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. 

    Disability News Service: Welsh government’s independent living decision ‘threatens support of hundreds’

    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’s decision to close its independent living grant scheme and pass the funding to local authorities could see cuts to the support packages of hundreds of disabled people, new research suggests.

    Disabled campaigners say that information released by local authorities in Wales has created “extreme cause for concern” about the transition process, which is seeing funding from the interim Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) passed to the 22 councils.

    WILG was set up by the Welsh government – with UK government funding – as a short-term measure to support former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) when ILF was closed in June 2015.

    But the Welsh government is now closing WILG and by April next year the 22 councils will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

    The Welsh government’s own estimates, released to Disability News Service (DNS) last night (Wednesday), suggest that about 200 former WILG-recipients will see their support packages cut by next April.

    Members of the Save WILG campaign, led by former ILF-recipient Nathan Lee Davies (pictured), submitted freedom of information requests to all 22 Welsh councils earlier this year, and they say the responses proved they were right to be concerned that the transition process would lead to many former ILF-users seeing their support packages cut.

    Few of the councils were willing to provide detailed information about how the process of re-assessing the needs of the former ILF-recipients in their areas would affect their support packages.

    But some of the local authorities admitted that a significant proportion of those currently receiving support through the WILG have already had their support packages cut.

    In Wrexham, Davies’ home local authority, the council said it had re-assessed less than a third of former ILF-users but had already cut the support of 18 of them, increasing support for just seven, and leaving one package unchanged.

    Monmouthshire council had cut four of 19 packages, Conwy had reduced two of 12 – although the vast majority had still to be assessed – while Caerphilly had reduced four of 29, Merthyr Tydfil had reduced 15 per cent, and both Carmarthenshire and Rhondda councils had cut 10 per cent of support packages.

    About a third of the councils – including Pembrokeshire, Gwynedd, Anglesey, Cardiff and Blaenau Gwent – failed to say how many support packages had been cut.

    But some local authorities did produce more encouraging answers, with Powys council saying the reassessment process had seen it increase the support packages of 59 of 62 former ILF-users.

    Although Port Talbot council had reviewed less than a third of service-users, half had had their packages increased, and the other half had seen them stay at the same level, while Bridgend decided that all but one former ILF-recipient would continue to receive the same support package.

    There were also repeated warnings from the local authorities that they could not promise that support packages would not be cut in the future, with Cardiff council warning that “no guarantees as to the future are possible with any funding arrangement”.

    Asked if it could guarantee that WILF recipients would have their care packages ring-fenced from all future austerity cuts forced onto local authorities, both Merthyr Tydfil and Port Talbot replied with just one word: “No.”

    Huw Irranca-Davies, the Welsh government’s minister for social care, has previously pledged that no former ILF-users would lose out in the transition process.

    But a Welsh government spokesman said that its most recent monitoring of the transition had found about 100 of 580 WILG-recipients were having their support “provided in a different manner than previously”*, while 130 were receiving more support.

    As about 1,300 people are due to go through the transition, this suggests that about 200 former WILG-users will eventually see their packages cut.

    He insisted that the government was committed to ensuring that all disabled people are “fully supported to live independently in their communities”.

    And he said that Irranca-Davies had visited both Powys and Wrexham councils this week to “see at first hand the work they have been undertaking” and “will be speaking to other authorities about this over the next few weeks”.

    The government spokesman said: “He will also be asking authorities to undertake a deep dive of a sample of cases where there have been significant changes in the type of support people are receiving, to establish the reasons for this and ensure they are receiving the appropriate support they require to live independently.

    “This is in addition to the ongoing monitoring of the programme, and an additional independent evaluation which has been commissioned by the minister.”

    The spokesman claimed that the “feedback from disabled people” on the transition programme had been “positive”.

    He said: “Together with our partners in local government and the third sector, we will continue to closely monitor the process and the individual outcomes of the transition from the ILF to the person-centred and co-produced approach to independent living in Wales.”

    But Miranda Evans, policy and programmes manager for Disability Wales, said her organisation was “extremely concerned that disabled people with high support requirements are having their hours of care reduced when transferring over to direct payments”. 

    She said: “In a number of cases people are losing their ‘socialising’ hours, which is of great concern. 

    “This vital support enables people to play a part in their community, volunteer with a local group and get involved in political life. 

    “Without this necessary support disabled people will become isolated, disengaged and unable to leave their home.”

    Disability Wales has called for an “urgent review” of the Welsh government’s policy and investigations into the differences between how local authorities are applying it, which she said showed “the further development of a postcode lottery”.

    She added: “We remain concerned that funding will be absorbed by social services budgets and not be directed to those who need it: disabled people with high support requirements.”

    Davies said the Welsh government’s comments showed that “they simply refuse to see the evidence that is staring them in the face”.

    He said: “Yet again the Welsh government seems to think of former ILF recipients as a privileged bunch.

    “This is not the case at all, as we are disabled people with high care and support needs who were guaranteed a lifetime of adequate support under the old ILF system.

    “They do not deserve to be made to feel like a hindrance by the Welsh government.”

    He said the conclusions that can be drawn from the freedom of information responses were “very worrying indeed” and show “a shocking lack of consistency between local authorities, the development of a ‘postcode lottery’, the lack of an adequate complaints procedure for former ILF recipients and an alarming lack of security, or guarantees, for the future”. 

    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: “The responses reflect why we started the campaign three years ago and give weight to our belief that the tripartite system of care needs to be maintained.

    “Disabled people with high care and support needs simply cannot rely on cash-strapped local authorities to provide the levels of care that they need. 

    “One of my biggest concerns is that even the local authorities who have increased a majority of care packages cannot guarantee that these packages will remain at the same levels in future years.

    “It is a concern that these generous increases may only be put in place for a year, while the local authorities sharpen their axes for further cuts once the campaign is over.” 

    He added: “The Welsh government now need to listen to the voices that have supported our campaign – assembly members, MPs, Disability Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, celebrities such as Ken Loach and most importantly their own members who passed a motion calling on them to #SaveWILG at the Welsh Labour conference in April 2018.” 

    *The Welsh government press office was unable to confirm by 1pm today that this means that their support hours have been reduced

    BBC Report: Mark Drakeford may overturn Independent Living Fund changes

    The following article was published on BBC Wales News Online  and this blogger takes no credit or responsibility for anything written below.

    Welsh Labour leadership candidate Mark Drakeford has told supporters he is willing to reverse changes to funding for disabled people if there is evidence they are losing out.

    Councils have been put in charge of support for 1,300 former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

    But research by BBC Wales found that about 100 people had care packages cut.

    Mr Drakeford blamed the UK government for breaking up “that part of the welfare state”.

    The money was protected until earlier this year when the Welsh Government scrapped its Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG), and passed the responsibility to councils.

    The ILF was provided by the UK government until 2015, when it was transferred to English councils and devolved governments.

    Research by the BBC Wales Live programme showed about 100 of the 600 recipients who have been reassessed have had care packages cut.

    In response on Wednesday, the minister in charge, Huw Irranca-Davies, said he did not believe there would be any “losers” as a result of changes.

    Mr Irranca-Davies has previously said he will not “rethink the policy in its entirety.”

    But at a leadership campaign event in Blackwood on Thursday, Mr Drakeford said 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”.

    He blamed the UK government for “breaking up that part of the welfare state”, saying the ILF had “more or less disappeared” in England.

     

    “I do understand that people who rely on the Independent Living Fund say to me when it was in a special grant we knew it was there and we had confidence that money would come to us,” Mr Drakeford said.

    “The money is the same as it always was and most local authorities I believe are doing a decent job of continuing to hand the money on.

    “But we are beginning to pick up information that in some places that is not happening and the money isn’t going to ILF recipients in the way that it would have been last year.”

    Huw Irranca-Davies

     

    Mr Irranca-Davies had agreed to the evaluation, he said, adding that it would be carried out by someone “who is nothing at all to do with local authorities or the Welsh Government”.

    If evidence shows the payments work as well as before “then I think we should carry on with what we are doing now”, Mr Drakeford said.

    “But if the evidence is the opposite – that the money isn’t reaching people for whom it is intended – then I think I will be prepared to look again and go back to the system that the recipients of ILF have had confidence in up until now.”

    The promise drew applause from a small audience of supporters at the event in Blackwood where Mr Drakeford laid out plans to help the least well-off in society.

    He said he would be prepared to set targets to reduce the number of children taken into care and promised he would appoint a cabinet minister responsible for housing.

    Campaigner Nathan Lee Davies with Jeremy Corbyn

     

    Welsh Labour’s Spring conference passed a motion supporting a campaign to reinstate the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

    ‘Save WILG’ has been run by Labour member Nathan Lee Davies and has had backing from Welsh Labour politicians and Welsh Labour Grassroots – the Welsh arm of the left-wing Momentum campaign group.

    But the Welsh Government has pressed ahead with the transfer of the money and the responsibility to local authorities.

    More on this story

     

    Flashback – Minutes from Health and Social Care Committee Meeting from January 2014 #SaveWILG

    I was sent the following link by a fellow campaigner and it could be vital in our fight to #SaveWILG.  It contains Minutes from a meeting of the Health and Social Care Committee from January 2014 and highlights many of the points that the campaign has been making while Huw Irranca-Davies has attempted to divert attention from the facts with smoke and mirrors.

    As you can see from the Minutes below, Civil Servants involved with the Welsh Government could not hide from the fact that the Consultation results clearly showed that disabled people and their families were overwhelmingly in favour of creating an ILF for Wales and totally opposed to Direct Payments from untrustworthy local authorities.  I have copied a number of quotes from the Minutes below to illustrate and emphasise our points.  The first of which comes from Stephen Gulliford, the Charging Policy Manager at the Welsh Government.  He was talking about the Four Options that emerged from the Stakeholder group.  See Paragraph 13 in the minutes below.  Later on, he commented:

    I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but opinions were stressed that they didn’t really trust that the local authorities, if they were given the responsibility, would continue to have the same level of support they receive under ILF currently, although some service users did go for option 4, where a specific grant would be purely for ILF to carry on in the current form, at least with the same level of payment.  

    Gulliford continues:

    Options 3 and 4 obviously found more support through local authorities and local authority organisations,

    This supports the theory that I have always had – that the Welsh Government were put under pressure from Local Authorities and merely crumbled because they believed they could save a bit of money and a lot of hassle.

    I would also like to thank Janet Finch-Saunders for her work in support of disabled people.  At the meeting in 2014, she had the following to say:

    Good morning. I suppose, for me, you know, around all this, I see the inequality of the fact that this scheme is closed to new recipients since 2010. Clearly, in Wales, we have, you know, an ageing population. I see the numbers are diminishing, and the sums involved—. You know, it does mean that there are the haves and the have-nots. Now, in option 2, setting up a national independent living scheme as an alternative, it goes on to say that the local authorities, then, would be able to assess a person, and then it goes on further to say that the NILS would not just be available for those who currently receive ILF—it would be available to local authorities for all individuals, obviously, meeting that criteria. Surely, there’s far more equality in that, to actually go for option 2.

    In an exchange with Stephen Gulliford, she sums it up with six simple words.

    Mr Gulliford: Most of the support for option 2 has been from individual service users.[72]           

    Janet Finch-Saunders: Does that not say it all?

    One issue that Hugh Irranca-Davies always brings up is that disabled people would receive less money if an ILF scheme was introduced in Wales.  This is used as a point of defence by Stephen Gulliford when the mood of the meeting seems to be swinging in support of Option 2.

    Well, it was a stakeholder group of representatives who actually created this second option, feeling—yes—that it’s more equal. The downside of that is, obviously, some people getting ILF now, if this was the option that we pursued, would get less.

    The point is that disabled people and their families were FULLY AWARE that an ILF option might lead to less hours of care and support. I was at a couple of consultation meetings where this was discussed.  Everyone agreed that this would be a better option than letting local authorities get their hands on the money.

    I could spend all day giving examples from below of the many ways in which disabled people with high care and support needs have been ignored and effectively silenced since 2014.  However, I do not have the time available to do this and trust that my readers will take their time to dig out the truth that Welsh Labour have always been running from.  If any of my readers would like to add some points about the minutes from the meeting, please feel free to leave them in the comments box below.

    I must dash now as I have a meeting of the Wrexham AFC Disabled Supporters Association this evening where I am fighting for the club to improve access for all.  Without victory in the WILG campaign though, I will be unable to enjoy the benefits that we are battling for, but I believe that the minutes I have presented below exposes the truth that Welsh Labour have been trying to hide from and gives us hope that people will start to see sense.  All we can do is keep fighting for justice…

     

    The National Assembly for Wales
    The Health and Social Care Committee
    Wednesday, 21 January 2014
    Contents

    Introductions, Apologies and Substitutions

    Consultation on Future Care and Support Arrangements for Independent Living Fund

    Recipients: Factual Briefing

    Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting

    The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included.
    Committee members in attendance
    Alun Davies Labour
    Janet Finch-Saunders Welsh Conservatives
    John Griffiths Labour
    Elin Jones Plaid Cymru
    Darren Millar Welsh Conservatives
    Gwyn R. Price Labour
    David Rees Labour (Committee Chair)
    Lindsay Whittle Plaid Cymru
    Kirsty Williams  

    Welsh Liberal Democrats

     

    Others in attendance
    Alistair Davey Deputy Director, Social Services and Integration, Welsh Government
    Stephen Gulliford Charging Policy Manager, Delivering Policy for Children and Adults Division, Welsh Government

    National Assembly for Wales officials in attendance
    Amy Clifton Researcher
    Helen Finlayson Second Clerk
    Sian Giddins Deputy Clerk
    Llinos Madeley Clerk

     

    The meeting began at 09:18.
    Introductions, Apologies and Substitutions
    [1]               David Rees: Good morning, and can I welcome Members to this morning’s session of the Health and Social Care Committee? Can I remind Members, please, to turn your mobile phones off, or any other electronic equipment, which may interfere with the broadcasting equipment? There is no scheduled fire alarm today, so, if one does go off, please follow the directions of the ushers. There is simultaneous translation available on channel 1, from Welsh to English, and for amplification on channel 2. No need to touch the microphones—the microphones will come on automatically. We have received apologies from Lynne Neagle this morning, and there is no substitute being indicated.
    Consultation on Future Care and Support Arrangements for Independent Living Fund Recipients: Factual Briefing
    [2]               David Rees: We’ll go on to item 2 on the agenda. This is a briefing from officials on the consultation that’s been undertaken on the transfer of the independent living fund to the Welsh Government. Can I welcome Stephen Gulliford and Alistair Davey? Would you like to introduce yourselves, and your titles, for the record, please?
    [3]               Mr Davey: I am Alistair Davey, deputy director within social services and integration, and my responsibility is delivering policy for children and adults.
    [4]               Mr Gulliford: Good morning. I’m Steve Gulliford. I’m policy charging officer for residential and non-residential care within the same directorate.
    [5]               David Rees: Thank you very much. Could I remind Members that this is a factual briefing and consultation on the consultation that has been undertaken on the future care and support arrangements for the ILF? Obviously, there are four outlines that were discussed, and we can, perhaps, explore those a little bit more—how the consultation responses have been analysed and, perhaps, the emerging themes that are coming through that consultation process. Would you like to give any short introduction at the start of the session?
    [6]               Mr Davey: Yes. I believe you wish for an overview of the ILF scheme itself.
    [7]               David Rees: That would be very helpful.
    [8]               Mr Davey: Certainly. The independent living fund was set up in 1988 as an executive—excuse me—non-departmental public body of the Department for Work and Pensions. It was established to provide financial support to disabled people in the UK who required a higher level of support to live independently. It was funded by the UK Government and it’s operated by the independent living fund. The ILF makes direct cash payments to disabled people with very significant care needs. These payments they can then use to pay for care and support they require or to employ their own personal assistant. This financial support enables disabled people with significant care needs to live independent lives in their home and community. Payments can be used for a range of things, including assistance with eating and drinking, cooking and preparing food and drink; assistance with dressing; and assistance with personal hygiene, laundry, other domestic duties, personal care and even shopping.
    [9]               In calculating the amount of a payment that the ILF will make, it will take into account the amount the individual can pay towards the cost of the care and support, based on their weekly income and their living costs. Consequently, it will reduce the level of that payment and take into account welfare benefits, for example, disability living allowance, company or occupational pensions, incapacity benefit, war pensions, widow or widower’s pensions and income from capital investments or savings.
    [10]           There are, primarily, two groups of ILF recipients, known as group 1 and group 2. Group 1—and there are about, I think, 171 in group 1 within Wales—are recipients who started to receive funding between 1988 and February 1993, when the ILF eligibility criteria were changed. They are not required to have local authority support, although some do receive it. Group 2 are recipients who started to receive ILF from 1993. The new criteria required local authorities to contribute a minimum of £200 a week to the individual support package. The threshold has been raised over the years, and it’s now £340. The majority, I think—1,515 recipients in Wales—fall into group 2. As of 30 July 2014, there were £1,686 ILF recipients in Wales who, on average, receive about £335 a week to meet their needs.
    [11]           Obviously, you are aware that the UK Government—and I won’t go into the history, unless you wish me to do so—decided to close the scheme, and it will close from 30 June. It will be a transfer of £20.4 million; however, that does not include anything to actually run the scheme itself. That has to be taken out of in-year savings. Obviously, we established a stakeholder group to establish a number of options—there were four in the end—and the consultation ran from 3 October to 23 December. I think Steve is just going to give you a quick overview of the four options.
    [12]           Mr Gulliford: These were developed throughout last year with the stakeholder group, which originally had started developing the options when the UK Government announced that ILF was going to close from 31 March this year, before all the legal challenges. So, we re-examined whether those options that had been developed to that point were still sustainable, and then the fourth option, which became option 2, emanated out of discussions with the stakeholder group, particularly the third sector.
    [13]           So, there are four options. Option 1 is to set up an independent living fund, very similar to the current scheme. Option 2 is to create an independent body to administer it on behalf of ILF. Option 3 is to transfer the £20.4 million into the revenue support grant for local authorities. And option 4 is to create a special grant, purely for ILF, but administered through local authorities. So, they were the four options that we went out to consultation on. 
    [14]           David Rees: Okay.
    [15]           Mr Gulliford: I don’t know if you want me to expand on them.
    [16]           David Rees: I’m sure Members might want to ask if they want some clarity on those things. Okay, well, thank you for that. Just for clarity and confirmation, the allocation of funding being transferred over is purely based upon the payments, and there is no funding allocated for any administrative aspects of any of the options, in that sense.
    [17]           Mr Gulliford: No. It’s purely estimated on the number of ILF recipients in Wales at 30 June this year, and, as Alistair said, there are in-year savings, through suspensions, where ILF recipients may be in hospital or having a temporary stay in residential care. But, from what we understand, you wouldn’t know the level of that until the end of that financial year. Obviously, ILF has run since its inception, so they’ve anticipated a certain level. We can’t anticipate that and we’ll have to calculate at the end of the year.
    [18]           Mr Davey: Obviously, the £20 million is a part payment, which obviously starts from 1 July. It’s a part-year payment.
    [19]           David Rees: Okay. Thank you. Gwyn, did you want to—
    [20]           Gwyn R. Price: Yes. I am just wondering; are there any emerging themes that have come to light so far in the responses to date?
    [21]           Mr Gulliford: There are two sort of—. The analysis is still going on, but there are two sort of distinct themes going on. We had just over 280 responses. The vast majority we’ve called formal responses, in as much as they completed the consultation response forms. Some were not complete, but most were, and standalones, which were literally one line e-mails saying ‘I want to keep the ILF’ without any support or disregard for the other three options. But, essentially, options 1 and 2 have got the support of service users, who either want ILF, understandably, to carry on as far as possible as it is now, and the independent third sector. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but opinions were stressed that they didn’t really trust that the local authorities, if they were given the responsibility, would continue to have the same level of support they receive under ILF currently, although some service users did go for option 4, where a specific grant would be purely for ILF to carry on in the current form, at least with the same level of payment. Options 3 and 4 obviously found more support through local authorities and local authority organisations, because the vast majority, as Alistair has referred to, of ILF recipients receive some form of care and support through the local authority, through the non-residential side. So, the infrastructure’s there; they know of the people and, therefore, it also brings all the funding into one stream instead of having this one group of people getting ILF and other people who could possibly qualify for ILF, if that was still open, not having access to the ILF funding.
    [22]           Gwyn R. Price: So, there is a definite split, with the users saying option 1 and 2 and the local authorities saying 3 and 4, really.
    [23]           Mr Gulliford: Yes. If I could just add to that, during the consultation, a number of people rang me asking for hard copies of the consultation, either because they weren’t conversant with computers or they didn’t have a computer, and the vast majority did say that, if you saw the difference ILF had made to their wife, son, daughter—whoever they cared for—that’s why they wanted it kept more or less intact. Because the flexibility or the quality of life that they had then, with the choice of either employing their own carers or employing agency staff, made a big difference compared with the somewhat regimented support of a local authority.
    [24]           Gwyn R. Price: So, what they’re really saying is that they’re set up, they’re happy where they are—‘Leave me alone’.
    [25]           Mr Gulliford: Yeah.
    [26]           Mr Davey: Obviously they’re really concerned about local government setting of eligibility thresholds and all manner of things, and obviously, that’s what we expected them to be concerned about—the protection of that payment—and quite rightly so.
    [27]           Gwyn R. Price: Thank you.
    [28]           David Rees: Okay. Lindsay and then Alun.
    [29]           Lindsay Whittle: Thank you, Chair. Good morning. I can understand the concern of the recipients about the local authorities administrating the new fund, whoever administers it. If we had an independent Wales fund, do you have any idea on the cost? We’re talking of £20 million; how much would it cost, do you think, to administer that centrally?
    [30]           Mr Davey: Our belief at present, in terms of the administration and, sort of, like, taking a read across, is that we’d be talking about between £300,000 and £500,000, which is, at present, about the offset that comes from in-year savings anyway. But, obviously, if you’re setting up bodies, we would have to look at an initial set-up cost as well as part of that calculation and, obviously, we’re not in a position to actually do that at present.

     

    [31]           Lindsay Whittle: So, it’s administered from London at the moment
    [32]           Mr Gulliford: Nottingham.
    [33]           Lindsay Whittle: Sorry?
    [34]           Mr Gulliford: Nottingham.
    [35]           Lindsay Whittle: From Nottingham. From England, sorry. Would any funding come with the transfer for administration?
    [36]           Mr Gulliford: Not for the administration. As Alistair says, the £20.4 million is basically the ILF payments that approximately 1,600 ILF people in Wales would get at the end of June. And in-year savings seem to pay for the administration of the scheme.
    [37]           Mr Daveu: That would be, for example, if someone came off the scheme, or if they went into hospital for a period. Generally, that’s anticipated to average over the years at about £300,000 to £500,000. That, generally, is then used as part of how the scheme is administered. Obviously, then, it’s recalculated at the end of each financial year. Obviously, we are also aware that it is a declining number that is actually on the scheme at present.
    [38]           Lindsay Whittle: Could we not use that similar savings scheme?
    [39]           Mr Davey: That’s exactly what we would be using within Wales to actually fund the administration, yes.
    [40]           Lindsay Whittle: Okay; alright, thank you.
    [41]           David Rees: Alun.
    [42]           Alun Davies: I’d like to start by asking you about the legal basis for this. I presume that responsibility is being transferred from Government to Government via a transfer of functions Order.
    [43]           Mr Davey: I believe that that is in hand, isn’t it, Steve?
    [44]           Mr Gulliford: Yeah.
    [45]           Alun Davies: So, do you know—? Has there been any transfer of legislative authority to the National Assembly?
    [46]           Mr Davey: I’m not sure; I’m going to have to get back to you on that.
    [47]           David Rees: That would be helpful.
    [48]           Alun Davies: So, in terms of the options available to Ministers, options 3 and 4 that you’ve discussed would be a relatively straightforward grant process. The other two, if Ministers were minded to set up a new body for Wales—ILF Cymru, or whatever—then I would assume that they would have to legislate to do that. Is that your assumption?
    [49]           Mr Davey: That would be my assumption—that we would have to legislate.
    [50]           Alun Davies: That would require primary legislation. So, a scheme within Government could be administered by the Government via the civil service.
    [51]           Mr Davey: Yes.
    [52]           Alun Davies: That could be done without, necessarily, creating any need for primary legislation.
    [53]           Mr Davey: Yes.
    [54]           Alun Davies: But that would require secondary legislation, surely, to set out the structures within which it would operate and the basis upon which it would operate.
    [55]           Mr Davey: I think that would normally be the case, yes.
    [56]           Alun Davies: Would you have an indicative timescale for that?
    [57]           Mr Davey: Not at present, no. Obviously, we’re about to set up a project group now to look forward, once we’ve decided which option to take forward, to scope the relevant timetable and arrangements we would have to put in place.
    [58]           Alun Davies: Right; well, that sounds to me like that could take some time.
    [59]           Mr Davey: Well, our view is that we’ve already—. Obviously, we’re aware of what the four options are, and we’re already starting to scope out how we would take those forward. So, it’s not as though it’s a standing-still position.
    [60]           Alun Davies: No, but it’s not going to happen before 30 June, either.
    [61]           Mr Davey: It is unlikely. You know, at present, obviously, we’re looking at—. Depending on which option the Minister decides to take, that will have an impact on the overall timetable, and that will form part of the advice that we would put up. It could be that, if one of the options requires us to have an extended timetable, we’d have to put in place some form of interim arrangement, in terms of ensuring that those payments were still made to the recipients.
    [62]           Alun Davies: I would assume that, if we’re looking at primary legislation, that’s not going to happen in this Assembly, so, the earliest that could begin is the summer of 2016; it would be, possibly, law by the spring of 2017, and start in the financial year in 2018. Is that an unreasonable—
    [63]           Mr Davey: That is not unreasonable, no.
    [64]           Alun Davies: —timetable? So, option 1 is quite difficult, in terms of actual delivery.
    [65]           Mr Davey: That is the case. Options 1 and 2 are more difficult, and will be more time consuming and, possibly, more expensive to administer and take forward.
    [66]           Alun Davies: Okay.
    [67]           David Rees: Okay. Janet.
    [68]           Janet Finch-Saunders: Good morning. I suppose, for me, you know, around all this, I see the inequality of the fact that this scheme is closed to new recipients since 2010. Clearly, in Wales, we have, you know, an ageing population. I see the numbers are diminishing, and the sums involved—. You know, it does mean that there are the haves and the have-nots. Now, in option 2, setting up a national independent living scheme as an alternative, it goes on to say that the local authorities, then, would be able to assess a person, and then it goes on further to say that the NILS would not just be available for those who currently receive ILF—it would be available to local authorities for all individuals, obviously, meeting that criteria. Surely, there’s far more equality in that, to actually go for option 2.
    [69]           Mr Davey: I think that presumption could be made, but, obviously, we’re looking at, in a consultation process—
    [70]           Janet Finch-Saunders: I was going to ask you again whether you could just remind me of the figures on the consultation, because local authorities and health boards are best suited, if you like, to do the assessments. What kind of response have you had against—? You’ve mentioned that some are concerned about local authorities handling it.
    [71]           Mr Gulliford: Most of the support for option 2 has been from individual service users.
    [72]           Janet Finch-Saunders: Does that not say it all?
    [73]           Mr Gulliford: Well, it was a stakeholder group of representatives who actually created this second option, feeling—yes—that it’s more equal. The downside of that is, obviously, some people getting ILF now, if this was the option that we pursued, would get less.
    [74]           Janet Finch-Saunders: Well, yeah, you’d have more people getting less, but more people would feel—. Yeah, okay. Thank you.
    [75]           David Rees: In relation to option 4 that we’ve talked about, obviously, option 4 is a ring-fenced grant, with an expiry date at some point, which may be transferred into the RSG. Have you any indication of an expected period of time in which it would be ring-fenced? If people are answering to that consultation, and being asked what their preferred option is, and they think that is going to secure the ILF for them, then, clearly, were they aware that this would expire, and that this would expire at a particular point, where it goes back into the local authority? In other words, it goes back to option 3 in one sense.
    [76]           Mr Gulliford: It’d be wrong for me to say ‘yes’ without any qualification, because, again, this was developed in conjunction with the stakeholders, who cascaded it out. But, you’re quite right—they may think it’s another form of protecting the ILF in perpetuity. But, it was made clear that this would be, if you like, a transient grant, obviously time-limited, before ultimately it went into the RSG.
    [77]           Mr Davey: [Inaudible.]—effectively, you would have a declining scheme, declining numbers as well, and you’re going to get to a point where those numbers are going to drop to such a level that it would be appropriate to put it into the RSG.
    [78]           David Rees: Okay. Lindsay, do you want to come back?
    [79]           Lindsay Whittle: Sorry, Chair, so, the London Government has decided that the ILF will close on 30 June 2015. Under the new Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, ILF recipients wouldn’t transfer directly onto the new arrangements possibly until 2016, if the Welsh Government decides to take up the cudgels, of course, because they haven’t decided that yet, have they?
    [80]           Mr Gulliford: No.
    [81]           Lindsay Whittle: So, what we’re deciding is how will we administer this fund, as from when?
    [82]           Mr Davey: As from 1 July.
    [83]           Lindsay Whittle: 1 July—
    [84]           Mr Davey: This year.
    [85]           Lindsay Whittle: This year. But it’s all going to stop in 2015 anyway.
    [86]           Mr Gulliford: No, it’s going to stop being paid from the one office in Nottingham, and then devolved to the devolved administration—
    [87]           Lindsay Whittle: The money will come with it?
    [88]           Mr Davey: Yes, the £20 million. Sorry if we weren’t clear on that—the money will come over with that.
    [89]           Lindsay Whittle: Right, okay; I’m more clear now. Thank you, Chair.
    [90]           David Rees: Darren?
    [91]           Darren Millar: Just on the question about the money situation, you suggested earlier on, Mr Gulliford, that because a snapshot was taken as at 30 June two thousand and—when did you say the date was? Because a snapshot was taken, effectively, there would have been some people who were in-patients in hospital and there would have potentially been some people who were in residential care, but wouldn’t that always be the case with this particularly vulnerable group? You’re always going to have a cohort that may be in hospital.
    [92]           Mr Gulliford: That’s right. It’s—
    [93]           Darren Millar: So, taking a snapshot on any date is going to be a picture that should be typical of the costs of the scheme—ongoing in any case, yes?
    [94]           Mr Gulliford: Yes.
    [95]           Darren Millar: And in terms of the age profile of the individuals in receipt of cash under the existing arrangement, what’s the average age? No doubt, some of these individuals may well have passed away.
    [96]           Mr Gulliford: That’s true but, actually, within the consultation document—
    [97]           Darren Millar: Because the size of the cohort is shrinking, there may be a bit more cash to go around—that’s the point I’m making.
    [98]           Mr Gulliford: Perversely, with social care, if my memory serves, the vast majority are under 65.
    [99]           Darren Millar: Is that right?
    [100]       Mr Davey: Yes, the vast majority of the 1,550 are aged below 65, whereas 487 are aged between 16 and 35 years of age.
    [101]       Darren Millar: Is that right? Okay, so it’s quite a different picture from other social care—
    [102]       Mr Gulliford: It is. There’s a lot of—obviously, by their qualification, they’re severely disabled. But, again, speaking to a number of respondents who’d asked for the hard copies, a number of them have learning difficulties—learning disabilities, sorry—quite a significant number brain-damaged through immunisation, and relatively young. So, again, it’s only a projection, but the chances are they will need that high level of care for a significant period of time.
    [103]       Darren Millar: Yes. Tell me, if there were no ILF scheme—and, of course there are people at the moment out there who have no access to a scheme at all—what sort of support is available for those sorts of individuals now, in terms of a package of support that might be built around them?
    [104]       Mr Gulliford: Following an assessment of their care needs by a local authority, they could either have direct service provision or direct payments. I mean, if they had direct service provision, not necessarily by the local authority, but commissioned by the local authority, that could include a number of carers coming into the house, or attending a day centre if it was assessed that the quality of life would be enhanced by attending a day centre, the maximum they would pay at the moment is £55 a week, which is going up to £60 a week this April, or they could have direct payment, which is similar to ILF, because they become an employer, and have the care, as agreed, when it suits them throughout the day.
    [105]       Darren Millar: So, what’s the big advantage to this cohort of people who are paid under ILF versus individuals who might be receiving care and support in different ways outside of the ILF scheme?
    [106]       Mr Davey: There shouldn’t actually be—
    [107]       Darren Millar: There shouldn’t be a disadvantage.
    [108]       Mr Davey: A difference.
    [109]       Mr Gulliford: I’m not speaking from a position of knowledge here, but I think ILF, when it was first conceived, was only meant to be a short form of funding, but, obviously, when they looked at it they suddenly found there were far more subscribers than they’d anticipated.
    [110]       Mr Davey: In a way, it’s a financial pot. We didn’t go for a do-nothing option, and I believe they did in Northern Ireland.
    [111]       Mr Gulliford: In Northern Ireland, one of their options was to do nothing—just let the ILF finish in June, and that was it.
    [112]       Mr Davey: Obviously, we’re going to get to a point in Wales as well where the number of people in the ILF will eventually be none.
    [113]       Mr Gulliford: Could I just explain the process slightly? Somebody getting a personal allowance, as I said, of £340 a week of care from the local authority—that is the trigger point. They then have to be reassessed by ILF. Now, to get ILF you’ve got to be on the higher rate of disability living allowance, day and night care, or the enhanced daily living component of the personal independent payment, which is gradually replacing DLA. So, they reassess them. I think the big difference is, with ILF—sorry, with DLA or PIP—you get the money as a recognition of the impact your disability or your illness has on your daily living. You can spend that any way you want. With ILF, you either have to employ a personal carer or employ a care agency, and then, very similar to direct payments, you become an employer, you’ve got to keep time sheets, NI contributions, holiday pay, maternity pay. So, it’s much more rigid, but it enhances the level of care that they would otherwise get, I suppose.
    [114]       Darren Millar: Or you purchase a package of care from a provider who deals with all that.
    [115]       Mr Gulliford: Yes, but it’s all accountable. You have to have a separate bank account. So, I suppose, if it’s not the wrong terminology, it’s a top-up on what you could get through your local authority by virtue of the fact of the benefit you’re getting, which recognises the disability you have, which gives you that additional level of care, possibly.
    [116]       Darren Millar: But, from what you said earlier—from what both of you said earlier—even under the existing arrangements, people who can’t access ILF because of the cut-off date are still able, and eligible, to receive packages of support that meet their needs, and there’ll be more uniformity in that as a result of the new social services and well-being Act, when all parts of it are enacted.
    [117]       Mr Davey: From April this year, yes.
    [118]       Mr Gulliford: That’s true, but the difference is the people who get ILF get that additional money on top of—people getting their services through the local authority who also currently get higher rate DLA, or the enhanced daily rate of PIP.
    [119]       Darren Millar: Okay. Just explain: what’s the average additional money in addition to the support?
    [120]       Mr Gulliford: It’s £355 a week.
    [121]       Darren Millar: So, they get an extra £355 a week on top of the cost of their are.
    [122]       Mr Gulliford: Well, they get two funding streams—they get the DLA or the PIP, and then that triggers getting ILF. That can be, I think, up to—
    [123]       Darren Millar: But the ILF funding is ring-fenced to pay for care and support that they would otherwise be receiving from the local authority under the other arrangements, yes?
    [124]       Mr Gulliford: Yes.
    [125]       Darren Millar: Okay. So it’s just replacing stuff with stuff that’s already available.
    [126]       Mr Gulliford: I would say it’s in addition.
    [127]       Darren Millar: Well, how is it in addition? So, are you suggesting that people on ILF get a better quality and range and breadth of support for their care needs than people under the usual local authority arrangements?
    [128]       Mr Gulliford: They have the finance to secure more.
    [129]       David Rees: I think the difference, if I am right, is that, as you put it, they have the finance to purchase their package, whereas others will get the package from the local authority.
    [130]       Darren Millar: Or they’ll get direct payments from the local authority and be able to purchase the package in the same way as ILF.
    [131]       Kirsty Williams: I just wanted to clarify that in my own mind—that you would not have a situation where you would have a recipient of the independent living fund who would also then have a package of care supplied by the local authority?
    [132]       Mr Gulliford: No, that triggers it. They’ve got to have at least £340-worth of care from the local authority to trigger, if you like, applying for ILF.
    [133]       Kirsty Williams: Okay. So, that would not be what you’ve just said then, Chair.
    [134]       David Rees: I think what it says—.
    [135]       Alun Davies: This would be in addition to that.
    [136]       Mr Gulliford: Yes.
    [137]       Kirsty Williams: Yes. What I’m trying to understand is the impact for this particular group of people, because I think, ultimately, that’s what we’re all concerned about—that we have a cohort of people who are in receipt of this, for whom, from this summer, we’re not quite sure what their support is going to look like. So, I’m trying to understand this in my own head. So, would a constituent, who was being cared for or having services provided by the local authority, either commissioned by them or was in receipt of a direct payment, have ILF on top of that?
    [138]       Mr Gulliford: If they were receiving the higher rate care level of DLA, or an enhanced daily component of PIP.
    [139]       David Rees: Can I clarify the point? I think what Kirsty’s trying to get to, if I’m right—correct me if I’m wrong—is if a new individual came along now, post-ILF, and identified the fact that their needs are greater than that trigger, those needs, if they were new, would still be funded by the local authority.
    [140]       Mr Gulliford: Yes.
    [141]       David Rees: So, in a sense, someone who has previously been assessed and someone who was newly assessed would actually end up having the same type of package, but one would have an ILF package to pay for care and one would have, through the local authority, direct payments or local authority support, if they were newly—. So, if someone’s demands were, let’s say, £400, for argument’s sake, which is above the trigger point, that £400 would still be paid.
    [142]       Mr Gulliford: Yes.
    [143]       David Rees: So, in a sense, they shouldn’t be treated any differently.
    [144]       Mr Gulliford: I don’t know if this helps, but the maximum ILF funding for group 1 is £815 per week, and for group 2 it’s £475. So, you can see why a lot of local authorities then suggest the service user applies for ILF, on top of the normal welfare benefits they receive, if they are getting those particular rates of benefit from DLA or PIP.
    [145]       David Rees: Of the four options, which ones are geared towards conformity and, basically, merging, so that, at some point in the future, everybody’s on the same scheme?
    [146]       Mr Gulliford: I would say 2, 3 and 4.
    [147]       David Rees: Okay. John.
    [148]       John Griffiths: It’s become a bit murky, really, Chair, hasn’t it, in terms of what the advantage is to people who are currently receiving ILF of receiving ILF, set against what they would receive otherwise from the local authority? Is there a difference? I think you were quite clear at one stage, Stephen, in saying that there isn’t a difference, because the package that would be put in place by the local authority would be equal to what people receive under ILF—
    [149]       Mr Gulliford: It would, but, obviously, ILF provides additional funding to possibly have a bigger care package than what the local authority recommended.
    [150]       Darren Millar: And is that because the eligibility criteria allow them to be eligible for additional care and support that is not available from local authorities?
    [151]       Mr Gulliford: Yes. The eligibility criteria of the ILF were set up by a deed trust, as to how it operates, and whilst I don’t know the full details of the full eligibility, it’s always been acknowledged that it’s tougher than the eligibility to receive local authority non-residential care.
    [152]       Mr Davey: It might be worth us sending out some examples to the committee
    [153]       David Rees: I think it would be very helpful if you could do that.
    [154]       Mr Davey: —because this is very complicated offset situation.
    [155]       Darren Millar: Yeah. So, a typical individual and the current care and support that they would receive under ILF and how that might differ from direct payments through local authority—.
    [156]       John Griffiths: But isn’t it right to say, in terms of the responses and the feedback that you’ve had, that a lot of the concern that people currently receiving ILF have is that were there to be a change that moved it to the local authority, for example, there might be these changes, as I think you’ve mentioned in eligibility criteria, that would, obviously, move the goalposts and potentially disadvantage them. Is that behind a lot of the concerns that exist?
    [157]       Mr Gulliford: It is, yes.
    [158]       Mr Davey: That’s the uncertainty about what the threshold could be in the future about the protection of the ongoing funding, and views, you know, about whether the money would still come across from the UK Government. These are all the sort of uncertainties that are factoring into this.
    [159]       Mr Gulliford: Because they’ve had this static and well-processed system for a number of years and now they’re concerned whether they’ll still have that level of funding, because there’s concern about whether they’d have to reduce the hours of care that their son or their daughter or their wife—whoever’s being cared for—would receive overall because of the funding. Would they have to make their carers redundant? Because they’re an employer, they’ve got to give notification of redundancy. Obviously, it will depend which option we ultimately pursue, but it’s questions like that they are very concerned about because, up until now, from what I gather, speaking to the officials in ILF, it’s run along very smoothly in conjunction with the local authority. The ILF review everybody’s case every two years to see if, obviously, there are changes in between, or there’s a change of circumstance. It all works very smoothly. It’s operated out of one office in Nottingham for all that time for all of Britain, so it works. And any sort of potential disruption, I suppose, given the sensitivity of the service users—they’re over-concerned, if you know what I mean.
    [160]       David Rees: Kirsty.
    [161]       Kirsty Williams: As you said, my understanding is that, for those in receipt of ILF, it has worked. There have been no problems, it’s been administered very well, there’s been certainty and they’ve, you know, not had to worry about it. With regard to eligibility, would I be correct in saying that the people in receipt of ILF have a very high level of need?
    [162]       Mr Gulliford: Yes.
    [163]       Kirsty Williams: So, even if, under the new social services legislation, everybody’s eligibility criteria shoots up—and I think we can all assume that that’s exactly what will happen and it’ll be harder to become eligible for a social services package of care—this particular client group really shouldn’t be affected by that because we are talking about people with very high-end needs anyway. So, they shouldn’t necessarily be caught out by any changes in eligibility criteria at a local government level.
    [164]       Mr Davey: No. I would agree. Because they are a higher level of need, I would agree that that is a good supposition.
    [165]       Kirsty Williams: Secondly then, the inference seems to be, ‘Well, people don’t need to worry because, if you don’t have this, it could be administered similarly to a direct payment’, but most local authorities have a cap on their hourly rate for direct payments, and there is some concern that the cap that the local authorities place on direct payments actually doesn’t allow you to employ someone, because the levels of direct payments are quite low. Have you done any analysis of the comparison between a direct payment hourly rate and hourly rates that are paid under this scheme? So, I’m trying to think about whether, if this was to go, and somebody was to be moved onto a local government direct payments scheme, they would be receiving less money, and how much less money than what allows them to pay for their care. Most local authorities have a rate of—. It’s £10 something or other in Powys, I think, and that causes some problems in terms of—. Because a domiciliary care agency would probably charge you £12, £13, £14 an hour. I’m trying to get a feel for the difference.
    [166]       Mr Davey: That is something that we are currently considering and taking forward.
    [167]       Kirsty Williams: Okay.
    [168]       Mr Davey: Obviously, you’re correct, we have to look at what those thresholds and caps are.
    [169]       Kirsty Williams: Sure, great, thank you.
    [170]       David Rees: Are there any other Members with questions? Darren.
    [171]       Darren Millar: Can I just check—. I mean, I completely understand the line of questioning that Kirsty’s just pursued, but, under the new Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, there will be national eligibility criteria, yes?
    [172]       Mr Gulliford: Uh-huh.
    [173]       Darren Millar: Will those national eligibility criteria extend to, you know, the rates that are payable for direct payments per hour of care or anything like that? They’ll still be set locally, will they? So, if a local authority was to pay a different hourly care rate for an individual in its local authority area versus the local authority area next door, even though there are national eligibility criteria, there will not be a national price criterion, if you see what I mean.
    [174]       David Rees: I think you’ve just identified it. One’s eligibility criteria and one’s.
    [175]       Darren Millar: Yeah. I mean, is that the situation?
    [176]       Mr Gulliford: Yes.
    [177]       Lindsay Whittle: [Inaudible.]—the Assembly Minister’s decision. It says he’ll be making a decision in early 2015. I appreciate that 21 days is quite early into 2015, but do we have any indication of when?
    [178]       Mr Davey: My view is I want to do this very quickly. Obviously, we’re planning through these, we’re analysing. As I said, there are about 280 of them and I want to get something out within the next week or two, and then we really are going to work quickly on this, but part of it is making sure that, when we give the options to the Minister, we’re looking at the feasibility, the complexity, the cost and anything else associated with this. I think, as you pointed out, there are some real complexities and issues that we have to dig into out there. Part of it is, you know, the huge range of options and things that could be taken forward. We’ve had to do a sort of general look at that and then really delve into the detail, once we know which option we’re going to take forward.
    [179]       Lindsay Whittle: Okay, thank you.
    [180]       David Rees: And part of that preparation is actually talking about the arrangements that will be in place, post 1 July, irrespective of which option you’re talking about, because, as identified, some will take longer.
    [181]       Mr Davey: For the Government, obviously, one thing that we have to be absolutely sure of is that, whatever happens from 1 July, even if it’s an interim solution, that money will still continue to be paid or that there will be certainty around how we take that forward.
    [182]       David Rees: Okay. Just one point—. I will come to you in a minute. The funding, we know what it is for this coming year. Are we aware of whether that will be the same funding or is it going to be a sort of 4.3% reduction, as we are seeing on a regular basis, for the following year? What’s the situation for 2016-17?
    [183]       Mr Davey: That’s a good point. Obviously, my colleagues are in discussions with colleagues in Treasury around this and, obviously, at present, we have got no guarantee in terms of future funding.
    [184]       David Rees: Okay. Alun, do you want to make a point?
    [185]       Alun Davies: Yes, the decision you’re going to be asking the Minister to take is a choice between those four options.
    [186]       Mr Davey: Yes.
    [187]       Alun Davies: And that will be a final decision to run into implementation?
    [188]       Mr Davey: Yes.
    [189]       Alun Davies: So, there will be no further consultation and no further conversation about this matter.
    [190]       Mr Davey: Unless the Minister wishes to do so, and I have no indication that he has.
    [191]       Alun Davies: Okay.
    [192]       David Rees: Okay. Anyone else? No. Can I, therefore, thank you very much for the briefing this morning? It’s been very helpful; I think some of us have clarified—. You indicated that you will give us some case studies. Could that be done as quickly as possible, because, obviously, the timescales are short, and we want to be able to respond to the Minister to also help his consideration of the issues?
    [193]       Mr Davey: Certainly. We’ll work on that today. Apologies about the complexity about some of this. It is a complex scheme, with a whole range of needs, and we will get some examples to you and sort of work them through, just to explain in a bit more detail.
    [194]       David Rees: That would be very helpful. Thank you very much.
    [195]       Mr Gulliford: One little issue, on the sort of informal agenda, you did want to know about our engagement with other administrations.
    [196]       David Rees: Yes, I did raise in questions, obviously, your engagement with other administrations, because you have already mentioned that you have been talking very much with the ILF in Nottingham, so I’m assuming you’ve been in discussions with the UK Government officials on the process of—
    [197]       Mr Gulliford: Yes, we’ve been in touch with the Scottish Government, because, obviously, they’re pursuing an ILF scheme as is, and Northern Ireland have, roughly, the same situation that we have. They have recently finished their consultation; they are currently analysing their responses before they advise their Minister, hopefully, later this month. But Scotland held their consultation in 2013, and so they are sort of quite well advanced, but, going back to what the committee member mentioned about the problems of setting up a body, they are looking into that now, because they’re considering setting up a company limited by guarantee.
    [198]       David Rees: Okay—
    [199]       Mr Davey: These are considerations that, you know, we would have to take legal advice on.
    [200]       Mr Gulliford: But we are liaising with those and we’re updating the stakeholder group as things are evolving and developing.
    [201]       David Rees: Okay. Thank you very much for that. You will receive a copy of the transcript for any factual inaccuracies that you spot, and let us know if there are any, please. So, thank you very much for your attendance this morning.
    [202]       Mr Davey: Thank you.
    Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting
     

    Cynnig:

     

    Motion:
    bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi). that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

     

    Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
    Motion moved.
    [203]       David Rees: Well, in that case, I now propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) that we now resolve to meet in private for items 4 and 5 of this meeting. Is everyone, therefore, content? Okay, thank you very much.

     

    Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
    Motion agreed.
    Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:58.
    The public part of the meeting ended at 09:58.