Glyndwr University

“I won’t belong to a club that does not accept me as a member”

I have been a supporter of Wrexham AFC for 35 years. I have ploughed tens of thousands of pounds into the club I love. My relationship with the football club has been the one consistent relationship in my life and  outlasted failed relations with the opposite sex. I believed I would be Wrexham til I die, but unfortunately things don’t always turn out the way you expect them to.

The way the Disabled Supporters Association has been treated over the past few years is nothing short of a disgrace. The DSA is run by a team of dedicated committee members who represent the best interests of football supporters from all walks of life. They have done a sterling job in trying to maintain a community feel around a heartless carcass of a club.

The official club statement below describes the club’s biased view, but there are two sides to every story. I have been busy with the #SaveWILG campaign so have not been able to give this divide my full attention. I only know that instead of welcoming disabled supporters, Wrexham AFC are driving them away and totally failing in their moral obligations to the community at large.

Nothing has happened with regard to the resolution that myself and Ian Parry made to the Wrexham Supporters Trust (WST) AGM back in 2018. To read the full story about this, click here.

Because I no longer feel welcomed at the Racecourse, it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to cancel my monthly direct debit to the WST. I cannot justify giving any more money to an organisation that clearly does not value my presence at games. Last season, the club actually used a hashtag at the end of their tweets – #WeAreOneTeam. This is an absolute joke and I encourage everyone with an ounce of solidarity and common decency to listen to their hearts before deciding whether or not to return to the Racecourse while the current regime is in control.

Wrexham fans might be interested in knowing about the eBay auctions that I will be listing soon of all the merchandise I have collected since we have been under the ownership of the WST. I have to find a way of getting some compensation. I will notify readers when these auctions go live.

I will still be writing my book about the history of the club. The volume will only focus on our time in the Football League when it was worth attending the Racecourse. I can’t recall the last time I actually got excited at a Wrexham game. Sadly, I just don’t have the time to waste anymore. The median age of death for someone with Friedreich’s Ataxia is 35. I am now 42 and determined to squeeze the most out of life while I can.

Cheers WST, you may have done me a favour…

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WST STATEMENT | STATEMENT REGARDING WREXHAM DSA & VIEWING PLATFORM

The Wrexham Supporters Trust need to respond to a growing social media storm regarding the club taking over the stewarding of the viewing platform at the Racecourse from the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association. It is important that the situation is clarified and people understand the background to the decision.

Before the game vs Ebbsfleet

In the run up to the home fixture vs Ebbsfleet United, Wrexham AFC received a request from the DSA for complimentary tickets and a presentation on the pitch before our game against St Mirren Colts on Saturday, 12th October for a group called the ‘Allies in Access’.

Unfortunately we were unable to facilitate this request on this occasion as rules of the competition do not allow for complimentary tickets to be given away, apart from those stipulated by the competition.

The presentation on the pitch was for the ‘Allies in Access’ group who had won an award recently at the ‘Fans for diversity’ awards, which Wrexham DSA attended. The Allies in Access are a group based in the West Midlands, who represent their clubs, Walsall, Wolves, West Brom, Birmingham and Aston Villa. The group support their own clubs with disability requirements.

Unfortunately, Wrexham AFC were further unable to facilitate this request due to the tunnel area being restricted from 2pm onwards on matchday. This operation is standard practice at all of our home games.

As a compromise, the WST and Wrexham AFC offered the DSA to invite the ‘Allies in Access’ group for a pitchside photograph on a non-match day, an offer that is still open.

Upon receiving the news, the DSA contacted the club on Friday, 27th September to inform us they were going on ‘strike’ and would not be attending the Ebbsfleet game the following day in protest.

The DSA also informed our stadium manager and our DLO they were not prepared to supply the names of the supporters attending the platform and intended not to run their Audio Descriptive Commentary (ADC).

This left Wrexham AFC in a difficult position, with no alternative other than to steward the platform ourselves, so some of our most vulnerable supporters received the match day services they have become accustomed to.

Wrexham AFC contacted the suppliers of the ADC to see if we could make alternative arrangements to allow our supporters who use the service an option to have the commentary on the day. As a contingency measure we made plans for the commentators to sit next to the users of the commentary service.

The day of the game vs Ebbsfleet

Thankfully a DSA committee member contacted the club on the Saturday morning to say that they were prepared to organise the ADC, as Wrexham AFC did not have access to the equipment required. Wrexham AFC are grateful to the DSA committee member for providing the service, as we know how valuable it is to those supporters who use the ADC.

At midday in the run up to the game the DSA having previously informed us they were withholding the names of who was due to be on the platform, thankfully changed their stance and provided the names of the platform users to the club.

Unfortunately, Wrexham AFC were unable to provide any assistance with the car parking at Glyndwr University. Wrexham AFC do not have an organising relationship for activities in the car park area, which are usually carried out by the DSA in conjunction with the owners of the car park.

Following the Ebbsfleet Fixture

An email was sent to the DSA the following Thursday, as we had not been informed if they were intending to resume their role providing stewarding on the platform for the fixture vs Harrogate Town. So that alternative arrangements could be arranged in time, a deadline was put in place, if the deadline wasn’t met, the club would need seek to make alternative arrangements, as 12pm is the cut off for making professional staffing arrangements.

The DSA replied to an email after the deadline and as such Wrexham AFC operations had already acted to put alternative arrangements into place to ensure the platform could be used by our supporters, both on Tuesday and for the rest of the season, so we can be certain to keep continuity of service to fans.

The decision was not taken lightly and given the situation, Kerry Evans, Wrexham AFC Disability Liaison Officer has agreed to take over the organisation of the platform alongside her other roles at the club, which will not be affected by her taking the extra work on.

The DSA kindly agreed to deliver the ADC at the Ebbsfleet game and have been invited to continue to deliver the service at the Racecourse Ground on match days. Should the DSA feel unable to provide the receivers to our supporters who use the service, Wrexham AFC will look to source more receivers to ensure ADC can continue.

There appears to be some confusion among supporters regarding the DSA and disability projects that are being run by Wrexham AFC through Kerry Evans.

Wrexham AFC projects include:

  • The Autism Friendly area and quiet room
  • Accessible away travel scheme
  • Kerry has been instrumental in Wrexham AFC and The Racecourse being the first professional football club in Wales to be granted Autism Friendly status
  • Dementia friendly status for the ground
  • Autism friendly football sessions
  • Anti-bullying workshops in schools
  • Representing Wrexham AFC in her official capacity at many community events in the area. Kerry will continue to provide our supporters with all the usual along with these extra tasks.

The DSA’s role on matchdays has been:

  • Stewarding the viewing plaform
  • Handing out receivers for the ADC
  • Working with the WSA on the Blue badge car parking
  • Supporting Wrexham DSA members

In the spirit of openness and transparency, below is a copy of the email sent to the DSA informing them of the decision by Wrexham AFC.

We would prefer to resolve these issues in a face to face meeting and by reasonable discussion, but when individuals resort to social media it is important that the full facts are brought to the attention of our supporters. That is why we have taken the unusual step of making this statement.

Ultimately all of us want to provide the best facilities for all our fans and our DLO in particular has worked tirelessly to help bring that about. In fairness to her (and our other volunteers) it is important that the full facts are aired in response to what others have chosen to publish.

“Thanks for your reply Andy.

Unfortunately as the DSA did not reply until after the 12pm deadline, which was required by us, Wrexham AFC had no alternative but to ensure the services were available for some of our most vulnerable of supporters.

As such, the DSA presence will not be required on the platform for Tuesday evening at Wrexham AFC and for the remainder of the season. Our disabled supporters rely on the provision of services and we have to ensure they continue to receive a high quality service without the potential for any possible disruption as it really makes a difference to their match day experience.

Wrexham AFC will continue to strive for excellence with regards to inclusion and diversity as anyone would expect as a minimum. This has been a difficult decision to take by Wrexham AFC but we must ensure the services for some of our most vulnerable supporters are never placed in jeopardy and taking these services in house is the most sensible solution at this time. Wrexham AFC will strive to improve on the services currently offered which I am sure you would welcome.

I would like to add our gratitude to Darren for facilitating the ADC on Saturday. The continuation of this service is a high priority for Wrexham AFC and if you can commit and guarantee to providing the service you would be welcomed to do so on behalf of the football club. Should you be unable to guarantee providing the service to our supporters who gain an enhanced match day service, Wrexham AFC will have no option other than to source alternative arrangements. Feedback from the supporters who use the ADC has been so positive, we know how much they value the service and will take all steps necessary to ensure its continuation.

With regards to any meeting, Wrexham AFC were unaware of any issue until the request one made by the DSA for tickets and pitch presentation for the St Mirren Colts game, unfortunately this was unable to be facilitated. Alternative arrangements were offered for the allies in access group to attend the ground on a non match day to have a pitch side presentation but we have not heard back regarding the offer which still stands. Should you wish to email a request with an agenda for items you wish to discuss at a meeting we would look to meet you at a convenient time and date in the near future.

Wrexham AFC would like to thank you for your past presence on the viewing platform and hope we can continue working together in providing services to some of our most vulnerable supporters in the future.”

Issued jointly by: Wrexham AFC Operations and Wrexham Supporters Trust Governing Body.

Dancing on Thin Ice

I am excited to announce the imminent release of my second book: Dancing on Thin Ice.

This is a volume of poetry by myself, including Tanka, Haiku and List Poems. It will retail for just £5 and will be an ideal stocking filler for friends and family. It is due to be officially launched at an Arts and Activism talk that Ted Eames and I are giving at Glyndwr University on November 13th.

For those of you who would like to pre-order your copy, you will also receive a free badge of the South Park character that represents myself on my book covers and as the icon on this blog.  The badge can be viewed below.

I would also like to thank Terence-Jaiden Wray for his magnificent work on designing the front cover of my latest volume. He has done a tremendous job that really adds to the professional feel of my work. I would also like to recognise the efforts of Ted Eames in helping me put this book together, introducing me to the Tanka form and giving me confidence in my work.

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Tinder Surprise

I have recently decided to join the herd of sheep and become a member of Tinder. I don’t know where this will lead, or if I will ever get someone swiping right on my profile, but we live in hope. I guess that you have to be part of the game if you ever want to end up victorious.

The fact that I have led a campaign against the Welsh Government and seen this through to the glorious end, has been really good for my confidence. I now have a secure sense of self-worth, but I am the most popular lonely person that I know. Time to do something about this I think.

For years, I have been a member of dating website Plenty of Fish. This has mainly been a waste of time, but I have decided to copy my dating profile into this blog. This shows my open nature and if it attracts a random surfer then all the better. You never know.

Now excuse me while I try to capture the flying pigs that are perched on my garden fence…

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I am a 42 year old writer who thinks life is too short and tries to live each day to the full. I have no patience for time-wasters. I am an extremely loyal person.

I have a BA (hons) in American Studies from the University of Nottingham. I also attended the University of Illinois for a six month exchange period. In 2017, I was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Glyndwr University for my work on disability rights.

I am a published Author and Activist with a great sense of humour.

I have a disability, but that does not define who I am. I am a very out going and confident person who loves to socialise in my spare time. I’d like to think of myself as a gentlemen with a kind heart who is just wanting to find that someone special.

I enjoy all sorts of music from Beethoven to Oasis including Radiohead, Stereophonics, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Frank Sinatra, The Kinks, Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Zutons, Cerys Matthews.

I am looking for someone to share fun and happiness with – no tight definition just a considerate person who agrees that life’s too short.

“Gimme Shelter” – #SaveWILG Version

What my #SaveWILG campaign is in need of right now is an updated theme tune. At the moment, WILG recipients find themselves in a state of limbo without any clear direction on the way forward. Local authorities are of little support and the onus seems to be upon the Welsh Government to push through their new policy – that will replace the Welsh Independent Living Grant – ASAP.

I have received several encouraging emails from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services and the civil servants who are responsible for creating a new policy from scratch. I am confident that the work is going on behind the scenes, but it is really frustrating that there has been little progress since the Welsh Government announced that they were listening and protecting WILG recipients, back in February.

Leanne Wood AM has been calling on the Welsh Government to publish a timetable for the WILG transition process. she asked the Welsh Government, when the warm words of support they have given will be matched by deeds?

It would help a number of us who are really struggling at the moment to have an opportunity to plan for the future. I have spent the last two Christmas periods chained to my laptop and unable to join in with family celebrations due to the pressures of this campaign. Will I have to spend a third Christmas in such a way?

I hit upon the idea for this blog while watching the Rolling Stones Story at Glyndwr University on Friday night. This was a really good gig and an excellent tribute act to the ageing rock band. All of the hits were played in familiar fashion with an energetic “Mick Jagger” giving an excellent performance which married supreme confidence with a camp as Christmas performance. One of the many highlights of the show was the performance of the classic Stones hit Gimme Shelter.

Without permission, I have took it upon myself to change the words to this popular hit, in order to make it fit with the campaign. Anyway, see for yourself with the video of the Rolling Stones posted below the lyrics, so you have no excuse not to sing along. I have also added a few paragraphs from Wikipedia about the Rolling Stones. I do hope there are no copyright issues over the use of this tune as I am giving the writers full credit and not claiming any credit for myself.

I hope you like my new version.

“Gimme Shelter”

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

Hope, comrade, it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
Hope, comrade, it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away

Ooh, see the clock is tickin’
On our rights today

Fighting for our futures
We will not fade away

Hope, comrade it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
Hope, comrade, it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away

Peace, freedom!
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
Peace, freedom!
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
Peace, freedom!
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away

The floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away

Hope, comrade, it’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away
It’s just a WILG away

I tell you death, comrade, it’s just a tick away
It’s just a tick away
It’s just a tick away
It’s just a tick away
It’s just a tick away
Tick away, tick away

Gimme Shelter” is the opening track to the 1969 album Let It Bleed by the Rolling StonesGreil Marcus, writing in Rolling Stone magazine at the time of its release, praised the song, stating that the band has “never done anything better”.

Although the first word was spelled “Gimmie” on that album, subsequent recordings by the band and other musicians have made “Gimme” the customary spelling.

The recording features Richards playing in an open tuning on electric guitar. The recording also features vocals by Merry Clayton

 

Minutes of the Cross Party Group on Disability #SaveWILG

Minutes of the Cross Party Group on Disability

Friday, 11th January 2019, Wrexham Glyndŵr University,

Mold Road, Wrexham, LL11 2AW

Present: Carol Gardener, Jo Woodward, Tom Hall, Mark Davies, Eric Owen, Sorrel Taylor, Maureen Lee, Sharon O’Connor, Chris Roberts, Jayne Goodrick, Paul Johnson, Lynne Jones, Lynne Davies, Nathan Davies, Sandra Morgan, Bill Fawcett, Vince West, Laura Seddon, Lisa Pollard, Simon Green, Michelle Brown AM, Eluned Plack, Eluned’s carer, Jacqui Hurst, Kathryn Shaw, Brian Harrison, Rhian Davies, Martyn Jones, Zoe Richards, Mark Isherwood AM, Gareth Davies, Rebecca Phillips.

Apologies: Llyr Grufydd AM, Jan Thomas, Helen Mary Jones AM, Rob Williams, Kathryn Jellings, Andrea Wayman, Stephen Ben Morris, Louise (WCD), Owen Williams, Glenn Page.

1. Welcome and introductions

Mark Isherwood AM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

2. Minutes of the last meeting.

The minutes were approved as an accurate record.

3. Presentations:

Rhian Davies – Draft Framework for Action on Disability

Rhian provided an overview of the Welsh Government’s Draft Framework for Action on Disability. The document was created following a review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living, produced in 2013 to provide a strategic approach to independent living across Wales and to promote the social model of disability.

Disability Wales strongly believe that the Framework for Action on Disability should be under-pinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. Disability Wales worked with its partners in Scotland and Northern Ireland to produce a Manifesto for independent living and identified six calls to action:

1. Improved access to information, advice, independent advocacy and peer support services.

2. Availability of accessible and supported housing to meet individual requirements.

3. A comprehensive range of options and genuine choice and control in how social care and support is delivered.

4. Improved access to person-centered technology.

5. Barrier-free transport system that includes all forms of transport.

6. Enabling access, involvement and social economic and cultural inclusion of all disabled people.

There was a ministerial agreement to review the Framework for Action on Independent Living, three years on. This resulted in the Independent Living Steering group, comprising representatives from disability organisations across Wales, chaired by Rhian, to re-convene. The group reflected on what had been achieved since 2013. They recognised that whilst the introduction of the Framework was ground-breaking, progress on the ground was very slow and that national policy set by Welsh Government had not translated into local action. There was limited evidence in the change in culture, particularly by local authorities and local health boards in terms of taking on board a more rights-based approach to disabled people and to tackling barriers to independent living.

This was endorsed in 2017 during a Welsh Government consultation. The general feedback was that very little had changed in the lives of many disabled people and has even got worse which was also a key finding from the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. The UN Committee in Geneva was very critical of the UK Government in that they had regressed in their local policies.

The steering group’s aspirations for the revised version is that it should be much stronger in terms of the UN Convention of the Rights of Disabled People. The Convention should be at the heart of the new Framework with a stronger commitment to implementation of the social model of disability and more robust action in terms of how that is understood by people.

Rhian reported that the steering group took a strategic decision to align it with Welsh Government’s own strategic plan, ‘Prosperity for All’ which has four key themes:

1. Prosperous and secure

2. Healthy and active

3. Ambitious and learning

4. United and connected

The steering group was of the opinion that there should be two documents. The main document, to set out the key commitments and principles for Welsh Government to abide by, plus a separate action plan that could be regularly updated and monitored with more specific detail about what different the Welsh Government departments would do in terms of delivery.

The action plan, which is currently out for consultation, links more closely to the articles of the UN Convention. In order to produce a response to the consultation, Disability Wales ran two events along with an online survey to gather the views of disabled people. The deadline for responses is Friday 18th January but there could be an extension. Rhian added that Alison Tarrant from Cardiff University has produced an interesting paper looking at independent living policy. The paper was circulated to members prior to the meeting. The paper critiques the Framework for Action on Disability and a number of issues were identified.

Disability Wales and other members of the steering group have been calling for incorporation into the UN Convention for the Rights of Disabled People (UCRDP), giving it similar status to that of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Helen Mary-Jones AM is looking at how human rights can be incorporated in Wales.

Rhian noted that there is a disconnect between Welsh Government’s principles and aspirations in relation to improving independent living for disabled people and the actual reality of accessing services and achieving their rights.

Rhian highlighted the importance of the CPGD submitting a robust response to the consultation with the aim of strengthening the new Framework to ensure it takes forward the rights of disabled people in Wales.

MI highlighted some of the findings from the study based on the Draft Framework for Action on Disability produced by Alison Tarrant of Cardiff University. These included the absence of ‘Advocacy’, which was previously identified in the 2013 Framework as one of the highest priorities. In addition, the 2013 Framework was constructed around a series of priorities identified by disabled people. The foregrounding of the priorities and expertise of disabled people has been removed. MI suggested these be considered when submitting a response.

Nathan Davies – Wales Independent Living Grant

Nathan shared a video with the group, titled ‘Save WILG Campaign’. The video highlighted the issues faced by more than 1300 recipients of the grant. On March 31st, Welsh Government plan to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and transfer the funds to the Local Authorities. The funds will not be ring-fenced. The video, features an insight into Nathan’s condition, Friedreich Ataxia, a progressive disease of the nervous system. Nathan states that in order to be a productive member of society, he requires the help and support from personal assistants, funded by WILG. Without the grant, his care will be reduced from 86.5 hours per week to 31 hours per week. Back in April 2018, at the Welsh Labour Conference, a motion was passed to save WILG. However, this has not been acted upon yet. The Campaign has gathered political support from across the spectrum and still Welsh Ministers and some civil servants refuse to listen to the evidence collected. Nathan is particularly concerned that the money being given to Local Authorities has not been ring-fenced.

Nathan’s strength and campaigning has been recognised by the Wrexham Glyndwr University who have made him an honorary fellow.

To highlight the issues surrounding WILG, Nathan is running a series of campaigns across social media to influence a positive decision.

Mark Isherwood AM invited questions and comments.

Questions / Comments:

In relation to WILG, Rhian informed the group that Nathan and the BBC made a Freedom of Information request. It emerged that only two-thirds of people have been assessed and although some had their packages maintained and some increased, a significant number had their hours cut. There were circa 17 instances of clients taking legal action against their local authority. In response to the Freedom of Information outcome, Huw Irranca-Davies AM agreed to examine this further to establish whether the issues solely related to Wrexham or whether the problem was more widespread. Rhian suggested the CPGD write to the new Minister, Julie Morgan AM for an update.

The importance of disabled people needed better access to lawyers was raised.

Mark Isherwood AM stated that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will occasionally fight a trial case to establish a precedent. The CPGD could submit a request if there was a particular matter that needed to be tested in court. He added that Welsh Government do not have control over Legal Aid but it is still worth highlighting any concerns and to ask what support they can offer to better access legal advice.

Various sources of legal services were identified and will be circulated following the meeting. Disability Wales also have a guide on their website offering advice and information called ‘Know Your Rights, Use Your Rights, Live Your Rights’.

Concerns were raised around the lack of proper planning and services available for the increasing number of children with disabilities which will result in their needs not being met.

A member asked why Welsh Government has decided not to follow Scotland or Northern Ireland in terms of how they manage the Welsh Independent Living Grant if there is evidence to prove the system is working well in those areas.

Mark Isherwood AM suggested Disability Wales seek data from Disability Scotland to identifying the positive impact the grant has had on recipients of the grant.

The Chair welcomed further comments from the floor. Learning Disability Wales gave an update their work. In December Learning Disability Wales held its first ministerial advisory group meeting, chaired by Gwenda Thomas AM. The main focus was the Children’s Commissioner’s ‘Dont Hold Back’ report, investigating children and young people’s experience of transition across various policy areas. Martyn also informed members that Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has been consulting on a document around commissioning services and are looking to hold a national conference around it. Public Health Wales are working with LDW on a conference on reducing restrictive practice with the Education Minister. The Equality and Human Rights Committee are about to start a piece of work around access to courts to support disabled people to fully engage in the system.

Rhian added that Disability Wales are working with Women’s Aid to establish the accessibility of refuges. A survey has been produced and will be circulated. The results will be compiled soon and asked whether it would be an opportunity hold a joint meeting with the Party Group on Violence against Women and Children to share the findings.

Mark Isherwood AM welcomed a joint meeting with the Cross Party Group on Domestic Violence.

Date of the next meeting:

Zoe Richards will circulate the date of the next meeting, to be held in Cardiff.

Actions:

1. CPGD to produce a response to the Framework for Action on Disability consultation document and seek an extension to the deadline of the 31st January.

2. Zoe to share the link to Nathan Davies’ campaign video to members.

3. CPGD to write to Julie Morgan to summarise concerns and seek an update in relation to the issues identified following the Freedom of Information request.

4. Disability Wales to seek data from Disability Scotland to support the evidence around the positive impact of WILG on Scottish recipients.

5. Circulate an email requesting responses to the consultation.

6. Circulate Women’s Aid and Disability Wales’ survey

Disability News Service: Welsh government’s ‘ludicrous’ failure on independent living framework

The following article was taken from the excellent Disability News Service website, written by John Pring.  This blogger takes no credit for the article below:

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The Welsh government has been criticised for a “ludicrous” and “insulting” failure to address the adult social care funding crisis in a new draft framework on independent living.

Action on Disability, its new draft framework and action plan, was put out to consultation this week, and aims to “develop and improve access to help, advice and services for disabled people in Wales”.

The plan will eventually replace the Welsh government’s 2013 framework for action on independent living and follows a series of meetings and engagement events with disabled people, disability organisations and other stakeholders.

The report says that this public engagement process saw concerns raised about “cuts to social care provision” which had led to “lower allocations” of direct payments, leaving disabled people “increasingly isolated, and the impacts to their wellbeing compromised”.

But despite these concerns, the action plan refers only to previous strategies on services for visually-impaired people, Deaf and autistic people and those with learning difficulties, and fails to include any measures to address the cuts to support and the social care funding crisis.

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

Of 44 actions supposedly aimed at improving the right to independent living in the new action plan, not one of them explicitly addresses the need to improve the overall access to care and support, although it does promise a review of the aids and adaptations system that supports disabled and older people to live independently in their own homes.

Instead, the action plan covers areas including disability employment, higher education – including a planned review of policy on disabled students’ allowance – public appointments, and access to public transport.

There is also no mention of social care in the section describing the Welsh government’s “commitments” on independent living, even though it promises to “work for continuous improvement” on how it fulfils its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The failure of the action plan to suggest any measures to address the funding crisis and cuts to support suggests the Welsh government is in breach of the convention’s article 19, which says that governments signed up to UNCRPD should take “effective and appropriate measures” to enable disabled people to live in the community with “full inclusion and participation”.

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

Because of the WILG closure, Welsh local authorities will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients by 31 March 2019.

Nathan Lee Davies (pictured), who is leading the campaign to persuade the Welsh government to overturn its decision to scrap WILG, said the failure to address social care in the action plan was “ludicrous” and “insulting”.

He said: “They seem like a load of ostriches burying their heads in the sand. It’s just really worrying.

“I am disillusioned but far from surprised. It just seems like they are copying what the Tories have done in Westminster, with the same devaluing of disabled people.”

He suggested that the Welsh Labour government had simply published a “flimsy” framework document in order to “placate the UN, and to be able to say, ‘look, we are doing something to support disabled people’”.

He said that ministers – by closing the WILG – were “washing their hands” of responsibility for social care and handing it to local councils, which could not afford to meet their responsibilities promised under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, which Davies said should be renamed the Pie in the Sky Act.

Responding to criticisms of the document, a Welsh government official said: “Our ‘Action on Disability: the Right to Independent Living’ framework is a high-level plan covering a wide range of issues in line with our national strategy, Prosperity for All.

“A number of the actions in this draft action plan relate to social care; nevertheless we are open to suggestions on how the plan could be strengthened.

“We encourage everyone to contribute to the consultation – which we launched this week – to influence our future work to support disabled people as best we can.”

Davies has contrasted the actions of the Welsh Labour government with those of the UK Labour party, whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has publicly supported his campaign to save the WILG, as did members of Welsh Labour at their annual conference earlier this year.

Davies is determined to persuade the Welsh government to keep the current system, which allows former ILF-recipients some security by receiving funding from three different “pots”: WILG, local authorities and their own personal contributions.

He said that this “tripartite” system had provided the support he needed that led to him being recognised with an honorary degree by Wrexham Glyndwr University for his services to disability rights.

He has also been involved with Wrexham football club, Disabled People Against Cuts, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, as well as writing a new book, and running his campaign and a blog.

He also worked with Disability Arts Cymru on a #SaveWILG exhibition of visual art and poetry earlier this year.

Davies is now waiting to hear what will happen to his support package when WILG closes.

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

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

HEALTH 

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

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

MEETING WITH WREXHAM SUPPORTERS TRUST 

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

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

SUSPICIOUS MINDS

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

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

TOM ALLEN 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am hoping for a quieter weekend…