Lesley Griffiths AM

Disability Wales Conference 2018 – #SaveWILG

I am likely to have a busy schedule for the next few months – indeed it has been busy for the last 3 years, but we are coming to the zenith of the campaign – and the #SaveWILG campaign was represented by myself at the Disability Wales Conference and AGM at the Ramada Plaza, Wrexham on Friday 12th October.

Please find below the press release for the conference. I feel I spoke well and got my points across to Paul Deer of the Welsh Government who was sitting on the panel of experts.  I was then given the opportunity to address the conference after lunch.

An enjoyable and constructive day was rounded off with drinks in the pub with a close comrade. I only hope all this hard work is being listened to by those who can make a difference…

 

PRESS RELEASE

Equal Before the Law?

Making Legislation Work for Disabled People

 Today at the Ramada Plaza in Wrexham, Disability Wales is hosting a national conference themed on equality and human rights legislation; and whether disabled people are actually experiencing their rights along with everyone else.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive Disability Wales states:

“In the wake of UK Government austerity measures, disabled people in Wales and across the UK continue to face serious regression of many of their hard-won rights. Disability Wales Annual Conference will provide a timely opportunity to hear from expert speakers about how disabled people can utilise equality and human rights laws to tackle barriers to independent living”

The facts:

Disabled people make up 26% of the population in Wales, which has a higher proportion of disabled people than other nations and most regions of the UK.  (Papworth Trust 2016)

Disabled people face a higher cost of living than non-disabled people, a cost which is rising year on year.b

Around a third of disabled people experience difficulties accessing public, commercial and leisure goods and services.

(ONS and Stats Wales)

Lesley Griffiths AM Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs will provide a key note address and outline the Welsh Government’s Draft Framework for Action on Disability: the Right to Independent Living.

“Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “We want to make sure disabled people have access to the same opportunities as everyone else. Next month we will be publishing our new Framework which sets out how we are addressing social barriers to equality and inclusion.

“It will be accompanied by an action plan to tackle some of the key barriers identified by disabled people themselves, including transport, employment, housing and access to buildings and places.

 “This is a result of a great deal of engagement over nearly two years with disabled people and the organisations that represent them and I want to thank everybody who has helped in this process.”

Conference delegates will also hear from Simon Hoffman Associate Professor at the College of Law and Criminology at Swansea University.  Simon will talk about Progress made on the incorporation of Human Rights in Wales.

Disabled activist and campaigner Doug Paulley will enlighten the conference on how he has challenged the discrimination he’s encountered using legislation.  Doug has brought more than 40 legal cases against organisations that discriminated against him including bus and train companies.

Doug said:

“Fighting disability discrimination takes its toll on you.  The constant battle with service providers to get what I am lawfully entitled to has affected my mental and physical health”

“So, the enforcement mechanism of the Equality Act is fundamentally broken, for me and for all disabled people. Despite this, I’ve produced a guide showing how I have occasionally managed to enforce my rights through the courts, and hopefully to help a few other disabled people do so too.”

Ellen Clifford, Campaigns and Policy Manager for Inclusion London will share her vast experience of campaigning for the rights of disabled people.

The event will be chaired and facilitated by Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales. Questions to the panel and round-table discussions will provide an opportunity for lively debate.

The audience includes disabled people and their allies, representatives of Disabled People’s Organisations, third sector and both local and national government bodies.

 *ENDS*

Letter from Lesley Griffiths AM Concerning Blue Badge Proposals

I received the following letter from Lesley Griffiths AM regarding Wrexham Council’s appalling decision to push ahead with the proposed Blue Badge parking charges. I share this letter to highlight the positive support that is being offered to me by my Welsh Labour AM and a small group of Local Councillors in the face of heartless, overgrown bullies who cannot see the absurdity of their actions.

I am hopeful that I will soon receive word from Lesley about whether or not she can help us move the #SaveWILG exhibition to the Senedd. If she is not in a position to help us do this due to party pressures then I must accept this – however much I disagree – and I will try to contact other AM’s for their support.

Anyway, here is the letter, followed by an article by Wrexham.com which is referred to by Lesley.

Dear Nathan 

Further to my letter of 6 February 2018, I enclose a copy of a detailed article published by Wrexham.com on 8 February 2018, which details events at the call-in meeting regarding Wrexham Council’s proposals to introduce charges for Blue Badge holders.

As you are aware, I am totally opposed to the proposals and have made my views known to the Leader of Wrexham Council. 

Despite the call-in notice from Welsh Labour Councillors, which attempted to get Wrexham Council’s Executive Board to reconsider their proposals, the motion was defeated.

The final page of the Wrexham.com article highlights how individual Councillors voted and I was disappointed to see that your local Councillor, I David Bithell, voted with the ruling body to reject the report going back to the Executive Board.

This ill-advised policy has been solely devised and pursued by the Tory/Independent administration which runs Wrexham Council.  Many constituents contacted me about the proposals so it is frustrating that Councillors who had the ideal chance to challenge the Executive Board’s decision, chose to spurn the opportunity.  

I believe it would be worth your while contacting your local Councillor to ascertain why he voted this way and I will continue to make my views on the matter clear to the Council Leader.

I hope this information is useful and if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Lesley Griffiths, AM                                                                          

***

Full Council on track to decide country parks & disabled parking charges as consultation goes ahead

Published by Wrexham.com: Thursday, Feb 8th, 2018

An attempt to get the Executive Board to reconsider how they carry out a consultation into charging for disabled parking and at Wrexham’s country parks failed after a lengthy two and a half hour debate.

The call-in meeting was explained to members of the employment, business and investment scrutiny committee as being more of a ‘technical meeting; rather than

scrutiny of decisions itself – with the call in reasons before the meeting being the topic of debate. However that point was lost on some of the councillors taking part.

The call-in notice from Welsh Labour councillors claimed the Council’s Executive had failed in numerous ways, including informing councillors of the financial implications, any risks to the Environment Budget, and if mitigation plans were in place for any

unintended displacement affects for various parking charge changes.

The call-in notice explained that due to this they felt the decision to start a necessary statutory legal consultation was ‘premature’, and in essence there should be a new decision – effectively to start a consultation with all the allegedly missing information in place before going out to get the views of the public or specific groups.

That was the ‘calling in’ of the decision, so the committee would decide if they thought that was the case, and if so refer the decision back to the Executive Board to reconsider the decision, or not. If referred back Executive Board could either stick or alter their

original decision, which would then be immune to further call-in.

The decision would mean a consultation would take place either way, and the decision on introduction on charges would still be subject to approval by councillors at a Full Council meeting scheduled for 21 February 2018.

With that backdrop some councillors took the opportunity to re-run the debate on if charging for disabled parking, or if charging for parking in country parks is a good thing or not, rather than focusing on the five points up for debate on the call in.

The responsible Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr David A Bithell was on hand to answer questions, along with the relevant council officer plus various other council staff. Cllr Bithell appeared to have a pre-prepared set of statements to answer each of the five points in turn, but was happy to add further detail when requested.

Cllr Derek Wright presented each formal question on the call-in notice, with several appended queries to each where possible. Members of the committee also posed questions, which ranged from anecdotal evidence to specific financial queries.

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Cllr Marc Jones and Cllr Dana Davies queried on the basis the financial implications had not been made clear to Councillors, with questions on if figures presented were net or

gross numbers.

News that parking machine and other costs are pencilled in as a E50k capital spend did appear to be new information to those on the cnommittee, which was then probed

further by Cllr Marc Jones who asked if extra staff would be needed to empty machines or monitor the site – but was told no.

After a short grilling Cllr Marc Jones indicated he was still unhappy, stating: “All these figures are based on predictions of people using these services, what if they do not use them and they park on side streets?

“The E50k capital cost will not be recovered.”

Cllr Bithell noted that the debate was veering to the third point on the call-in notice, regarding mitigation on people using street parking instead of car parking.

Cllr Davies did some rough maths to point out she did not believe the figures presented added up, and invited clarity to where the E25k revenue sum came from – stating either she made El 9k based on the figures and method infront of her.

Cllr Bithell disputed her numbers, pointing out that Cllr Davies was basing her figures off a El charge when some figures were off a El .80 charge – a ‘confusion’ attributed to

the difference in country park rates being in the same debate as disabled bay charging.

Cllr Davies said the figures had come from a previous meeting, however this was disputed again, with the formulae and forecasts being described as a ‘fluid process’ and based off ‘conservative estimates’.

After details on numbers of spaces and various calculations Cllr Davies said: “l am still not getting where the E25k is substantiated from, the figures do not add up, I am not

sure where we have plucked the E25k from.”

Cllr Paul Jones interjected to call the E50k capital cost as ‘brand new information’, saying “Someone should have done a cost benefit analysis and shared it. This is what this call-in is all about.”

Head of Environment and Planning Lawrence Isted spoke to reassure the committee: “Whenever we are working out things like this we use our best judgement and best estimates. We do not over egg things.

“The capital costs are not new, or a new situation.”

Mr Isted added that the proposals were based on ‘previous work with our reshaping partners PWC’.

Cllr Paul Jones bluntly asked: “So why are we hearing about these costs now?’

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Cllr Bithell replied to point out there had been five budget workshops, five extra scrutiny meetings before Christmas and that on the relevant scrutiny meeting before Christmas

‘there were not many questions on this.’

He added: “A lot of these costs are fluid until we come to a decision. It has been worked up with the help of Officers, and the Executive Board agrees the Budget.

“l did highlight at the Executive Board meeting there would be costs. There is not much rocket science behind this, it is standard procedure.”

Cllr Paul Jones was not swayed, accusing Cllr Bithell of ‘playing up the savings that are the good news, but underplaying the capital costs’.

Cllr Wright said he was ‘shocked’ by the f50k capital cost, saying it had been ‘magiced out of the air’.

He then asked about if savings were a single saving, or year on year ‘as there was nothing in the second column’. A question that had been asked many times in the set of

scrutiny meetings before Christmas, as the documents before them had a Year 1 saving and a Year 2 saving.

As explained several times previously, and again at the meeting, the Year 1 saving was ongoing thereafter and any Year 2 saving would be new and on top – and ongoing as

well.

Questions over risks were batted back by Cllr Bithell who gave a quick bleak overview over the budget of the Environment Department, ending with “if we do not generate income in one way or another we will have to cut services.”

Cllr Davies gave the analogy of putting a risk, if the proposals were unsuccessful and were a cost rather than a revenue raiser, on top of existing problems in the department, saying ‘It could make the situation worse not better, the risk is escalating, it is risk on another risk’.

The finance officer also pointed out that in a previous report before councillors an appendix had risks detailed.

Other questions in the call-in notice were dealt with in a similar manner, with it noted that the claim there was no mitigation for people being displaced to on street parking.

The council officer pointed out it was acknowledged in documents presented to councillors previously, pointing out that the majority of the town centre’s roads were subject to some kind of parking regulations already.

Cllr Marc Jones was particularly unhappy, stating: “It is human nature, people are price sensitive to parking. People will spend El 00 in a shop but will not pay El .80 to park.

“People will circle streets to look for a space than pay to park. We know what a problem parking in the town centre is, and as a result of this we will see people use side streets.”

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“I was not on the council two years ago, and I am concerned we are looking at PWC modelling from two years ago, it is old information.”

Cllr AlunJenkins made a very long speech giving a grim appraisal of the current austerity situation in the UK, and how he disagreed with the proposals being made, but did recognise the decisions before the council saying it was like ‘having both arms cut off but which one first’, adding he would prefer not to have either chopped off.

Cllr Jenkins was keen to get assurances that nothing would be progressed without consultation, which Cllr Bithell was happy to offer, as that was on the table either way.

Cllr Bithell pointed out to the meeting that the proposals were ‘not about deterring people from coming to the town centre, it is about making spaces accessible.’

Cllr Davies queried the consultation process, noting that it had been described several times as ‘implementing a traffic order’, “My understanding is we have to identify who we want to consult with, if we have a group with protected characteristics we should be consulting with them specifically.”

“It has been mentioned we would encourage them to take part on our website or in newspapers, but the public have to engage and to do that they have to understand the process and context. They need to know the information to make it a meaningful

consultation. We are going through the motions with a traffic order.”

Cllr Bithell pointed out an impact equality statement had been ‘done’, describing it as a ‘fluid document’, and offered assurance that the statutory process would be followed.

The debate then turned to the principle of charging for disabled parking, with Cllr Bithell saying “It is about having accessible spaces” noting that Blue Badges were not means tested.

Cllr Paul Jones angrily pointed out a range of cases Blue Badges could be used for, stating very young children who were terminally ill, fixed income adults, veterans who

were on fixed incomes, ending by stating the proposals were regressive “If they can’t afford to pay it, they do not have access”.

Cllr Tina Mannering gave a personal account of why she held her view, saying: “It is more about access and space not the money.

“Not all haven’t got money or funds, some are very well off, more than those working. It is about access than the cost of car parking.”

Cllr Paul Jones cited data that says there are 9,000 Blue Badge holders in Wrexham, saying that Cllr Mannering was talking about one or two’.

Cllr Mannering said it was “Offensive to assume they do not have money, they are as

equal as everyone else. It is not the money it is the access.”

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Cllr Paul Jones said, “Some can afford it. Some can’t afford it. We do not know if 8,000 or how many can’t afford it.”

Cllr Mannering retorted, “If we do not consult we will not know.”

Cllr Paul Jones again reiterated why the call-in was made, to request a more detailed consultation: “I would expect Officers to know that before a decision was made, not to implement and hope for the best, not trade anecdotal stories, we should be working on hard evidence.”

The debate moved on to specific points, including asking if council enforcement was a seven day operation (it is) and it noted that if proposals proceed then Blue Badge

parking on double yellow lines in Ty Mawr could increase. The meeting was told the

yellow lines were brought in as a response to improve child safety at the park, and thus the proposals were seen by some as increasing risk on that front.

The meeting headed past the two hour mark and just before 6pm Cllr Bithell left, leaving Cllr Marc Jones and Mr Isted to have an interesting exchange over revenue raising and cuts proposals recently.

Cllr Marc Jones said he had ‘sympathy’ with officers on the proposals: ‘We are told we have to do these or do worse, and we are told to come up with alternatives. We are told ‘if you do not support this you have to find something else’. Really, we pay council officers to give us options. What are the other options?”

Cllr Marc Jones contrasted the health aims of Wrexham Council to the policy of charging for parking at country parks, and also pointed out it was not equal if councillors were able to park in the town centre cheaper than disabled people, adding: “How the hell is that equality?”

Mr Isted replied pointing out the goal of the lead member was likely to ensure no loss of services or core services and thus the proposals: ‘We used to call them efficiencies, then efficiency savings, and now we have to accept they are cuts.

“We went through a long list years back of ‘green’ things, like we used to do twinning, that went. Then we did the ‘amber’ things, and now we are in the ‘red’ area.”

Hinting at the ‘alternative options’, a grim pointer towards cutting of ‘core functions’ was made which the meeting was told would be made up of ‘largely reducing staff in core

activities’, with the ‘worse case scenarios affecting the core functions of the council’.

Mr Isted concluded that the committee would not be wishing to do that, and thus the suggestions and proposals put forward

Clr Jenkins cites Northamptonshire Council that recently started emergency spending controls – says Wales is 3-4 years.behind England, says ‘watch this space’ for Wrexham, “If austerity continues there is no point having councils”.

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With the doom and gloom and two and a half hours of debate appearing to sap the will of the committee to keep going, despite the frustration of Cllr Wright who pointed out he had ‘many more questions to ask’ proceedings headed towards a vote.

The choice before councillors was clear to some, despite the attempts to form a specific recommendation.

Finally it was basically agreed for a simple success v failure vote on the 2nd 3rd and 5th points of the call-in notice contents, and if the ‘case’ had been successful.

The motion was proposed by Cllr Davies and seconded by Cllr Marc Jones, with Cllr

Mannering attempting a counter motion. The vote was about to proceed before Cllr Atkinson spoke to explain his view on the various points, explaining that he felt officers were aware of risks and the financial issues raised had been ‘clearly explained’.

A point of order was called by Cllr Wright to point out the debate had ended and a vote was due and the Chairman Rodney Skelland should not allow further debate.

After two and a half hours the vote saw the proposal to refer the decision back to the Executive Board fall, with the councillors for and against neatly falling into party and administration alliance lines.

The Plaid Cymru (Cllr Marc Jones), Liberal Democrat (Cllr Alun Jenkins) and Labour (Cllr Paul Jones, Cllr Adrienne Jeorett and Cllr Dana Davies) members present voted to refer the decision back to the Executive Board.

Members of the Conservative group (Cllr Andrew Atkinson) and two Independent groups (Cllr Trevor Bates, Cllr Geoff Lowe, Cllr I David Bithell, Cllr Nigel Williams, Cllr Sonia Benbow-Jones and Cllr Tina Mannering) voting to reject the report going back to the Executive Board.

We don’t think the Chairman Cllr Rodney Skelland (Conservative) voted as per convention – however due to the layout of the room it was unclear due to the architecture, and we have no video or pictures to show you as the Councillors do not allow filming or the taking of pictures of raised hands.

A final decision is set to be made at Full Council on Wednesday 21st February. The meeting is open to the public

 

#SaveWILG Art Exhibition

The #SaveWILG art exhibition took place at Theatr Clwyd in Mold between January 24th and February 12th. I have included photographs of the art below although these pictures do not give the overall effect of the exhibition, as the Gallery space we were provided with includes large windows which caused sunlight to reflect on the framed artwork. This made capturing perfect photos very difficult.

I also include a YouTube video that illustrates the wealth of support that we received for our postcard campaign. This was shown on a large screen in the Gallery.

Following a conversation with Ted Eames, I have approached Lesley Griffiths, AM for Wrexham, to ask if she could arrange for the exhibition to be shown in the Senedd. She agreed in principle and I hope we can come to some arrangement quickly as time is of the essence.

Overall, the exhibition at Theatr Clwyd was a great success. Thanks are due to Disability Arts Cymru – especially Lowri-Mair Owen – Theatr Clwyd and everyone who visited the show. In particular, I want to thank Julie Rogers-Owen and Heather Wilson for their outstanding contributions in helping me create such a production. The input of David Nulty, Amy Lockhurst, Sophie Morris, Ted Eames, Grace Currie, Sophia Leadill and Georgina Gittins was also crucial to the success of this project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YouTube Link – SaveWILG Film

Obviously these photographs do not do our exhibition any credit at all, but I have included them to give you a taste of what we have achieved. I am very proud of the exhibition and hope we can show it to all Assembly Members in the Senedd to help educate and inform them about the importance of maintaining WILG in the first place, before establishing a fairer system that will enable all disabled people to benefit from the right to independent living.

I have not added the artist names alongside these photographs as I would encourage you to try to attend this exhibition wherever it may appear next to get a full flavour of what has been achieved. Thanks to Julie Rogers-Owen for providing the photographs used above.

Things Just Got A Little More Interesting #SaveWILG

I am in a foul mood today after being passed the following condescending letter by Lesley Griffiths AM written by the Minister for Children and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies AM.

Following the letter below, I have shared some of the responses I have received after sharing this letter amongst the rest of the #SaveWILG campaign team. Feel free to leave your feedback in the Comments Box at the foot of this blog entry.

I guess I am so upset at this letter because it seems that Huw Irranca-Davies did not take on board the enormity of what I had to say and he seems to have dismissed it as the inconsequential bleatings of a disabled man. This hurts deeply and, believe me, I will get absolutely no pleasure from saying “I told you so” when the Social Care system in Wales finally implodes due to the negligence of Welsh Labour.

So where do I go from here? Tomorrow, I have the official launch of the #SaveWILG art exhibition at Theatr Clwyd and on Saturday we have the Community Awareness Day at Set the Bar in Wrexham.  I will remain positive and keep up the fight because I believe that we are in the right and I am determined to be able to enjoy my life once more following these eight years of hostile uncertainty.

23rd January 2018

 

Dear Lesley

Thank you for your further letter of 21st December last year on behalf of your constituent, Mr Nathan Davies, regarding the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG),

You will recall I wrote to you on this on 14th November, soon after becoming Minister For Children and Social Care.  In that letter I responded to a number of issues relating to this decision that Mr Davies had raised, including providing a copy of the summary of the public consultation that was held and first published in March 2015.

While I appreciate the apprehension WILG recipients such as Mr Davies will have about how they are going to be supported in future, the decision to change the delivery of this to local authority social care was not taken lightly. Neither was it taken in isolation of the views of those who represent disabled people in Wales as some have claimed.  It was taken with the best interests of all disabled people in Wales in mind.  This is of ensuring that all disabled people receive the support they need to live independently at home in line with the ethos of our new social care legislation.  This is irrespective of whether they used to receive payments from the Independent Living Fund or not.

The continuation of the WILG would only have sought to reinforce the inadequate two-tier approach which currently exists to supporting disabled people in Wales, with some only receiving support from their local authority while some can receive this as well as dedicated payments from the WILG.

My kind regards,

Huw Irranca-Davies

***

Feedback from #SaveWILG Campaign Team

“It’s a shocking(ly awful) response from the Minister. Apart from a general attitude of ‘It’ll be OK, because I say it’ll be OK (but I’ve nothing to base that on)’, it fundamentally ignores the central issue that the councils can’t be trusted with this responsibility.  To say ‘…I appreciate the apprehension…’ but ‘we gave it some thought and decided to do it anyway’ is dodging everything.  Typical, I’m afraid, of a generation of politicians more interested in their own careers than supporting the people they represent.”

“Typical defensive political speak that ignores the issues and pretty much says there aren’t any. I don’t think we have a friend in HID, but we have plenty of others. At least we know how the land lies in that direction now.”

“What we have never managed to get over is we do not receive LA support plus WILG, we receive reduced LA support which is topped up by the WILG Payments.”

“I agree with all the above comments. HID doesn’t want to know and I’m sick of Welsh Labour just replicating everything the Tories do and expecting no resistance.”

“We should be looking at getting Labour councillors involved as the added work load to administer WILG will fall onto already overstretched councils.”

Windfall for Councils #SaveWILG

I had a rather interesting email in my inbox this afternoon. It was from my Assembly Member, Lesley Griffiths. My eyes were drawn to the following story:

Extra £60m for Councils in Wales Over Next Two Years

Wrexham Council’s budget for the upcoming financial year is increasing.

The final local government settlements put forward by the Welsh Government before Christmas state that Wrexham Council will receive a 0.4% increase to its budget in the next financial year – a fact I’ve highlighted to the Council Leader on more than one occasion.

Clearly financial pressures remain as the UK Government continues its flawed drive towards austerity.

However, it is disappointing the increase in funding from Welsh Government has not been publically acknowledged or welcomed by the Local Authority.

I believe it’s important Wrexham residents recognise decisions to cut funding for music services and introduce parking charges at country parks and for blue badge holders, have been solely devised and pursued by the Tory/Independent Councillors that run Wrexham Council.

I think I have a good relationship with Lesley Griffiths AM and fully support the work she does in the community. She also represents me well in negotiations with the impossible local council.

It is interesting that she points out that Wrexham councils budget has been increased by such a large amount while they still continue with there campaign of cruel ideological austerity. Lesley is right to point at decisions to cut funding for music services and introduce car parking charges for blue badge holders. I would like to point out that these cuts also apply to social care and the loss of WILG – a disgraceful decision by Welsh labour – to support local authority payments , is likely to be disastrous for the independent living of disabled people.

One of the things that was made crystal clear throughout the consultation and all of the discussions before and after is that it is the experience of disabled people and unpaid Carers that some local authorities simply cannot be trusted to translate the 2014 Social Services and Well-being Act into genuine independent living for those who require high levels of support.
I also received another email from Momentum informing me of the candidates for the forthcoming Welsh Labour Deputy Leader race. The outstanding candidate seems to be Julie Morgan who I will definitely be supporting. I only hope that she is one of the few Welsh Labour voices to see the unfairness of ending WILG so suddenly and putting disabled people with high care and support needs at risk of negligence from local authorities.

 

Letter from Huw Irranca-Davies AM

I am sharing this letter from Huw Irranca-Davies  AM to Lesley Griffiths AM concerning my #SaveWILG campaign. There are many, many issues that I would like to pick up from this email, but I am biting my lip until we can arrange a meeting with my MP and Huw Irranca-Davies himself.

I hope this can be in one of the 24 days before Christmas, so that I can discuss my concerns and enjoy the festive break but I am not holding my breath and am preparing for my 8th consecutive Christmas of concern and worry over the future of Independent Living for disabled people in 21st century Britain.

Seasons Greetings…

***

Lesley Griffiths AM
Assembly Member for Wrexham
Lesley.Griffiths@assembly.wales

 

14- November 2017

Dear Lesley

Thank you for your letter to Rebecca Evans AM on behalf of your constituent, Mr Nathan Davies, outlining his ongoing concerns regarding the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). I am replying as policy on social care in Wales now forms part of my Ministerial portfolio.

I have agreed to meet Mr Davies and his MP, Ian Lucas, and my Diary Secretary is arranging for this to take place as soon as is possible.

In relation to Mr Davies’ comments about Wrexham County Borough Council, my officials have been in contact with the authority to ascertain the latest position. I am aware that Wrexham initially had social worker vacancies which impacted upon its ability to undertake future support reviews of WILG recipients and reviews of those receiving social care more generally. This seems to have occurred in Mr Davies’ case.

Wrexham County Borough Council now informs us that it has recently recruited additional social workers to undertake reviews of those receiving social care from the authority, thereby releasing more experienced officers to undertake future support reviews of its WILG recipients. Recipients will be contacted individually by the authority to enter into a dialogue as to the wellbeing outcomes they wish to achieve to live independently and to agree the future support they require to achieve these. The authority intends to complete as many of these support reviews as possible within this financial year, with those not able to be completed by then as soon as possible in next financial year. Whenever a WILG recipient’s support review is completed, their payments under the WILG will not cease until a package of care to deliver the future support they require is in place.

One public consultation on the way in which former recipients of the Independent Living Fund should be supported in the future was held. This ran from October to December 2014 and asked for views on the principle of four potential options to provide support. A summary of the responses received and the conclusions reached was published in March 2015. Stakeholders, including recipients, were informed of this at the time and until recently this summary appeared on the Welsh Government’s website (only being removed as part of a wider updating of our website). I attach a copy of the consultation summary published in 2015 together with a copy of the information letter on this which officials sent to local authorities at the time for them to provide to recipients. I would be grateful if you would provide these to Mr Davies as part of your response to him.

As regards Direct Payments, I understand Wrexham County Borough Council currently operates around 200 such payments to adults to enable them to have control over the care and support they obtain to meet their wellbeing outcomes. The authority is not aware of any operational issues affecting the delivery of these, although accepts that some individuals experience difficulties with recruiting appropriate staff or with securing the care they need from support providers. To ensure their practice is current and appropriate, it has held discussions with officers from Flintshire County Council relating to a collaborative approach to delivering Direct Payments in the region.

If Mr Davies has specific concerns regarding his care package or his Direct Payments from the authority, I understand that Sheila Finnigan-Jones, Service Manager for Disability Services, is happy to meet him to discuss these. Her contact details are:

Tel: Wrexham (01978) XXXXXX E-mail: Sheila.finnigan-jones@wrexham.gov.uk

Huw lrranca-Davies AC/AM

Y Gweinidog Gofal Cymdeithasol a Phlant Minister for Children and Social Care

Support from Ian Lucas MP #SaveWILG

I am pleased with how the #SaveWILG campaign is going so far as I’ve had plenty of media coverage, a good response to my postcard campaign, solidarity and support from Welsh Labour Grassroots and now I have had support from Ian Lucas MP, totally justifying the efforts I made to help him get re-elected in June.  He has written to Rebecca Evans AM to voice his concerns over the closure of WILG and to ask for a meeting between her good-self and recipients.  I have copied the letter below with permission from Ian Lucas.

This has made me think… If other people could write to their local MP and highlight the worrying WILG situation, then any further letters like the one below will only serve to increase the pressure on the Welsh Government and make them think twice about their decision to close WILG.  This would be great wherever you live as a letter from an MP outside of Wales would be just as effective.  Thanks for your support.

Anyway, here is the letter from Ian Lucas:

Rebecca Evans AM
Minister for Social Services and Public Health
Welsh Government
5th Floor
Tŷ Hywel
Cardiff Bay
CF99 1NA

14 August 2017

Our Ref: ZA19750

Dear Rebecca,

I am writing on behalf of a constituent, Mr Nathan Lee Davies who recently contacted me regarding the Welsh Government proposal to transfer administration of the Independent Living Fund to local authorities.

Nathan is a beneficiary of the fund with whom both Lesley Griffiths and I have worked over a number of years on disability issues. Nathan suffers from Friedreich’s ataxia, a disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system. We have participated together in consultation events on ILF and discussed the fund with other recipients at consultation events, some of which were organised by the Welsh Government.

I am acutely aware that the UK Government has passed responsibility for the difficult decisions relating to the future of the ILF to the Welsh Government and I do not envy you the decision you have been asked to make. However, I am very concerned indeed, having discussed the issue in depth with Nathan, at the decision to transfer administration of the scheme to local authorities.

Neither of us believe that our Council has either the capacity or expertise to carry out this function and this decision is causing real concern to Nathan and other recipients of the scheme.

I would be very grateful if you would agree to meet with Nathan, me and other recipients of the scheme to discuss their concerns.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Lucas MP