Local Authorities

URGENT Action needed over threats to disabled people in the Coronovirus Bill

The following was taken from the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) website. It is essential that we all take the time to write to out MP this weekend for reasons that can be clearly seen below.

I do not believe that disabled people in Wales will be effected by these potential measures, but I am sharing this important information in a show of solidarity with my disabled brothers and sisters from across the border.

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Previously when we’ve asked people to write to their MP we haven’t had many people do it.

This situation is extremely serious and I can’t  stress this enough, WE NEED YOU TO WRITE TO YOUR MP THIS WEEKEND, this is being voted on Monday.

 

Please read this below from Inclusion London, and then ACT by writing to your MP, there is a template letter below.

If you don’t write to your MP and these measures get voted through and you lose your social care, or your civil liberties are legally infringed,  then you only have yourself to blame.


Coronavirus Bill could leave thousands of Disabled people without support

The bill potentially poses a serious risk and can put the wellbeing of many at real danger.  We ask you to write to your MP immediately.

Inclusion London is very much concerned about the devastating impact of the proposed Coronavirus Bill on the lives of thousands of Disabled people.  It potentially poses a serious risk and can put the wellbeing of many at real danger.

The Bill sets out emergency laws in response to the COVID-19 emergency. The Bill is being debated in Parliament on Monday 23 March. We urge you all to write to your MP expressing your concern over the implications of the Bill for Disabled people.

We have drafted a template letter which you can download here and send to your MP.

You can use this website to write to your MP:  https://www.writetothem.com/write

Why we are concerned

As it stands the Bill poses a serious risk to the lives of many Disabled people, especially those of us who need social care support.

The Bill will effectively free local authorities of their duties to provide social care support under the Care Act 2014 and will only oblige local authorities to provide support in cases where the human rights of Disabled people will be breached.

We know from experience that in order for human rights to be breached in social care context the situation has to be very critical or severe.

Please act now and write /email your MP before this Monday 23 March – you can use the template below. The letter can also be downloaded here as a word document.

 


Template letter to MP

Dear [add your MP’s name]

Coronavirus Bill: Disabled people are in danger

I am writing to ask you to take action to protect the lives of many thousands of Disabled people.  Please raise the issue and if possible table and support the amendments to prevent this from happening.

I believe that the #CoronaVirusBill presents a real and present danger to the lives of Disabled people. The government’s plans for Disabled children and adults during the crisis are effectively rolling back 30 years of progress for Disabled people.  They also come after years of chronic under funding of social care which have resulted in a social care system already at breaking point. The government’s plans are to:

  • remove Disabled people’s rights to social care
  • change the duties to educate to meet children’s educational requirements to a ‘reasonable endeavours’ duty
  • severely undermine the civil liberties of Disabled people and erode their rights to support.

I understand this is an unprecedented and extremely challenging situation, but given the already broken social care system this Bill will almost inevitably leave many thousands of Disabled people without essential support or any rights to request this support. Rolling back our rights is not good for anyone and in the current circumstances will put many lives at risk.

Rather than removing Disabled people’s right to social care support the government must treat our essential social care service as key infrastructure, alongside the NHS, and as such it must immediately provide the necessary funding to keep this vital service running.

To explain my reasons for writing to you, please see my understanding of negative social implications of the #CoronaVirusBill on the lives of Disabled people and their families detailed below.  This information was prepared by the barristers who specialise in public law and disability rights.

Yours sincerely

[Name]

Implications of the Bill for Disabled people

What does it mean for disabled adults? 

The Bill suspends every duty in the Care Act, 2014, including the duty to meet the eligible needs of disabled people (Section 18) and their carers (Section 20).  Under the #CoronaVirus Bill, Local Authorities will only have to provide care ‘if they consider it necessary’ for the purposes of avoiding a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).  There is no human right to social care or positive obligation under the ECHR to meet care needs.   See assessment from leading lawyers specialising in Social Care here: https://www.39essex.com/the-coronavirus-bill-schedule-11/

Other changes set to be introduced through the #CoronaVirusBill will allow health bodies to delay carrying out an assessment for eligibility for NHS continuing care

What does it mean for disabled children and young people?

Duties for young people transitioning to adult social care have also been suspended.

The Secretary of State for Education will have power to disapply the duty on schools and other institutions to admit a child to a school where they are named on an EHCP.  The Secretary of State will be able to vary provisions of the act, such as the core duty to procure provision set out in an EHCP, so instead of being an absolute duty it becomes a ‘reasonable endeavours’ duty, creating a lesser entitlement for up to two years.

What about the Mental Health Act?

The power to recommend individuals be detained under the Mental Health Act will be implemented using one doctor’s opinion instead of two, making it easier for people to be detained.

The proposed bill will temporarily allow the extension or removal of time limits in mental health legislation which means individuals might be released into the community early, or find themselves detained for longer.

Under section 5, emergency detention for people already in hospital would extend from 72 hours to 120 hours, and nurses’ holding powers would extend from 6 to 12 hours. Under sections 135 and 136, police powers to detain a person found in need of immediate care at a “place of safety” will extend from 24 hours to 36 hours. Under section 35/36, the cap on how long someone can be held in hospital while awaiting a report (currently 12 weeks) will be lifted.

What about the rights of disabled people?

Local authorities will have a duty to uphold disabled people’s human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, BUT the threshold for a breach, in terms of not providing care and support is high, which means that disabled people will be left without care and support. Lack of care and support will have a significant impact on disabled people’s well-being, but may not be considered to reach the threshold for their human rights to have been breached – they will NOT have a right to care and support.

Sources of information

Watch @stevebroach, Public Law Barrister talk about the impact of the Bill here: https://www.specialneedsjungle.com/steve-broach-public-law-barrister-on-the-coronavirus-bills-implications-for-disabled-children/

Read this Twitter thread for more information: https://twitter.com/JamieBurton29/status/1240781535340568577

Statement from National User Survivor Network: https://www.nsun.org.uk/News/covid-19-and-human-rights

Current hashtags: #CoronaVirusBill #CoronavirusBillUK

Don’t You, Forget About Us…

This is a video by Anne Pridmore (@caninep) who is speaking on behalf of Direct Payment recipients nationwide. My own situation is particularly worrying and it seems inevitable that I will be left to fend for myself over the next few days and weeks. It is a case of survival of the fittest in our right-wing society and the weakest have no chance. If I disappear for a few days it is because I have no typing support or I am stuck in bed. All this stress and turmoil could have been prevented with adequate preparation by the government, but yet again we have been let down.

Once you have stopped panicking please don’t forget about the true villains of this fiasco. We must work together to build a stronger society and less selfish culture if it is not too late…

Direct Payments and NHS Continuing Health Care #SaveWILG

The following article was taken from the Luke Clements site and was written by Ann James. 

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The Deputy Minister’s update statement on the Welsh Independent Living Grant[1] (WILG) is particularly welcome because it acknowledges the risk to the independence,choice and control of disabled people in Wales unless the Welsh Government enables people in receipt of either a Joint Package of care funded by the Local Authority and Local Health Board or NHS Continuing Health Care to receive a Direct Payment.

This risk to independence has been known to Welsh Government for some considerable time,[2] has been identified in a ‘direct payment note’ on Rhydian Social Welfare Law in Wales and highlighted as a risk in a paper on the Closure of the Welsh Living Grant that was offered as evidence to the Petitions Committee dealing with the Save WILG.

While it is heartening that the Deputy Minister ‘has instructed her officials to undertake a review of the Direct Payments and CHC interface’ one could argue that this is very late in the day. It would be hard to convince disabled people and their carers that setting up a system that enables them to have meaningful and personal control over key elements of their care package will compromise the principles of a public service NHS. The time is ripe to redress this lacuna which has this potential to derail Welsh Government commitments and aspirations for disabled people in Wales.

Recipients of the WILG require immediately the confidence that they can continue to retain the right to have personal assistants of their choosing irrespective of whether the funding from the LHB is a proportion of the cost of the care and support package or whether it is a NHS CHC funding arrangement.

There are those people who are not previous recipients of the WILG but who are fearful that their future is in the hands of local government and local health board officers who erroneously believe that Direct Payments cannnot be facilitated.They require an unambiguous statement from Wesh Government that all Local Authorities in Wales and all Local Health Boards are required to facilitate a joint package of care through a Direct Payment as set out in Continuing NHS Healthcare: The National Framework for Implementation in Wales[3].

In the absence of legislative change Independent User Trusts (IUTs) should be offered to disabled people and facilitated by the Local Health Board, to enable a person who has become eligible for NHS CHC to consider this option and its suitability for his/ her circumstances.

While we await a successful conclusion of the review set up by the Minister, there needs to be measures in place to enable disabled people in Wales to achieve their personal outcomes and maintain their independence. Welsh Government commitments and aspirations to Social Model of Disability is currently being shown to be hollow when the level of physical impairment and health related needs determine whether a disabled person in Wales can have control of their care and support arrangements through a Direct Payment.

Local Authorities and Local Health Boards need practice directions from Government and training in this matter if we are to avoid further human rights infringements in Wales.

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[1] Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Written Statement: Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) – Update on Independent Care Assessments (Welsh Government 13 February 2020)
[2] See for example letter Welsh Government Director of Social Services and Integration dated 10 February 2016.
[3] Welsh Government Continuing NHS Healthcare: The National Framework for Implementation in Wales (2014).

PeterRabbitmeme

WRITTEN STATEMENT BY THE WELSH GOVERNMENT #SaveWILG

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

DATE: 13 February 2020

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

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. Last July, and following close working with the #SaveTheWILG campaign, I updated Members on the new arrangements I had introduced to provide independent care assessments for people who used to receive payments from the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). These new arrangements were to aid any former WILG recipient who was unhappy with the outcome of their local authority care assessment. This statement is an update on those independent assessments.

Following my last update, ICS Assessment Services were appointed, through a competitive process, to organise and undertake the independent assessments for those who requested these, and 46 former recipients of payments from the WILG took up this opportunity. ICS has now undertaken all of these assessments.

All of the independent assessments completed have now been quality assured by ICS and passed to the respective local authority to consider. This was prior to a discussion between a social worker from ICS and a social worker from the respective local authority about the outcome of the independent assessment, and any effect its findings may have on the person’s current care package. Subsequent to this, a joint meeting is held with the person to discuss the outcome of that discussion, talk through the implications for their care package and agree the future care and support they will receive as a result.

In around half of the independent assessments completed, the discussion between the ICS and local authority social workers has now taken place, with the remaining discussions taking place over the next few weeks. Following these, meetings with care recipients have begun, with outcomes for those people being agreed and starting to be put in place. While it is too soon to comment on the overall outcomes from these independent assessments, some important issues are coming to light.

In a number of cases ICS has found that individuals are currently receiving larger care packages than expected, potentially because those individuals are at the transition point for NHS Continuing Healthcare (CHC). This interface between CHC and direct payments, and the challenges this can cause for care recipients, are issues that have also been highlighted to me at the National Social Care Partnership Board

Having reflected on this, I have instructed my officials to undertake a review of the direct payments and CHC interface. This is with a view to determining whether there are other mechanisms, for example independent users’ trusts, that could be used to ensure people that need more support from the NHS are not put in a position of losing the team of personal assistants they have funded through direct payments and built up over a number of years. If a better more equitable way can be found, this would remove the apparent fear that some people feel about the prospect of CHC.

It is a complex area and I will not compromise the principle of an NHS that is in the public sector rather than in the hands of private individuals, but I want us to see if there is a better way and to do that work quickly.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 19, is clear that States must ensure disabled people have access to a range of home / residential and other community support services, including the personal assistance necessary to support living independently and inclusively within their community. The key principle regarding this human right is the ability to choose how you are supported in your everyday personal care.

As the outcomes across the span of independent assessments are confirmed, I would remind Members that the cost of the independent care assessments, and any additional social care 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 fair and consistent with supporting people’s agreed wellbeing outcomes.

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Birthday Musings… #SaveWILG

Many thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes – it means a lot and is much appreciated.

I can’t believe twelve months have passed so quickly. I am proud to have published Dancing on Thin Ice – a selection of Tanka and Haiku poems in the last year. It was a year that began with a visit from Julie Morgan AM, who works as the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government. She attended my house to inform #SaveWILG campaigners that she had decided to give those who were unhappy with local authority assessments, the chance to have an independent assessment with extra funds provided by the Welsh Government to pay for any extra support needed.

This seemed like a victory for #SaveWILG campaigners. Indeed, the support given by the Welsh Government has been encouraging and comforting. They appointed ICS to undertake the independent assessments and the vast majority of these were completed by the end of October 2019.

However, WILG recipients are still stuck in limbo almost six months later. This is not due to any failing by the Welsh Government or ICS, but local authorities are still keeping us waiting, as they rubber-stamp the independent assessments.

I am really not knowing which way to turn at the moment. Life remains very insecure until I find out what the reassessment says about what support I can expect in the future. I am subsequently unable to decide where to put my energies. Do I write a new book, create some new poems or take a well deserved holiday before deciding on my next venture? I can’t make a decision on this until I know how much my independent assessment has been coloured by their meetings with WCBC.

I was told last week, that I could expect to hear back from Adult Social Care at the beginning of this week. At close of play today (Wednesday), I have still not heard anything. I believe a verdict is imminent, as I know a decision has already been made, but being kept in the dark about this is seriously damaging my physical and mental health.

The anxiety all this has caused me and other WILG recipients, is appalling. We should all be claiming compensation for the way we have had to wait, but I am sure we all agree that we just want it over and done with – as long as we end up with the support we need, to live on a level playing field with the rest of society.

Once again, many thanks for my birthday wishes and I hope that by this time next year, I am looking forward to the future with some degree of certainty.

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#SaveWILG Campaign Relaunched

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As many of my regular readers will know, I have spent the last 5 years campaigning to protect independent living for disabled with high support needs across Wales. In February 2019, we made a break through and the Welsh Government agreed to offer independent assessments to all recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant who did not agree with the decisions made by their Local Authority.

Since February, the Welsh Government have pulled out all the stops to make sure that WILG recipients have been assessed properly. They recruited the assessment company, ICS, to carry out the much needed reassessments and the majority of these were completed by the end of October 2019. WILG recipients were looking forward to resolving this issue before Xmas 2019, so that they could look forward to the future some degree of certainty.

However, WILG recipients are still stuck in limbo land and are unable to make plans for the long term future due to the fact that Local Authorities are dragging their feet and refusing to sign off the assessments made by ICS.

The fact that LAs are involved in this process is a contentious one as these are supposed to be independent assessments.The context is that these are being undertaken by ICS without its social worker having sight of any previous care assessments undertaken. This is as ICS did not want its social workers unduly influenced by what a local authority had undertaken or produced previously. Consequently, at the point ICS has concluded and quality assured its assessment on a person it does not know how the outcome of this compares to that which the person’s local authority has undertaken previously. In addition, a local authority may have some key information about a person or their care which may be relevant if ICS had known this.

This seems fair enough and WILG recipients have nothing to hide so would welcome LA involvement. If only it were that easy. I have had no reply to countless emails sent to WCBC this calendar year even though it is in the best interest of WCBC and myself to get this situation sorted once and for all. I must make it clear that I am very thankful to WCBC for agreeing to fund 24/7 support for myself while we await the outcome of the assessment. I appreciate this, but would still like to secure a long term plan that I know will see me through what is left of my life. Surely, a bit of security is not too much to ask while I continue to fight a progressive, genetic disease of the nervous system…

The stress and anxiety that all this indecision and uncertainty is causing, recently forced me to spend a period of time in hospital with a nasty chest infection. I am slowly getting back on my feet, but this whole episode has just renewed my determination to get this this whole sorry mess sorted out once and for all.

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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