disabled People. The Convention should be at the heart of the new Framework with a stronger commitment to implementation of the social model of disability and more robust action in terms of how that is understood by people.
Rhian reported that the steering group took a strategic decision to align it with Welsh Government’s own strategic plan, ‘Prosperity for All’ which has four key themes:
1. Prosperous and secure
2. Healthy and active
3. Ambitious and learning
4. United and connected
The steering group was of the opinion that there should be two documents. The main document, to set out the key commitments and principles for Welsh Government to abide by, plus a separate action plan that could be regularly updated and monitored with more specific detail about what different the Welsh Government departments would do in terms of delivery.
The action plan, which is currently out for consultation, links more closely to the articles of the UN Convention. In order to produce a response to the consultation, Disability Wales ran two events along with an online survey to gather the views of disabled people. The deadline for responses is Friday 18th January but there could be an extension. Rhian added that Alison Tarrant from Cardiff University has produced an interesting paper looking at independent living policy. The paper was circulated to members prior to the meeting. The paper critiques the Framework for Action on Disability and a number of issues were identified.
Disability Wales and other members of the steering group have been calling for incorporation into the UN Convention for the Rights of Disabled People (UCRDP), giving it similar status to that of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Helen Mary-Jones AM is looking at how human rights can be incorporated in Wales.
Rhian noted that there is a disconnect between Welsh Government’s principles and aspirations in relation to improving independent living for disabled people and the actual reality of accessing services and achieving their rights.
Rhian highlighted the importance of the CPGD submitting a robust response to the consultation with the aim of strengthening the new Framework to ensure it takes forward the rights of disabled people in Wales.
MI highlighted some of the findings from the study based on the Draft Framework for Action on Disability produced by Alison Tarrant of Cardiff University. These included the absence of ‘Advocacy’, which was previously identified in the 2013 Framework as one of the highest priorities. In addition, the 2013 Framework was constructed around a series of priorities identified by disabled people. The foregrounding of the priorities and expertise of disabled people has been removed. MI suggested these be considered when submitting a response.
Nathan Davies – Wales Independent Living Grant
Nathan shared a video with the group, titled ‘Save WILG Campaign’. The video highlighted the issues faced by more than 1300 recipients of the grant. On March 31st, Welsh Government plan to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and transfer the funds to the Local Authorities. The funds will not be ring-fenced. The video, features an insight into Nathan’s condition, Friedreich Ataxia, a progressive disease of the nervous system. Nathan states that in order to be a productive member of society, he requires the help and support from personal assistants, funded by WILG. Without the grant, his care will be reduced from 86.5 hours per week to 31 hours per week. Back in April 2018, at the Welsh Labour Conference, a motion was passed to save WILG. However, this has not been acted upon yet. The Campaign has gathered political support from across the spectrum and still Welsh Ministers and some civil servants refuse to listen to the evidence collected. Nathan is particularly concerned that the money being given to Local Authorities has not been ring-fenced.
Nathan’s strength and campaigning has been recognised by the Wrexham Glyndwr University who have made him an honorary fellow.
To highlight the issues surrounding WILG, Nathan is running a series of campaigns across social media to influence a positive decision.
Mark Isherwood AM invited questions and comments.
Questions / Comments:
In relation to WILG, Rhian informed the group that Nathan and the BBC made a Freedom of Information request. It emerged that only two-thirds of people have been assessed and although some had their packages maintained and some increased, a significant number had their hours cut. There were circa 17 instances of clients taking legal action against their local authority. In response to the Freedom of Information outcome, Huw Irranca-Davies AM agreed to examine this further to establish whether the issues solely related to Wrexham or whether the problem was more widespread. Rhian suggested the CPGD write to the new Minister, Julie Morgan AM for an update.
The importance of disabled people needed better access to lawyers was raised.
Mark Isherwood AM stated that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will occasionally fight a trial case to establish a precedent. The CPGD could submit a request if there was a particular matter that needed to be tested in court. He added that Welsh Government do not have control over Legal Aid but it is still worth highlighting any concerns and to ask what support they can offer to better access legal advice.
Various sources of legal services were identified and will be circulated following the meeting. Disability Wales also have a guide on their website offering advice and information called ‘Know Your Rights, Use Your Rights, Live Your Rights’.
Concerns were raised around the lack of proper planning and services available for the increasing number of children with disabilities which will result in their needs not being met.
A member asked why Welsh Government has decided not to follow Scotland or Northern Ireland in terms of how they manage the Welsh Independent Living Grant if there is evidence to prove the system is working well in those areas.
Mark Isherwood AM suggested Disability Wales seek data from Disability Scotland to identifying the positive impact the grant has had on recipients of the grant.
The Chair welcomed further comments from the floor. Learning Disability Wales gave an update their work. In December Learning Disability Wales held its first ministerial advisory group meeting, chaired by Gwenda Thomas AM. The main focus was the Children’s Commissioner’s ‘Dont Hold Back’ report, investigating children and young people’s experience of transition across various policy areas. Martyn also informed members that Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has been consulting on a document around commissioning services and are looking to hold a national conference around it. Public Health Wales are working with LDW on a conference on reducing restrictive practice with the Education Minister. The Equality and Human Rights Committee are about to start a piece of work around access to courts to support disabled people to fully engage in the system.
Rhian added that Disability Wales are working with Women’s Aid to establish the accessibility of refuges. A survey has been produced and will be circulated. The results will be compiled soon and asked whether it would be an opportunity hold a joint meeting with the Party Group on Violence against Women and Children to share the findings.
Mark Isherwood AM welcomed a joint meeting with the Cross Party Group on Domestic Violence.
Date of the next meeting:
Zoe Richards will circulate the date of the next meeting, to be held in Cardiff.
1. CPGD to produce a response to the Framework for Action on Disability consultation document and seek an extension to the deadline of the 31st January.
2. Zoe to share the link to Nathan Davies’ campaign video to members.
3. CPGD to write to Julie Morgan to summarise concerns and seek an update in relation to the issues identified following the Freedom of Information request.
4. Disability Wales to seek data from Disability Scotland to support the evidence around the positive impact of WILG on Scottish recipients.
5. Circulate an email requesting responses to the consultation.
6. Circulate Women’s Aid and Disability Wales’ survey
The Welsh government’s decision to close its independent living grant scheme and pass the funding to local authorities could see cuts to the support packages of hundreds of disabled people, new research suggests.
Disabled campaigners say that information released by local authorities in Wales has created “extreme cause for concern” about the transition process, which is seeing funding from the interim Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) passed to the 22 councils.
WILG was set up by the Welsh government – with UK government funding – as a short-term measure to support former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) when ILF was closed in June 2015.
But the Welsh government is now closing WILG and by April next year the 22 councils will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.
The Welsh government’s own estimates, released to Disability News Service (DNS) last night (Wednesday), suggest that about 200 former WILG-recipients will see their support packages cut by next April.
Members of the Save WILG campaign, led by former ILF-recipient Nathan Lee Davies (pictured), submitted freedom of information requests to all 22 Welsh councils earlier this year, and they say the responses proved they were right to be concerned that the transition process would lead to many former ILF-users seeing their support packages cut.
Few of the councils were willing to provide detailed information about how the process of re-assessing the needs of the former ILF-recipients in their areas would affect their support packages.
But some of the local authorities admitted that a significant proportion of those currently receiving support through the WILG have already had their support packages cut.
In Wrexham, Davies’ home local authority, the council said it had re-assessed less than a third of former ILF-users but had already cut the support of 18 of them, increasing support for just seven, and leaving one package unchanged.
Monmouthshire council had cut four of 19 packages, Conwy had reduced two of 12 – although the vast majority had still to be assessed – while Caerphilly had reduced four of 29, Merthyr Tydfil had reduced 15 per cent, and both Carmarthenshire and Rhondda councils had cut 10 per cent of support packages.
About a third of the councils – including Pembrokeshire, Gwynedd, Anglesey, Cardiff and Blaenau Gwent – failed to say how many support packages had been cut.
But some local authorities did produce more encouraging answers, with Powys council saying the reassessment process had seen it increase the support packages of 59 of 62 former ILF-users.
Although Port Talbot council had reviewed less than a third of service-users, half had had their packages increased, and the other half had seen them stay at the same level, while Bridgend decided that all but one former ILF-recipient would continue to receive the same support package.
There were also repeated warnings from the local authorities that they could not promise that support packages would not be cut in the future, with Cardiff council warning that “no guarantees as to the future are possible with any funding arrangement”.
Asked if it could guarantee that WILF recipients would have their care packages ring-fenced from all future austerity cuts forced onto local authorities, both Merthyr Tydfil and Port Talbot replied with just one word: “No.”
Huw Irranca-Davies, the Welsh government’s minister for social care, has previously pledged that no former ILF-users would lose out in the transition process.
But a Welsh government spokesman said that its most recent monitoring of the transition had found about 100 of 580 WILG-recipients were having their support “provided in a different manner than previously”*, while 130 were receiving more support.
As about 1,300 people are due to go through the transition, this suggests that about 200 former WILG-users will eventually see their packages cut.
He insisted that the government was committed to ensuring that all disabled people are “fully supported to live independently in their communities”.
And he said that Irranca-Davies had visited both Powys and Wrexham councils this week to “see at first hand the work they have been undertaking” and “will be speaking to other authorities about this over the next few weeks”.
The government spokesman said: “He will also be asking authorities to undertake a deep dive of a sample of cases where there have been significant changes in the type of support people are receiving, to establish the reasons for this and ensure they are receiving the appropriate support they require to live independently.
“This is in addition to the ongoing monitoring of the programme, and an additional independent evaluation which has been commissioned by the minister.”
The spokesman claimed that the “feedback from disabled people” on the transition programme had been “positive”.
He said: “Together with our partners in local government and the third sector, we will continue to closely monitor the process and the individual outcomes of the transition from the ILF to the person-centred and co-produced approach to independent living in Wales.”
But Miranda Evans, policy and programmes manager for Disability Wales, said her organisation was “extremely concerned that disabled people with high support requirements are having their hours of care reduced when transferring over to direct payments”.
She said: “In a number of cases people are losing their ‘socialising’ hours, which is of great concern.
“This vital support enables people to play a part in their community, volunteer with a local group and get involved in political life.
“Without this necessary support disabled people will become isolated, disengaged and unable to leave their home.”
Disability Wales has called for an “urgent review” of the Welsh government’s policy and investigations into the differences between how local authorities are applying it, which she said showed “the further development of a postcode lottery”.
She added: “We remain concerned that funding will be absorbed by social services budgets and not be directed to those who need it: disabled people with high support requirements.”
Davies said the Welsh government’s comments showed that “they simply refuse to see the evidence that is staring them in the face”.
He said: “Yet again the Welsh government seems to think of former ILF recipients as a privileged bunch.
“This is not the case at all, as we are disabled people with high care and support needs who were guaranteed a lifetime of adequate support under the old ILF system.
“They do not deserve to be made to feel like a hindrance by the Welsh government.”
He said the conclusions that can be drawn from the freedom of information responses were “very worrying indeed” and show “a shocking lack of consistency between local authorities, the development of a ‘postcode lottery’, the lack of an adequate complaints procedure for former ILF recipients and an alarming lack of security, or guarantees, for the future”.
Davies is determined to persuade the Welsh government to keep the current system, which allows former ILF-recipients some security by receiving funding from three different “pots”: WILG, local authorities and their own personal contributions.
He said: “The responses reflect why we started the campaign three years ago and give weight to our belief that the tripartite system of care needs to be maintained.
“Disabled people with high care and support needs simply cannot rely on cash-strapped local authorities to provide the levels of care that they need.
“One of my biggest concerns is that even the local authorities who have increased a majority of care packages cannot guarantee that these packages will remain at the same levels in future years.
“It is a concern that these generous increases may only be put in place for a year, while the local authorities sharpen their axes for further cuts once the campaign is over.”
He added: “The Welsh government now need to listen to the voices that have supported our campaign – assembly members, MPs, Disability Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, celebrities such as Ken Loach and most importantly their own members who passed a motion calling on them to #SaveWILG at the Welsh Labour conference in April 2018.”
*The Welsh government press office was unable to confirm by 1pm today that this means that their support hours have been reduced
Rhian Davies of Disability Wales has also alerted me to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report into the somewhat dire situation of disabled people: How Fair is Wales?
This can be found in a PDF format, but really is essential reading for anyone with the power to help disabled people overcome the numerous challenges they face in 21st century Wales and become equal members of society.
I fully expect all Welsh Assembly Members to be studying this document as to create a prosperous Wales then surely it is essential that the foundations are settled first and that all citizens are able to contribute in their own way.
This is the most comprehensive review of how Wales is performing on equality and human rights.
It looks across all areas of life, including:
- living standards
- justice and security
- participation in society
It provides a complete picture of people’s life chances in Wales today.
Below I have shared a series of facts and figures that have been put together by Rhian Davies of Disability Wales, who I was lucky enough to hear speaking at the UNCRPD report launch in Parliament last week.
I was really impressed by her speech which included loads of statistics that I thought would be useful for composing Tweets. She has kindly agreed to allow me to publish the following on my blog to publicise the depth of the problems facing disabled people in Wales.
I would like to express my thanks to Rhian and everyone at Disability Wales for their ongoing support.
If you are active on Twitter, please feel free to adapt any of the information below to compose Tweets.
Disabled People in Wales
- Disabled people comprise 26% of the Welsh population, higher than any other nation or region in the UK (ONS Family Resources Survey 2015/16)
Poverty and the Impact of Welfare Reform
- Nearly 40% of disabled people in Wales live in poverty, compared with 22% of non-disabled people, higher than anywhere else in the UK (JRF, 2018)
- 34 per cent of children who lived in a household where there was someone with an impairment or health condition were in relative income poverty compared with 26 per cent in households where no-one was disabled (National Survey for Wales 2017-18).
- Evidence from the National Survey for Wales 2017-18 shows that 25 per cent of people with a ‘limiting long-standing illness’ or impairment report being in a household in material deprivation compared to 12 per cent of people without a limiting long-standing illness or impairment
- Welfare reform continues to subject disabled people to tightening eligibility, the removal and sanctioning of benefits and the spare room subsidy removal (“bedroom tax”). In addition the roll out of Universal Credit, is set to affect 8 million households across the UK, of which 58% will have a Disabled member
- It is estimated that in Wales almost a third of DLA Claimants were refused PIP, amounting to a total loss of £87m https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-45100070
- Citizens Advice Cymru state that Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are the two benefits people using their services had the most problems with during 2016/17)
Disabled People and Employment
- In 2017, 18 per cent of the working-aged disabled population in Wales held no qualifications compared to 6 per cent of the working-aged population that were not disabled. Disabled People were also less likely to have degree level qualifications: 26 per cent of the working-aged disabled population held qualifications at level 4 or above, compared to 41 per cent of the non-disabled working-aged population
- For the year ending 31 March 2018 the employment rate among disabled people aged 16-64 in Wales was 45.2%. The equivalent figure among people in Wales who are not disabled was 80.3%. Hence, there was a disability employment gap in Wales of 35.1 percentage points (pp) for the year ending 31 March 2018. This disability employment gap has barely changed in recent years.
- In some areas of Wales, the Disability Employment Gap is substantially higher: 50% in Neath and Port Talbot and 44% in Merthyr Tydfil and Conwy (Citizens Advice Cymru, 2018)
- The disability pay gap in Wales as recorded in 2015/16 is 13.3 per cent.
- The WG Minister for Welsh Language and Life Long Learning Eluned Morgan AM is consulting with stakeholders including Disability Wales over setting an aspirational target to increase the numbers of disabled people in work and thereby reduce the disability employment gap in Wales. In England & Scotland, respective governments are aiming to halve the gap in 10 years https://beta.gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2018-09/employability-plan-progress-report-2018.pdf
- In February 2018, the National Assembly for Wales’ Economy and Infrastructure Committee published a Report, ‘Apprenticeships in Wales’. The Report included 14 recommendations. Recommendation 2 stated that the Welsh Government should produce a clear disabled person specific action plan to address the under representation of disabled people in Apprenticeships (currently 1.3%). This recommendation was accepted by the Welsh Government. Disability Wales is among a number of stakeholders contributing to the development of the Action Plan
- Despite the recent investment by the Welsh Government to build 20,000 new homes by 2021 there remains a severe shortage of accessible and wheelchair-accessible housing in Wales. Welsh Government is yet to set any targets for the number of accessible homes within this figure. (EHRC Wales, 2018)
- Only one local authority out of 22 has set any targets for a percentage of accessible and affordable housing. Only 15% of LA’s said that the information they hold about disabled people’s housing requirements was ‘good’ (EHRC Wales, 2018).
Hate Crime and Domestic Abuse
- The latest data on recorded hate crimes in Wales where disability was judged to be a motivating factor show a 39 per cent increase (to 338 recorded crimes in 2016-17) compared to a year earlier. Disability was judged to be a motivating factor in one in ten hate crimes recorded Wales in 2016-17.
- For Wales and England combined in 2016-2017, both disabled women and men were more likely to be victims of any domestic abuse in the last year (15.9 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively), compared with non-disabled people (5.9 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively)
Participation and Social Inclusion
- National Survey for Wales data demonstrates that life satisfaction was generally lower for disabled people (mean score in 2017-18 was 7.2) than for non-disabled people (8.0)
- The National Survey for Wales in 2017-18 reported that a lower proportion of people with a limiting long-term illness or health problem had attended or participated in an arts, culture or heritage activity at least three times in the last year (64 per cent, compared with 80 per cent for people without a limiting illness).
I am likely to have a busy schedule for the next few months – indeed it has been busy for the last 3 years, but we are coming to the zenith of the campaign – and the #SaveWILG campaign was represented by myself at the Disability Wales Conference and AGM at the Ramada Plaza, Wrexham on Friday 12th October.
Please find below the press release for the conference. I feel I spoke well and got my points across to Paul Deer of the Welsh Government who was sitting on the panel of experts. I was then given the opportunity to address the conference after lunch.
An enjoyable and constructive day was rounded off with drinks in the pub with a close comrade. I only hope all this hard work is being listened to by those who can make a difference…
Equal Before the Law?
Making Legislation Work for Disabled People
Today at the Ramada Plaza in Wrexham, Disability Wales is hosting a national conference themed on equality and human rights legislation; and whether disabled people are actually experiencing their rights along with everyone else.
Rhian Davies, Chief Executive Disability Wales states:
“In the wake of UK Government austerity measures, disabled people in Wales and across the UK continue to face serious regression of many of their hard-won rights. Disability Wales Annual Conference will provide a timely opportunity to hear from expert speakers about how disabled people can utilise equality and human rights laws to tackle barriers to independent living”
Disabled people make up 26% of the population in Wales, which has a higher proportion of disabled people than other nations and most regions of the UK. (Papworth Trust 2016)
Disabled people face a higher cost of living than non-disabled people, a cost which is rising year on year.b
Around a third of disabled people experience difficulties accessing public, commercial and leisure goods and services.
(ONS and Stats Wales)
Lesley Griffiths AM Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs will provide a key note address and outline the Welsh Government’s Draft Framework for Action on Disability: the Right to Independent Living.
“Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “We want to make sure disabled people have access to the same opportunities as everyone else. Next month we will be publishing our new Framework which sets out how we are addressing social barriers to equality and inclusion.
“It will be accompanied by an action plan to tackle some of the key barriers identified by disabled people themselves, including transport, employment, housing and access to buildings and places.
“This is a result of a great deal of engagement over nearly two years with disabled people and the organisations that represent them and I want to thank everybody who has helped in this process.”
Conference delegates will also hear from Simon Hoffman Associate Professor at the College of Law and Criminology at Swansea University. Simon will talk about Progress made on the incorporation of Human Rights in Wales.
Disabled activist and campaigner Doug Paulley will enlighten the conference on how he has challenged the discrimination he’s encountered using legislation. Doug has brought more than 40 legal cases against organisations that discriminated against him including bus and train companies.
“Fighting disability discrimination takes its toll on you. The constant battle with service providers to get what I am lawfully entitled to has affected my mental and physical health”
“So, the enforcement mechanism of the Equality Act is fundamentally broken, for me and for all disabled people. Despite this, I’ve produced a guide showing how I have occasionally managed to enforce my rights through the courts, and hopefully to help a few other disabled people do so too.”
Ellen Clifford, Campaigns and Policy Manager for Inclusion London will share her vast experience of campaigning for the rights of disabled people.
The event will be chaired and facilitated by Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales. Questions to the panel and round-table discussions will provide an opportunity for lively debate.
The audience includes disabled people and their allies, representatives of Disabled People’s Organisations, third sector and both local and national government bodies.