First Minister Mark Drakeford

Vote Welsh Labour on December 12th

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There are so many reasons why we all need to pull together to ensure that we elect a Labour Government next week.

Welsh Labour is Standing Up for Wales:

  • £3.4bn extra, each year to invest in schools, the NHS and local government.

  • A green industrial revolution, creating thousands of new green jobs.

  • A £10 living wage, for all workers aged 16 and over.

  • A final say on Brexit, where Welsh Labour will campaign unequivocally to remain.

  • A ban on zero hours contracts, giving people the security they need at work.

  • Fairer taxation, with the top 5% of earners and corporations paying their fair share, whilst cracking down on tax avoidance and tax evasion.

  • Extend free social care, supporting more people when it really matters.

  • Strengthened parental rights, by extending statutory maternity leave to 12 months and doubling paternity leave.

  • Scrap tuition fees, building on the best student support package in the UK.

  • An end to the Tories’ disastrous Universal Credit, no ifs, no buts.

  • Four new bank holidays, including a public holiday for St. David’s Day.

The Welsh Labour manifesto can be viewed by clicking here. 

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Below, I have included a tweet from Welsh Labour as I believe the video shows that the First Minister Mark Drakeford has the passion that Wales needs to build a brighter tomorrow.

 

#GE2019: Standing Up for Wales

The following email is from Mark Drakeford to Welsh Labour members.  I wanted to share it here to show why I believe in this Party and have faith in them to deliver a brighter tomorrow for everyone in Wales.  They will also be in a stronger position to do this if they are able to work with a Labour Party in Westminster.

#VoteLabour2019 #JC4PM2019 #ChangeIsComing

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On Monday I unveiled our Welsh Labour manifesto. It is a bold plan for how the Welsh Labour Government will work side-by-side with a UK Labour Government, led by Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a plan that will deliver for each and every community across Wales. But we need your help on the doorstep to make sure we can deliver it.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve shown what our people-powered campaign can do. Thousands of Welsh Labour members have been pounding the streets of towns, villages and cities spreading our positive vision for Wales’ prosperous future under a UK Labour Government.

Unlike the Tories who rely on their big donors, our campaign is funded by the generosity of hundreds of thousands of individual people who want to bring about real change.

Our Welsh Labour manifesto works hand in hand with the UK Manifesto in helping us deliver for Wales like never before, including:

  • £3.4bn extra, each year to invest in schools, the NHS and local government.
  • A green industrial revolution, creating thousands of new green jobs.
  • A £10 living wage, for all workers aged 16 and over.
  • A final say on Brexit, where Welsh Labour will campaign unequivocally to remain.
  • A ban on zero hours contracts, giving people the security they need at work.
  • Extend free social care, supporting more people when it really matters.
  • Strengthened parental rights, by extending statutory maternity leave to 12 months and doubling paternity leave.
  • Scrap tuition fees, building on the best student support package in the UK.
  • An end to the Tories’ disastrous Universal Credit, no ifs, no buts.
  • Four new bank holidays, including a public holiday for St. David’s Day.

    I hope you’ll agree that this plan is a blueprint for the Wales that we all want to see.

    And with your help over these crucial final few weeks of the campaign, that’s the future we can have.

    Welsh Labour is the only party that is standing up for Wales.

    Let’s get out there and spread the word – see you on the Labour Doorstep!

    I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail!

    Best wishes,
    Mark Drakeford AM
    Welsh Labour Leader & First Minister of Wales

In Support of Helen Grout

I was shocked and saddened when Ian Lucas MP announced that he was stepping down as MP for Wrexham. Ian and I have disagreed about much in the past, but whenever I have needed his support I have been able to call on him. He has spoke out on my behalf on several occasions and attended key meetings with me in relation to the #SaveWILG campaign. His knowledge and experience will be missed in the Wrexham area.

However, it has just been announced that Helen Grout will be standing to become the next Labour candidate for Wrexham MP. She will certainly be getting my support and I call on ALL members of Wrexham CLP to join me in voting for her.

Helen will be a outstanding MP, due to her honesty, integrity, and socialist principles. It is absolutely vital that Wrexham CLP elect a candidate that shares the vision set out by Jeremy Corbyn and shared in Cardiff by Mark Drakeford.

On November 8th, let us join together and help to cement a united Labour Party.

You can find Helen’s official Facebook page by clicking on this link. 

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #Helen4WxmMP when discussing this campaign on Twitter.

I implore ALL WREXHAM LABOUR PARTY MEMBERS to ensure you are at THE CATRIN FINCH CENTRE, WREXHAM, FRIDAY 8TH NOVEMBER AT 7PM to support Helen. This is such an exciting opportunity for Wrexham, the Labour Party and the wider community.

Disability News Service: Welsh government ignores social care funding crisis… in independent living action plan #SaveWILG

The following is an article written by John Pring on his excellent Disability News Service website. This can be accessed by clicking here. 

I have been put in a difficult position following the publication of the Welsh Government’s new framework on independent living – Action On Disability – The Right to Independent Living.

I have been extremely critical of this new legislation, but I want to make it very clear that this is a separate issue to my WILG campaign. I will be forever grateful to the Welsh Government for listening to campaigners and acting decisively. Our new First Minister and the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services deserve particular praise for their hard work and determination to protect a vulnerable section of society.

However, I hope both Mark Drakeford and Julie Morgan can appreciate why I  have to speak out against the new framework due to the lack of consideration of social care. I am a proud member of the Labour Party and fully support the vast majority of the party’s policies, but I reserve the right to be critical of specific programmes and will campaign to improve them.

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The Welsh government has completely ignored the social care funding crisis in a new action plan aimed at ensuring disabled people’s right to independent living.

A public consultation process with disabled people and disability organisations led to “multiple calls” for increased social care funding.

But the final version of the Labour government’s framework and action plan on the right to independent living – which includes 55 actions – says nothing about the funding crisis or the need for more spending on adult social care.

This contrasts with its 2013 framework, which it replaces and which included lengthy sections on access to social care, direct payments and personalised support.

In discussing the engagement process, which took place in 2017, with further engagement late last year on a draft version of the framework, the document says: “We heard that cuts to social care provision have led to lower allocations for Direct Payments which means disabled adults and young people are becoming increasingly isolated and impact to their well-being compromised.”

It also admits that there were “multiple calls for increased funding for health and social care” during that process.

But despite those calls, not one of the 55 actions in the plan mentions social care funding, or the need to address the cuts.

Instead, the action plan details wider measures around independent living, including: barriers to employment; recruitment of disabled apprentices; a review of funding for housing adaptations; collecting evidence on disability poverty; and improving access to health services.

It also includes a planned review of the disabled students’ allowance system; a pledge to improve understanding of the social model of disability across the Welsh government; and action on access to public transport.

There is also a pledge to introduce a scheme in Wales to provide financial support for the extra costs of disabled people seeking election to local councils, to match schemes in Scotland and England.

Nathan Lee Davies, a leading disabled campaigner who has helped secure concessions from the Welsh government on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), said the omission was “bemusing” and appeared to be a “major step backwards”.

A spokesperson for the Welsh government refused to comment on the failure to mention cuts to social care funding in the action plan.

But Jane Hutt, the Welsh government’s deputy minister and chief whip, who has responsibility for equality issues, said in announcing the new framework that “supporting people to live their lives in the way they choose is the right thing to do”.

She said the framework sets out how the government was fulfilling its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

But the failure of the action plan to suggest any measures to address the funding crisis and cuts to support suggests the Welsh government could be in breach of the convention’s article 19.

Article 19 says that governments signed up to the convention should take “effective and appropriate measures” to enable disabled people to live in the community with “full inclusion and participation”.

Despite this omission, the framework pledges to “work for continuous improvement in how Wales fulfils its obligations with regard to [UNCRPD] and the Rights of the Child”.

There is also no mention in the document of ILF, and the Welsh government’s decision to close its interim Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme, which it had been running as a stopgap with UK government transition funding since ILF closed in June 2015.

WILG closed on 31 March 2018, when the £27 million a year funding provided by the UK government to maintain support to former ILF recipients transferred to local authorities in Wales.

Because of the WILG closure, Welsh local authorities are now solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients.

More than 1,200 former ILF recipients will now have their needs met through council funding, while 50 of them have requested an independent assessment of their new support package, a process being funded by the Welsh government following a campaign led by Davies over concerns about post-WILG support.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “The Welsh Independent Living Grant was introduced as an interim measure to support people who received payments from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund which closed in 2015.

“Our new framework focuses on the future of independent living in Wales, and what Welsh government can do to support disabled people going forward.”

Davies said: “On the face of it the new framework that has been introduced by the Welsh government, following a lengthy consultation process, is as bemusing as it was when [the draft version] was originally launched last year.

“It seems as if I wasted my breath at two consultation days as many of the failings of the framework that I highlighted have failed to be addressed in a [document] that does not seem to address the needs of disabled people with high support needs.

“Social care does not seem to be addressed at all. This is an absolutely bizarre situation when discussing a framework supposedly designed to promote independent living for disabled people.

“Not one of the 55 actions in the action plan mentioned social care funding, which is extremely worrying.”

He added: “After achieving success with the #SaveWILG Campaign – where former ILF recipients have been offered the opportunity of an independent assessment if they disagreed with the decision of the local authority, all funded by the Welsh government – it was hoped that this would signal a change in attitude going forward.

“The dynamic brand of 21st century socialism introduced by first minister Mark Drakeford has delivered positive change that deserves to be recognised.”

But he said the new framework and action plan “seems like a major step backwards”.

He added: “It just seems that the socialist values that the Welsh government demonstrated with their reaction to the WILG campaign have not been utilised in the new framework.

“It does not sit well with me to criticise this new [document], but the fact that it seems to blatantly flaunt the UNCRPD article 19 is a major cause for concern.

“It would be very easy for me to ignore this as WILG recipients have now been protected, but as a disabled activist I remain vigilant to the needs of my disabled brothers and sisters across Wales.

“All disabled people with high support needs should be able to access adequate social care and I will not rest until justice prevails for those in need.”

Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales (DW), who led the national steering group on the framework, welcomed its publication, particularly “the renewed commitment to implementation of the [UNCRPD] and consideration of options to incorporate this and other UN treaties in Welsh law together with a stronger focus on the social model of disability and proposals to tackle the disability employment gap and support disabled people to take up positions in public life.”

But she added: “Some aspects of the action plan are stronger and more developed than others, often in those areas where disabled people have been closely involved in informing and influencing policy.

“With regard to social care, there appear to be relatively few initiatives cited in the action plan compared with other policy areas.

“Key issues raised during the consultation are omitted, including low take-up of direct payments, provision of advocacy services, WILG developments and the impact of austerity on social care as a whole.

“We understand that the action plan is a work in progress so DW will continue to press for these issues to be addressed, including through Welsh government’s Disability Equality Forum which plays a vital role in monitoring implementation of the framework.”

Welsh Labour Will Campaign to Remain

This morning I received an email from Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, outlining his party’s approach to the Brexit shenanigans. I thought I would share this below.

I have lots going on at the moment, as I am still waiting on my WILG assessment and am in the midst of a staffing crisis. My stress levels are through the roof, and I have decided not to attend the first session of the counselling course that I was due to begin tonight. However, I do not live in a bubble and I realise that this Brexit palaver needs to be put to bed as soon as possible, so that politicians can get to work on the multiple problems that have been ignored in the face of all this Euro nonsense.

I am not sure what exactly is my position on the Brexit debate. I just want to see the back to it all, but believe in Mark Drakeford and  his political acumen. Therefore, I am sharing his opinions.

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Dear Nathan,

Given the dramatic and worrying events in Westminster recently, I thought this would be a good time to write to you personally to set out the Welsh Labour Party’s position on Brexit.

Welsh Labour believes that Wales’ best interests will only be served by remaining in the European Union.

We campaigned for a remain vote in the 2016 referendum and nothing we have seen or learned in the three years’ since has changed our minds.

Any type of Brexit – even the softest possible – will cause potentially irreparable damage to Wales and its economy. This is because Wales is heavily dependent on manufacturing and agri-food and 60% of our exports go straight to the EU.

We will support all the efforts our colleagues in Westminster are taking to prevent the no deal Brexit, which the Prime Minister and the Tory government is hell-bent on pursuing.

Labour has made an unequivocal commitment to put the Brexit decision back to the people.

In that referendum, we, as Welsh Labour, must and will campaign to remain in the EU.

Yours in solidarity,
Mark Drakeford AM
Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

The People Must Make the Final Decision on Brexit

I am sharing the following email that I received as a Labour Party member, from our First Minister, Mark Drakeford. Throughout the email, Drakeford puts forward views that are necessary to get us out of the impossible situation that has been created by the Tories in Westminster.

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Dear Nathan,

I know that over the past few days you will have seen many reports in the press around Brexit and our Welsh Labour Government’s view on what should happen next. And I wanted to write to you directly to explain how our position has evolved.

Since 2016, when Wales voted – narrowly – to leave the European Union, the Welsh Government has argued for a form of Brexit which would, as far as possible, protect Welsh jobs and the Welsh economy. Our Labour colleagues in Westminster have done the same – most recently in negotiations with the UK Tory Government.

However, the collapse of the talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn and the current election for a new leader of the Conservative Party changes all that. The Tory leadership race is rapidly becoming a contest between harder and harder forms of Brexit – hugely increasing the very real danger of a no-deal Brexit that would be catastrophic for our nation. Recognising that, means we have to re-think how we approach Brexit in Wales. I believe the chance to do the sort of deal I have always advocated – a deal that would protect Welsh jobs and the Welsh economy – is now at an end. That is why my view, and the view of the Welsh Labour Government, is that going back to the people and asking them for their verdict is the best way forward. The final decision on Brexit must now be made by the public in a referendum. And, for the avoidance of any doubt, a Welsh Labour Government would campaign in such a vote for Wales to remain in the EU.

I am delighted that following last week’s election, Jackie Jones will sit in the European Parliament, and I know she will be a brilliant Welsh Labour MEP. But there is no hiding the fact that last week’s results were clearly deeply disappointing for our Party. Over the coming weeks and months, I want to take every opportunity to get out across Wales and hear from as many of you as possible. I know that many of you have passionate, differing, and sincerely held views, and I believe that the diversity of our membership is a strength, not a weakness. We are – and always have been – a broad church, but we are united by our belief in social justice and the firm conviction that we achieve more together than we do alone. In these turbulent and polarised times, it is more important than ever to remember that and act accordingly.

Best wishes,
Mark Drakeford
Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

Disability News Service: ‘Delight’ over breakthrough on Welsh independent living scheme closure

The following article is taken from the Disability News Service website and was written by John Pring. I am taking no credit for the writing of this article and urge readers to visit the Disability News Service website. You can do so by clicking here. 

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Disabled campaigners have welcomed measures that aim to address concerns over the imminent closure of the Welsh government’s independent living grant scheme.

Julie Morgan, the deputy minister for health and social services, has written to council leaders to ask for an immediate “pause” in the closure programme and its replacement with a system of council-funded support.

There will now be new independent assessments for any former recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme who are unhappy with the new support packages allocated by their local authority.

The new measures came just two weeks after Nathan Lee Davies (pictured), who has led the campaign to save the WILG scheme, sent an 80-page dossier of evidence about the closure to Welsh Labour’s new leader and first minister, Mark Drakeford.

Davies told Drakeford in an open letter accompanying the dossier that closing WILG would leave disabled people with high support needs, like him, “at the mercy of cash-strapped Local Authorities who seem intent on cutting vital support packages across the board with no guarantee that further cuts will not follow”.

He sent his letter with just two months to go until the interim WILG scheme was due to close.

Now Morgan has announced a pause in the transition to the new system.

WILG was set up – with UK government funding – as an interim scheme following the UK government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in June 2015.

The Welsh government is now closing WILG for good and transferring the funding to local councils, and by April the 22 local authorities were due to be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

But in a written statement to assembly members, Morgan said she had considered the evidence and decided there needed to be a “change in direction” because her government’s own review had shown a significant variation in how support packages were being cut by different councils.

Morgan said that all WILG recipients who were unhappy with their new care and support package and would like a second opinion would now be offered an independent assessment.

These assessments will be funded by the Welsh government, which will also pay for any resulting additional hours of support.

The government said that the new assessments would “acknowledge the historical entitlement of former ILF recipients”, while Morgan told assembly members in a written statement that there would be “no financial barrier [so]no-one need have less favourable care and support than they had under ILF”.

Morgan, who praised Davies and his fellow campaigners, said: “It is paramount that people’s ability to live independently is not compromised by changes to the care and support provided for people previously in receipt of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

“These changes will ensure that is the case and deliver a consistent level of care and support across Wales.

“While the majority of former ILF recipients are receiving the same or more care as they were previously, a significant number have experienced a reduction in hours of support.

“There is also considerable variation in the reductions in support.

“I have therefore written to local government leaders to request a pause of the transition with immediate effect in order to bring in the revised arrangements.

“This is a significant change of approach that ensures that the needs of former WILG recipients will be fully met, and that resources are no barrier to a full package of care and support.”

Davies, who was celebrating his birthday on the day of the announcement, said it was “the perfect 42nd birthday gift”.

He said later in a statement: “I would like to place on record my delight at the breakthrough we have made.”

He added: “It is a pleasure to be working with our new first minister Mark Drakeford and his revamped cabinet that differs substantially from the previous regime.

“Welsh Labour have now successfully re-branded themselves and are moving forward with a clear vision of creating a society based on 21st century socialist ideas.

“There is still some work to be done with Welsh Labour on the new arrangements to support disabled people to live independently.

“I am confident that this work will be carried out constructively and add to the ‘clear red water’ that Welsh Labour are once again setting between themselves and Westminster.

“The fact that the party that I am proud to be a member of, has listened and acted appropriately is really encouraging and gives me hope for the future.”

Disability Wales praised Davies’s campaigning work and the Welsh government for “listening and responding to the evidence” and added: “This is really welcome news for Welsh disabled people who had lost vital support after the ILF closed.”