Disability Wales

If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Won’t Change You

It has been a busy old week that has included hospital visit to the cardiologist and physiotherapist, as well as stressful meetings with the Wrexham Supporters Trust board and illuminating emails from Welsh Labour bureaucrats  that clearly show that the Welsh Government have something to hide over the WILG debacle.

HEALTH 

It has been a mixed week health wise. Depending on where you stand, my visit to the cardiologist revealed good/bad news that my heart is in good working order and I don’t have to return to the cardiologist for another twelve months.

I have also been to see the physiotherapist who raised concerns about my posture in my wheelchair. This echoed concerns raised by the wheelchair assessment team who I visited a few weeks ago. While I was with the physiotherapist she showed me, on a skeleton, the extent of my scoliosis. It was upsetting to watch her bend the spine of the skeleton in to a disfigured position. I guess this is life with ataxia – constantly trying to come to terms with a disability that is forever stressing.

MEETING WITH WREXHAM SUPPORTERS TRUST 

On Wednesday night I was at a meeting with some familiar faces who I have mingled with for over thirty years, as a Wrexham AFC supporter. However, the majority of people at this meeting between the board of Wrexham Supporters Trust and the Disabled Supporters Association Committee did not seem to show any understanding of consideration to the plight of disabled supporters in general.

This is neither the time, nor place to go into a deep discussion of everything that was said at the meeting – I will save that for another day, but it should be noted that I was hugely disgruntled by the attitudes shown by a so-called ‘community club’.

SUSPICIOUS MINDS

I will be writing a separate blog dedicated to the highly suspicious actions of the Welsh Government in the latest communication as the battle to #SaveWILG continues and intensifies.

I am being put under an intense amount of pressure as my body deteriorates and being forced to fight for the right of disabled people against the Welsh Government, Wrexham Council and Wrexham AFC. Luckily I have been fighting all of my life and I have the strength and stamina to carry on standing up for what is right thanks to my amazing circle of friends and comrades…

TOM ALLEN 

36634891_10155554936421846_1430258593860419584_On Thursday evening [26/7/2018] I went to watch the supremely funny Tom Allen in action at William Aston Hall at Glyndwr University.

I have watched this comedian performing before, when he starred alongside Suzi Ruffell at the Catrin Finch Centre, which is also part of Glyndwr University.

When I heard that Allen was performing at the Catrin Finch Centre again, I quickly snapped up tickets. This was some time last year I think. Earlier this year I received a phone call saying that due to the high demand for tickets, the show would be moved to the larger William Aston Hall. I was disappointed by this as the Catrin Finch Centre is a more intimate venue, where comedians do not need to rely on the use of a microphone. This is good for me and my hearing, which struggles to fully grasp what is being said when a voice is projected through a microphone.

Last night proved that this is indeed the case. I was frustrated beyond belief as Allen energetically pranced around the stage in front of me, and came out with classic quips judging by the roars of laughter around me. Alas, I could not decipher any of the jokes and could only pick up on certain words such as ‘party rings’, ‘ham sandwiches’ and   ‘Phil Spencer’.

Subsequently, I decided to leave at the interval. This was no judgement on Tom Allen, but just another frustrating sign that my progressive condition is accelerating and stopping me from doing things that I enjoy. What I really needed was subtitles and this got me thinking. Last week, I attended a Disability Wales conference on Direct Payments in Newtown, Mid Wales. Disability Wales had organised for  Palyntype support to be available.

This is basically a machine for typing in shorthand, now often used in transcribing speech to text for deaf people.This transcription was projected on to a large screen so those that are hard of hearing can follow everything that is being said. I found this to be extremely useful and beneficial, and would have appreciated it last night. If I ever #SaveWILG this is something that I would like to campaign for being used in may more locations across the country, as we strive to make events accessible to all.

I am hoping for a quieter weekend…

Response from Huw Irranca-Davies to Open Letter #SaveWILG

Same old story…

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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

Written Statement by the Welsh Government #SaveWILG

The following statement has been issued by the Welsh Government, regarding the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

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TITLE Welsh Independent Living Grant – Update

DATE 23 May 2018

BY Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care

As the first year of the two year Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) transition period has just ended, I thought it would be an opportune time to update Members on progress.

The Welsh Government is committed to independent living so that disabled people, wherever they live in Wales, are appropriately supported to achieve their wellbeing outcomes within their communities. As a result the majority of disabled people are supported to do this by their local authority who, under our social services legislation, have a legal duty to help them achieve their wellbeing outcomes. This will include their desire to live as independently as possible. Local authorities are funded in part to do this through the Revenue Support Grant we provide to local government.

This has been the case since 2010 when the UK Government closed the Independent Living Fund (ILF) to new applicants. Consequently, disabled people were no longer able to receive payments from the ILF to help with the cost of independent living in addition to receiving separate support from their local authority, which was a condition of receiving ILF payments. As a result a two tier system was created where some disabled people in Wales were still being able to access both avenues of support, while the majority of disabled people could now only receive this from their local authority.

In 2015 the UK Government closed the ILF altogether believing disabled people’s needs were best met locally by support provided by their local authority and as a result, in England the responsibility for providing this transferred to local authorities. In Wales, responsibility was transferred to the Welsh Government, with fixed funding of £27 million a year. There were around 1,600 people in Wales in receipt of payments from the ILF at that time. This compares with the 60,000 or so who now receive community based care and support from their local authority.

There was clearly a need at this time to make sure people in Wales who had received payments from the ILF were not left without support as a consequence of this decision. In response the Welsh Government introduced, as an interim measure, the WILG for local authorities. This was to provide the funding authorities would need to make payments uninterrupted to people who had been in receipt of ILF payments whilst we considered the most appropriate way to support this discreet group in future.

Prior to this a public consultation was held in 2014 on the principle of four alternative options to provide future support to this group. This was followed by detailed consideration by an ILF stakeholder advisory group of the viability of implementing a refined set of options based on the comments received. This stakeholder advisory group included organisations which represent disabled people in Wales, including Disability Wales and the All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers of People with Learning Disabilities.

I understand that on balance the stakeholder advisory group recommended providing future support through local authorities so that all disabled people in Wales, both those who were able to receive ILF payments and those who were not, were provided with support in an equal, consistent manner. It was also to ensure the fixed funding transferred from the UK Government was used to maximum effect by being used directly for that purpose and not on the administration costs of separate arrangements for those who used to receive payments from the ILF. The Minister at the time, Rebecca Evans AM, confirmed this in her Written Statement of 3 November 2016.

Unlike in England, where the responsibility for support was passed immediately to local authorities without guidance, we have been careful to undertake this in a managed approach. As a result we introduced in April last year a two year transition period during which local authorities will agree with people who used to receive ILF payments the wellbeing outcomes they wish to achieve, how they will be delivered and what support they require. This can be by received direct from their local authority, or direct payments can be made by the authority to enable people to arrange support themselves. We have provided local authorities with clear guidance on how to undertake this process, stressing the need for this to be done in partnership with people who need care and support.

In the second year of this period people have been transferring over to receive their future support from their authority, with the WILG ceasing in March this year and the full funding of £27 million a year transferring into the RSG from this financial year onwards to enable authorities to provide that support. Since the start of the transition period we have carefully monitored local authorities’ performance and will continue to do so throughout. The latest data, which covers the first year of this period, shows over 75% of people who used to receive ILF payments have now either completed the review of their future support with their local authority, or are in the process of doing so. Consequently over a third of all people who received payments (around 400 of the current total of 1,300) are now receiving their support from their local authority, in the same way as the majority of disabled people in Wales. In addition, authorities are reporting that most people are receiving support similar to that they received using their ILF payments, with no significant issues being raised. The remaining people are to have completed the review of their future support by the end of September and to be receiving support from their local authority by the end of March next year.

This position reaffirms that our decision to introduce this change in a phased approach was the right one, with the two year transition period providing the much needed time people affected and local authorities alike require to agree the correct level and form of support people require to maintain their ability to live independently. It is understandable, however, some people affected will be apprehensive about this change and I have previously met the

leaders of a campaign to retain the WILG to explain the reasons for the change taking place. That said I am not complacent and have recently commissioned the All Wales Forum, working with Disability Wales, to produce a questionnaire for people going through this process to let us have their views on their experiences and where any improvements in the process may be made. In addition, I am writing to local authorities to reinforce the importance of this transition and of the conversations they are holding with people in ensuring they receive the future support particular to them to deliver their wellbeing outcome of living independently in the community.

PRESS RELEASE Disability coalition calls for talks with prime minister over ‘human catastrophe’

A coalition of disabled people’s organisations has today written to the
Prime Minister urging her to meet with them to discuss the deteriorating
quality of life experienced by millions of disabled people in the UK. 

The call comes exactly six months since the United Nations’ damning
report on the UK Government’s implementation of the Convention on the
Rights of Disabled People (CRDP).

The report, published last August, made a number of recommendations
but disability organisations which gave evidence to the UN say that the Government is not taking the urgent action required

 The coalition has highlighted five areas of particular concern:
1.   The failure to fully implement the 2010 Equality Act.
2.   The lack of joined up working across the 4 nations of the UK.
3.   The lack of resources to ensure disabled people are included in their communities.
4.   The continuing gap in employment opportunities for disabled people.
5.   The right of disabled people to an adequate standard of living and social protection.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said:
“Six months on from the UN Disability Committee’s damning verdict on the UK Government’s failure to protect and progress Disabled people’s rights, things continue to get worse not better for Disabled people. The Government appears to be maintaining its position of blanket denial that there is anything wrong, dismissing our lived experience, the UN findings and failing to act on any of the recommendations put forward in the Committee’s Concluding Observations. This state of affairs cannot continue. Disabled people’s organisations from across the UK are calling on the Government to recognise the very serious concerns identified by the UN Disability Committee and to use the Concluding Observations as an opportunity to begin working with, not against Disabled people, so we can get our rights, inclusion and equality back on track.”

Welsh Government has responded to the UN’s Concluding Observations through continuing dialogue with disabled people and our organisations through the ongoing review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living. While we need to see progress towards completing and implementing the revised Framework, we are encouraged by Welsh Government’s ongoing commitment to tackling barriers to independent living.

However, as a devolved nation, it is not possible to entirely mitigate the impact of UK austerity policies so we join forces with our sister organisations across the UK in calling for urgent action from the Prime Minister in our quest to safeguard disabled people’s human rights in Wales.”

The Coalition members include:
Disability Wales, Disability Rights UK; Inclusion Scotland;;  Disability Action Northern Ireland; Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance; Disabled People Against Cuts; Black Triangle; Alliance for Inclusive Education; British Deaf Association; People First (learning disability); National Mental Health System Service Users Network; UK Disabled People’s Council; Equal Lives; Inclusion London.

***

Rt. Hon Theresa May M.P.
Office of the Prime Minister
10 Downing Street,
London SW1A 2AA

 28th February 2018

 Dear Prime Minister

United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

We are a coalition of disabled people’s organisations, led and controlled by disabled people, who, following our participation in the UN’s examination of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) have come together to promote the Convention.

We are writing to draw your attention to the fact that the examination by the U.N. of the U.K.’s implementation of the CRPD was concluded in Geneva six months ago and that, to date, there appears to have been no response from HM Government. In its Concluding Observations, a number of areas for action were identified.

Among these, the UNCRPD committee particularly highlighted five significant areas of concern:

1.    the many gaps in safeguards and rights for disabled people including unimplemented sections of the Equality Act 2010, the lack of resources to ensure the Equality Act is implemented, and the need to enshrine the CRPD into U.K. law as we leave the E.U. 

2.   the lack of joined up working between the four nations of the U.K. and the need for a fully resourced action plan to implement the CRPD across the U.K. 

3.   our right to independent living and to be included in the community. 

4.   our right to employment and

5.   our right to an adequate standard of living and social protection.

Further the U.N. committee recognised that the U.K. has previously been seen as a leader on disability rights by many countries around the world and therefore has a ‘special obligation’ to set world leading standards on the treatment of disabled people and their inclusion in society.  Sadly, the committee concluded that the UK’s leading position has been lost.

We note that during the two-day hearing in Geneva, 23 and 24th August, the U.K. Government delegation gave a commitment to continuing the dialogue on how disabled people’s rights can be realised in the U.K. and specifically how engagement might be improved.  In the spirit of Article 4.3 of the Convention, general obligations involvement of disabled people and their representative organisations we are willing, and indeed expect, to work with you on progressing disabled people’s rights across the whole spectrum covered by the Convention from access through to being included in the community and being able to realise our ambitions and potential.

We should therefore like to request a meeting with you and your officials to discuss:

1.   How government is implementing the UNCRPD committee’s concluding observations and

2.   How Government plans to work with organisations led by disabled people monitoring and implementing the Convention.

We trust that the Government will embrace the need to be more proactive in promoting and implementing disabled people’s rights and inclusion in society. We look forward to hearing from you further and working with government on an action plan to complete the implementation of the rights of disabled people detailed in the CRPD which was ratified by the U.K. in 2009.  Our expectation is that the U.K. will once again be seen as a leader in implementing the human rights of disabled people by all countries across the world.

Yours faithfully

Kamran Mallick – CEO Disability Rights UK
Dr Sally Witcher OBE – CEO Inclusion Scotland
Rhian Davies – CEO Disability Wales
Patrick Malone – Disability Action Northern Ireland
Eleanor Lisney – Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance
Dr Terry Riley – British Deaf Association
Tracey Lazard – CEO Inclusion London
Linda Burnip – Disabled People Against Cuts
John McArdle – Black Triangle
Tara Flood – CEO Alliance for Inclusive Education
Anne Novis – UK Disabled People’s Council
Mark Harrison – CEO Equal Lives
Dorothy Gould – National mental health system Survivor Users Network
Andrew Lee – CEO People First learning disability

Silenced by Disability Wales

As I write this blog, I am feeling quite insulted as I have just received an email from the good people at Disability Wales who have sent me the agenda for their annual conference in Cardiff. It makes for interesting reading – not because of what it includes, but rather because of what it does not mention.

Of course, there are many important topics up for discussion with some excellent speakers – as well as Carl Sargeant AM. There is no doubt that this will be a well-organised and informative day, but to my mind there is one key issue that is missing from the agenda.

I received an email many moons ago, advising me that Disability Wales could not support my #SaveWILG campaign because of some political bias. This was disappointing and frustrating as I think that everything is political to a certain degree and I have made every effort to make my campaign about the future of independent living in Wales and beyond, rather than focusing on the failures of any political parties.

My campaign has been going really well without the support of Disability Wales. I have had my petition discussed by the Petitions Committee in the Senedd and they have agreed to the following :

  • Consider the petition further in the context of the budget announcement due later that afternoon; and in the meantime
  • Write to the Minister for Social Services and Public Health to share the concerns of the petitioner and ask:
    • whether she will publish the results of the public consultation and minutes of the stakeholder group as requested by the petitioner;
    • whether an Equality Impact Assessment of the decision was carried out and can be provided to the Committee and petitioner; and
    • for her views as to whether the planned transitional arrangements will ensure that the aims of the Social Services & Wellbeing (Wales) Act will have been put into practice by local authorities before the planned closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

This has all been achieved by me and my comrades so to be airbrushed from the main platform for disability activism in Wales is quite an insult. It is especially annoying as the reason that my campaign could not be supported by DW is so that they do not upset their funders even though my campaign is in the interests of DW members. I believe something’s are worth fighting for and I will continue fighting for my principles no matter who I disagree with.

I hope everyone enjoys the DW Conference and that the day is a success, but members should remember that they will not hear the voices of all disabled activists in Wales. If anyone who attends wants to contribute to the #SaveWILG campaign, please do get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or the Contact page.

Hello,
You are invited to the following event:

Annual Conference and AGM 19th October 2017

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Event to be held at the following time, date and location:

Thursday, 19 October 2017 from 09:30 to 15:30 (BST)

Orbit Centre
Rhydycar Business Park
CF48 1DL
United Kingdom

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During 2017, the review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living and the UN’s examination of the UK and Welsh Government regarding implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People has provided a timely focus on whether policies and provision in Wales deliver on disability rights and equality.

Furthermore, as arguments over ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ Brexit rage, what impact will it have on disabled people and following the outcome of the General Election, where does it leave the UK Government’s austerity agenda?

Disability Wales’s Annual Conference Defending our Rights: Challenging Attitudes explores these questions and issues with the assistance of a panel of expert speakers and round-table discussions.

  • Find out how Welsh Government proposes to take forward its commitment to disabled people’s rights from the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant AM
  • Hear how Access Consultant Dan Biddle challenges work place discrimination and barriers to employment
  • Learn about the EHRC’s approach to tackling discrimination faced by disabled people from Ruth Coombs, the new Head of Wales
  • Be inspired to campaign for change by leading disability rights activist Tara Flood from the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance
  • Network and exchange ideas with fellow DW members, stakeholders and supporters.
  • Be the first to preview DW’s new website as a tool for sharing information, resources and expertise on disability rights and equality

Annual Conference and AGM

Defending our Rights: Challenging Attitudes

Programme

9.30am:     Registration & Refreshments

10.15am:   Welcome and Scene Setting

                             Rhian Davies, Chief Executive

10.30am:   Personal Perspectives

Dan Biddle, Managing Director, Nationwide Access Consultants Ltd

10.45am:   Campaigning for Change

                             Tara Flood, Reclaiming our Futures Alliance

11.00am:   Regulating our Rights

                             Ruth Coombs, Head of Wales, EHRC

11.15am:   Panel Discussion

11.30am:   Break

11.45am:   Round Table Discussions

12.20pm:   Driving Forward Disability Rights

Carl Sargeant AM, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children

12.45pm:   Summary

1.00pm:     Lunch

2.00pm:     Website Launch

                             Demonstration: Promo Cymru

2.30pm:     AGM and Project Presentations      3.30pm:         Close

Share this event on Facebook and Twitter

We hope you can make it.

Best,
Disability Wales

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

 

Disabled activist ‘is fighting for his life’ as he hands petition to Welsh government

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE DISABILITY NEWS SERVICE WEBSITE AND WAS WRITTEN BY JOHN PRING.

A disabled activist has handed in a petition of hundreds of signatures that calls on the Welsh government to reverse its decision to close its version of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

Nathan Lee Davies (pictured) says he is fighting the decision to scrap the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) because he is terrified of the prospect of his cash-strapped local authority taking over full responsibility for providing his care package.

He has been told that without WILG his own care package would be reduced from 86.5 hours to just 31 hours a week.

He says that such a cut would put an end to all his current community activities, including his involvement with Wrexham Glyndwr University, Wrexham football club, Disabled People Against Cuts, FDF Centre for Independent Living, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.

He is also writing two books, and a blog, and is working with Disability Arts Cymru to create a performance and exhibition of his poetry.

He told Disability News Service (DNS): “I cannot cope with such a limited number of hours per week. This is why I am fighting with every fibre of my being.

“It really is a case of life or death. I have no interests in merely existing. I want to live.

“Without help and support I would be unable to do any of this work that involves me in the community.”

The Labour-run Welsh government announced last November that, after a two-year transition period, it would transfer all of the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales 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 interim WILG scheme the Welsh government has been running as a stopgap to “ensure continuity of payments to recipients” since the Department for Work and Pensions closed ILF in June 2015.

Funding for WILG will now transfer to local authorities during 2018-19, with all former ILF-recipients in Wales having their support needs met solely by their local authority by 31 March 2019.

Since the Welsh government’s announcement, Davies has been campaigning to persuade it to reverse the decision, including setting up the petition – which has now been signed by more than 500 people online and in person – and collecting photographs of supporters holding one of his campaign postcards.

He said: “The current system allows users the security of depending on receiving their funding from three different ‘pots’ – WILG, local authorities and our own personal contribution.

“This gives us a sense of security and ensures that we cannot be dictated to as mere passive recipients.

“Instead, all parties have to be in agreement about what will benefit the individual the most.

“This is something worth fighting for.”

But instead of this three-tier system, he said, the Welsh government had now “sold disabled people down the river.

“They are washing their hands of all responsibility for social care to former ILF recipients and transferring the pressure onto local authorities.”

A Welsh government spokeswoman told DNS in a statement: “Organisations that represent disabled people who have been recipients of the Independent Living Fund, recommended that their future support would be best provided through local authority social care provision, with consistent arrangements in place to support disabled people in Wales.”

But Disability Wales, which was part of the stakeholder advisory group the Welsh government consulted, has made it clear to DNS that it did not support passing funding to local authorities.

The Welsh government added: “We would be surprised if Disability Wales were suggesting that certain disabled people in Wales should have their support needs met in a different way to other disabled people.”

Davies said he believed the Welsh government had listened only to the local authorities on the advisory group.

He has been supported by the north-east branch of the Labour left-wing grassroots campaign Momentum and the Unite union in Wales.

But he said he was disappointed that Disability Wales – the national association of disabled people’s organisations in Wales – had not supported his campaign.

Miranda Evans, policy and programmes manager for Disability Wales (DW), said they were not able to support the petition – which is critical of the Labour party in Wales – because it was too party political.

But she stressed that DW’s preferred option was for a new Welsh independent living scheme – a Welsh version of ILF – that would protect those currently receiving WILG funding and would also be open to new members.

DNS has seen DW’s response to an early consultation on the Welsh government’s plans, and it makes it clear that none of DW’s members or the other disabled people it had consulted about the future of WILG were in favour of handing the funding directly to local authorities, and had instead “expressed strong opposition” to this.

It also stressed that such an option was “totally unacceptable to existing ILF recipients, their carers and other disabled people”.