London

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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Meeting in Parliament #SaveWILG

I am enjoying this politics lark and on October 25th I shall be attending a crucial meeting in The Houses of Parliament as we continue to fight for the rights of disabled people across the UK.

Working together to implementing the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
Committee Room 4, Houses of Parliament
3.30 – 5pm Thursday 25th October 2018
Hosted by Lord Colin Low
 
 Speakers to include representatives from the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Action (Northern Ireland), Marsha de Cordova (Shadow Minister for Disabled People) and Stephen Lloyd (Liberal Democrat Spokesperson Work and Pensions) and others to be announced.
 
 In July 2018 the UK government co-hosted a global disability summit in London with the aim of securing international commitments to upholding the rights of Disabled people under the UNCRPD.  Meanwhile Deaf and Disabled people and our organisations remain concerned about retrogression under the UNCRPD within the UK.
 
Twelve months on from the Concluding Observations in the routine public examination of the UK under the UNCRPD, Government, equality commissions and civil society have been required to report back to the UN disability committee. This meeting will launch the alternative reports by UK Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations and be an opportunity to discuss how government, Parliamentary allies, and civil society can work together to implement the UNCRPD within the UK.
 
BSL interpretation and a palantypist will be provided. For more information or to book a place please contact ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.org.uk.
 
 

Trip to the Capital #SaveWILG

It was a scorching hot day in London and my comrades Delyth Lloyd-Williams and Greg Ogden reckon I was on fire too as we continue our fight to #SaveWILG.

I would love to write more but time is at a premium and I must keep on campaigning. I  just have time to say that we spoke with Chris Ruane MP and John McDonnell MP as we aim to #SaveWILG.

Evidence From England #SaveWILG

The following article was published in September 2016 by our friends at Inclusion London and  seeks to evidence the impact of the Independent Living Fund closure with a focus on the situation in London.

This is clearly a VERY IMPORTANT REPORT FOR ALL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS TO READ IN FULL as the Welsh Government intend to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) despite clear evidence of flaws during the transition period that the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care constantly tries to hide behind.

WHAT USE IS A TRANSITION PERIOD IF OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE AND A DEMOCRATIC VOTE IS NOT ENOUGH FOR A GOVERNMENTAL RE-THINK?

Beneath the Inclusion London article, I have added a link to a PDF report written by the DWP reporting on the effects of the closure of the ILF. This is also essential reading for all Assembly Members.

As our elected Assembly Members you have the opportunity to make a telling intervention in the lives  of disabled people with high care and support needs. You cannot let this opportunity slip through your fingers as the potential of this group of people deserves to be tapped into as we can all make a difference to the communities in which we live.

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One year on: Evaluating the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund

This report seeks to evidence the impact of the closure with a focus on the situation in London.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was shut permanently on 30 June 2015. One week before, wheelchair users tried to storm the House of Commons chamber during Prime Minister’s Question time in a last ditch attempt to prevent closure. Disabled people receiving support through the ILF who are all too familiar with the day to day realities of the mainstream care and support system, were concerned that closing the ILF would mean a removal of essential support.

This report seeks to evidence the impact of the closure with a focus on the situation in London. It brings together statistical analysis from Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests sent to all 33 London boroughs with findings from a survey sent out to London Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) as well as qualitative evidence provided by former ILF recipients concerning their experiences of transfer to Local Authority (LA) support.

Comparison of evidence gathered through comparison of the Freedom Of Information (FOI) responses, Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPO) survey, and examples of lived experience submitted by former ILF recipients has led to a number of themes emerging:

  • Post-code lottery for former ILF recipients across Local Authorities.
  • The detrimental impacts of the ILF closure on former ILF recipients, ranging from distress and anxiety to removal of essential daily support.
  • The lack of consistent practice across different Local Authorities regarding referrals for CHC funding.
  • Limitations of the mainstream care and support system and failings in the implementation of the Care Act.
  • The value of the model of support provided by the Independent Living Fund.
  • The importance of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations for making Deaf and Disabled people aware of and supported to exercise their rights.

There is an urgent need for a radical rethink of how Disabled people are supported to live independently. Disabled people who use independent living support must be at the forefront of developing ideas and with adequate resources for meaningful engagement.

This also needs to happen quickly, before the memories of what effective independent living support looks like and how much Disabled people can contribute when our support needs are met fade into the distance.

Download the full report below including the Executive Summary and Easy Read version 

Watch the video of the meeting. 

Watch the video at: http://bambuser.com/v/6445226?v=m 

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More essential reading from the DWP:

Report by the DWP: independent-living-fund-post-closure-review

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: First Minister quizzed over loss of independent living grant for disabled #SaveWILG

TAKEN FROM PLAID WRECSAM BLOG

The case for disabled people wanting to maintain their independent living was raised in the Senedd today with questions to First Minister Carwyn Jones.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant is due to come to an end next year and responsibility for ensuring disabled people can live independently will be transferred to local councils.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, asked: “Disabled people have told me that they appreciate their independence more than the money provided by the current Welsh Independent Living Grant. What assurances can you give them that this independence will continue when the WILG comes to an end?”

Mr Jones responded by saying that his government would monitor the actions of local government and individuals would be assessed to provide assurances.

Mr Gruffydd said he was disappointed that the First Minister did not appreciate the importance of disabled people having choice and control over their own lives, something that the WILG helped ensure: “I’m afraid I have little faith that the transition to councils that are already stretched to the limit in so many ways will work smoothly. The First Minister said time and again that his government would monitor the transition, but evidence from London shows that a similar transition has been disastrous and they should heed that evidence. In Scotland and Northern Ireland they’ve maintained the fund and the independence that it allows, which has been a success. I question why this Labour Govenrment is putting people in Wales through that uncertainty and pain when we have a model we could emulate in Scotland?” 

A determined campaign has been run to save the WILG by author and journalist Nathan Lee Davies, of Wrexham. He said: “I would like to thank Llyr Gruffydd AM for raising the issue of the Welsh Independent Living Grant at the Senedd. Without WILG my independence would be severely curtailed and I would be totally reliant on my penny-pinching local authority, which has already threatened a severe reduction of my care and support should the grant close. 

“It is important that disabled people are able to live their lives independently so that they can continue to contribute to their local communities.”

That was the week that was

What an eventful week.

To begin with, I must assure you – and anyone reading from Wrexham Council or the Welsh Government – that there has been the usual hours of struggle without care or support that has left me frustrated without being able to communicate while spending hours sitting in discomfort.  The fact that I have achieved so much is because I have a great team of support workers who have helped me excel DESPITE the shortage of social care hours of support that I receive.

On Sunday evening (July 16th) I went to see comedian/activist Mark Thomas at the Llangollen Fringe Festival.  After his enjoyable set, I was lucky enough to meet him and ask for his advice and support for my petition. He kindly agreed to Retweet information about my petition and within an hour I received an extra 22 signatories.  I have currently received 174 online signatures and have a healthy paper petition that is growing as we speak.

Thanks to Mark (pictured above) for his support and I look forward to seeing him in the not too distant future as I am interested in attending a gig of his on October 4 at theWaterside Arts Centre in Sale, Greater Manchester.

After a couple of humdrum days I then travelled to London on Wednesday  (July 19th) to take part in a Disabled People Against Cuts protest in the Houses of Parliament.  We managed to occupy the central lobby in the Houses of Parliament, which is used as the MPs entrance to the House of Commons.

The event was a huge success and received a great deal of media coverage as can be seen by following the links below:

http://news.sky.com/story/protesters-in-wheelchairs-block-mps-entrance-to-the-commons-10953908

People in wheelchairs block MPs’ entrance to House of Commons to protest against cuts

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/demonstrators-house-commons-pmqs-disability-cuts-protest-wheelchairs-parliament-entrance-block-a7848876.html

https://dpac.uk.net/2017/07/week-action-dpac-occupies-parliament-lobby-area-protest-cuts-social-care-funding/ 

https://www.thecanary.co/2017/07/19/corbyn-mays-final-pmqs-summer-nearly-shut-today-wont-see-bbc-video/

It was a great day and I really enjoyed taking on the establishment and making my voice heard. I also met up with my MP for Wrexham, Ian Lucas who has arranged a home visit with me next week.

Nathan Lee Davies and his Personal Assistant Tia Louise Wills.

 

It was also a special day for one of DPAC’s lead activists as Paula Peters celebrated her birthday. This was a chance for me to chat and mingle with some of the magnificent DPAC members who had travelled far and wide for the protest. There was also a surprise guest as John McDonnell turned up to give his best wishes to the remarkable Ms Peters. How many other politicians would give up their spare time to attend a birthday celebration for one of their supporters? Not many.

 

Vice Chancellor John McDonnell meets Nathan Lee Davies.

 

On Friday morning (July 21st) I was also chuffed to see that I was featured in the Wrexham Leader. I have been speaking to a journalist from the newspaper all week – in fact Mark Thomas actually suggested to the scribe that he should cover my story.  I was pleased with the finished article that can be seen below:

I think that I now deserve a break, but this is something I just cannot do. I will be a long time dead and there will be plenty of time to rest then. In the meantime, there is a fight to be won…

Protect WILG Campaign

I have now achieved over 60 signatures for my petition, which means the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) will be discussed at the Welsh Assembly when it reconvenes in September.

I am not just going to let the petition stagnate over the summer period though as the more signatures we can get, the more pressure the Welsh Government will be under to examine how they have handled this closure. I will therefore keep spreading my petition online and through social media with the help of my friends from Disabled People Against Cuts, who are also helping me to create a series of memes that I will share as soon as they are available.

A paper version of the petition will also be available next week which I will be carrying round with me everywhere I go.

I am also going to London soon to take part in a DPAC protest at the Houses of Parliament.

A year ago, I remember that a friend of mine on Facebook launched a petition about the closure of football fields in the local area and received something like 15,000 signatures and rightly so. However, it is soul destroying that I struggle to get half as much support despite this being a more serious issue that will destroy thousands of lives.

Anyway, enough of my moaning. Please sign this petition before you carry on enjoying what is left of the weekend.

https://www.assembly.wales/en/gethome/e-petitions/Pages/petitiondetail.aspx?PetitionID=1216

Thanks for your support.