Labour Party

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.

We are particularly interested in those living outside of Wrexham County Borough Council as we attempt to show that this problem of reducing hours of care and support is not just confined to residents of Wrexham. Having said that, please don’t hesitate to get in touch even if you live in Wrexham. The more evidence we can gather, the better. 

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 1,200 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. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens. But they didn’t want WILG scrapped and the key point is that our advice was not accepted.​

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.

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 may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure.​ 

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:

‘I will spend what remains of my life fighting this if I have to’ – Disabled man’s battle for grant to live independently

Wales Live, BBC One Wales, 09/05/2018

Welsh Government under pressure over disabled grant

Disabled man continues fight for independent lives in Flintshire and Wrexham

This disabled man has lost half his care after Tories axed the Independent Living Fund

Welsh Government has ‘sold disabled people down the river’

Independent living grants: Disability campaigner fear cuts

Open Letter to Welsh CLPs #SaveWILG


I am writing to you as a Labour Party member, Unite activist and disability rights campaigner to call on your support as we work together to Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

#SaveWILG OUTLINED

WAG is devolving the funds and responsibility for former Independent Living Fund (ILF) recipients to 22 local authorities.  Many of these authorities are not Labour controlled, many are already strapped for cash and the money that is due to be transferred hasn’t been ringfenced for the benefit of current WILG recipients…

Under the ILF, recipients received an independent third person who was involved in negotiating care packages along with the Local Authority.  This was a great source of support to people with high care and support needs and is something that needs to be re-established.  Sole reliance on local authorities is dangerous and lessons should be learned from England where funds have been distributed to local authorities since 2015 with disastrous effects.

The money from the WAG is a clear (transparent) amount specific to WILG recipients. However, it is currently planned for this money to be paid to local authorities under the Revenue Support Act and could therefore be subsumed into other projects while local authorities try to cut back on our specific care package provision.

Why should former WILG recipients have to fight for the care package they need, not simply to exist, but to be able to live a decent and fulfilled life?  This is an impossible task for the vast majority of recipients who live with conditions such as learning disabilities, cerebral palsy or Friedreich’s Ataxia.

The families of former WILG recipients will inevitably suffer as they will find themselves trying to fill the gaps in care provision not covered in the new “reduced” care package provided by the local authority.

Our care package is essential to our existence, it is not a privilege: Why would a civilised society put us through this misery? It is a human right to be treated fairly and equally with everyone else, so why are we being squeezed into this disadvantageous position by our own Labour government. They have got this wrong, but there is still time for them to revisit this decision and retain the WILG…

Motion 4 to save WILG was overwhelmingly passed at the Welsh Labour Conference in Llandudno during April 2018, but Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies has since stated that he would not rethink the policy “in its entirety”. This has transformed the #SaveWILG campaign from a quest to protect independent living for vulnerable individuals to exactly that plus a fight to preserve Party Democracy. The will of our members MUST be listened to.

The Welsh Government tried to defend their actions by claiming they had acted in accordance to the instructions of a stakeholder group. I have spoken to several members of the advisory group who DID oppose LA provision. Surely, this calls into question the basis for the Minister’s decision. There’s been a total lack of imagination on the part of the Welsh Government in terms of creating an independent living plan that all local authorities must buy into. This would be a guarantee of ensuring equity across Wales

We are constantly being told that it is unfair that only a certain percentage of the population receive WILG and that this creates a two-tier system throughout Wales. I would suggest that the WAG should look to the fine example of ILF Scotland and roll out such a system to all disabled people with high care and support needs in Wales.

This motion has cross-party support with Plaid Cymru, and even UKIP & Conservative AMs lending support and fighting against this proposal. Welsh Deputy Leader candidate Julie Morgan AM also supports the campaign and has called for an “urgent enquiry” re scrapping WILG. We have had support from English MPs like Chris Williamson, many AMs, officials etc. The film director Ken Loach (pictured below) also supports the campaign, as do many other high-profile cultural figures like the poet & musician Atilla The Stockbroker, comedian & campaigner Mark Thomas, esteemed Welsh footballers like Joey Jones, Mickey Thomas, Wayne Phillips and so many more people from all sorts of backgrounds.

Support disabled people and their families 

WILG – Because we’re worth it

#SaveWILG

HOW YOU CAN HELP?

We are urging our comrades to get involved in the important campaign in a number of ways. Please see below how you can support our postcard campaign and spread memes across social media and email to raise awareness. There are also a number of campaigns being planned over the next few months and details will be posted on my blog.

The main people that we need to convince to change direction are First Minister Carwyn Jones, Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies and all of the candidates in the Welsh Labour Leadership Election. The key emails are:

First Minister Carwyn Jones: Carwyn.Jones@gov.wales or Tweet @fmwales
Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies: DS.MinCandSC@gov.wales or Tweet @huw4ogmore
Mark Drakeford AM: Mark.Drakeford@gov.wales or Tweet @wgcs_finance

Other emails will be published once we have a full list of candidates running in the meantime you can contact your local AM and anyone connected to the Welsh Government.

For more information please contact Nathan Lee Davies at nathandavies01@hotmail.com There is also a dedicated Facebook page to Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant and Twitter users should follow @nathanleedavies

Continue reading for further supporting evidence on why saving this grant is so crucial for 1,300 disabled people and the democratic future of the Party we all believe in.

Media Articles

Wales Live, BBC One Wales, 09/05/2018

Welsh Government under pressure over disabled grant

Disabled man continues fight for independent lives in Flintshire and Wrexham

This disabled man has lost half his care after Tories axed the Independent Living Fund

Welsh Government has ‘sold disabled people down the river’

Independent living grants: Disability campaigner fear cuts

Postcards

Take part in our postcard campaign in a number of ways. We would like to encourage people to print the image below and pose for a selfie while holding it to show your support and help raise awareness  of our campaign. You can share it on Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat or Instagram using #SaveWILG.

Alternatively, you can contact me for one of the 500 cards I have had printed with a special message to Children and Social Care Minister Huw Irranca-Davies. There are also cards to be sent to First Minister Carwyn Jones and blank cards that can be sent to the Leadership Candidates who must realise that if they want our support they must publicly support our campaign. You can also send these postcards to your local AM to encourage them to argue our case in the Senedd.

Memes

To be shared on social media or sent to your AM via email.

Button badges – Only £1

Wear one of our badges with pride to help raise awareness and raise much-needed funds to propel the campaign forward. Contact me to make a purchase and I will make sure the badges get to you quickly and safely.

Open letter to First Minister Carwyn Jones #SaveWILG

Following the BBC Wales Live programme last night, I took it upon myself to write an open letter to First Minister Carwyn Jones about the issues discussed.

If the Welsh Government think we are just going to go away quietly then they can think again…

***

National Assembly for Wales
Cardiff Bay
Cardiff
CF99 1NA

10 May 2018

Dear Carwyn Jones

WELSH INDEPENDENT LIVING GRANT

As you are aware, the Welsh Labour Party conference overwhelmingly passed a Clwyd South motion urging support for the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). Support for that motion came from a very wide spectrum of Labour Party opinion including AMs, MPs, CLPs and Trade Unions.

I am writing to ask you to urgently encourage the Welsh Assembly to support the retention of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

Freedom of Information requests to Local Authorities clearly show that there are real difficulties appearing in the transition process, highlighted in startling inconsistencies in 19 of the 22 responses received at the time of writing.

Passing responsibility for social care wholly onto the shoulders of confused and cash-strapped local councils will result in an unfair postcode lottery to mirror the appalling situation in England and drag Disability Rights back 30 years. It doesn’t have to be this way…

I have a real problem with the assertion by  the Minister for Children and Social Care that the stakeholder group were united in agreement with the closure of WILG and the transferring of funds to local authorities. This was quite simply not the case and I request that he should provide evidence in support of these claims.  Was a vote held in the stakeholder advisory group? If so, on what date, what was the result, and can the minutes of that meeting please be provided?

The members of the stakeholder group that I have spoken to have stated their frustrations with the whole process: “I disagreed with one side of the room almost continuously,“ and “I would be amazed to see minutes of a meeting where all participants agreed that passing this WILG over to the local authority beyond the ring-fenced period was the way forward.”  Others have said “I used to go home from all these stakeholder groups thinking we had agreed certain things to discover that was not what had been recorded.” and other activists argue that many officials and civil servants do not actually “know what Independent Living means – they still think ‘independent’ means managing without support”. 

It would greatly assist me in understanding Welsh Government’s decision making process on this issue if the minutes of all of the meetings of the stakeholder advisory group can be provided, and I will submit a Freedom of Information Act request if necessary.

Finally, I would specifically request a meeting with to discuss matters relating to the WILG and the future prospects of those who have benefitted from the WILG.

Yours sincerely

Nathan Lee Davies
Disabled Activist and Author
@nathanleedavies
https://www.facebook.com/SaveWILG/
https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/

Writing to local newspapers…

I have written the following letter to a number of local newspapers across Wales, urging the Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).The campaign for justice continues…

If you wish to write a letter in support of this campaign, use the following emails:

This is the email that I fired off in the hope that people will read it and take notice of what is going on. It is worth a go.

 

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

WILG 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. Disabled people must organise themselves and demand to be listened to.

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens who didn’t want WILG scrapped. The key point is that the advice of disabled people was ignored.

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 and Welsh Labour have apparently made a significant shift to the left. Surely, Welsh Labour will want to distance themselves from a decision that mirrors the one made by the Tory Government in 2010?

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 may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure. 

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…

There are a number of ways that WILG recipients, family members and personal assistants can help to make a difference. Those concerned can sign the petition that has currently received almost 250 signatures, take part in the postcard campaign that is being orchestrated across social media and put pen to paper to their local AM. To find out more about these projects, please contact Nathan Lee Davies at nathandavies01@hotmail.com or search Facebook for the Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) page. Twitter users can find me on @nathanleedavies or you can find all the information about this campaign on my blog at https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/

Thank you for your time.

Nathan Lee Davies, Wrexham

Briefing on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG)

Briefing on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG)

Background:

The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) was introduced by Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM to help people with high care and support needs who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in June 2015. More than 1,500 people are helped by the scheme across Wales.

The grant was only ever meant to be a short-term measure as Mark Drakeford wanted to give further thought to three longer-term options to identify which one might best deliver effective support, despite the difficult financial position.”

These options included 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.

Substantial time and money was spent on a consultation that overwhelmingly showed support for either a partnership with the Scottish ILF or a continuation of WILG – anything rather than distribute the funds solely to local authorities and end the reliability of three-way funding between government, local authority and personal contribution…

 

November 2016:

The new Minister for Health and Social Services, Rebecca Evans AM, decided that 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, Evans said 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.

In addition, the Welsh government has not yet made it clear 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.

 

Why we oppose this decision: 

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens. Disabled people, their families and support workers didn’t want WILG scrapped and the key point is that our advice was not accepted.​

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?

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.

In a written statement in February 2016, Mark Drakeford AM said: “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.”

To an extent, we sympathise with this situation and recognise that funding difficulties have their roots in Westminster. However, a strong government should provide for and protect those they represent, instead of washing their hands of responsibility of those in need while passing the buck to over-stretched local authorities and frittering millions on harebrained schemes such as north Wales metro. People should be prioritised over profit.

Welsh Labour 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. At the moment, there is no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure.​

 

English Translation of article published in Junge Welt magazine – The Legacy of Brexit for Disabled People in the UK

Taken from Disabled People Against Cuts website

It’s difficult if not impossible to adequately define the outcomes of Brexit for anyone living in the UK let alone for disabled people. The result where a small minority of the electorate voted to leave the EU has so far caused massive political turmoil but no concrete proposals as the new unelected Prime Minister, Teresa May, thrashes around wildly clutching at straws.

What is certain is that the promise of an extra £350 million a week for our National Health Service has not and will not be forthcoming. In fact this promise promoted widely by the Leave campaigners in the Tory Party and a reason why many UK citizens were conned into voting to leave turns out to have been an outright lie.

Many of the more deluded disabled people who also voted to leave did so simply because they wanted to punish David Cameron the then Tory Prime Minister who was stupid enough to call a referendum in the first place. Having resigned first as Prime Minister and then a little later as a Member of Parliament I’m sure the multi-millionaire Cameron is indeed ‘suffering’. What is certain that disabled people will.

As soon as the outcome of the referendum was known Cameron together with a whole host of Leave politicians turned their backs on guiding the UK through the Brexit process – no doubt so they don’t get blamed for the ensuing disaster.

The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not want to leave the EU and in the case of Northern Ireland the Good Friday agreement and peace process means that there must be a parliamentary vote if Northern Ireland is to leave the EU. There is also a legal challenge to seek a parliamentary vote on Brexit as the outcome of the referendum is advisory only. So chaos reigns as the UK population dangle precipitously in limbo.

As well as months spent focussed on the referendum campaign, the immediate aftermath was an election for a new Tory Party Leader and a second internal party election to try to remove the previously democratically elected Labour Party leader. During these many months of political bat and ball and trips around the country by various politicians the rights of disabled people have largely been forgotten especially by the media. Serious campaigning has been put back months as the political focus has been firmly placed elsewhere.

On a plus point the fascist party UKIP which very much led the Brexit campaign on an anti-immigration stance have also fallen into disarray and appear on the verge of oblivion. There have already been several elections for a new leader with none of them being successful in finding someone who stayed more than a couple of weeks. As the old British saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining”

What is certain for the UK is that Brexit has led to a massive increase in race-related hate crime and there is no doubt those who perpetrate these crimes feel their actions are vindicated by the vote to leave. Xenophobia is rampant in parts of the country fuelled by some of the media as well as the Brexit campaign rhetoric. Disability hate crime has been rising year on year since 2010 in part thanks once again to the media-fuelled ‘useless eater’ and scrounger propaganda. For disabled people as well as those perceived to not be British hatred and abuse is only likely to increase in the post-Brexit frenzy that currently pervades the country.

Since Brexit as well the value of the pound has slumped which has already led to an increase in price for even essential daily items including for some the #Marmitegate tragedy where the price of Marmite has already risen in some cases by 12.5 % in shops.

Price increases for food and other essential items is likely to pose a particular problems for disabled people and others in receipt of UK Social Security payments as there is an austerity-led freeze on the amount of benefits which will be paid until at least 2020. The UK already has some of the lowest rates for out-of-work benefit payments in the EU so starting from a very low base rate the value of payments will fall even further as exchange rates fall.

On top of this fall in the value of the pound and freeze on increases in social security payments early in November an austerity-led cap on the total overall amount of benefit payments per household will result in massive reductions of £3,000 less per annum being paid to claimants. Many of those affected by this drastic cut will be disabled although other disabled people will be exempt from this cut.

From next April 2017 disabled people who make a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance and who are found not to be fit for work but able to undertake Work Related Activity which involved forcibly being made to jump though inappropriate and unacceptable hoops to continue being entitled to payments will also see their weekly income cut drastically by one-third. All of these changes will as already said be taking place at the same time the value of the pound falls against other currencies. Needless to say fuel prices are also continuing to rise and the number of UK residents on low incomes who have to choose between eating and heating because they can’t afford both continues to rise.

As disabled people and others wait for the mythical 35 million a day that we’re apparently saving by leaving the EU to be redeployed to help fund our National Health Service as promised we find our Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt putting in place plans to drastically reduce both the number of hospitals – down from 9 to 5 in London – and health service funding elsewhere in the UK through the implementation of Sustainability and Transformation Plans. This is very definitely not what Brexit promised for our health service. Hunt has also further undermined our NHS by stating that we want British only doctors in the near future in spite of the fact that around one-third of doctors currently are from other EU countries.

For disabled people who need personal assistance to live and take part in society Brexit is also bad news. Many people employ care workers/personal assistants from EU countries and now not only does the fall in the value of the pound affect the exchange value of wages paid but on a longer term basis no-one, neither the employers or the employees, have any idea about a future right to work here when the UK leaves the EU. It could of course be years before any more is known.

Workers rights generally are very much an unknown quantity at the moment as well. Teresa May has said the Conservatives want to protect those in place yet many people are on insecure zero hours contracts with no legal protections. The introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal hearings has also negatively affected worker’s rights to challenge unfair dismissals. All of these issues regarding employment rights continue to disproportionately affect disabled workers and the fear that once EU constraints on our employment laws are removed is causing major concerns for those disabled people who are in work.

For disabled people not in work the ending of Workfare and Work Choice schemes funded by the European Social Fund can really only be seen as positive. Neither of these schemes worked well in finding disabled people suitable or sustainable employment opportunities.

Workfare schemes in particular have been likened to unpaid slave labour which they were since claimants were forced to work for no pay under threat of having their benefits removed if they did not. Having said that there were a number of locally EU funded schemes to help disabled and other people into work which have worked well and for which there will now be no further EU funding available.

In other areas of life shared by disabled and non-disabled people the loss of European funding from the Social Fund, from the Common Agricultural Policy and from Regional Development grants will nevertheless be grossly detrimental to the overall standards of living and is likely to have a further negative trickle down impact on food prices. The idea that these funding streams will be replaced by our own government’s spending is laughable given their ongoing austerity agenda and determination to replace Trident nuclear weapons.

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…