Independent Living Fund

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 

    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

    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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    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

     

    Ombudsman Report Highlights Post-ILF Struggle for Justice #SaveWILG

    The following text can be found on the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman website and was sent to me by one of my comrades who will be contextualising the article for WILG recipients in Wales. As soon as she does I will share this with you but I thought it may be of interest for people to read the whole, harrowing story.

    This is a case of a former ILF recipient who had to jump through hoops to force his Council (London Borough of Waltham Forest) to give him the care and support that he obviously needed. Although this former ILF recipient is based in England and therefore under a different legal jurisdiction, there are many similarities in our cases and determination to ensure justice is being served.

    Hopefully, things won’t come to this for myself, but if they do I will be showing the same spirit to fight to the end. This has been a really good weekend with Wrexham AFC winning convincingly at the Racecourse and Welsh Labour falling into line with the rest of the Labour Party and agreeing to elect their next leader using OMOV (One Member One Vote).

    The tide is turning and although we still have an uphill struggle on our hands I will move into the latter stages of the #SaveWILG campaign with renewed belief and energy.

    ***

    The Ombudsman’s final decision:

    Summary: The Council was at fault in its reassessments of the complainant, after his Independent Living Fund had been withdrawn. The Council agreed to appoint an independent social worker to review the complainant’s needs and this has resulted in the Council significantly increasing the complainant’s care hours. The Ombudsman is satisfied that this resolves the complaint.

    The complaint

    1. The complaint is made on behalf of the complainant by a Legal Rights Officer. I will call the complainant Mr X and the Legal Rights Officer as Mr Y.
    2. Mr X complained that the Council failed to assess him properly following the ending of the Independent Living Fund in 2015. Mr X says the Council cut his support considerably. As a result, Mr X has not had all his assessed needs properly met by the Council.
    3. In particular Mr Y was concerned that the Council was using the old, pre Care Act 2014 banding system regarding eligibility, that the Council failed to involve Mr X in the care and support planning process, that the Council failed to adequately account for the reduction in Mr X’s budget and that there were arbitrary caps to the level and care available.

    The Ombudsman’s role and powers

    1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)

       How I considered this complaint

    1. I have obtained written information from Mr Y and from the Council. I have also spoken to Mr Y on the telephone and more recently to Mr X. The Council has also provided written comments and regular updates.

    What I found

    1. The Care Act 2014 came into effect in April 2015. It replaced the previous Fair Access to Care Services (FACS). The Care Act 2014 aimed to create parity between local authorities in how need and support was assessed.
    2. Section 1 of the Care Act creates a new statutory principle to promote the adult’s well being. Section 13 requires a council to determine whether a person has eligible needs after they have carried out a needs assessment or a carer’s assessment.

       Care Act 2014 assessments

    1. Sections 9 and 10 of the Care Act 2014 require local authorities to carry out an assessment of any adult who appears to need care and support. They must provide an assessment to all people regardless of their finances or whether the local authority thinks an individual has eligible needs. The assessment must be of the adult’s needs and how they impact on their wellbeing and the results they want to achieve. It must also involve the individual in the assessment and, where suitable, their carer or any other person they might want involved.
    2. The Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2014 set out the eligibility threshold for adults with care and support needs. The threshold is based on identifying how a person’s needs affect their ability to achieve relevant outcomes, and how this impacts on their wellbeing. To have needs, which are eligible for support, the following must apply:
      • the needs must arise from or be related to a physical or mental impairment or illness; and
      • because of these needs, the adult must be unable to achieve two or more of the following outcomes:
    • managing and maintaining nutrition;
    • maintaining personal hygiene;
    • managing toilet needs;
    • being appropriately clothed;
    • being able to make use of the adult’s home safely;
    • maintaining a habitable home environment;
    • developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships;
    • accessing and engaging in work, training, education or volunteering;
    • making use of necessary facilities or services in the local community including public transport, and recreational facilities or services; and
    • carrying out any caring responsibilities the adult has for a child.
    1. To be eligible for support, not achieving those outcomes must be likely to have a significant impact on the adult’s well-being.
    2. Where the Council decides a person has eligible needs, it must meet these needs. When the Council decides a person is or is not eligible for support it must provide the person with a copy of its decision.
    3. The Council must provide a care and support plan which considers:
      • What the person has
      • What they want to achieve
      • What they can do by themselves or with existing support
      • What care and support may be available in the local area.
    4. The support plan includes a personal budget which is the money the Council has worked out it will cost to arrange the necessary care and support for that person. The personal budget gives the person clear information about the money allocated to meet the needs identified in the assessment and recorded in the plan. The detail of how the person will use their personal budget will be in the care and support plan.
    5. The personal budget must always be an amount enough to meet the person’s eligible care and support needs. It can be administered by the Council, by a third party, or as a direct payment. Direct payments enable people to commission their own care and support to meet their eligible needs. The Council must consider requests for direct payments made at any time and have clear and swift procedures in place to respond to them.
    6. Eligibility determination must be made after the needs assessment. Councils still have the power to meet needs that are not considered eligible in order to help maintain wellbeing and independence. Councils should consider risk factors which can include physical safety.

    Reviews

    1. The Council should consider reviewing the care and support plan six to eight weeks after agreeing it, and then review it at least every 12 months. The Council must also conduct a review if the adult or a person acting on the adult’s behalf asks for one. (Care Act 2014, section 27)
    2. Councils must keep care plans under review to make sure they do not get out of date. Reviews must involve the cared for person and check if their circumstances or needs have changed.
    3. Reviews should cover important issues. Those particularly relevant to this complaint include:
      • If someone’s needs or circumstances have changed.
      • What is working and what might need to change in the person’s care.
    4. Reviews must not be used to arbitrarily reduce someone’s care and support package. And, where a council decides to significantly reduce the level of services, it must provide cogent reasons.
    5. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 explains that mental capacity assessments should always be about someone’s capacity to make a particular decision at a specific time. Councils should assume every adult has capacity to make decisions unless an assessment proves otherwise.

    The Council’s procedures

    1. The Council’s Quality Assurance Meeting Panel (the Panel) considers funding for care packages. It has guidance about how it calculates a personal budget and it says that different weightings are given to different answers in the assessment.
    2. The Council uses a Resource Allocation System to determine funding of eligible needs.
    3. The Council has provided guidance to its social workers and occupational therapists about the new requirements of the Care Act 2014.

    The Independent Living Fund (ILF)

    1. The ILF provided funding to eligible disabled residents. This was a Government based discretionary scheme to help people who had day and night care needs.
    2. The ILF had its own funding criteria. From July 2015 councils became responsible for all care provision rather than the ILF. The Department of Health stated that funding in respect of former ILF users would be distributed to councils on the basis of local patterns of expenditure. The Government provided nine months of funding (July 2015 to April 2016). But there was no requirement for councils to ring fence this money.

    Key facts

    1. Mr X is elderly, is registered blind, is doubly incontinent, suffers from severe arthritis throughout his body and from anxiety and from diabetes. He is also obese and is prone to falling. He has significantly reduced mobility. Mr X requires personal assistance in all areas of daily living.
    2. Mr X has been a service user since 2003. In addition to receiving funding from the Council, Mr X was in receipt of support from the ILF. Mr X was receiving a care package, consisting of £418.14 per week from the Council and £792.96 from the ILF. His package included night as well as day time support.
    3. When the ILF closed, the Council became fully responsible for meeting Mr X’s needs. Mr X says he did not have a carer with him or an advocate during the 2015 assessment and he had a number of complaints about the behaviour of the assessor. The assessment recorded that Mr X had high support needs in most activities.
    4. After this assessment, the Council reduced Mr X’s care package as the Panel agreed to provide 23.5 hours per week. Mr Y says this reduced Mr X’s care package by as much as by 75%. But the Council failed to provide reasons to explain this significant reduction. Mr X appealed this decision and asked the Council to reconsider. However, the Council’s decision remained the same.
    5. In December 2015 Mr X’s solicitors sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Council, threatening legal proceedings and stating that the Council had failed to carry out a lawful assessment or provide a lawful care and support package. The Council stated that it had carried out its assessment in conjunction with specialists from the National Health Service (NHS). The Council decided that Mr X did not require night time support because he was able to transfer out of bed using his zimmer frame.
    6. Mr X was unable to proceed with his proposed legal action because he was not eligible for legal aid. Mr X says that, as a result of the Council’s cut to his budget, he had to give notice to a number of his carers. Since the reduction in Mr X’s care package, Mr Y says he has struggled to maintain his independence safely and his well being.
    7. In October 2016, the Council agreed to deal with Mr X’s concerns as a formal complaint. As a result of a Freedom Information Request, Mr Y learnt that a number of the Council’s service users had had their care budgets cut.
    8. In July 2016, the Council carried out a reassessment of Mr X’s care package. Mr Y attended the reassessment which was undertaken by a social worker and an occupational therapist. Mr Y considered that the officers were mindful of what the Funding Panel would approve rather than what Mr X required. Further, the completed assessment and the care and support plan did not mention the outcomes of the Care Act eligibility criteria. So, as a result, Mr X’s needs in relation to particular outcomes were not given sufficient consideration.
    9. After the 2016 reassessment, the Council agreed 25.15 hours per week of support. This consists of 19.15 hours of support for personal care, 3 hours for socialising, 2 hours per week for counselling and 1 hour for support with paperwork and appointments. Mr Y maintained that this was not sufficient to meet Mr X’s eligible needs.
    10. The Council agreed to carry out a further assessment as a result of Mr X’s continued concerns. The Council also sought information from Mr X’s General Practitioner (GP). Mr X also applied for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) so that he could install a level access shower.
    11. The Council provided some additional equipment to Mr X as assessed as necessary by the Council’s occupational therapist. This equipment was primarily to assist Mr X with his mobility, prevent falls and to provide safety.

    Mr Y’s concerns

    1. Mr Y is critical that both the 2015 and 2016 assessments failed to properly identify Mr X’s eligible needs in the light of the requirements of the Care Act 2014.
    2. In particular, the Council had not sufficiently considered the impact of Mr X being doubly incontinent and that he could not manage his toilet needs without assistance. This was particularly relevant at night time. So, often Mr X had soiled himself and he had to wait until the arrival of the morning carer to wash him. This affected Mr X’s sense of independence and harmed his dignity and well being. It also meant that the morning carer’s time was spent washing and clearing up. Moreover, Mr X was vulnerable to falls at night times, when attempting to get to the toilet, resulting in him hurting himself.
    3. Mr Y was also concerned that there has been a lack of transparency in respect of the calculation of funding. The Council’s Resource Allocation System (RAS) is a software programme that calculates the indicative budget using the information in relation to service users’ needs assessments. Mr Y says that it is not clear whether the software is sufficiently sensitive to identifying all eligible needs. Further the guidance states that complex RAS models of allocation may not work for all client groups where people have complex needs.
    4. Mr Y considers that the RAS may place a cap on provision. He also raised a concern that the Council had not ring fenced the funding provided by Government to either former ILF clients or adult social care more generally.
    5. Mr Y says that the Council has not, over the past two years, provided cogent reasons for the significant reduction in Mr X’s care package, that the care and support plan did not show how eligible needs would be met by the personal budget, that reference was being made by officers to setting levels of care that the Panel would agree and that the Council may have reduced the care package for a number of clients who previously received ILF funding.
    6. In conclusion Mr Y states “The Council’s failure to provide a detailed breakdown in relation to all tasks required to meet Mr X’s needs and reference eligibility outcomes throughout both the needs assessment and care planning process has resulted in an arbitrary package that does not genuinely involve the individual’s view on what is needed and is a far cry from the person centred model that is required by the Care Act. That would not be as much of an issue for our client if his needs were being met by an adequate care package but because he has had a 75% reduction in support, this one size fits all approach is compromising our client’s physical and mental wellbeing”.

    The Council’s response

    1. The Council says that, in line with many other local authorities, it did not ring fence the additional funding from the Government. It had the discretion to do this. It is also satisfied that each person has been robustly reassessed and, while some people have had their budget reduced, others have had an increase.
    2. The Council had arranged for Mr X to have four visits per day, three hours socialising per week, two hours counselling and one hour of support with appointments and correspondence. The Council says Mr X had chosen to take his care hours as a block each day, between 9am and midday, which it did not consider was helpful to him. But the Council recognised that this was Mr X’s preference because he finds it difficult to cope with a variety of carers arriving at different times of the day.
    3. At the time of the events of this complaint, the Council says it was using an old version of the care and support plan recording form which had the previous ratings under FACS. But the system has now been updated.
    4. The RAS produces an indicative budget but a final budget is determined after consideration of the client’s care and support plan.
    5. The Council says that, at the time of the assessments, Mr X was not bed bound and that he was able to get out of bed at night and either use his commode or downstairs toilet. The Council says Mr X demonstrated how he was able to mobilise independently by using his walking frame.
    6. In June 2015, the Funding Panel agreed 23.5 hours per week and in August 2016 this was increased to 25 hours and 15 minutes per week.

    Analysis

    1. The Care Act 2014 brought in significant changes to the assessment of need and provision of care. Its aim was to eliminate the previous post code lottery of provision through the introduction of national eligibility criteria and to ensure a person-centred approach to meet desired outcomes.
    2. The Council had failed to demonstrate what needed to be done at each care visit and no allocation was given to the substantial time required for Mr X’s toilet needs to be met. Moreover, Mr X was becoming reluctant to try to attempt to get out of bed at night time because he was prone to fall. This was also causing a decline in his wellbeing. It is also difficult to understand the Panel’s rationale for reducing Mr X’s care package in the way it has done.
    3. It is important that, in the spirit of the Care Act, the Council ensures that Mr X’s needs are properly recorded and provided for and that sufficient attention is given to the desired outcomes to prevent unnecessary decline in his wellbeing.
    4. Overall, I considered that there is evidence of fault by the Council in that I cannot be satisfied that the assessments of 2015 and 2016, and subsequent support plans, properly identified Mr X’s eligible needs because:
        1. The impact of being doubly incontinent was not properly assessed. The adaptations or equipment referred to by the Council did not appear to manage this difficulty bearing in mind the need to retain Mr X’s dignity. The Care Act outcome on managing toilet needs was therefore too restrictive;
        2. The impact of Mr X’s visual impairment and its effects on him in achieving the range of required outcomes was not fully recognized;
        3. Mr X required assistance to achieve all but one of the outcomes listed at paragraph 9. It was not clear how the care package was able to achieve this or the reasons for the significant cut in his care package since 2015;
        4. While the RAS is commercially sensitive, it was not clear how the Council allocated hours to need.
    5. Mr Y and Mr X had lost confidence in the Council’s ability and willingness to assess him in line with the Care Act. They feared that resources may be determining his level of need and subsequent care package.
    6. The most appropriate way to resolve this complaint was for there to be an independent assessment of Mr X’s needs and care package, carried out by an assessor who has some experience of working with visually impaired clients. Particular attention needed to be paid to Mr X’s toileting needs and consideration given to how he managed at night time and the implications this has had on the care hours he might require.
    7. We recommended that the Council carried out an independent assessment. The Council agreed and this assessment took place during the course of the Ombudsman’s investigation.

    Independent assessment of September 2017

    1. Mr Y sent to the independent assessor the Council’s earlier assessments and support plans. The independent assessor recommended 93.25 care hours which was a significant difference between the Council’s previously recommended 25.5 hours.
    2. The Council’s Panel had to consider this assessment. However, during the course of this investigation, Mr X suffered a serious fall and was in hospital. This fall resulted in Mr X ‘s mobility being seriously affected and he is now in a wheelchair.
    3. In December 2017, the Council agreed a care package of 66.25 hours per week broken down to also ensure Mr X’s safe discharge from hospital. The Council also agreed to review the care package in January 2018 and the Team Manager visited Mr X at his home.
    4. Since then, there have been discussions between the Council, Mr Y and Mr X about night time support and other aspects of the care package. This has resulted in the Council agreeing to two carers arriving at 11.30pm for 30 minutes to help with Mr X’s toileting and to repositioning him in bed. The Council has also allocated one hour to help Mr X with shopping and it has provided Mr X with details of the wheelchair taxi service, although to date he has not been able to use this service.
    5. Mr X has indicated that the Council is now providing an acceptable care package and support plan and it is an improvement on what the Council had previously been willing to provide. Mr Y hopes that the lessons learnt from his complaint will have implications for the way the Council now undertakes all care assessments and support plans in future.

    Agreed action

    1. The Council agreed the independent assessment of Mr X’s care needs and this has resulted in a significant increase in his care hours. I am satisfied that the Council has been at fault in its earlier assessments of Mr X for the reasons set out and for the reasons referred to by Mr Y. The remedy for this was for the Council to commission an independent assessment and to reconsider Mr X’s care package. The Council also agreed to pay £250 for Mr X’s time and trouble in making his complaints.
    2. However, Mr X’s health does seem to be deteriorating so it is important for the Council to keep a close watch on this and carry out regular reviews of the support package.
    3. The Council has followed the Ombudsman’s recommendations. However, subsequent to the independent assessment, Mr Y requested a substantial compensation payment to Mr X for his lost care hours and for the monies he spent on meeting his needs. However, this is not a matter which I investigated as part of this complaint.
    4. I therefore consider it is appropriate to end this complaint investigation given the independent assessment and the resulting new support plan has resolved most of Mr X and Mr Y’s original complaint.
    5. However, it is open to Mr Y or Mr X to make a further complaint to the Council first and then, if dissatisfied, to the Ombudsman, on the issue of his losses. It would also be possible for Mr X to consider making a legal claim against the Council.

    Final decision

    1. There is evidence of fault by the Council causing an injustice to Mr X. The Council has provided the recommended remedy. I have therefore completed this investigation and I am closing the complaint.