Huw Irranca-Davies AM

Wales disability support cuts: ‘Second opinion’ offered by ministers

The following article is taken from BBC News online. I am not taking any credit for the article and the original piece can be accessed by clicking on this link. 

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Severely disabled people unhappy with their care package will be offered independent assessments, say ministers.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) is being scrapped with councils taking over funding care for the more than 1,000 people receiving it.

Previous social care minister Huw Irranca Davies had insisted there would be “no losers” due to the changes.

But, in October, BBC Wales discovered around 100 of the 600 recipients reassessed had lost some support.

The research was conducted by the Wales Live programme.

On Tuesday, the Welsh Government said anyone wanting a “second opinion” could have an “independent social work assessment” and the move to the new system would be put on hold while new arrangements are put in place.

Plaid Cymru said the Welsh Government should “admit it has got this one wrong from the very beginning”.

Announcing the change in policy, Deputy Health and Social Services Minister Julie Morgan said: “It is paramount that people’s ability to live independently is not compromised by changes 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.

The WILG was introduced in Wales to replace the UK-wide Independent Living Fund (ILF), which was closed down by the UK government in 2015.

“While the majority of former ILF [Independent Living Fund] recipients are receiving the same or more care as they were previously, a significant number have experienced a reduction in hours of support,” said Mrs Morgan.

“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.”

Julie Morgan
Image captionJulie Morgan campaigned for a change in the system as a backbencher

Mrs Morgan also announced that the Welsh Government would provide additional funding to councils for the cost of the workers to carry out these independent assessments and additional care hours that may result from the assessments.

The independent assessments will be consistent with people’s agreed “wellbeing outcome” and acknowledge the historical entitlement of former ILF recipients, she added.

Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood said the Welsh Government should “admit it has got this one wrong from the very beginning”.

“After the proposed changes are filtered through, we should thankfully have a situation where no disabled person has lost out on care.

“However, we will be spending considerably more money on administration and reviews to get to this point than if the Welsh Government had just adopted the Scottish and Northern Ireland approach of retaining the fund – as we argued for at the time.”

Huw David, Welsh Local Government Association social services spokesman, said: “In a time of austerity, any additional funding for social care is to be welcomed and I am pleased to see a commitment of extra investment from Welsh Government that will help to ensure the needs of former WILG recipients are fully met.

Local authorities would continue to work with ministers to address any concerns about the new system, he added.

Presentational grey line

Analysis

By Wales Live reporter Paul Martin

With an acknowledgement a “significant number” of people have had support cut, a guarantee of independent re-assessments, and extra cash for any increased care packages, this adds up to a pretty big shift.

It puts new Social Services Deputy Minister Julie Morgan at odds with her predecessor Huw Irranca Davies who had said the new council-run system would be fairer and that there would be “no losers.”

There are questions now about how easy this change will be, and how much it will cost.

But “Save WILG” campaigner Nathan Lee Davies – who won significant support at Welsh Labour conference – described it as “the perfect 42nd birthday present”.

BBC Report: Wales disability support cuts: People experiencing ‘real distress’ – #SaveWILG

Journalist Paul Martin really has played an important part in the #SaveWILG campaign by increasing awareness of the issue with the general public. He has always delivered well balanced articles that clearly show the failings of Welsh Government policy and Local Authorities.

His latest article on WILG can be read below or by clicking this link He has also produced a feature that will appear on BBC Wales Live this evening (23/01/19).

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A woman who cares for her severely disabled brother has said funding cuts have negatively affected her life, as pressure to change the system grows.

Jayne Newman, from Newport, said she was given “no reason” for a loss of support, which saw 15 hours of care for her brother Tommy cut.

MP Ian Lucas said changes to support for people who used to get a special grant were causing “real distress”.

Newport council said Mr Newman received a “generous” support package.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) was introduced in Wales to replace the UK-wide Independent Living Fund (ILF), which was closed down by the UK government in 2015.

But WILG is being scrapped and the funding and responsibility for more than 1,000 people who received it transferred to Wales’ 22 local authorities, leading to fears of cuts to support.

More than 100 of the first 600 people who were assessed by their councils had their support reduced.

Jayne Newman
Image caption Jayne Newman said the level of care her brother needs was akin to looking after a baby 

Ms Newman, whose brother lives with her, said she was given “no reason” for the cuts of 15 hours per week, which equates to paying a carer for an overnight stay and five hours of day care.

“He needs total care, so he needs to be washed, dressed, shaved,” she said.

“He is now on a liquid diet which means it’s a bit like having a baby, we’ve got to give him hourly feeds to maintain his weight and wellbeing.

“As long as somebody is there he doesn’t really understand whether it’s me or one of the carers, so he doesn’t understand that the cuts have made a difference to my life.

“It’s like I have to be in every night by nine o’clock. I still want to have a life as well as look after my brother.

“They said they would work with you and not have it done to you and that’s not what happened.”

 

 

But Newport council said Mr Newman’s care package was “over and above” what he would have been allocated as a new case.

A spokesman said: “Although certain elements of the original package of care have been removed, they have been replaced with a more flexible package.

“There has been no significant reduction in the overall level of care that has been provided to the extent that it no longer meets his eligible needs.”

The minster responsible for overseeing the transition from WILG to council-run support, Huw Irranca-Davies, left government in December in new First Minister Mark Drakeford’s reshuffle.

Julie Morgan
Image caption Julie Morgan campaigned for a change in the system as a backbencher 

His replacement as deputy minister for health and social services, Julie Morgan, called for a review of the policy while on the backbenches, and Mr Drakeford said during his leadership campaign changes would be made if people were losing out.

Mr Lucas, the Labour MP for Wrexham, suggested a possible solution could be for those who have lost out to apply for a top-up from Welsh Government.

“I don’t think we’re going to have the same scheme that we had previously but I do expect a big improvement in the scheme as it exists at the moment,” he said.

“I think this is causing real distress for people who need help.

“We know that local authorities are under a lot of pressure and I don’t think they’re the right people to be administering those schemes.”

Welsh Government emails seen by BBC Wales Live show government officials were told by a “number” of councils “the overall cost of the support provided to people who have transitioned (to council funding) is more than the WILG funding transferred (from the Welsh Government to councils)”.

The Welsh Government said it was “reviewing progress rigorously to achieve a fair outcome” for all.

“It is paramount that a person’s ability to live independently is not compromised by the change in the way care and support is arranged for people previously in receipt of the WILG,” it said.

It added all money had been passed on to councils, and none had been reclaimed despite the number of eligible recipients falling.

Wales Live is on BBC One Wales at 22:35 on Wednesday.

Wales’ new first minister Mark Drakeford appoints his team #SaveWILG

BREAKING: Huw Irranca-Davies has left the Cabinet. I am not sure but I am hoping that Julie Morgan will now have responsibility for WILG recipients in her position as Deputy Health Minister. #SaveWILG campaigners look forward to working with members of the new Cabinet in their quest to protect disabled people with high support needs across Wales. For the full story, click here.

Response to Letter from Huw Irranca-Davies to the Chair of the Petitions Committee #SaveWILG

Below you can find my response to Mr David Rowlands – Chair of the Senedd Petitions Committee – in answer to the previous letter from the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies.

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3rd December 2018

Dear Mr Rowlands,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to the letter you received from the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care regarding the planned closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

For this letter I have decided to list my responses to the Minister’s letter in an easy-to-read, bullet point format. This will allow the Committee time to access the key points against the weak arguments put forward by the Minister and the Welsh Government.

Without further ado, I will begin listing the reasons for which we strongly disagree with the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care.

The Minister begins his letter by stating that the purpose of the changes to Social Care are to end the “two-tier arrangement” that currently exists in order to provide a level playing field to all disabled people. The Minister is referring to a two-tier system that the Welsh Government chose to perpetuate. Meanwhile, during the consultation process ahead of the introduction of WILG, there were a number of other options on the table.  Option 4 proposed opening up the WILG for new applicants. This option was never fully investigated by the Welsh Government who seem averse to investing in people.

    The #SaveWILG campaign fully supports equality across the board and it is a bizarre argument that says essential support should be jeopardised to give equal treatment to all. What is actually happening is an EQUALISATION DOWNWARD, however subtle and however long it takes to materialise. We cannot just sit back and let this happen.

    It is not AND never has been an excuse not to do something because it is “difficult to unpick”. It would ONLY create “turmoil” if the Welsh Government handled it badly. It does not inspire confidence to witness such a lack of self-belief by our elected representatives. Of course, the obvious point is that there is mass turmoil NOW precisely BECAUSE of what the Welsh Government are doing. I’m afraid that those in power will have to put in the hours to make up for their initial mistakes against the warnings from disabled people and their families.

    In his letter, the Minister tries to blind the Committee with statistics. I prefer to concentrate on the human aspect and the number of emails that the #SaveWILG campaign receives regularly. These confidential messages are often found with tales of struggle, depression and desperation. On paper it is easy to ignore the negative effects of policies, but in the real world those that are directly affected deserve to be listened to. A large majority of struggling recipients do not have the ability to speak out against the Government in the way that I have done. Furthermore, many recipients are too afraid of the consequences of criticising Councils that have so much control over their lives.  This was why arrangements under the ILF provided a safety net for disabled people: because assessments were carried out by independent Social Workers, who could not be manipulated by local authorities.

    We are told that the Minister has instructed local authorities to perform a “deep dive” into the WILG transition. How can we begin to trust the findings of local authorities when they are under such immense pressure to cut costs due to a lack of funding from Central Government? Disabled people must be protected in the face of these cuts and not be seen as an easy group to exploit.

    I fully believe that the Welsh Government have a responsibility to support disabled people and should work with them instead of pointing them towards cash-strapped local authorities, many of whom do not have an adequate complaints procedure in place.

    The Minister and his team have repeatedly told us this is not about money. However, when we say that the Government should open WILG to all disabled people, they repeatedly say they can’t afford it. So, it is about money, then?

    This situation has arisen because of the heartless closure of the ILF by the UK Government but the current mistakes confusion, mess and inconsistencies proves that the Welsh Government are heading in the wrong direction.  Disabled people with high care and support needs are the ones paying the price for these errors.

    At no point do we see the Minister or the Welsh Government acknowledging that MOST WILG recipients are not able to contribute on a level playing field to any consultation. There seems to be a complete – I am sure unconscious – lack of understanding about this. People are not machines that fit neatly into box-ticking exercises.

    Informing us of the huge delays already, shows that the turmoil, and lack of a competent working system, already exists. Hence the need to make sure long-term that those who need this support most, do not have to worry about this kind of upheaval on a yearly basis.

    THE most important thing is the healthcare & support for recipients. Many do not have the luxury of time to be fighting this full-throttle. Let me be clear though, there are plenty of us fortunate enough not to be in their position who will never give up or shut up about this.

    QUESTION FOR COMMITTEE MEMBERS: When do we expect to get the full, published, unedited or un-amended report from the review? 

    Thank you very much indeed for facilitating this process. I am grateful to you and everyone at the Petitions Committee for taking the time to listen and consider our strong arguments.

    Yours in hope,

    Nathan Lee Davies

    #SaveWILG campaign

    Letter from Huw Irranca-Davies to the Chair of the Petitions Committee #SaveWILG

     This is the letter that Huw Irranca-Davies has written to the Chair of the Petitions Committee – Mr David Rowlands – defending the Welsh Government’s decision to close WILG.

    My response appears in the next blog in which I have totally decimated the weak arguments in favour of signalling an end to the Welsh Independent Living Grant. 

    The fight continues…

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     Dear David, 

     Thank you for your letter of 31 October in connection with Nathan Davies’ petition to reconsider the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). 

    Before I respond to your questions I think it is important to remind ourselves of the purpose of the transition process we are undertaking.  We are introducing this change to ensure equality of access for all disabled people in Wales to support to live independently in the community.  This is to remove the two-tier arrangement which existed previously, where some were able to access support from their local authority and payments from the Independent Living Fund (ILF), while others, because of the UK Government’s decision to close the ILF to new applicants in 2010, have only been able to access support from their authority.  Hence the objective of this transition, and of the support reviews being undertaken within it, is to ensure all disabled people are empowered in a consistent way to be able to live independently in a manner that is appropriate in their particular circumstances.  This could be by support provided directly from their local authority, by support provided by direct payments from their authority, by support provided in other ways (such as from the third sector, family or friends) or by a mix of any of these.  This is the ethos and cornerstone the social services legislation we introduced and something which every disabled person in Wales deserves access to irrespective of how they may have been supported in the past. 

    Given the objective, and as I outline below the support for the majority of the disabled people affected by this transition is now being provided though their local authority, it is difficult to see how this could now be unpicked to reinstate the WILG as Mr Davies’ petitions without creating turmoil for those that have been through this transition. 

    We welcome receiving correspondence in Welsh.  Any correspondence received in Welsh will be answered in Welsh and corresponding in Welsh will not lead to a delay in responding. 

    As you say we have now completed our latest quarterly monitoring of local authorities’ progress in transitioning people who used to receive WILG payments to receiving their support to live independently through their local authority.  This latest monitoring covers the period up to the end of September this year and details of this are below.  Overall this shows good progress in undertaking future support reviews with people affected, in agreeing with them their future support package to deliver their wellbeing outcomes and in putting these in place to provide that support. 

    The data provided by local authorities shows that of the 1,336 people who were originally in receipt of payments under the WILG, over 1,242 (93%) had by the end of September completed or were in the process of completing their support review with their local authority.  As a result 717 people (54%) had now agreed their future support package with their local authority and were receiving this through their authority.  In the majority of these cases (531 – 74% of the 717) people were receiving support of a similar level and nature to that they would have received if they had still been receiving payments under the WILG.  In around 100 of the 717 (14%) the level of support being provided had increased due to the dependency of the person increasing since their last review.  In around 86 of the 717 cases (12%) the support from the authority itself has reduced as it was thought more appropriate in those people’s circumstances if the support they required was provided in a different manner than previously (such as support provided from a third party). 

    With a small number of people (20) their review identified it was no longer appropriate for them to receive community care from their local authority, either because the person had developed a need for healthcare or was now in need of some form of residential based care.  

    This left around 64 people who were at that time yet to begin their support review.  This is due to a mixture of social worker capacity within a small number of authorities, where they had not by that time been able to engage with all people affected, and a number of people who to date have not themselves engaged with their authority despite authorities’ approaches to them to do so.  As a result we have sought, and received, assurances from the seven authorities concerned that these remaining reviews will be completed by the end of the year at the latest so as not to impact upon the future support they agree with their authority being place by the end of March next year when the period for this transition is due to end. 

    Out of all the reviews completed as at the end of September there were 17 people who were challenging the outcome of their support reviews.  This is just under 2% of the people who had undergone their review with their authority. 

    Despite this good progress I am not complacent.  You will have seen the recent media coverage of this transition which focussed heavily on those people who are to receive less direct support from their local authority, with little or no reference to the majority who to receive the similar support from their local authority or indeed are to receive more.  I have, therefore, to be assured of this position, asked local authorities to undertake a deep dive review of all cases where following a support review there is an intention to reduce the authority’s direct support to the person.  This is to identify the reasons for this decision and the exact scale of any reductions and to receive from each Director of Social Services a personal assurance that where such changes occur they are appropriate and do not impact on people’s ability to live independently in the community.  The results of this deep dive review are due to be received and analysed by the end of November.  

    In addition to this I intend to undertake a series of regional meetings with Directors and Cabinet members for Health and Social Services within authorities to discuss the outcome of these reviews to ensure that it is the case that any reduction in direct support from an authority is not impacting on people’s ability to live independently.  My officials are in the process of arranging these meetings, which I hope to have concluded by early December.  That said, I have already visited both Wrexham County Borough Council and Powys County Council to meet their Directors and Cabinet Members and have received their assurance that people affected are genuinely being empowered to live independently to deliver their wellbeing outcomes. 

    You ask about the possibility of requiring local authorities to report the actual expenditure they incur on people who transition to local authority support.  The level of expenditure on the support an individual requires is, of course, dependent on the level, nature and complexity of that support as identified by their support review.  It is not determined by a standard amount per person and so the level of expenditure will vary from person to person as the support they require will vary.  As a result the fact that one person may be having more or less expenditure on their support than another is not an indicator of the appropriateness of that support, but of the cost of support they require. 

    Added to this it must be remembered that all people who received payments under the WILG would also have received a level of care and support from their local authority which it would have funded separately.  This is because this was a qualifying condition originally set by the ILF for receiving payments.  As such it is difficult to see how authorities could, if this request was made, separate out the cost of only one element of over 1,000 people’s overall support package or indeed what value there would be in doing so. 

    What I can say is that the full funding of £27 million a year transferred from the UK Government to support people affected has been added from this year to the Revenue Support Grant on a recurrent basis.  Not a single penny of this has been retained centrally.  As a result no local authority has raised with me or my officials that a lack of funding is an issue with this transition or that this is adversely affecting the outcomes which they able to receive for people affected. 

    Yours sincerely, 

    Huw Irranca-Davies AC/AM 

    Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care 

    Get Involved: Send an Email to Leadership Candidates #SaveWILG

    I am asking all my loyal readers and comrades to spare 3 minutes of their time and send the following postcard picture and message to the 3 Welsh Labour leadership candidates, plus other important figures who will be able to influence Welsh Government thinking with regard to the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

    The email can be copied and pasted from below. It should include an inline image of the postcard to maximise impact. The end of WILG is imminent and we MUST keep up the pressure and show those in power that we are not going anywhere. We will continue to protest and defend the rights of disabled people with high care and support needs across Wales.

    Help us do this by sending the email below. Thanks, as ever, for your support.

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    SUBJECT: Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (#SaveWILG) 
     
    Message to Mark Drakeford AM, Eluned Morgan AM, Vaughan Gething AM (Delete as appropriate
     
    This is a crucial time for the future of Social Care in Wales. The SSWBA is an excellent piece of legislation, but it will take many years to come to fruition. 
     
    In the meantime, WILG recipients will be at the mercy of local authorities who are unprepared for this Act and are already threatening substantial cuts in the care and support services that recipients need to function as a part of their local communities.
     
    We are calling on the Welsh Government to reconsider the decision to end WILG as of April 2019 and fully explore the alternative options while listening to recipients and party members who voted overwhelmingly for a motion to save WILG  at the Welsh Labour conference in April 2018.
     
    Our campaign to save WILG  has won cross party support, two motions have been passed, a number of MP’s and AM’s have lent their support including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. We have also had the backing of Unions and celebrities such as Ken Loach who all agree that the Freedom of Information work that we have done provides glaring evidence that disabled people with high care and support needs require and are entitled to third party support from an independent body.

    The 3 candidates can be emailed at the following addresses:

    Mark Drakeford AM: Mark.Drakeford@assembly.wales

    Eluned Morgan AM: Eluned.Morgan@assembly.wales

    Vaughan Gething AM: Vaughan.Gething@gov.wales

    While you are at it the same message could also be sent to the Minister for Older People, Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies who is currently responsible for WILG. He can be contacted at Huw.Irranca-Davies@assembly.wales

    It is also important that we continue to put pressure on the Petitions Committee who need to realise that NOW is the time to write a report on WILG to help preserve disabled peoples rights in Wales and force the Welsh Government to take the necessary steps and #SaveWILG.

    David Rowlands: DavidJ.Rowlands@assembly.wales

    Janet Finch Saunders: Janet.Finch-Saunders@Assembly.Wales

    Mike Hedges: Mike.Hedges@assembly.wales

    Rhun Ap Iopwerth: rhun.apiorwerth@assembly.wales

    Neil McEvoy: Neil.McEvoy@assembly.wales

    Any help and support you can give would be much appreciated. Together we can make a difference…

    Musical Break #SaveWILG

    What my #SaveWILG campaign is in need of is a theme tune. There have been a few songs that I have adapted throughout this campaign such as Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears. The latest song I have given the WILG treatment is What’s Up by the 4 Non Blondes

    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. If anyone is interested in recording this song I would be happy to contribute to recording costs as I think it would be a really effective way of raising awareness. I am getting carried away with myself now, but I really like the new lyrics that I have created. There are choruses that remain untouched as they fit the mood of the campaign perfectly. Why bother changing perfection? I hope the supremely talented Linda Perry (@RealLindaPerry) does not object and sees that it is for a worthy cause.

    I have also added a few paragraphs from Wikipedia about 4 Non Blondes. 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.

    “What’s Up”

    Fourty One years and my life is still
    Trying to get up that great big hill of hope
    For my independence

    I realised quickly when I knew I should
    That the world was made up of this brotherhood of man
    For whatever that means

    And so I cry sometimes
    When I’m lying in bed
    Just to get it all out
    What’s in my head
    And I, I’m feeling a little peculiar

    And so I wake in the morning
    Stranded inside
    And I take a deep breath and I can not move
    And I scream from the top of my lungs
    “What’s going on?!”

    And I say, “Huw, Huw, Huw, Huw”
    “Huw, Huw, Huw”
    I said, “Huw, what’s going on?”

    And I say, “Huw, Huw, Huw, Huw”
    “Huw, Huw, Huw”
    I said, “Huw, what’s going on?”

    And I try, oh, my God, do I try
    I try all the time
    In this institution

    And I pray, oh, my God, do I pray
    I pray every single day
    For revolution

    And so I cry sometimes
    When I’m lying in bed
    Just to get it all out
    What’s in my head
    And I, I am feeling a little peculiar

    And so I wake in the morning
    Stranded inside
    And I take a deep breath and I can not move
    And I scream from the top of my lungs
    “What’s going on?!”

    And I say, “Huw, Huw, Huw, Huw”
    “Huw, Huw, Huw”
    I said, “Huw, what’s going on?”

    And I say, “Huw, Huw, Huw, Huw”
    “Huw, Huw, Huw”
    I said, “Huw, what’s going on?”

    Fourty One years and my life is still
    Trying to get up that great big hill
    Of hope for my independence

    According to Wikipedia, 4 Non Blondes was an American rock band from San FranciscoCalifornia,[1] formed in 1989. The group was formed by bassist Christa Hillhouse, guitarist Shaunna Hall, drummer Wanda Day, and vocalist and guitarist Linda Perry. Prior to the release of their first album, Roger Rocha replaced Hall on guitar, and Dawn Richardson replaced Day on drums. They hit the charts in 1993 with “What’s Up?“, their only major hit single. Perry left the band in 1994 to begin a solo career, and the remaining members disbanded shortly thereafter.[ 

    For those of you who don’t know, the Huw mentioned in my alternative lyric is non other than the Minister for Older People, Children and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies.