Local Authorities

Guide on Voting for Disabled People

Shaping Our Lives have created this fantastic Guide on Voting for Disabled People below, which I’ve just seen (thanks to the GMCDP!). Please share this with your local Disabled Staff Network and other relevant contacts – and please use your right to vote!

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All voters have a right to vote independently and in secret and local authorities in Great Britain have been told they must take proactive steps to ensure that polling stations don’t disadvantage disabled people.

If you have any problems on election day (Thursday 12th December), you should call your local authority to try to resolve this. You can also call the Electoral Commission on 0333 103 1928 or the Welsh language line on 0333 103 1929 for further guidance.

The role of the Electoral Commission (wording adapted from their website) is to monitor elections and referendums to make sure they are fair and to promote public confidence in the democratic process. Another part of their role is to make sure that elections are accessible to everyone with them stating ‘We believe that anyone eligible to vote should be able to do so’. They have been working with charities such as Mencap and RNIB to ensure this occurs. Further information about the Electoral Commission is available at: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter.

The BBC have a straightforward guide on their website explaining a bit more about how our election process works: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-49826655

The Electoral Commission have a factsheet for disabled voters (available on the Hammersmith and Fulham council website – https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/councillors-and-democracy/elections/help-disabled-voters).

It contains the following information:

  • Local authorities now have to take proactive steps to ensure that polling stations don’t disadvantage disabled people.
  • All voters have a right to vote independently and in secret. A person who is registered to vote or who has been officially appointed as a proxy voter cannot be refused a ballot paper or the opportunity to vote on the grounds of mental or physical incapacity.
  • Polling station staff must ensure that disabled voters are not offered a lower standard of service than other voters and should be able to explain what assistance is available to disabled voters wishing to vote in person at a polling station.

Disabled voters are also entitled to:

  • The right to request assistance to mark the ballot paper – Disabled voters may request the assistance of the Presiding Officer to mark the ballot paper for them. Alternatively, they can bring someone with them to help them vote (this person must be an immediate family member over 18 years old or a qualified elector).
  • Tactile voting device – This is a plastic device that is fixed onto the ballot paper so visually impaired people or those with limited dexterity can mark their ballot paper in secret.
  • Large-print version of the ballot paper – A large-print version of the ballot paper should be clearly displayed inside the polling station and a copy can be given to voters to take with them into the polling booth. A voter can’t vote on the large-print version, but it can be used for reference.
  • Assistance to electors unable to gain access to the polling station – It is the responsibility of the relevant council to designate polling places [decide the places where people can vote] within their area and to keep these under review. In designating polling places, the council must have regard to accessibility for disabled voters. If an elector is unable to enter the polling station because of physical disability, the Presiding Officer may take the ballot paper to the elector.

The information on the Gov.uk website states:
If you’re disabled, your local Electoral Registration Office can tell you about:

  • physical access, for example wheelchair ramps and disabled parking spaces
  • low-level polling booths
  • equipment for voters with a visual impairment

For further information, visit https://www.gov.uk/voting-in-the-uk

The RNIB have been working with the government and the Electoral Commission, as voting for blind and partially sighted people remains unsatisfactory. RNIB have worked with the Electoral Commission to develop new resources for election staff, including an update to their training guides, a checklist of what should be in every polling station before it opens, and also a training video.
https://www.rnib.org.uk/campaigning-current-campaigns-accessible-information-campaign/voting-and-elections

Videos about accessible voting are on the gov.uk website and are being used as guidance for staff – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/accessible-voting-for-all

The National Survivor User Network (NSUN) have done a useful article entitled ‘What match is there between political parties’ election manifestos and NSUN’s 2019 manifesto? A bird’s eye’. Details of this can be found via the following link:  https://www.nsun.org.uk/news/match-between-party-political-manifestos-and-nsun-manifesto

BBC News: Disability Work Opportunities Under Threat

The BBC have written a shocking story about the potential closure of work opportunities for disabled people in the Wrexham area, due to further council cuts.

This is depressing news, but hardly surprising under a Conservative/Independent led council with a history of putting profit before people.

This cannot be allowed to happen, and I would offer support to anyone interested in campaigning to stop this measure.

I have included yesterday’s BBC report below.

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Two projects which provide work opportunities for about 75 people with a disability look set to be closed in the latest round of council cuts.

Wrexham Council plans could hit the Cunliffe enablement centre in Rhosddu and the Erlas garden project.

It closed other schemes last year as part of an ongoing disability services review aimed at saving £334,000.

Council bosses said they would find other ways to support those affected.

The review has already led to the closure of Le Cafe and Portable Appliance Testing in Rhosddu, along with the Coverall laundry in Rhosymedre.

Councillor Joan Lowe, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said the Cunliffe and Erlas projects “deliver good services that are well regarded by service users, their families and carers”.

“There are, however, a number of issues and challenges with the sites and facilities that mean they do not offer the best opportunities for community participation and can limit community inclusion.

“The proposal is for the council to reshape day and work opportunities services to deliver more flexible, person-centred services that are fit for purpose, offer quality, are sustainable and make more effective use of available resources.”

The changes to the service form part of cuts agreed by executive board members for 2019/20, which were met with anger by opposition councillors last year.

There are currently 39 people supported at the Cunliffe Enablement Centre and 36 at the Erlas Garden project.

The latest plans will be discussed by councillors at a scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

 

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Pulling Myself Together

I have been a little out of sorts over the past week or so, thanks to a chest infection. Thankfully, I have come out the other side and am feeling stronger with every passing day.

It is always scary to be inflicted with a chest infection, as I am only too aware that such infections usually finish off my brothers and sisters who live with Ataxia. I didn’t want to join those unlucky few at this time. There is an election to win before I go anywhere…

The article I have put together below, just sums up some of my moods and feelings over the past few days, while the madness continues with my valued members of staff also being stricken down by illness.

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FACEBOOK STATUS 1:

I will probably have to stay offline for the next few days as I have just seen the doctor who said I have a chest infection. Bloody hell, this is all I need. I have to take this seriously as living with Ataxia is enough on it’s own without the added complications of a chest infection. I am now on antibiotics so hopefully they will do the trick as I do not fancy a stint in the Maelor. Thankfully, I have some excellent PA’s who will help me get over this and I will be back to full strength in no time.

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FACEBOOK STATUS 2:

I have just had another home visit by a GP who has put me on a stronger set of antibiotics. Hopefully, these will calm me down and stop me from having regular panic attacks. If I can get a good night sleep, I am sure that will help me loads.

I have also had a letter from ICS detailing the protest for them to make a decision. Basically, I think they were just playing for time. I am too exhausted to think of the ramifications of this. That is a battle for another day…

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FACEBOOK STATUS 3:

A third out of hours doctor visited me last night and provided me with the super strength antibiotics that I need to shift this infection off my chest. It seems to be doing the trick and I am regaining my appetite while breathing has become easier.

I am disappointed that I still do not have the strength needed to attend the Nick Whitehead Theatre this evening to vote for Helen Grout as Wrexham’s Labour Party candidate for the forthcoming General Election. I am totally pleased to openly back Helen as the only candidate capable of making a real difference to the community of Wrexham as a whole.

I am also pleased that my good friend, Julie Rogers-Owen, will be attending the Hustings and voting in the only sensible way. If the people of Wrexham, really want to see positive politics in action then it is crucial that Labour Party members vote for Helen Grout tonight.

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All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

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I have two piles of books in my living room. They need shifting if only to quieten the taunting voices in my head. You know it makes sense…

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Please read the following article: Dancing on Thin Ice: Available Now

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There is still much work to be done on the #SaveWILG campaign. It seems as if recipients from several Local Authority areas are still waiting on the results of their assessments. I want to emphasise that this is not because of any failing from ICS Services – the independent assessment company who have been put in charge of carrying out the reassessments – but because we are still waiting on the Local Authorities that let us down in the first place. This appears to be a totally ludicrous situation, as it was because we had no confidence in the Councils in the first place, that we launched the campaign. They are still making us wait by holding up discussions with ICS Services. I want to make sure that this situation is sorted out way before the upcoming festive period, as all WILG recipients deserve this after the torrid time they have been put through.

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Please watch the following video before deciding what to do at the Ballot Box on December 12th:

 

Social Care problems – Taking On the Local Authority

The following article was taken from the DPAC website. I thought it might be of use to individuals having the same problems with social care services that I have experienced throughout the #SaveWILG campaign.

It seems that this information might be more relevant to my comrades in England, but it is a good starting ground for all disabled activists across the United Kingdom.

It should also be noted that DPAC reblogged this article mainly from the Independent Living website https://www.independentliving.co.uk/

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What to do when you have a problem with social care services?

Many people have a problem with services they receive from their local authority, either for themselves or someone they are caring for. As council budgets are increasingly under pressure, and demand for services is going up, it is no surprise that there may be a gap between what is offered and what is expected when it comes to social care services.

Monitoring Officers are responsible for investigating unlawfulness

If you have an issue with a local authority, there is an easy – and free! – way of raising your concerns. It is not much talked about, so you may well not realise that every council has a “Monitoring Officer“, whose brief is to look out for incidents of alleged unlawfulness within the council.

The duties of a Monitoring Officer were established under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. If they become aware of any proposal, decision or omission by the local authority that has led, or is likely to lead, to a contravention of any statute – like the Care Act – or Regulations – like the Assessment Regulations – or rule of law, they have to prepare a report and arrange for each member of the authority to receive a copy. While members are considering the report, the relevant actions or proposals are automatically suspended. They have 21 days to consider the report.

MOs have to look into any matters referred to them

To keep Monitoring Officers independent, they are protected from dismissal, except through special steps. The creation of the office is intended to manage legal risk in an effective way, thus minimising the need for legal proceedings. The MO or their deputy is personally responsible for considering any matter referred to them which involves a coherent statement that the local authority is in breach of the law in something it has done or failed to do. They can’t just ignore it. If they believe that the case you have brought to their attention is not a matter of unlawfulness, they should provide you with the reasons why they have reached this conclusion. The council has to provide the Monitoring Officer with the resources necessary to do their job, including paying for legal opinion, if it is outside the expertise of the MO.

As you know, there is a Local Authority Ombudsman scheme for problems with council services, but the ombudsman will not consider your case until you have made a complaint to the council and received no satisfaction. Making a representation to the Monitoring Officer is an effective way of showing that you have tried to resolve the issue with the LA.

Information from Belinda Schwehr of Care and Health Law

This information about the role of Monitoring Officers comes from Belinda Schwehr, the leading expert in adult social care law. She has also put together a list of contact details for most MOs in the country. It is downloadable as a PDF from the page link below, about halfway down.

http://www.schwehroncare.co.uk/using-the-monitoring-officer-as-a-free-and-convenient-means-to-raise-concerns-about-illegality-in-the-public-law-sense-in-adult-social-care/

Although approaching a Monitoring Officer is free, it does require you to understand the law sufficiently to be able to make a case as to why you believe the authority is acting in contravention of it.

If you are in a dispute with your local authority about adult social care, the legal advice charity Cascaidr, is a good place to start to look for advice. https://www.cascaidr.org.uk/contact-us/

Mainly reblogged from Independent Living https://www.independentliving.co.uk/

 

#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…

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

 

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.