ILF

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.

 ***

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…

    ***

     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 

    D-Day #SaveWILG

    I have just been sent this letter by a trusted comrade that dates back to 2011 and the fight to save the Independent Living Fund from closure. To see this letter on it’s original web page, please click here.

    Not only does this letter prove the depth of struggle that disabled people have been facing since the coalition Government came into place but it also entered my inbox on a fateful day that will soon see a new First Minister being unveiled in Cardiff.

    I am really hoping that my preferred candidate is successful and that I can work with them over the coming months to #SaveWILG. Something needs to happen so I don’t have to experience nights like last night when I woke up at 02.30 in the morning and found myself without access to my bed remote to use the profiling feature that allows me to sit up straight and use the urinal.

    Without going into too much detail, an accident occurred and I had no one else to call but my 68-year-old Father who is not able to assist me in the way that he could a few years ago.

    The solution is obvious to you and me. I will carry on fighting for justice – for myself and all other disabled people with high support needs across Wales whoever is are new First Minister.

    ***

    Maria Miller MP
    Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People
    Department for Work and Pensions
    1st Floor
    Caxton House
    Tothill Street
    London
    SW1H 9NA

    Dear Maria Miller,

    Re: Shutting down the Independent Living Fund

    It is only a few short days since I last wrote to you, as Minister for Disabled People, urging you to recall the Public Consultation on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reform. I find myself writing again with regards to the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which appears to be the Coalition Government’s latest target in its war on disabled people.

    You released a statement yesterday which announced that ILF would cease to exist in 2015. Many in the disabled community saw this coming, after the Fund was frozen to new applications for this year, but had hoped that you would see reason. Your statement is difficult to criticize fully because there is so little information on your plans except for vague promises of consultation in 2011. This lack of clarity has sent ILF claimants, their carers and their friends into panic. How is it possible for us to correspond with you when you fail to clarify your intentions?

    In the statement you claim that “the model of the ILF as an independent discretionary trust delivering social care is financially unsustainable.” There appears to be no justification of this claim. The purpose of the ILF was to maintain and allow for people with high care needs to remain living independently in the community rather than the alternative of residential care. Given the expense of residential care, surely making it possible for 21,000 people to live independently is financially sustainable and eminently sensible.

    The statement suggests that you will move “existing users of the ILF in to a social care system based on the principles of personalised budgets.” This means that the financial burden of care for those supported by the ILF will be foisted upon local authorities, who will set their own eligibility criteria and perform their own assessments of care needs. Levels of care provided will then decrease dramatically for those formerly supported by the ILF, and for those who would have applied for ILF in the past. This will mean that many will no longer be able to live independently and have to enter residential care, at far greater cost to the state. For others it will mean that living independently is no longer possible, with the families of these people having to meet their care needs.

    The Ministerial Statement is difficult to critique further because of the lack of detail. It is fair that you should issue an immediate statement providing this detail. I also demand to see the DWP’s reasoning for the claim that ILF is “financially unsustainable”, and all documentation on which this claim was based. It appears that the Coalition Government have decided to make these changes without knowing what system will replace ILF, thus making decisions which affect 21,000 lives without due care and proper planning. I wish to receive an answer that confirms or denies this. If you confirm that ILF was shut down without firm plans for the future, I suggest that you issue a personal statement apologizing to the ILF caseload for causing doubt and panic amongst them. If you deny that no plans were made, I demand a copy of this documentation be published on the DWP website.

    I am sure that DWP have completed an Impact Assessment an an Equality Impact Assessment with regards to this decision, and I request that both are made available to the public. I expect a prompt and detailed reply. A copy is being sent to the Secretary of State and to my constituency MP, Hywel Williams.

    Yours sincerely,

    Rhydian Fôn James

    Vital Twitter Thread #SaveWILG

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

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

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

    The fight continues…

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

     

    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:

    ***

    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

    Welsh government’s ‘ludicrous’ failure on independent living framework

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

    ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    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