Independent Living Fund

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/

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

Written statement by the Welsh Government

Future Arrangements in Wales to Support Former Independent Living Fund Recipients

By Mark Drakeford AM, Minister for Health and Social Services

Members will know from my Written Statement of 13 March last year that following the outcome of the UK Government’s spending review, I was to reconsider the options for providing long term support to those in Wales who used to receive payments from the Independent Living Fund (ILF). These payments were to help disabled people meet the additional costs of living independently in the community. This is to update Members on the arrangements to provide this support in 2016-17 and on the potential options for support in the longer term that are being developed further.

 
The UK Government closed the ILF on 30 June last year and transferred responsibility for providing support to ILF recipients in Wales to the Welsh Government. To provide continuity of support, I put in place for the short-term a grant scheme with local authorities – the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) – to run until at least 31 March 2017. Under this, £20.4 million was provided to authorities in 2015-16 to enable them to maintain payments to former ILF recipients at the level they used to receive from the ILF. The WILG has worked well with disabled people who used to receive payments from the ILF receiving these from their local authority instead, with the minimum of issues raised. I must record my thanks to local authorities for achieving this.

 

Following the UK Government’s spending review, I can now confirm that the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2016-17 contains £27 million to enable the WILG to continue until 31 March 2017 as planned. This is welcome news for recipients as local authorities will be able to continue to provide their payments next financial year at the level they used to receive from the ILF at the time it closed. This will continue to assist in their ability to live independently in the community. As soon as the Welsh Government’s final budget for 2016-17 is agreed, officials will issue grant allocations to authorities to enable payments to be made during 2016-17 on time.

 

Looking ahead the level of recurrent funding being transferred to the Welsh Government from the UK Government to meet this responsibility is flat-lined at £27 million per year. This is sufficient to be able to maintain recipients’ payments at the same level as when the ILF was closed. There is, however, no scope to fund a change in a person’s needs or for any changes in the cost of the support they require. Neither does this transfer include any element for the administration or set-up costs associated with the arrangements to provide support we operate in Wales. Such costs would have to be top-sliced from the £27 million per year thereby reducing the level of the payments we were able to afford. As a result, this level of transfer greatly restricts the options we are able to consider for providing support to recipients in the longer term.

 

In light of this, I have asked my officials to work with stakeholder representatives to develop detailed options for long term arrangements, beyond 31 March 2017. These will include the possible extension of current arrangements, a potential arrangement with the body set up in Scotland to provide payments to former ILF recipients there to do the same for Welsh recipients and, as in England, to transfer the funding to local authorities in Wales to bring ILF recipients within the arrangements for providing care and support set out under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 for disabled people more generally. Further options can be considered as they arise in stakeholder discussions, but all would have to operate within the £27 million per year provided for this purpose by the Westminster Government. All would also have to pass the test of maximising the proportion of that £27 million which would go to support recipients, rather than the cost of administration. The work set out above will be carried out as quickly as is possible so that the incoming Welsh Government can make a decision early in its term as to which of these options to implement. This is to ensure that sufficient time is available later this year and next to consider and put in place future arrangements so that these are in place in good time for when the current WILG is due to end on 31 March 2017.

 

I will, of course, ensure Members are kept informed of progress.

Letter to Ian Lucas MP for Wrexham

Dear Ian

Hope you are well and good to see you, Lesley and Carwyn at the Racecourse the other week – such a shame about the performance and result [Wrexham lost 1-3 to Woking].

Firstly, a word on the Food Waste (Reduction) Bill as many farmers are being forced to throw away up to 40% of their v9eg every week because they’re millimetres off meeting supermarkets’ strict standards.

This Friday, as my MP, please can you help change this by attending the debate on the Food Waste (Reduction) Bill? If you attend the debate and support this new law supermarkets would have to stop rejecting perfectly good food.

I would also like to set-up a meeting with your good self to discuss independent living and ask if you would be willing to press the Tories hard about the  amount of money they give to the devolved governments, or local authorities in England, to cover independent living.

It is not good enough to simply pass on the same amount of money distributed in 2015 under the now dissolved Independent Living Fund as this does not account for new claimants or changes in circumstances. As someone with a progressive disability, I fear that the time will come – sooner rather than later – when I won’t be able to pay for the  hours of care needed for me to remain living independently in the community. The Tories must be challenged and stopped from pushing ahead with fascist plans that boil down to nothing less than systematic social cleansing.

I am also interested in discovering if there is any disabled representation with Wrexham Council and how to get involved.

Speak soon

Nathan Lee Davies

Keep on keeping on

So, the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) has been extended to March 2017. This is a reason for celebration and is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people over the last 12 months to protect independent living for disabled people across Wales.

However, we cannot rest on our laurels and must start thinking about what we are going to do this time next year. We are still looking for a long-term solution to the problems that the Tories caused when they closed the Independent Living Fund (ILF) .

We also need to analyse the letter which was sent to Paul Swann at Disability Wales who acts as Secretary of the Cross Party Group on Disability. The full letter can be downloaded here:  Minister’s response to CPGD re ILFWILG.

As stated above, Mark Drakeford AM (Minister for Health and Social Services) has confirmed that the draft Welsh Government budget contains £27 million to enable WILG to continue until March 2017. However, it is clear from the letter that the current level of funding form the UK Government is only sufficient to maintain recipients’ payments at the same level as they previously received form the ILF. It does not cater for any changes in a person’s circumstances or any changes in the level of support they require. The Minister confirms that the funding provided by the UK Government does not include any funding in respect of administration costs.

The Minister does recognise that a long-term solution is required and he has confirmed that he hopes to be in a position to respond more fully with regard to the scheme within a month.

With an election on the horizon in Wales the Assembly Members will be preoccupied until May but this does not mean we can’t do our homework in building a strong case as to why we need a more lasting Welsh ILF system – similar to the ones that have been established in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

I intend on meeting my prospective AM and getting their commitment to safeguard independent living in writing, I’ll write to the Welsh national press to make this issue a political hot potato and in a change of tact I also hope to get back in touch with Ian Lucas, my local Labour MP, who has always represented me well in Westminster. I would like to ask him to press the Tories hard about the amount of money they give to the devolved governments to cover independent living. It is not good enough to simply pass on the same amount of money distributed in 2015 as this does not account for new claimants or changes in circumstances. As someone with a progressive disability, I fear that the time will come – sooner rather than later – when I won’t be able to pay for the hours of care needed for me to remain living independently in the community; The Tories must be challenged and stopped from pushing ahead with fascist plans that boil down to nothing less than systematic social cleansing.

Writing and campaigning is what I am good at. Back in December, I wrote a blog entry entitled Fighting for independent living in Wales in which I appealed for assistance from recipients of ILF in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I wanted their opinions and experiences on how their national ILF schemes functioned since the closure of the UK-wide ILF in the hope that it may prove an inspirational model for us to follow in Wales.

I received the following comment in response to my blog: 

Hi Nathan – My name is Charles Rainey and, in 2012, with my wife set up the ILF User Group NI, dedicated retaining the ILF in NI should Westminster decide to replace it. With the support of relevant charities and individual politicians we drove the decision to set up the current situation where users have basically noticed no difference going from one to the other. Send me an email and I can send you more details on our approach.

I sent an email to Mr Rainey and set up a telephone call in which I’d discovered that my new found friend from Northern Ireland had done wonders in setting up a User Group that actively lobbied for the retention of an ILF for Northern Ireland. Mr Rainey is an accountant by trade and deserves enormous credit for all his hard work in helping to create a stable future for disabled people in Northern Ireland. I wish that I could follow his inspirational lead, but I am just not cut out for all the paperwork and bureaucracy that is involved in establishing such a protest group. Therefore all I can do is appeal to any professionals with a conscience based in Wales to take up a similar challenge to Mr Rainey and help provide hope for disabled people nationwide.

On top of this I am also concerned about my own staffing situation. I currently have a vacancy for a personal assistant for 16 hours per week with every chance that this will lead to more hours. This is a great opportunity to work with a small team in a rewarding environment. Rates of pay are £7.26 (between 7am and 8pm) and £9.64 (between 8pm and 7am) and training opportunities are available. However, this position has been advertised for over 12 months with little response and even when I do receive applications from candidates and invite them for interview then I find they are far from suitable.

I believe this is a sign that we live in an increasingly uncaring society.

I guess this is a call for anyone in the Wrexham area, preferably female, with a caring attitude to read the following job advertisement and consider applying to become a member of my staff.

http://www.penderelstrust.org.uk/recruitmentDetailsPA.php?recruitment_id=5211

I don’t bite, honest.