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.
Reblogged from the Morning Star: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-761f-Disabled-people-and-their-concerns-can-no-longer-be-ignored#.WZ9EjD595dg
Thursday 24th Aug 2017
ELLEN CLIFFORD and ANITA BELLOWS report on how disability rights activists brought evidence of the Tories’ savage policies to the United Nations
DEAF and disabled people’s organisations from across Britain have come together this week to give evidence about Westminster’s continuing violations of disabled people’s rights under the Convention on the Rights of Disabled people (UNCRPD), with a delegation that includes representatives from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, as well as Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Action Northern Ireland.
There are two parallel processes. The UNCRPD committee will simultaneously hear about British progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, as part of a periodic review of all nations that are signed up to the convention, as well as a presentation following up on the initial complaint made by DPAC under the optional protocol of the CRPD, which triggered the first inquiry against a state under this process.
The periodic review is wide-ranging and covers detentions under mental health legislation, employment, education, transport, housing, social care and independent living, specific discrimination against women, black people, intersex people, people with learning difficulties and so on.
On Monday August 21, deaf and disabled people’s organisations from across Britain gave a presentation in front of the committee in a closed session.
We highlighted the gaps in state provisions which undermine the government’s claim that the Westminster government’s public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany.
The issue is complicated by devolution and the different laws and arrangements which exist in the four nations.
What came out of the meeting was that not only has the Westminster government failed to progress CRPD implementation, but that rights hard fought for by disabled people have been dramatically eroded since 2010 by cuts. This has led us to today’s state of crisis where high numbers of people with learning difficulties and autism are trapped in institutions, there has been a rise in disabled children educated in special schools and the destruction of community support is leading to greater marginalisation and isolation of disabled people.
Following the closed session, deaf and disabled people’s organisations will have the chance to arrange meetings with individual committee members on specific matters such as access to justice, before the committee quizzes the Westminster government representatives on August 23-24. These examination sessions will be open to the public and livestreamed.
Also this week, the CRPD committee heard a follow-up presentation on the specific issues which triggered its inquiry in 2015 which found evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the Westminster government due to welfare reform.
These violations were closely related to welfare reform and the devastating and disproportionate impact on disabled people. The investigation carried out by the committee was indepth, involving reading thousands of pages of evidence and reports and a visit to Britain where disability committee members spoke to over 200 disabled people and organisations.
However, the government rejected the findings and dismissed the inquiry report as “patronising and offensive,” questioning the competence of the committee members.
The CRPD committee’s report was leaked to the Daily Mail the day before the US election. The response from the government was dismissive and totally ignored the committee’s conclusions.
One specific demand was for the government to undertake a cumulative impact assessment of the cuts, something that it has consistently refused to do.
This week disabled people had the chance to give a presentation on the worsening of the situation since that inquiry took place and the new cuts and measures that have been introduced withouBrit consultation or by bypassing Parliament and scrutiny — including the cut to personal independence payments brought in at the start of the year that will affect 164,000 people, predominantly those who experience psychological distress.
One major concern that disabled people have is around proposals outlined in the government green paper Work, Health and Disability: Improving Lives.
Its purported aim is to reduce the disability employment gap, but key measures it introduces will extend conditionalities and sanctions to more disabled people, ignoring calls from the National Audit Office to follow up on its initial examination of the impact of sanctions on disabled people, which suggests they actually lower chances for disabled people of finding employment.
For the government, the default position is that all disabled people are able to work, or able to do some work, if given the right incentives and motivation to do.
Using the flawed argument that work is the best way out of poverty, when more and more people in work are getting poorer, the government has devised a regime even more coercive than the previous one, for which impairments are something temporary which can be overcome with willpower and the right mindset. This government is a step away from denying the existence of disability.
Reflecting on the long journey, which has taken disability activists to the United Nations, there is some grounds for optimism.
The inquiry and its outcome mean that disabled people and disability issues can no longer be ignored. Their experiences have been validated by the inquiry’s findings, and the CRPD provides a framework for expressing our grievances and holding the government to account that is missing from domestic legislation. The fight is far from being over, but disabled people have become a vocal and powerful force in Britain.
- Ellen Clifford is campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London and Anita Bellows is a Disabled People Against Cuts activist.
A few weeks ago I emailed Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts after she called for assistance with a report she is writing on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund. The aim is in particular to highlight the problems people are experiencing, but also the post code lottery in the very different ways different LAs are handling the closure from ring-fencing to cuts. Ellen also wanted to highlight problems with the administration of social care and personal budgets by local authorities.
I was happy to help and volunteered to share my personal experiences since the cruel closure of the ILF over 12 months ago. In our emails, I discussed my dismay at the way the world is going with the EU debacle, Teresa May leading the Conservatives and the Labour Party in self-destruct mode instead of giving their support to their democratically elected leader.
Apparently, my email triggered something in Ellen’s brain – the need for a Disabled people’s rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn. A rally was quickly organised for deaf and disabled people to support Corbyn. Ellen wanted me to get to London as the idea for the event came from my email, but sadly I was unable to make it due to the short notice. Nevertheless, I still wrote a message of support for Jeremy Corbyn, which I have printed below and may adapt slightly to send to the local right-wing newspaper.
I am not sure if the message was read out or not. I will ask Ellen and report back, but it is good to be contributing to the good fight in some small way.
I just wanted to add my support for Jeremy Corbyn from my base in north Wales. I am sorry I cannot be there this evening but I am their in spirit with the rest of my comrades. It is difficult to sum up how important this new brand of inclusive politics is to those of us who often feel abandoned and isolated on the edges of a cruel right-wing society.
I have been particularly hurt by the closure of the Independent Living Fund as I have a progressive disability that means my needs will increase over time. I am still stuck with the same limited hours of care that I was given six years ago with little hope of receiving an increase in the near future. This often means being left alone during the afternoon which can lead to numerous accidents through no fault of my own. I shouldn’t have to live like this and I am doing all I can to ensure that no one has to suffer such indignities and barriers to independent living.
This is our chance to make far-reaching changes in our society and the vast majority of the disabled community support Jeremy Corbyn to deliver this positive change, as you have supported us in our countless battles against the Tories. We will return that loyalty and support you until the end. You can count on that.
Finally, I would like to thank Mr John McDonnell and your good self for providing disabled activists such as myself with the hope. Hope that we can defeat the Tories, hope that we can build a fairer society and most of all the hope that one day we can achieve full equality under a new type of politics.
Nathan Lee Davies
Below I have pasted an excellent article by John Pring of Disability News Service, which includes quotes from a certain Nathan Lee Davies 🙂
Disabled members of the Conservative party have launched their own investigation into the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), following widespread concerns about its impact across the country.
The Conservative Disability Group (CDG) has issued an appeal to former ILF-users and those who had friends or relatives who were recipients of ILF funding to help with the research.
Disabled campaigners have accused the government of trying to “wash its hands of all responsibility” for meeting the social care support needs of former ILF-recipients, with the transition process hit by reports of cuts to their care packages.
ILF was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and when it closed on 30 June 2015 it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.
But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.
CDG – which provides a forum for party members with an interest in disability to raise concerns and make suggestions that can be passed on to Tory MPs and councillors – plans to write a report to share with the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson.
Wayne Henderson, a member of the CDG executive, has told members the project will examine how well the transition has been managed.
He has asked for evidence of how the process has worked in different parts of the country, whether there have been any problems, and whether people’s care packages have been protected by their local councils.
He told Disability News Service that it was CDG’s “first call for evidence in recent years” and that they were “using our limited resources to investigate one of the most current areas where there are reported problems in order to find out the facts”.
But he said it was too early to say if he or other CDG members were concerned about how the transition from ILF closure had been managed.
He said: “We are doing this because we have heard that the transition varies considerably from area to area and we want to get more facts to inform our consideration and thence to pass on information and suggestions to the parliamentary group.”
A spokeswoman for Inclusion London welcomed CDG’s decision to carry out the investigation, but said it was a surprise.
She said: “People haven’t felt listened to by the Conservative party. It shows that it is such an important issue that they are choosing to research in this area. It shows an awareness that the transition has not gone smoothly.”
A Conservative party spokesman said: “The CDG are an independent organisation, so it is up to them what research they choose to undertake.”
In October, figures obtained by Inclusion London through a freedom of information request showed that in one local authority, Waltham Forest, more than a quarter of disabled people who previously received ILF support had had their social care packages cut by at least half since it closed.
Meanwhile, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has finally confirmed – following weeks of requests for information from Disability News Service (DNS) – that it will provide some funding to councils to compensate them for the extra costs of providing support to former ILF-users in 2016-17.
DCLG had insisted that any grants to support councils with the costs of former ILF-users in 2016-17 would depend on the outcome of the government’s spending review, and later said it would provide details once last month’s local government finance settlement had been announced.
A DCLG spokeswoman has now finally told DNS: “Local councils are now responsible for meeting all of the eligible needs of former Independent Living Fund recipients.
“The government is committed to ensuring councils meet their duties under the Care Act 2014 to former fund recipients.
“We will be providing a grant to councils to fund former ILF recipients. Full details will be published in due course.”
Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “I would be surprised – although delighted – if there really was continuation of the separate ILF grant determination.
“The delay in releasing this information means that local authorities will continue to plan ahead on the basis there won’t be, leading to re-assessments going ahead meanwhile on the basis of a need to cut costs.”
This week, DPAC issued an appeal for donations to set up a fighting fund to help former ILF-recipients challenge cuts to their care packages.
Clifford said that cuts to the extent of those seen in Waltham Forest “mean robbing disabled people of independence, dignity and equality”.
Changes to legal aid mean some former ILF-users are no longer eligible for help with their legal bills, but cannot afford to fund court action to challenge cuts to their care packages.
Clifford said: “Legal challenges are an important way of testing out the rights of former ILF recipients under the Care Act 2014 and making examples out of local authorities that are not meeting their legal duties.
“This is why we need a fighting fund available to support legal challenges by former ILF recipients not eligible for legal aid.”
The Welsh independent living grant (WILG) funding will ensure that former ILF-users continue to receive their existing level of financial support for social care until at least March 2017.
In the email sent to campaigner and former ILF-user Nathan Lee Davies, the first minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said the Welsh Labour government’s draft budget for 2016-17 “contains £27 million to enable the WILG to continue to March 2017 as planned”.
He added: “I understand that the minister for health and social services will shortly be engaging with representatives of stakeholders to identify the best way of providing support in future.
“This will be in the light of the public consultation held earlier this year. This is to ensure that future arrangements are in place for when the current grant concludes in 2017.”
Davies said on his blog that this response was “the best Christmas gift I could have asked for as now I have it in writing that WILG will continue to March 2017 as planned”.
He added: “I must keep my eye on the ball and continue to fight to secure long-term assurances for disabled people, but I can now forge forward with hope in my heart.”
A Welsh government spokesman said: “The UK government’s decision to close the ILF caused anxiety among those who receive support, and their carers.
“The Welsh grant scheme to replace the ILF came into operation on 1 July 2015. It allows local authorities to pay existing recipients their current level of funding.
“The actions the Welsh government has taken to ensure this important source of funding continues to be delivered by our local authorities means people who currently receive ILF payments will still be able to get direct payments to sustain their levels of care and support under a new made-in-Wales process.”
The Scottish government has set up its own Independent Living Fund, for both existing and new users in Scotland.
Picture: Activists campaigning to halt the closure of the Independent Living Fund taking part in a protest in the grounds of Westminster Abbey in 2014