Freedom of Information

Open Letter to First Minister Mark Drakeford #SaveWILG

Dear Mark

This is an incredibly worrying time for all disabled people and their families across Wales.  There are only 63 days left before the Welsh Independent Living Grant is due to end, leaving individuals 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.

The fact that this neo-liberal policy is still being forced through by a Welsh Labour Government is unbelievable: frankly, it makes it even worse. I always thought that I would be protected from the brutality shown by the Tories in Westminster, because I live in a land governed by a social, democratic party. Unfortunately, the Party that I know and love seem to have lost their way under the previous leadership, which is why I was overjoyed by your election victory to become our new First Minister.

I am confident that Welsh Labour is now travelling in the right direction towards a socialist future which you championed during the Leadership Hustings. In an interview with the BBC you also said the following about the future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant:

…”if an independent evaluation “shows the new system is not working as well as the old one then I would be prepared to reverse it because this is money intended for a very specific number of people for a very specific purpose”.

The deep-dive that was recently undertaken by the Welsh Government, to analyse the performance of Local Authorities relating to the WILG transition, is full of errors and quite frankly not worth the paper it is written on. How can an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the end of WILG be conclusive without having consulted disabled people who will be affected? My comrades dismantled the deep-dive results in our recent meeting with Deputy Health Minister, Julie Morgan AM.

The closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant is such a destructive move to disabled people’s rights and I do not believe that a progressive Party such as ours should be going down such an avenue.

#SaveWILG campaigners have presented the Deputy Health Minister with an 80 page dossier of evidence against the closure of WILG. In addition, we have the backing of Welsh Labour members who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Clwyd South motion to save WILG at Conference in April 2018. I believe you pledged to listen to the voices of members during the Hustings and they have certainly been vocal on this subject. We have also had support from Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP’s such as Chris Williamson, Ian Lucas and Chris Ruane. Film Director Ken Loach also supports our campaign.

Criticism of Welsh Government policy on Independent Living has also been made by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD):

However, various disability organisations in Wales had advocated setting up a national independent living scheme in Wales as aligning with a citizen directed system of support rather than the approach now adopted by the Welsh Government.

We recommend that the CRPD Committee asks:

Can the Welsh Government explain:

How it reached a decision to move all ILF recipients to normal social care provision from 31 March 2019, rather than setting up a national independent living scheme?

How it will ensure protection for article 19 rights of those formerly eligible for the Independent Living Fund after 31 March 2019?

I do not believe Welsh Labour should be having to defend themselves against the UN as I know your personal intentions are to ensure universal equality throughout Wales, but now is the time to take positive action and start listening to Welsh Labour members and disabled people and their families.

Personally, I have been treated abysmally by my Local Authority. I find myself in the position of having to teach my social worker about the Social Services and Well being Act. I am not being allowed to use my Direct Payments to meet my Personal Outcomes as described in the SSWBA and feel this vindicates my insistence on the need to maintain the tripartite system when deciding on and funding future care provision.

The reassessment process – which was originally due to end by September 30th 2018 and shows no sign of being completed soon – is really having a negative impact on my physical and mental health. When I first met with my social worker at the end of November 2018, she laughed when I suggested that I would need 24/7 support. She declared that no one in Wrexham gets such a thorough level of support [whether they require it or not?]. She said that even if we applied for such levels of care and support, that the panel would not accept such a request. This is a total departure from what the SSWBA promises. There is definitely no co-production going on and Local Authorities seem to be treating disabled people as a burden.

Without the overnight support I need to fully function in society, I have to stop drinking at 8pm at night, get ready for bed at 10pm and cannot wear my hand splints or use my leg supports during long and uncomfortable nights. I often find myself having to call on my 68-year-old father to assist me in the night, even though he lives a 10 minute drive away and has arthritis in both hands.

As Tanni Grey-Thompson said on Wales Live (23/01/19), it will cost the Welsh Government more in the long term to push ahead with this strategy of devolving funding to Local Authorities. It just makes no sense whatever way you look at it. Disabled people and their families never wanted such a situation to develop as was indicated in the original consultation that took place during 2015/16. I have been asking to see the consultation documents since October 2017, but I keep being directed towards a summary document. We all know that a summary can be manipulated and edited to suit the publishers. If the summary is accurate why can I not access original consultation responses?

It is often claimed by the Welsh Government that the original stakeholder group were united in agreement with the closure of WILG and the transferring of funds to local authorities.This is quite simply untrue. 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.

I could go on and on, but time is against me and I would merely be repeating much of what can be read in my attached dossier of evidence. At over 80 pages long, I believe it is a comprehensive guide as to why the Welsh Independent Living Grant should be maintained indefinitely. The dossier includes information of the success of the Independent Living Schemes set up in Scotland and Northern Ireland that shows the lack of imagination shown by the Welsh Government compared to our neighbours.

Please note that this letter is written with the deepest respect towards yourself and your cabinet members. I am a loyal Welsh Labour supporter and I have belief in the 21st Century socialism that you intend on developing. The problem is that we cannot wait any longer and the changes need to be made immediately. There is no sense in a proud socialist Government copying the exact same model rolled out by the Conservative Party in Westminster.  Moreover, if the original decision was wrong then your team needs to have the courage to simply reverse it.  Tinkering with the detail in a bid to spare the blushes of your predecessors is just not acceptable: in fact it’s morally dishonest.

I know that you are extremely busy with Brexit and other pressing concerns, but disabled people with high care and support needs across Wales are in need of your leadership now. I look forward to meeting you again in the near future and should you require any more information from the #SaveWILG campaign, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Wishing you strength and solidarity

In hope…

Nathan Lee Davies
#SaveWILG campaign

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

Vital Twitter Thread #SaveWILG

This morning I published a vitally important Tweet thread that I hope will capture the attention of those with the power to provide security to the 1,300 disabled people with high support needs throughout Wales who receive the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

I publish memes and photographs alongside these Tweets. If you want to follow me on Twitter and perhaps Retweet my epic thread, my handle is @nathanleedavies

I am currently extremely busy as we head into a crucial month for the #SaveWILG campaign.

The fight continues…

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The following Tweet thread is VERY IMPORTANT. I trust that ALL Assembly Members and those in the Media with the power to spread awareness of the struggles of disabled people with high support needs will READ THIS in full and take the appropriate action to help us

There can be no denying that the WILG transition process is highlighting some major problems in the social care system throughout Wales. Local authorities cannot be trusted to provide adequate support for disabled people on their own.

The evidence is overwhelming as displayed in the Freedom of Information requests gathered from all 22 LAs, first-hand stories from WILG recipients and clear evidence that the same system is failing people in England.

 The amount of support for #SaveWILG has been incredible. Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, MPs, AMs and celebrities such as Ken Loach have all backed our campaign while Welsh Labour members passed a motion at conference to protect the grant.

 A similar motion was also passed by Disability Labour, our friends in Scotland and Northern Ireland also show that there is clearly another way of doing things to protect those with high support needs.

I haven’t even mentioned the UN report which found ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled ppls human rights’, saying it was a ‘human catastrophe’. This was partly based on concerns at the closure of the ILF. @WelshLabour are moving in the same direction. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-spending-cuts-human-catastrophe-un-committee-rights-persons-with-disabilities-disabled-a7911556.html …

 I am receiving emails on a daily basis from WILG recipients across Wales telling me about the difficulties they are facing with the transition process. These people are too afraid to speak out due to the fear of reprisals.

 Other recipients are also in the process of taking their LA’s to court and cannot speak out for fear of compromising their case. WILG will not or cannot raise their voice at all – for many reasons such as cognitive impairment, exhaustion or fear of further cuts to their hours.

 The absurd two-tier argument that Welsh Labour are using is absolutely ridiculous. It is to all intents and purposes an equalisation downward, however subtle and however long it takes to materialise. 

The ‘two-tier’ system is entirely the choice of WAG. Not us or recipients. Again, using this as a reason to stop providing what is needed as a basic starting point, is not a reason!!!

The effect being that money (saving) is at the root of this and the standard of life/living for recipients is not likely to be maintained in a way that allows them to have a really fulsome, fulfilled and rewarding life, rather than merely existing….

 I have spent all day writing this thread of Tweets and have sacrificed three years of my life to this campaign for common justice. I will not stop fighting for the rights of disabled people but it is a disgrace that I have to in 21st Century Wales. 

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

 

Evidence From England #SaveWILG

The following article was published in September 2016 by our friends at Inclusion London and  seeks to evidence the impact of the Independent Living Fund closure with a focus on the situation in London.

This is clearly a VERY IMPORTANT REPORT FOR ALL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS TO READ IN FULL as the Welsh Government intend to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) despite clear evidence of flaws during the transition period that the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care constantly tries to hide behind.

WHAT USE IS A TRANSITION PERIOD IF OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE AND A DEMOCRATIC VOTE IS NOT ENOUGH FOR A GOVERNMENTAL RE-THINK?

Beneath the Inclusion London article, I have added a link to a PDF report written by the DWP reporting on the effects of the closure of the ILF. This is also essential reading for all Assembly Members.

As our elected Assembly Members you have the opportunity to make a telling intervention in the lives  of disabled people with high care and support needs. You cannot let this opportunity slip through your fingers as the potential of this group of people deserves to be tapped into as we can all make a difference to the communities in which we live.

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One year on: Evaluating the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund

This report seeks to evidence the impact of the closure with a focus on the situation in London.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was shut permanently on 30 June 2015. One week before, wheelchair users tried to storm the House of Commons chamber during Prime Minister’s Question time in a last ditch attempt to prevent closure. Disabled people receiving support through the ILF who are all too familiar with the day to day realities of the mainstream care and support system, were concerned that closing the ILF would mean a removal of essential support.

This report seeks to evidence the impact of the closure with a focus on the situation in London. It brings together statistical analysis from Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests sent to all 33 London boroughs with findings from a survey sent out to London Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) as well as qualitative evidence provided by former ILF recipients concerning their experiences of transfer to Local Authority (LA) support.

Comparison of evidence gathered through comparison of the Freedom Of Information (FOI) responses, Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPO) survey, and examples of lived experience submitted by former ILF recipients has led to a number of themes emerging:

  • Post-code lottery for former ILF recipients across Local Authorities.
  • The detrimental impacts of the ILF closure on former ILF recipients, ranging from distress and anxiety to removal of essential daily support.
  • The lack of consistent practice across different Local Authorities regarding referrals for CHC funding.
  • Limitations of the mainstream care and support system and failings in the implementation of the Care Act.
  • The value of the model of support provided by the Independent Living Fund.
  • The importance of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations for making Deaf and Disabled people aware of and supported to exercise their rights.

There is an urgent need for a radical rethink of how Disabled people are supported to live independently. Disabled people who use independent living support must be at the forefront of developing ideas and with adequate resources for meaningful engagement.

This also needs to happen quickly, before the memories of what effective independent living support looks like and how much Disabled people can contribute when our support needs are met fade into the distance.

Download the full report below including the Executive Summary and Easy Read version 

Watch the video of the meeting. 

Watch the video at: http://bambuser.com/v/6445226?v=m 

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More essential reading from the DWP:

Report by the DWP: independent-living-fund-post-closure-review

 

 

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…

***

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/