ILF

Call Out To Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) Recipients

I am writing as a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Labour to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019. I would like to hear from other WILG recipients in the hope of holding a series of public/virtual meetings to discuss how we can best oppose this closure and create a pressure group to support each other through this worrying time.

The WILG was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015.

More than 1,500 people are helped by the scheme.

It was due to run until the end of March 2017, but Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans said in November that funding would continue for another year.

The annual £27m fund will then transfer directly to local authorities during 2018-19 so they can meet the support needs of all former ILF recipients by 31 March 2019.

Something needs to be done as our disabled friends in England have suffered under a similar system that has seen local authorities being solely responsible for their care and support since 2015. This cannot be allowed to happen in Wales as well. We must organise ourselves and demand to be listened to.

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. This is hardly surprising when we consider that the stakeholder group is largely comprised of representatives from local authorities…

This is the time to fight back as Welsh Labour are basking in the glory of Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the recent General Election. The prevailing mood has changed, Teresa May has ended austerity and Welsh Labour have made a significant shift to the left. Surely, Welsh Labour will want to distance themselves from a decision that mirrors that made by the Tory Government?

It should also be remembered that closure of WILG is not inevitable as is proved through the formation and success of the Scottish Independent Living Fund; which also works to support the Northern Ireland ILF.

Furthermore, the hugely popular Labour Party Manifesto outlined plans to set up a national care system to exist independently of local authorities. This is exactly the time that the Labour Party should be united on such issues against the Tories. We must question why Welsh Labour are not playing their part in the changing political landscape?

They will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed. However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success – with no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This is not the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered. Disabled people merely crave continuity and reliability that the ILF provided.

Indeed, eventually it should be our aim to set up an Independent Living Fund for Wales so that no disabled person should have to suffer the same uncertainty and isolation as WILG recipients are now experiencing. We can only begin to believe that true social justice and equality for all is possible if Welsh Labour revisit their WILG decision…

WILG recipients who wish to help make a difference should contact nathandavies01@hotmail.com

Further reading is available below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-38385381?SThisFB

http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/welsh-government-has-sold-disabled-people-down-the-river-on-post-ilf-plans/

The Man on the Telly

I made my TV debut today and have spent the day enjoying plaudits from friends and family who are all very proud of me for coming across well.

BBC Wales Today: My TV Debut

After conducting the interview a few days before I flew into a blind panic as I’m my own worse enemy. On Facebook I wrote:

Been interviewed by the BBC. I suppose it went OK, but I’m never happy with my TV performances. It was all over in about two minutes and really I could have talked for 30 minutes about how Welsh Labour have sold former ILF recipients down the river. I did manage to have a go at Welsh Labour though so I shouldn’t worry too much.

Why didn’t I say this? Why didn’t I say that? I had a sleepless night…

***

The report was actually well-produced and presented with my name being thrown about as a well-known disability campaigner across Wales. I’m more than happy to accept this mantle and my five-foot Wrexham AFC badge was clearly visible on the wall behind me [Surely this makes me the most exciting talent to be associated with the club in the last couple of seasons?].

So job done, surely?

Yes, but..

I’ve never fully faced and accepted my own disability and it was a struggle to watch myself fighting to put a sentence together while sitting in a powered wheelchair. This is not how it’s supposed to be. I could see that Friedreich’s Ataxia is eating away at me, limiting my abilities and proving a tough opponent. This was difficult viewing for me as although I embrace and celebrate difference in others, I can’t accept my own.

Still, yet again I overcame the odds to put words into the mouths of BBC reporters and presenters while adding to my reputation as an activist who is not afraid to speak out.

In 2017, I will learn to accept Friedreich’s Ataxia is embedded in my body and even though it may have won a few internal battles, it’ll NEVER rob me of my spirit and win the war.

Welsh government has ‘sold disabled people down the river’ on post-ILF plans

BY JOHN PRING – DISABILITY NEWS SERVICE

The ruling Labour government in Wales has been accused of “selling disabled people down the river”, after deciding that local authorities will be handed all financial responsibility for supporting former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

The Welsh government has decided that, after a short transition period, the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales will be passed directly to councils.

There will be no new Welsh ILF – even though such a scheme has been set up in Scotland – and no continuation of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme the Welsh government has been running as a stopgap since the fund closed in June 2015.

Instead, Rebecca Evans, the social services minister, said in a statement – following a public consultation and advice from a stakeholders group – that funding for WILG would continue in its current form through 2017-18, but would transfer to local authorities during 2018-19.

All former ILF-recipients will have their support needs met solely by their local authority by 31 March 2019.

The Welsh government has not yet decided whether the funding it will transfer to local authorities during 2018-19 will be ring-fenced for former ILF-recipients, or even for social care spending.

Evans appeared to mirror the arguments of the UK government when it closed ILF last year, claiming that continuing under the present system would “provide support to former ILF recipients in a different way to which care and support would be provided to other disabled people in Wales”.

She added: “As a result I have concluded future support to former ILF recipients through normal social care provision from local authorities would be the most effective approach.”

But David*, a former ILF-user from Wales, said he felt “let down” by Evans’ decision.

He said it appeared that the Welsh government had “simply sold disabled people down the river by washing their hands of all responsibility for social care to former ILF recipients and transferring the pressure onto irresponsible local authorities”.

He said he would now be at the mercy of his “heartless” local authority for provision of the care and support he needs.

He said: “This is not something I am confident about due to the fact that my social worker has already stated that without WILG I would face a reduction in my hours of care from more than 80 hours a week to a ridiculous 30 hours per week.

“I cannot cope with such a reduction as I am an active member of my community and like to think that I contribute positively to society.”

He said he was struggling to live independently because he had a progressive condition and already needed more support than he received.

He added: “I have been using all my time and energy to try to retain the hours I currently have and obtaining more seems like an impossible task.”

Disability Wales, the national, user-led organisation representing disabled people in Wales, had been pushing the Welsh government to create a Welsh ILF.

Rhian Davies (pictured), chief executive of Disability Wales, said Evans’ decision was a setback for the independent living movement in Wales.

She said ILF had been a “valuable resource” for many years for former recipients and had “supported their ability to live independently”.

She added: “The concern is whether that will be able to continue.”

She and David both said they were concerned that former ILF-users in Wales would now experience similar cuts to their support packages to those that have been seen in England.

Only last month, Channel 4 News reported that 80 per cent of councils in England had cut the care packages of some former ILF-users in the wake of its closure, while two-thirds had not ring-fenced the money given to them by central government.

Davies said: “Everything is pinned on the hopes that the new Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act will lead to people being able to access a range of support in the community, but obviously that is a big ask in a climate of cuts in local authority services.

“Given the act only came in in April, it is not a lot of time to transform the way social services are delivered.”

David said he believed the Welsh government would “hide behind” the new act.

He said: “This is a highly-regarded piece of legislation that promises much if it is rolled out correctly.

“It would be great to live in a society which was co-productive and full of accessible, well-funded social enterprises to help me live independently.

“I won’t hold my breath, though, as for such an inclusive society to exist we need major investment into infrastructure and cultural changes to our disabled-unfriendly society.”

Asked whether the funding that will be passed to councils from 2018-19 would be ring-fenced for former ILF-recipients, or even for socal care, a Welsh government spokesman said: “As funding is not due to be transferred to local authorities until 2018-19, the exact basis of this will be subject to future discussion between the Welsh government and local authorities.

“Whatever the outcome at the point of transfer, local authorities will become responsible for providing the support that former ILF recipients in Wales require, and for meeting the cost of this.”

*Not his real name

Message to disabled people regarding Owen Smith MPs Leadership bid

I have copied this statement from Liza Van Zyl, a disability rights activist who has highlighted the Tory-lite mantra of Owen Smith MP who wants to get Labour elected at any cost, even if this means morphing into a right-wing media whore with no substance. Surely victory without principle is no victory at all?

‘Owen Smith needs to be challenged robustly on his position on the Work Capability Assessment and on his commitment to disabled people’s rights. I was a Labour Party activist who had no choice but to resign from the party after a very unpleasant encounter with Mr Smith. I am recounting it now because I believe it is very important that his views are robustly challenged if he stands for the Labour leadership.

On Saturday 7th March 2015 I attended a Labour meeting in Pontypridd at which the guest speaker was Owen Smith MP, then shadow secretary of state for Wales. When questions were invited from the floor, I asked Mr Smith why, given that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been responsible for a great many more deaths than the Bedroom Tax, Labour had pledged to scrap the Bedroom Tax but had said nothing about pledging to scrap the WCA. Mr Smith replied that Labour could not pledge to scrap the WCA because this would make Labour appear weak on benefits in the eyes of the media and compromise Labour’s general-election chances.

I posted this on Facebook and a journalist took it up and posted the story online. Subsequently the journalist was threatened with legal action by Mr Smith if he did not take the story down. I was very intimidated by the prospect of defending myself in court, and I had no money for a legal defence. In addition my Labour colleagues were terribly keen to maintain good relations with Mr Smith and would probably have backed Mr Smith and not me if it came to a court case (one of them had even contacted the journalist and briefed against me). So I asked the journalist to pull the story and I deleted references to it on Facebook.

I am publicising this incident now because I am very concerned about Mr Smith’s attitude toward disabled people and particularly to his views that the deaths of disabled people are less important than Labour’s “tough on benefits” standing in the right wing press. If he threatens me with legal action again it will be incredibly stressful and will probably exacerbate my disability-related ill-health. But I believe it is important that Mr Smith’s attitudes to the WCA and to disability rights (and freedom of speech!) be robustly challenged if he stands for the Labour leadership. And because we should be able to discuss things that profoundly impact on us, like the WCA, without being intimidated into silence by threats of legal action. I will provide more details to journalists who can contact me at lvanzyl55@gmail.com

Appalling behaviour by a candidate for the leadership of a supposed DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST PARTY

Let’s be clear that New Labour are just as dangerous to disabled people, and the disadvantaged in general, as it was Gordon Brown’s administration that kick-started the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2009. They closed this fund to new applicants and did not have a alternative plan to allow disabled people to employ PAs and live in their communities independently. The Tories eventually closed ILF in 2015 and left disabled people fighting for their rights.

Who was the most prominent MP campaigning alongside disabled people against their oppressors? Jeremy Corbyn of course. Says it all really and it is up to us to make sure that British politics has a true left-wing alternative to the repressive right…

Message of support to Jeremy Corbyn

A few weeks ago I emailed Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts after she called for assistance with a report she is writing on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund. The aim is in particular to highlight the problems people are experiencing, but also the post code lottery in the very different ways different LAs are handling the closure from ring-fencing to cuts. Ellen also wanted to highlight problems with the administration of social care and personal budgets by local authorities.

I was happy to help and volunteered to share my personal experiences since the cruel closure of the ILF over 12 months ago. In our emails, I discussed my dismay at the way the world is going with the EU debacle, Teresa May leading the Conservatives and the Labour Party in self-destruct mode instead of giving their support to their democratically elected leader.

Apparently, my email triggered something in Ellen’s brain – the need for a Disabled people’s rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn. A rally was quickly organised for deaf and disabled people to support Corbyn. Ellen wanted me to get to London as the idea for the event came from my email, but sadly I was unable to make it due to the short notice. Nevertheless, I still wrote a message of support for Jeremy Corbyn, which I have printed below and may adapt slightly to send to the local right-wing newspaper.

I am not sure if the message was read out or not. I will ask Ellen and report back, but it is good to be contributing to the good fight in some small way.

 

I just wanted to add my support for Jeremy Corbyn from my base in north Wales. I am sorry I cannot be there this evening but I am their in spirit with the rest of my comrades. It is difficult to sum up how important this new brand of inclusive politics is to those of us who often feel abandoned and isolated on the edges of a cruel right-wing society.

I have been particularly hurt by the closure of the Independent Living Fund as I have a progressive disability that means my needs will increase over time. I am still stuck with the same limited hours of care that I was given six years ago with little hope of receiving an increase in the near future. This often means being left alone during the afternoon which can lead to numerous accidents through no fault of my own. I shouldn’t have to live like this and I am doing all I can to ensure that no one has to suffer such indignities and barriers to independent living.

This is our chance to make far-reaching changes in our society and the vast majority of the disabled community support Jeremy Corbyn to deliver this positive change, as you have supported us in our countless battles against the Tories. We will return that loyalty and support you until the end. You can count on that.

Finally, I would like to thank Mr John McDonnell and your good self for providing disabled activists such as myself with the hope. Hope that we can defeat the Tories, hope that we can build a fairer society and most of all the hope that one day we can achieve full equality under a new type of politics.

Thank you.

Nathan Lee Davies

Hustings arranged for the benefit of the disabled community in Wrexham

After a lot of communication via Facebook and Twitter with local candidates for the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections, Sheila Meadows OBE and I have organised a hustings for recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant to listen to the prospective party plans for independent living and help them decide who to vote for on May the 5th.

Below I have copied the flyer that Sheila and I wrote that is to be emailed to those affected in Wrexham and Clwyd South. We are hoping that the meeting will be well attended as we have had confirmation that a number of prominent local politicians will be attending. Those that have been invited include Carrie Harper and Mabon Ap Gwynfor of Plaid Cymru, Alan Butterworth and Duncan Rees of the Green Party, Lesley Griffiths and Ken Skates of the Labour Party and Andrew Atkinson of the Welsh Conservatives.

The flyer reads as follows:

Future of WILG (Previously ILF)

 

Independent living is at risk for disabled people across Wales. In the run up to the May 2016 Assembly elections we have managed to arrange a meeting with local candidates about how they, and their party, plan to support disabled people if elected. 

Meeting to be held at:

Maesgwyn Community Centre

Lilac Way, Wrexham,

LL11 2BB 

Monday 25 April – 1:30-3:00pm

 

The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) will remain in place until March 2017. A total of £27 million will continue to be transferred from the Westminster Government to Wales until 2020. How this sum of money will be administered is anyone’s guess. Should Wales establish their own Welsh Independent Living Fund to provide long-term security? Perhaps you accept the funding should come via the Local Authority but require assurances over ring-fencing? Whatever your standpoint, this is our chance to meet, discuss the issues and question the politicians that will influence our lives over the next political term. Don’t miss your opportunity to be heard…

If you have a question that you want to put to the candidates, or for us to feed back to the Welsh government, email your questions to either Sheila Meadows (sheilamdow@aol.com) or Nathan Lee Davies (nathandavies01@hotmail.com).

We look forward to seeing you all on 25 April at Maesgwyn Community Centre.

Open Letter to Welsh Assembly Candidates for Wrexham

I have spent the morning writing to all the candidates in the Wrexham area for the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections in order to invite them to take part in a hustings that I am hoping to organise for recipients of WILG.

I will publish any replies I receive and keep you up to date with my progress.

***

Dear Candidate

I am writing to give you the opportunity to be involved in a hustings that I am organising – along with Sheila Meadows OBE – to clarify your position on the future of independent living for disabled people in Wales. Alternatively, I wonder if you are holding any cross party meetings or hustings that WILG recipients could attend to ask questions and gain information.

As a former recipient of ILF, I now rely on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) to pay for my care team. Future arrangements past March 2017 are clouded in doubt and uncertainty with disabled people facing a bleak future. It is laughable to think that I am one of the lucky ones as in 2010 the ILF was closed to new recipients. Will you, and your party, be prepared to fight for independent living for all?

We are hoping to hire Maesgwyn Community Centre as a venue for this proposed hustings and I believe this will present you with an excellent opportunity to address concerned members of the electorate and reassure them about what you would do to protect and enhance their rights.

In 2013 there were 111 claimants of ILF in Wrexham. We can assume that the numbers receiving WILG are similar and if we include family members and those employed and reliant on such funds then this translates to a large proportion of the eligible voting community. I would argue that this therefore gives you a valuable chance to prove your worth to the local community.

Many thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely

Nathan Lee Davies