Local Authorities

#SaveWILG Campaign Update

I have received an update from the Welsh Government, on their efforts to provide independent assessments to all WILG recipients who requested one. It read as follows:

All 14 local authorities who have former WILG recipients who have requested an independent assessment now have a data sharing agreement in place with ICS. As a result ICS now has basic data on the majority of the 50 recipients who have requested an independent assessment in order to progress these. This does not include details of previous care assessments or care plans as both ICS and us wanted their social workers to go into this process without any preconceptions of people’s care needs.

Consequently ICS is now arranging appointments for their social workers to undertake these and has already undertaken first appointments with a number of the 50 recipients across Wales. Following these ICS’ social workers will write up respective care assessments for submission to ICS’ quality control, before discussion with the relevant local authority representative and subsequently a joint discussion with the former WILG recipient concerned. On the basis of the current position ICS estimates it will have completed all assessments by the end of November. 

The reassessment that I received went very well, and was not hard work at all. I had feared that it would be much more invasive than it was. The social worker from ICS was both professional and friendly. She listened attentively to the case we made for 24/7 support, and said that she would be in touch with a decision in between three and five weeks. That was on October 1st.

It is good news to hear that ICS plan to have all the assessments complete by the end of November. This is something that I believe is very important, as the WILG recipients affected do not want another Xmas of worry and stress.

I have spent the last two Christmas periods busy on Twitter, while the rest of my family have enjoyed Xmas dinner. I could not detach myself from the fight to #SaveWILG, even during the festivities. My very way of life was on the line, and I was in no mood to join in with the celebrations while WILG recipients were struggling in such a way. Fingers crossed that this year I will be able to enjoy some Turkey, rather than the meagre meal of beans on toast that I have stubbornly eaten for the past two years in order to make a point.

If any WILG recipients, or their families/friends, still have concerns over the assessment process then please do get in touch.

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The Final Furlong #SaveWILG

I am up to my neck in negotiations with my local authority over emergency payments for my depleted Direct Payments account. It has taken a beating over the past six months, as I have been using it to fund the 24/7 support that I so desperately need. I had saved quite a sum to be used in such a situation – it was always going to happen, due to the fact that I live with a progressive disability and had not been fully reassessed since 2010.

I am pleased to report that, having met with the Head of Adult Social Care, WCBC have agreed to make the relevant payments to ensure that I can continue to receive the support I need, at least until the end of my forthcoming WILG reassessment.

There is one thing that I would like to make clear to WCBC and all local authorities. One of the meetings I recently had with WCBC, through up the question of where the additional funds that I am now in desperate need of, would come from? I was shocked and disappointed that WCBC and a number of other local authorities, do not seem to grasp the fact that the #SaveWILG campaign that I led, resulted in the Welsh Government agreeing to fund any extra costs incurred. This was clearly outlined in a written statement on the future of WILG payments, made by the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan on the 18th of July:

I would remind Members that the cost of these independent care assessments, and any additional support for people that might be identified from them, will be met by the Welsh Government. This is so that there can be no question of changes being made to people’s care and support as a cost cutting measure. The under-pinning principle of my approach is to ensure that outcomes reached are consistent with supporting people’s agreed well-being outcomes.

It is important that all local authorities realise that Ministers have agreed to fund any increased care costs that may arise from the outcome of an independent assessment.

Even though the #SaveWILG campaign has been extremely critical of local authorities in Wales over the past four years when dealing with WILG recipients, we have actually assisted cash-strapped councils by reducing the amount they are expected to pay to support disabled people with high support needs across Wales.

WILG recipients and their supporters need to remember this fact, and hammer it home when confronted by adult social care professionals who do not keep up with the news, or realise just what an impact the #SaveWILG campaign has had. The Welsh Government has actually done something pretty special and deserve all the credit in the world. They have listened to our fears, read the evidence we collected and acted decisively. Sadly, there is little room for any positive news in the media at the moment, as we are all obsessed with the actions of a Conservative Muppet and the mess he is making of the BREXIT debacle.

All we need to do now, is remind all local authorities of the changes that have been introduced…

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Mile End #SaveWILG

I must begin by apologising for not updating my followers for a few weeks. I have been in battle – mode against my local authority who seem determined not to increase my package of social care, unless I undertake a health assessment that everyone can clearly see I don’t need. This has caused several sleepless nights, panic attacks, depression and exhaustion. I simply want to enjoy what is left of my life, but I am not being allowed to by the Council who preside over the town in which I was born, and have lived most of my life.

I have to be careful what I say, as there is plenty going on behind the scenes. I do not want to upset any of the staff who are employed by Wrexham CBC, and are merely following orders from above.

As I write, I am full of anxiety and have never felt so alone, even though I am surrounded by an army of supporters who are always on hand to steer me in the right direction. Unfortunately, these supporters cannot be with me around the clock and I am forced to spend frustrating hours on my own. I am full of energy and ideas, but this is agony as I need social support to communicate, wash, dress, eat, drink and do everything that most people take for granted.

There are a few ideas that I have come up with that I will be sharing over the next week or two, when the time is right. Those who know me, will be confident in the knowledge that I won’t be manipulated or threatened by anyone. For the time being, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am definitely still in the game and attempting to secure justice for myself and other disabled people with high support needs in Wales.

Disability News Service: Failure to extend ILF transition funding would be ‘another nail in coffin’ #SaveWILG

Following the positive news from the Welsh Government in providing an independent reassessment for WILG recipients should they be unhappy with the reassessment from local authorities, comes more uncertainty.

I had been looking forward to spending the rest of my life without having to worry about the ability to live my life independently. However, the following article by John Pring of Disability News Service, underlines the uncertainty that disabled people with high support needs face, due to fears that the buffoons in Westminster will fail to provide the vital grant that former ILF recipients need. 

I would like to ask those who have worked hard to protect recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant, if we will still be protected if the grant from Westminster fails to be continued?

Just when I thought I could relax…

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The government has failed to ease fears that it plans to scrap a vital grant that has been supporting former users of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) for more than three years.

The four-year Former ILF Recipient Grant was agreed in February 2016, with the government agreeing to provide £675 million over four years to local authorities in England.

The announcement of the grant was a significant victory for disabled activists, whose direct action protests had ensured that the plight of former ILF recipients remained a high-profile issue after the fund’s closure on 30 June 2015.

The recipient grant was not ring-fenced, so councils were not forced to spend it supporting former ILF-users, but it has allowed thousands of disabled people with high support needs to continue to live independently since ILF’s closure.

But disabled activists have now pointed out that the four years of funding is due to end next April, and there has been no mention by ministers of any extension to the grant.

And when Disability News Service contacted the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government this week, it refused to say if an extension of the funding was being considered.

Instead, a spokesperson said: “The upcoming [cross-government] spending review will be our opportunity to look at funding for local authorities in the round and work is well underway to secure the resources and flexibilities councils need to deliver services for communities across the country.”

John Kelly, a former ILF-recipient and prominent campaigner, who lives in south-west London, said that any decision to end the grant would be “another nail in the coffin”.

He said: “I don’t want to be alarmist, but things are so awful at the moment that we could be saying goodbye to our rights to independent living, where the limited options on offer could be going back to living in care homes.

“Our predictions when ILF closed have all come true. We said it would be a postcode lottery. It is.

“We predicted the closure would be a drip, drip erosion of our ability and rights to an independent full life.

“We said that people’s packages may be cut. Some disabled people’s packages have been cut.

“We said local authorities wouldn’t be able to cope with applying the principles of independent living to our lives, because all they would be worried about was very basic care needs, because their budgets have been cut. That’s happening.

“We’re in a crisis. That’s not our words, that’s the directors of social services saying it.

“We knew local authorities wouldn’t be able to cope with the freedoms that ILF did give. Those freedoms are being threatened more and more.

“And we knew that ILF was working and those freedoms should have been given to more disabled people, not less.”

He added: “In the spending review, they must ensure that that money continues, but critically our rights to independent living must also be reconsidered, protected and actually furthered.

“My life is more than a one-hour call to make sure I am fed and watered.”

Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said the government had been “shamed” into providing the transition grant through the efforts of disabled activists.

One example was DPAC launching a direct action protest in the lobby of the House of Commons, days before ILF was due to close, with activists nearly succeeding in breaking into the main Commons chamber during prime minister’s questions.

But she said the transition funding provided by the government, including the four-year extension agreed in 2016, was never ring-fenced.

Clifford said: “Even before the ILF closed some local authorities started making dramatic cuts.

“It has been a complete postcode lottery from area to area.

“If the grant is ending, it will be a terrible blow to former ILF recipients whose local authorities have been protecting their support packages.

“We would be likely to see an even greater level of re-institutionalisation, neglect, denial of opportunity and dehumanisation of people with high support needs living in the community and a greater pressure to go into segregated institutions against their wishes.”

She called on disabled people and allies to support the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance’s Independent Living for the Future campaign, which calls for a new national independent living service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support, and finally make the right to independent living a reality.

ILF was originally funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and when it closed on 30 June 2015 it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.

But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred to councils in England and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland, to cover the period until April 2016.

It then agreed to extend that funding to English councils for another four years.

There were separate arrangements in Scotland and Wales.

Scotland set up its own Scottish Independent Living Fund on 1 July 2015, after the closure of the UK-wide ILF.

In Wales, a temporary replacement for ILF, the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme, ran from July 2015 but was due to close this spring and be replaced by a system of council-funded support.

But the closure was paused, after campaigning by disabled activists and allies, to allow all WILG recipients to request an independent reassessment of their new council support packages, with the Welsh government promising to fund the reassessments and any extra support they might need as a result.

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Written Statement by Julie Morgan AM #SaveWILG

I have just received this Written Statement by Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services. It is an update on the current situation regarding the Independent Care Assessments that the #SaveWILG Campaign insisted upon.

This is another positive step forward and it is encouraging that the end is now in sight…

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TITLE: Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) – Update on Independent Care Assessments

DATE: 18 July 2019

BY: Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services

In February I announced a change of approach in the way that people who used to receive payments under the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) were in future to access their support from their local authority’s social services. This is an update on the arrangements I am introducing.

It is paramount that people’s ability to live independently is not compromised by changes to the way their care and support is arranged and provided. It was for this reason that I decided that those people who used to receive payments under the WILG should have the opportunity of an independent care and support assessment if they are unhappy with the outcome of their local authority care and support assessment. Those assessments are being undertaken to agree with people the wellbeing outcomes they wish to achieve to live independently and to agree how these would be met.

While the majority of people who used to receive WILG payments are content with the care and support they are now receiving, where people are unhappy with the outcome of care assessment the ability to have an independent care assessment would provide for a second opinion. It also restores for them the tripartite decision making arrangement that existed under the Independent Living Fund (ILF) of recipient, independent ILF social worker and local authority social worker. This was something that the “#Save the WILG campaign” was very keen to have restored.

I am pleased to report that we have made good progress in putting in place the arrangements for these independent care assessments. I wrote in April to all former WILG recipients informing them of their ability to have an independent care assessment and explained my reasons for providing this opportunity. If people wanted an independent assessment, I asked them to contact their local authority by 14 June to request this, so we could gauge the level of interest. By that date 55 requests had been made across 14 local authorities. This is out of approaching 1,400 people in Wales who received payments from the WILG. This would seem to confirm our understanding that the vast majority of former WILG recipients are content with the outcome of the care assessment they had and the subsequent care and support they are receiving. However, it does also confirm that I was right to introduce this change of approach

for what is a significant number of people who have concerns about the outcome of their care assessment.

We have in addition completed a procurement exercise to secure an organisation to recruit and manage the independent social workers required to undertake these assessments. These social workers will be suitability qualified and experienced to perform this task, being registered as such on the relevant register maintained by Social Care Wales. They would consequently be well versed in the ethos and requirements of our Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the regulations and code of practice we have made under this in relation to care assessments and meeting care needs. They would not, however, be employed by a local authority in Wales so as to maintain their independence.

Following evaluation of the bids received for this contract, ICS Assessment Services Ltd. has now been appointed to organise and undertake the independent care and support assessments requested. ICS has significant experience in both social care and undertaking assessments, having worked previously with a range of local authorities across Wales and England. Officials have met with representatives of ICS, the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru and the Welsh Local Government Association, to agree the process that will be followed to complete the independent assessments and to work through the practicalities associated with this. This is well advanced so that the arrangements to begin to undertake ICS assessments should be in place by the end of this month. I will be writing shortly to those former WILG recipients who have requested an independent care and support assessment be update them in more detail on this and to confirm what they need to do to pursue their assessment.

I would remind Members that the cost of these independent care assessments, and any additional support for people that might be identified from them, will be met by the Welsh Government. This is so that there can be no question of changes being made to people’s care and support as a cost cutting measure. The under-pinning principle of my approach is to ensure that outcomes reached are consistent with supporting people’s agreed wellbeing outcomes.

I appreciate that establishing these arrangements has taken some time. However, it is imperative that we put in place properly considered arrangements. The “#Save the WILG Campaign” has been supportive of the approach I am taking, as we share a common interest in seeing changes implemented properly.

I will update Members as further progress is made.

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Disability News Service: Appeal to hundreds across Wales to seek independent assessments of support needs #SaveWILG

The following article was written by John Pring and appears on the excellent Disability News Service website, which can be accessed by clicking here.

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A disabled campaigner is encouraging hundreds of recipients of support through the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme to consider taking up the government’s offer of an independent re-assessment of their care package.

The Welsh government announced in February that it was pausing the closure of the WILG scheme – and its replacement with a system of council-funded support – following a campaign by disabled activists and allies.

Julie Morgan, the Welsh government’s deputy minister for health and social services, then wrote last month to all WILG recipients to tell them they could ask for a reassessment of their care package if they were unhappy with the outcome of their local authority’s assessment of their post-WILG needs or if that assessment had not yet taken place.

And she assured them that the Welsh government would pay for the independent assessment and any extra care and support they might need as a result.

Morgan has now written to Nathan Lee Davies, the WILG recipient who led the campaign to halt the closure of the scheme, updating him on the government’s progress.

She told him that only 26 WILG recipients had so far requested a re-assessment, across 10 local authorities.

Morgan said in her letter: “It is important that those people who wish to have an independent assessment are able to access it, but this is also in the context of the large number of people who we know are content with their new arrangements.”

Davies believes about 1,300 disabled people are eligible for a re-assessment, and fears that many WILG recipients are being held back from requesting a re-assessment.

He is now calling on all those WILG recipients who are not happy with their care and support package to ask for an independent assessment.

Davies, who has himself requested an independent assessment, said: “I started this campaign four years ago, after a social worker warned me that without the WILG my hours of support would be reduced from 86.5 hours a week to just 31 hours per week.

“I would be unable to maintain any quality of life without a substantial increase in my support and any reduction would leave me struggling to exist rather than living the life that I choose.

“The use of an independent social worker allows me to be assessed purely on my physical and mental needs.

“I feel that social workers from local authorities are under pressure from their managers to reduce costs, whatever the consequences.

“Assessments are therefore skewed from the outset and I fear that a number of WILG recipients are not receiving the support they deserve.

“Let’s not forget that all WILG recipients are disabled people with high support needs.

“This means that many need a strong network of people around them to give them the confidence to press for improvements.

“The fact that only 26 people have asked for a reassessment suggests that many WILG recipients are being held back by a combination of inertia, lack of support and advice and a sense of ‘better the devil you know’.

“I feel that an independent service will provide people with disabilities with greater security for the future.”

He added: “The government have listened to campaigners, reviewed the evidence and acted accordingly to ensure people get the support they deserve to live independently within their local communities.

“WILG recipients and their families need to investigate the opportunity that is in front of them to help ensure they have piece of mind for the long term future.”

WILG was set up – with UK government funding – as an interim scheme following the UK government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in June 2015.

The Welsh government is now closing WILG for good and transferring the funding to local councils, and by April the 22 local authorities were due to be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

But Morgan announced the “change in direction” in February because a government review had shown a significant variation in how support packages were being cut by different councils.

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#SaveWILG Update: Letter from Julie Morgan

I received the following letter from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services to update me on the progress of WILG assessments.

It makes for interesting reading. I will be writing in response to this letter soon, but for now I think it is important to make sure that everyone is fully informed of their rights.

Thanks to Julie Morgan as ever for her sterling work in making the independent assessments, a reality.

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Dear Nathan

Following my letter of 18th of April to former recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) regarding their ability to have an independent care assessment, I thought I would provide you with a brief update.

All local authorities have now have confirmed that they have circulated my letter to their former WILG recipients.  Clearly people will need time to consider whether to have an independent assessment.   I have asked recipients to let their local authority know their intentions by 14th June.  To date, I understand that twenty-six former recipients have expressed an interest in having an independent assessment of their care needs.  These are spread across ten authorities.

This number may well increase over the next three weeks.  It is important that those people who wish to have an independent assessment are able to access it, but this is also in the context of the large number of people who we know are content with their new arrangements.

As regards to the sourcing [of] the independent assessments, the tender process is about to close.  The bids we receive will be evaluated against bidders’ ability to meet quality and timeliness criteria, including to ensure the appropriate standard of social workers for the assessments are recruited.  This is with a view to a contract being agreed in early June, with the practical arrangements being finalised during June, for the assessments themselves to commence from July.

I trust this is helpful.  Please feel free to communicate this information to your network of former WILG recipients.

Yours sincerely

Julie Morgan AM
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services

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