England

Closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant: In the cause of equality of provision for disabled people? #SaveWILG

The following article was written by Ann James and Luke Clements. It appears on their superbly informative website which can be viewed here.

We would like to thank Ann and Luke for their research and work in putting together such a comprehensive report.

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Local authorities in Wales are rushing to meet the new September deadline, set by the
Minister for Health, for the re-assessment of the 1,300 or more recipients of the Welsh
Independent Living Grant (WILG). In November 2016 the Welsh Government (following in the footsteps of the English Government) announced the closure of the WILG.

The transfer of care and support of all recipients to local authority provision has been
contentious and has left many recipients anxious and fearful that their right to Independent Living will be eroded by this decision. A strident campaign has been launched by recipients of the WILG (and the previous Independent Living Fund (ILF)) and their families and supporters under the campaign banner of #SWILG.

Closure of the Wales Independent Living Grant

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was established by the Department of Health and
Social Security in 1988 as an independent trust to provide a weekly payment to a
small number of severely disabled people who would have suffered very significant
financial loss as a result of the abolition of supplementary benefits ‘additional
requirements’ payments in that year.4 It is however thought that about one million
disabled people experienced considerable losses as a result of the 1988 changes.

The ILF existed in various forms until it was closed by the Department for Works and
Pensions to new applications in December 2010,  at which time it was providing support
to 46,000 people with complex needs to live in the in the community.7 At that time the UK
Government argued that it was an unsustainable cost; that it perpetuated an unfair funding of services to disabled people; that distribution of ILF was inconsistent across the four nations and within the four nations; and that the advent of direct payments and individual budgets in England obviated the need for ILF.8 The ILF closed in June 2015 and the funding was devolved to English local authorities and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments

The WILG was set up in 2015 following a consultation exercise and gave the Welsh
Government a period of moratorium to decide on how to proceed
.
The options before the Minister were:

• the extension of current arrangements;
• an arrangement with a third party to continue to provide payments to recipients in
Wales, and;
• to transfer the responsibility and funding to local authorities in Wales over a two-year
transitional period so as to eventually provide support through nIn November 2016, it was announced that the WILG would close in March 2019 and that all recipients would be assessed by their Local Authority for care and support under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act (SSWBA) 2014 by March 2018. The March deadline was extended to–September 2018 to enable local authorities to complete their assessments of WILG recipients.

The #SaveWILG campaigning group led by Nathan Davies continue to fight a vigorous campaign to persuade Welsh Government to retain the WILG and grow the provision in a similar fashion to Scotland.

The Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out in advance of the closure decision in Wales conveys a Panglossian view, that is to say an overly optimistic view of what the 2014 Act will deliver following the closure of the WILG in 2019.  It also fails to acknowledge and consider the potential adverse effect on individuals who may have significant changes to provision and how this will be addressed to ensure the recipients right to Independent Living.

The rational for the closure of the WILG is in keeping with the UK Government’s arguments for the closure of the ILF. Welsh Government argues that:

  • the continuation of the WILG will perpetuate a ‘two tier’ system of provision and that this is unfair on those who receive care and support solely through their local authority.
  • the cost of maintaining a Welsh version of the Independent Living Fund is financially unsustainable as money devolved to Wales from the UK Government’s closure does not have the capacity to respond to future need of recipients nor allow for the opening of the WILG to new applicants.
  • the SSWBA 2014 and Direct Payment provision will enable and support independent living and that the need for a discrete fund is not required.

 

Transition from the WILG to local authority provision: are there messages from England?

The analysis and studies of the impact of the closure on ILF in England are bound to give concern to WILG recipients in Wales. The Shakespeare and Porter 2016 study, which focused on the impact of the transition from ILF to local authority support, found high levels of concern and anxiety about Local Authority processes and provision during this period. The Department of Work and Pensions Post-Closure Review,found both positive and negative experiences of the transition. Those who had retained their provision or had an increase in provision or a slight reduction reported satisfaction without any loss to their independence. For those who had experienced a significant reduction there was a loss of independence, greater restrictions to their independence and an increased reliance on unpaid carers. There was also a concomitant impact on the emotional and physical health of these participants.

An emerging theme from the research and reviews is the post-code lottery faced by previous recipients of ILF. The finding in Inclusion London’s  review confirmed this factor and found in addition inconsistent practice in relation to NHS Continuing Health Care (NHS CHC) referrals for funding and failings in the implementation of the Care Act 2014 which left services users without essential provision.

Many disabled people who will be transiting from the WILG will be legally eligible for NHS CHC funding or at least NHS joint funding. In addition to the well-documented procedural hurdles they encounter in obtaining this support, in Wales a more troubling challenge exists.  The Welsh Government has made it clear that it will not permit direct payments to be made for people eligible for NHS CHC (unlike in England such payments can be made.  Many LHBs appear reluctant to facilitate direct payments via a trust arrangement (often referred to as an Independent User Trust (IUT)) even though the High Court has held this to be lawful (indeed necessary in certain situations).

Anecdotally it is also reported that LHBs are placing obstacles in direct payments being made where there is a joint funding arrangement even though the Framework guidance makes it clear that where ‘an individual has existing Direct Payment arrangements, these should continue wherever and for as long as possible within a tailored joint package of care’.

 

Concluding Comments

About 1,300 people will transfer from the WILG to local authority care and support under the SSWBA 2014 by March 2019. Many of the recipients and their carers are concerned that their right to Independent Living will be compromised as local authorities re-assess and establish their eligibility to services.

The R (CWR) v Flintshire County Council (2018) Case Note illustrates the challenges that a disabled person and his/her family can face in Wales as they seek to access care and support. This case note does however, highlight the statutory requirements for a comprehensive assessment of disabled people in need of care and support and their carers. It demonstrates too, that assessments undertaken in a cavalier manner can be challenged and local authorities held accountable for their assessment, determination of eligibility and care provision. This may provide some reassurance to WILG recipients although it is perhaps questionable how many will have the energy, knowledge and courage to pursue this option.

While the term ‘well-being’ may be used in a perfunctory manner in discussion about social care, the definition in section 2 SSWBA 2014 is comprehensive and includes control over day to day life (s.2(4) (a)) and participation in work (s.2(4)(b)).

Clements notes that section 6(3)(b) stresses ‘the importance of promoting the adult’s independence where possible’ and argues that this is amplified and bolstered by para 56 of the Part 2 Code of Practice (General Function) which states that the well-being duty ‘includes key aspects of independent living as expressed in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People in particular Article 19 which recognizes the right of disabled people to ‘full inclusion and participation in the community’; to choose where they live and with whom they live; and to have access to a range of community support services ‘to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community’. Assessment, eligibility determinations and decisions on how to meet need will need to be infused by these principles.

R (JF) v. Merton LBC highlighted the requirement for an assessment to have regard to the dimensions of well-being set out in stature.

A comprehensive overview of assessment, eligibility and meeting needs can be found at www.lukeclements.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Wales-SS-Well-being-Act-26.pdf page 9.

This ‘post’, written by Ann James and Luke Clements, appears in Rhydian: Wales Social Welfare Law on-line (2018) 23-26: to access this click here.

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Call Out To Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) Recipients

I am writing as a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Labour to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019. I would like to hear from other WILG recipients in the hope of holding a series of public/virtual meetings to discuss how we can best oppose this closure and create a pressure group to support each other through this worrying time.

We are particularly interested in those living outside of Wrexham County Borough Council as we attempt to show that this problem of reducing hours of care and support is not just confined to residents of Wrexham. Having said that, please don’t hesitate to get in touch even if you live in Wrexham. The more evidence we can gather, the better. 

The WILG was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015.

More than 1,200 people are helped by the scheme.

It was due to run until the end of March 2017, but Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans said in November that funding would continue for another year.

The annual £27m fund will then transfer directly to local authorities during 2018-19 so they can meet the support needs of all former ILF recipients by 31 March 2019.

Something needs to be done as our disabled friends in England have suffered under a similar system that has seen local authorities being solely responsible for their care and support since 2015. This cannot be allowed to happen in Wales as well. We must organise ourselves and demand to be listened to.

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens. But they didn’t want WILG scrapped and the key point is that our advice was not accepted.​

It should also be remembered that closure of WILG is not inevitable as is proved through the formation and success of the Scottish Independent Living Fund; which also works to support the Northern Ireland ILF.

They will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed. However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success – with no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure.​ 

Indeed, eventually it should be our aim to set up an Independent Living Fund for Wales so that no disabled person should have to suffer the same uncertainty and isolation as WILG recipients are now experiencing. We can only begin to believe that true social justice and equality for all is possible if Welsh Labour revisit their WILG decision…

WILG recipients who wish to help make a difference should contact nathandavies01@hotmail.com

Further reading is available below:

‘I will spend what remains of my life fighting this if I have to’ – Disabled man’s battle for grant to live independently

Wales Live, BBC One Wales, 09/05/2018

Welsh Government under pressure over disabled grant

Disabled man continues fight for independent lives in Flintshire and Wrexham

This disabled man has lost half his care after Tories axed the Independent Living Fund

Welsh Government has ‘sold disabled people down the river’

Independent living grants: Disability campaigner fear cuts

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.

Open letter to Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies #SaveWILG

Following the BBC Wales Live programme last night, I took it upon myself to write an open letter to Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies about the issues discussed.

If the Welsh Government think we are just going to go away quietly then they can think again…

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National Assembly for Wales
Cardiff Bay
Cardiff
CF99 1NA

10 May 2018

Dear Huw Irranca-Davies

WELSH INDEPENDENT LIVING GRANT

As you are aware, the Welsh Labour Party conference overwhelmingly passed a Clwyd South motion urging support for the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). Support for that motion came from a very wide spectrum of Labour Party opinion including AMs, MPs, CLPs and Trade Unions.

I am writing to ask you to urgently encourage the Welsh Assembly to support the retention of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

Freedom of Information requests to Local Authorities clearly show that there are real difficulties appearing in the transition process, highlighted in startling inconsistencies in 19 of the 22 responses received at the time of writing.

Passing responsibility for social care wholly onto the shoulders of confused and cash-strapped local councils will result in an unfair postcode lottery to mirror the appalling situation in England and drag Disability Rights back 30 years. It doesn’t have to be this way…

I have a real problem with your assertion that the stakeholder group were united in agreement with the closure of WILG and the transferring of funds to local authorities. This was quite simply not the case and I request that you should provide evidence in support of your claims.  Was a vote held in the stakeholder advisory group? If so, on what date, what was the result, and can the minutes of that meeting please be provided?

The members of the stakeholder group that I have spoken to have stated their frustrations with the whole process: “I disagreed with one side of the room almost continuously,“ and “I would be amazed to see minutes of a meeting where all participants agreed that passing this WILG over to the local authority beyond the ring-fenced period was the way forward.”  Others have said “I used to go home from all these stakeholder groups thinking we had agreed certain things to discover that was not what had been recorded.” and other activists argue that many officials and civil servants do not actually “know what Independent Living means – they still think ‘independent’ means managing without support”. 

It would greatly assist me in understanding Welsh Government’s decision making process on this issue if the minutes of all of the meetings of the stakeholder advisory group can be provided, and I will submit a Freedom of Information Act request if necessary.

Finally, I would specifically request a meeting with to discuss matters relating to the WILG and the future prospects of those who have benefitted from the WILG.

Yours sincerely

Nathan Lee Davies
Disabled Activist and Author
@nathanleedavies
https://www.facebook.com/SaveWILG/
https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/

Open letter to First Minister Carwyn Jones #SaveWILG

Following the BBC Wales Live programme last night, I took it upon myself to write an open letter to First Minister Carwyn Jones about the issues discussed.

If the Welsh Government think we are just going to go away quietly then they can think again…

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National Assembly for Wales
Cardiff Bay
Cardiff
CF99 1NA

10 May 2018

Dear Carwyn Jones

WELSH INDEPENDENT LIVING GRANT

As you are aware, the Welsh Labour Party conference overwhelmingly passed a Clwyd South motion urging support for the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). Support for that motion came from a very wide spectrum of Labour Party opinion including AMs, MPs, CLPs and Trade Unions.

I am writing to ask you to urgently encourage the Welsh Assembly to support the retention of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

Freedom of Information requests to Local Authorities clearly show that there are real difficulties appearing in the transition process, highlighted in startling inconsistencies in 19 of the 22 responses received at the time of writing.

Passing responsibility for social care wholly onto the shoulders of confused and cash-strapped local councils will result in an unfair postcode lottery to mirror the appalling situation in England and drag Disability Rights back 30 years. It doesn’t have to be this way…

I have a real problem with the assertion by  the Minister for Children and Social Care that the stakeholder group were united in agreement with the closure of WILG and the transferring of funds to local authorities. This was quite simply not the case and I request that he should provide evidence in support of these claims.  Was a vote held in the stakeholder advisory group? If so, on what date, what was the result, and can the minutes of that meeting please be provided?

The members of the stakeholder group that I have spoken to have stated their frustrations with the whole process: “I disagreed with one side of the room almost continuously,“ and “I would be amazed to see minutes of a meeting where all participants agreed that passing this WILG over to the local authority beyond the ring-fenced period was the way forward.”  Others have said “I used to go home from all these stakeholder groups thinking we had agreed certain things to discover that was not what had been recorded.” and other activists argue that many officials and civil servants do not actually “know what Independent Living means – they still think ‘independent’ means managing without support”. 

It would greatly assist me in understanding Welsh Government’s decision making process on this issue if the minutes of all of the meetings of the stakeholder advisory group can be provided, and I will submit a Freedom of Information Act request if necessary.

Finally, I would specifically request a meeting with to discuss matters relating to the WILG and the future prospects of those who have benefitted from the WILG.

Yours sincerely

Nathan Lee Davies
Disabled Activist and Author
@nathanleedavies
https://www.facebook.com/SaveWILG/
https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/

Falling Apart at the Seams

 Loads of things to let you know, but so little time.

First of all a little self promotion, as the following paragraph is from Ian Lucas MP’s monthly CLP report:

I have been working alongside Nathan Davies, a party member here in Wrexham, over the changes the Government has made to the Independent Living Fund. The debate included MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England as well as Welsh Labour colleagues Susan Elan Jones and Jessica Morden, and it was notable that each part of England criticised the changes the UK Government has made to the administration of the successor to ILF. I was able to pay tribute to the work Nathan has been doing – and to highlight his front page appearance in the Leader that morning. I was not particularly impressed with the Minister’s response, although I will take her up on her offer to meet to discuss my concerns. 

The following video accompanies this text:

Independent Living Debate with Ian Lucas

I think we have established how brilliant I am, but this awesome individual is also struggling at the moment with the effects of Friedrich’s Ataxia. This cruel disease is progressing quickly and really starting to affect my swallowing and speech. I have particular problems before food as I am regularly coughing and choking uncontrollably on my own saliva as I anticipate my food.

Another problem is with my speech. I am afraid that I am beginning to slur more than I use to and I just cant bear listening to myself on TV or radio as the voice that I hear is not the one that I hear in my head when speaking. I really should do something about both problems, but as I am so busy trying to save WILG, I am letting my health slide.

Earlier this week, I received a phone call from the local hospital asking me to come in for a camera down my throat following discussion with my GP about my difficulties choking. I chose to decline there kind offer as I am so busy with other things and cannot afford to lose my voice or become ill at the moment.

I received a newsletter from Ataxia UK today informing me of a speech and language therapy course that they are running in association with the University of Stirling. The second are all taking place through Skype so they are open to everyone. I really should take part and I would like to if only I had the luxury of time to spend looking after myself. The Tories and Wrexham council are ensuring that this is just not possible at the moment.

1Study Advert, Version 4.0, 05 January 2018

Speech Therapy Treatment Study for Friedreich’s Ataxia

Communication problems are a frequent consequence of ataxia. Many people report a decrease in quality of life as they can impact on our social relationships, employment opportunities, etc. Yet there currently is no effective treatment for speech problems that has been properly evaluated, and there is uncertainty amongst clinicians on how best to support people with ataxia with their communication.

We are looking for participants for a study investigating a new treatment approach for speech problems. There is good evidence that this approach is effective for Parkinson’s Disease and we  want to find out whether it can also help those with ataxia. This study is funded by Ataxia UK and aCHaf and carried out by researchers at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

The treatment will be administered via Skype in your home and there is no need to attend a clinic. It will run for 8 weeks, with two therapy sessions per week and homework practice for the other days. A typical LSVT therapy session will involve practising a good voice production on a series of long ‘ahhhs’ focusing on controlling the loudness of your voice, as well as the pitch. We will then try and transfer these skills to speaking by reading out individual words and functional phrases, working our way up to longer stretches of speech over the course of therapy. As treatment will be carried out in English, it is important that you have Basic English speaking and reading skills. This protocol of activities will be the same for each session, but the materials will increase in complexity. Homework exercises will follow a similar protocol to the therapy sessions and will take about 30 minutes. Ideally, we would like you to practise at least another four times during the week.

We will measure how much your speech has changed after treatment, and also ask you what youthought of the therapy approach. To do this, we will perform two short assessments before and two after treatment, and also do an interview. This will again be done via Skype. Altogether, the study will take about 6 months.

To be able to take part, you need to fulfil the following criteria:
􀁸 Have a confirmed diagnosis of Friedreich’s Ataxia
􀁸 Experience speech or voice problems
􀁸 Not have any other neurological or speech problems
􀁸 Be aged 16 or over
􀁸 Have access to the necessary technology (good internet connection, access to a computer

that allows you to use Skype and has a functional microphone input)
􀁸 Have Basic English speaking and reading skills

If you are interested in participating, please get in touch with us by phone or email and we will give you more detailed information. Please contact:

Aisling Egan
Speech and Language Therapy Unit
School of Psychological Sciences and Health
Strathclyde University
Tel: 0141 548 4393
Email: aisling.egan@strath.ac.uk

I should probably email Aisling to find out more information.

I cannot end this blog without mentioning the two events that have on this week.  The first of which is a #SaveWILG Art exhibition at Theatr Clwyd in Mold, north Wales. This event runs from January 24th to February 12th and includes art, poetry and pictures from a wide range of disability activists and artists. The official media day for this is on February 2nd. I am very proud of what we have put together in such a short space of time.

A leaflet for the Theatr Clwyd event has also been produced by Heather Wilson.

SaveWILGSideA2

SaveWILGSideB2 copy

Our North-East Wales WLG/M comrades are centrally involved in organising this great event. It will be a fantastic occasion, but we need to get as many people there as possible! This is a day of entertainment and information. There is alcohol, soft drinks and food on sale at the venue and there is full Disabled access and a Disabled toilet.  The least we hope anyone can do is promote this event by sharing the flyer and printing it off and putting around your area, disability groups, CLPs etc etc. Raising awareness of the event is crucial to the campaign’s success!The event is FREE to all. Please do help in any way you can.

Schedule

 

Writing to local newspapers…

I have written the following letter to a number of local newspapers across Wales, urging the Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).The campaign for justice continues…

If you wish to write a letter in support of this campaign, use the following emails:

This is the email that I fired off in the hope that people will read it and take notice of what is going on. It is worth a go.

 

I am writing as a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Labour to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019. This payment was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015.

WILG was due to run until the end of March 2017, but Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans said in November that funding would continue for another year.

The annual £27m fund will then transfer directly to local authorities during 2018-19 so they can meet the support needs of all former ILF recipients by 31 March 2019.

Something needs to be done as our disabled friends in England have suffered under a similar system that has seen local authorities being solely responsible for their care and support since 2015. This cannot be allowed to happen in Wales as well. Disabled people must organise themselves and demand to be listened to.

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens who didn’t want WILG scrapped. The key point is that the advice of disabled people was ignored.

This is the time to fight back as Welsh Labour are basking in the glory of Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the recent General Election. The prevailing mood has changed and Welsh Labour have apparently made a significant shift to the left. Surely, Welsh Labour will want to distance themselves from a decision that mirrors the one made by the Tory Government in 2010?

It should also be remembered that closure of WILG is not inevitable as is proved through the formation and success of the Scottish Independent Living Fund; which also works to support the Northern Ireland ILF.

Furthermore, the hugely popular Labour Party Manifesto outlined plans to set up a national care system to exist independently of local authorities. This is exactly the time that the Labour Party should be united on such issues against the Tories. We must question why Welsh Labour are not playing their part in the changing political landscape?

They will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed. However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success – with no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure. 

Indeed, eventually it should be our aim to set up an Independent Living Fund for Wales so that no disabled person should have to suffer the same uncertainty and isolation as WILG recipients are now experiencing. We can only begin to believe that true social justice and equality for all is possible if Welsh Labour revisit their WILG decision…

There are a number of ways that WILG recipients, family members and personal assistants can help to make a difference. Those concerned can sign the petition that has currently received almost 250 signatures, take part in the postcard campaign that is being orchestrated across social media and put pen to paper to their local AM. To find out more about these projects, please contact Nathan Lee Davies at nathandavies01@hotmail.com or search Facebook for the Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) page. Twitter users can find me on @nathanleedavies or you can find all the information about this campaign on my blog at https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/

Thank you for your time.

Nathan Lee Davies, Wrexham