Local Authorities

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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Statement from #SaveWILG Campaign at the #Right2IL Campaign launch

On April 25th, the #Right2IL Campaign was launched in Parliament. Unfortunately, I could not be there so I wrote the following which was read out by my good friend and comrade, Ellen Clifford.

Apparently, the message was well-received. I am looking forward to playing my part in the fight for the rights of disabled people to be recognised.

More about the #Right2IL campaign can be read here. 

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“Good afternoon to everyone and apologies that I cannot be present today. As a disability activist who has spent the last 4 years campaigning for the protection of independent living for former ILF recipients in Wales, I feel that it is important to contribute to the meeting. I believe that it is essential that disabled people in Wales are also represented in the creation of any independent living scheme that we campaigned for.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant was given to former ILF recipients as a temporary measure while future arrangements were discussed. In November 2016, the Welsh Government announced they would be scrapping the grant and transferring all funds to local authorities. This could not be allowed to happen and we have campaigned tirelessly and imaginatively to push the Welsh Government into making a u-turn. Independent Social Workers and extra funds have been promised by the Welsh Government to ensure former ILF recipients can remain in their local communities.

Even though the #SaveWILG campaign has been a success in protecting the rights of former ILF recipients, the Welsh Government are not planning to extend these rights to disabled people who missed out on the ILF. Our campaign has produced a positive result for approximately 1,300 of us, but this does not mean we can forget about those who never received the Welsh Independent Living Grant. We do not believe any disabled people with high support needs should be purely at the mercy of cash strapped local authorities. 

The tripartite system that the ILF established – between recipient, local authority and independent social worker – should be something that we all receive. I would welcome the opportunity to be part of the ROFA campaign and share the skills and tactics that we have built up during our successful campaign. Please do keep in touch and let me know  how the people of Wales can get involved. There may be a different legal system in Wales to contend with, but I believe that any Welsh Political Party – with the possible exception of Plaid Cymru – would welcome the opportunity to work with the UK Government to protect disabled people with high support needs.

My contact details are as follows:

Twitter: @nathanleedavies

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nathanleedavies

Website: https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/ 

Many thanks for allowing me to be part of your discussion and let us hope that this is the beginning of a new campaign that will result in justice for disabled people and their families. 

Solidarity to you all. 

Nathan”

BBC Report: Wales disability support cuts: Care to be re-assessed in July #SaveWILG

Elderly man in wheelchair

Re-assessments of severely disabled people unhappy with their care packages will not begin before July.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant has ended with councils funding care for more than 1,000 people receiving it.

In February, the Welsh Government announced anyone unhappy with their new council care package would be offered independent re-assessments.

Plaid Cymru said the wait was “way too long”. The Welsh Government has been asked to respond to the criticism.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the Welsh Government told BBC Wales it has set aside up to £60,000 to pay an independent organisation to do the reassessments.

It anticipates the contract will be awarded by the end of June and re-assessments will begin in July.

£2.4m per year has also been budgeted, “for planning purposes”, to cover the potential costs of any increased packages.

157 people out of 1,174 assessed by their councils by the end of last year had had their support reduced.

There have been big regional variations, with cuts most common in Wrexham, Newport and Ceredigion.

Julie Morgan

The WILG was introduced in Wales to replace the UK-wide Independent Living Fund (ILF), which was closed down by the UK government in 2015.

In a letter to ex-WILG recipients, Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan said their “patience” would be appreciated.

“I do not want people to be waiting for an independent assessment,” she said.

“However, it is important to organise these independent assessments properly, so that they meet the required standards.”

Plaid Cymru’s social justice spokeswoman Leanne Wood questioned whether the reassessments were necessary.

“Initially many of these people were given an award for life and going through a reassessment process is extremely stressful,” she said.

“Particularly if you have a condition that everybody knows is not going to improve, it’s only going to deteriorate.

“So putting people through those reassessments is potentially problematic but at the same time this does need to be resolved quickly.”

‘Irresponsible’

Nathan Davies, a Labour member and founder of the Save WILG campaign, said the wait was “inconvenient” but criticised the previous Welsh Labour Government, led by Carwyn Jones, which made the initial decision to transfer the responsibility to councils.

“The fact that they [the current Welsh Government] are having to do this work now is because the previous neo-liberal regime did not listen to our campaign team and disregarded the evidence that we presented.

“The fact that we are having to endure an uncomfortable few months is totally down to them and a number of irresponsible local authorities.”

You can see more on this story on the BBC Wales Live programme at 22:30 BST on Wednesday BBC One Wales, and then on BBC iPlayer

A National Independent Living Support Service #Right2IL

The following article was taken from the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) website and can be read in full by clicking here. 

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, a network of  disabled people and our organisations in England, is asking for support for a bold new vision for independent living* for the future. (* The phrase ‘independent living’ is not about disabled people doing things on our own, it means having choice and control over our own lives, being included in the community and having the same chances to take part as other people.)

The social care and mental health systems are currently in crisis and as a result disabled people’s rights to an adequate standard of living, to dignity and inclusion and to equal participation in society are being taken backwards.

In its present state, the system is not fit to respond to current needs, let alone predicted greater needs in the future. Disabled people’s experiences of support are subject to a post code lottery and differ considerably depending upon impairment.

Disabled people and our organisations are calling for a better system guaranteeing consistent levels of adequate support. This will not only benefit us and our families but will strengthen wider society, save costs in other areas and produce social and economic benefits.

Our vision of a national independent living support system is set out in the position paper “Independent Living for the Future” which you can download above or below for the easy read version.

Please sign up in support using the form at the end of this page and help us reclaim disabled people’s futures by making our vision a reality. [The form is published on the DPAC website and can be found by clicking here]

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Download report here: NILSS_final

Sadly, I couldn’t attend Thursday’s meeting at the Houses of Parliament, but Ellen Clifford of DPAC kindly read out the following message on my behalf:

“Good afternoon to everyone and apologies that I cannot be present today. As a disability activist who has spent the last 4 years campaigning for the protection of independent living for former ILF recipients in Wales, I feel that it is important to contribute to the meeting. I believe that it is essential that disabled people in Wales are also represented in the creation of any independent living scheme that we campaigned for.
 

The Welsh Independent Living Grant was given to former ILF recipients as a temporary measure while future arrangements were discussed. In November 2016, the Welsh Government announced they would be scrapping the grant and transferring all funds to local authorities. This could not be allowed to happen and we have campaigned tirelessly and imaginatively to push the Welsh Government into making a u-turn. Independent Social Workers and extra funds have been promised by the Welsh Government to ensure former ILF recipients can remain in their local communities.

Even though the #SaveWILG campaign has been a success in protecting the rights of former ILF recipients, the Welsh Government are not planning to extend these rights to disabled people who missed out on the ILF. Our campaign has produced a positive result for approximately 1,300 of us, but this does not mean we can forget about those who never received the Welsh Independent Living Grant. We do not believe any disabled people with high support needs should be purely at the mercy of cash strapped local authorities. 

 

The tripartite system that the ILF established – between recipient, local authority and independent social worker – should be something that we all receive. I would welcome the opportunity to be part of the ROFA campaign and share the skills and tactics that we have built up during our successful campaign. Please do keep in touch and let me know  how the people of Wales can get involved. There may be a different legal system in Wales to contend with, but I believe that any Welsh Political Party would welcome the opportunity to work with the UK Government to protect disabled people with high support needs.

Many thanks for allowing me to be part of your discussion and let us hope that this is the beginning of a new campaign that will result in justice for disabled people and their families. 

 
 Solidarity to you all. 
 
Nathan”

Letter to WILG recipients from Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM #SaveWILG

All WILG recipients – and their families – should be alerted to the following letter, which explains what happens next in the WILG transition process. This is particularly important for those of us who are unhappy with the level of support we’re receiving from local authorities. I am happy that we have made further progress, but now is not the time to celebrate. We have to make sure that local authorities implement the instructions that they have received from the Welsh Government.

An official response from the #SaveWILG Campaign to this letter will follow after the Easter break.

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To: All former recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant

Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) – Update

As we reach the end of the two years where people who used to receive payments from the WILG have been transferring to local council support, I would like to share an important update with you.

Since 2017 local councils have met nearly all people who used to receive WILG payments and agreed with them what care and support they will receive in future to help them live independently. Some people will now be having all their support arranged by their local council and others will be receiving direct payments so they can purchase this support themselves.

For the vast majority of people their new care and support is similar to what they had using their WILG payments. In some cases it has increased, to support their ability to live independently.

For a small number of people, the new package of care and support is smaller than what they had previously received through WILG. This can be for a range of good reasons, for example where people’s needs are still being met but just in a different way. We know from our enquiries that many people are content with the new support they are receiving, even when that package of care is smaller than before.

However, some people disagree with the outcome of their local council’s assessment. Everyone in Wales deserves support to live independently. As a result I have concluded that people who used to receive the WILG and now disagree with their council’s assessment of their care needs should have the option of having their needs looked at again by an independent person.

If you agree with the package of care and support from your local council, then this update does not affect you and you do not need to respond in any way.

However, if you disagree with the outcome of your new care arrangement, please contact your local council to ask for an independent assessment. Or if you have not started or completed your assessment yet, and would prefer for this to be done independently rather than by your local council, please also let your local council know about that. In either case, if you would like an independent assessment please let your council know by Friday 14 June 2019, at the latest. Your current care will remain unchanged until after the independent assessment has been completed.

The Welsh Government will be paying for these independent assessments and meeting the cost of any additional care and support a person might need as a result of them. Because of this, for people who used to receive WILG, while care arrangements may change in order to better meet people’s needs, this should not be in order to make any savings.

I do not want people to be waiting for an independent assessment. However, it is important to organise these independent assessments properly, so that they meet the required standards. We plan to have the arrangements for the independent assessments in place by the end of June so as to begin these from July onwards. Your patience, therefore, will be appreciated, while the details are worked out.

Julie Morgan AC/AM
Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services

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Direct Payments Guide Issued by Social Care Wales

Many thanks to Rosemary Burslem for drawing my attention to the following guide to Direct Payments, which has been published by Social Care Wales. It can be read in full by clicking here. 

This is a very illuminating guide, which clearly shows that Direct Payments can be used for other things as well as support from personal assistants.

“Myth 3 Direct payments are only for employing PAs

The great thing about direct payments is the opportunity to be creative. Employing a PA is one of many options to meet an individual’s personal well-being outcomes. For example, direct payments can be used to buy equipment, pay for activities to reduce loneliness, isolation or to develop confidence or gym membership or transport to access community facilities.”

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The Dewis website- see: https://www.dewis.wales/using-direct-payments says:

“Social activities

You can spend your money on social activities, evening classes and even holidays if they are in your care plan. Direct payments can also help if you want to do paid work or a training course.

Equipment and minor home adaptations

If you need special equipment or minor home adaptations an amount to cover these things might be included in your direct payments.

Special equipment might include computers, mobility aids, safety devices, transfer aids and assistive technology.”

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It is clear that Direct Payments are intended to improve choice, control and independence for people. This is further evidence of the appalling practices of Wrexham County Borough Council (WCBC), who have done everything in their power to discourage DP recipients from spending their money on things that they are clearly entitled to. I believe that WCBC view that DP’s can only be used to pay for support is not in line with the ethos of the law on Direct Payments. When drawing up Care Plans with people who have chosen to have DPs Social Workers and clients should be allowed to be creative in how this funding is spent, as in the examples above.

Those of us who do receive Direct Payments throughout Wales should read the article provided by Social Care Wales, and remember that we are in control of the money we receive and as long as it is spent responsibly and appropriately, then there is little that Local Authorities can object to.