Mark Drakeford AM

Raffle

It wasn’t planned or anything. Promise.

Last night I attended An Evening with Mark Drakeford – a Clwyd South CLP event in Llangollen.

About this Event

An opportunity to meet Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford in Llangollen.

There will be an introduction from local AM Ken Skates and your £10 ticket includes a light buffet. There will also be a bar and a raffle with a range of prizes to be won.

 

The First Minister spoke brilliantly at this event about the forthcoming EU elections, the rise of the far right and the achievements of Welsh Labour.   One of the four Welsh Labour candidates in the forthcoming EU elections – Mary Wimbury – also roused the audience and explained why she needed their support. It was also good to catch up with Ken Skates AM, who I used to work with at North Wales Newspapers, and Susan Elan Jones MP who supported me throughout the campaign.

The personal highlight of the evening though came with the drawing of the raffle. I had bought two strips of tickets and was fortunate enough to have one of my numbers plucked from the hat by the First Minister himself at the start of the draw. I therefore had my choice of all the prizes on offer and chose a bottle of whiskey from the House of Commons which can be seen below.

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This is something I will enjoy once I have finished my WILG reassessment and all former ILF recipients in Wales are happy with the support they are receiving…

This will certainly be a good reason to raise a glass to the efforts of this proudly socialist Welsh Government.

BBC Report: Wales disability support cuts: People experiencing ‘real distress’ – #SaveWILG

Journalist Paul Martin really has played an important part in the #SaveWILG campaign by increasing awareness of the issue with the general public. He has always delivered well balanced articles that clearly show the failings of Welsh Government policy and Local Authorities.

His latest article on WILG can be read below or by clicking this link He has also produced a feature that will appear on BBC Wales Live this evening (23/01/19).

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A woman who cares for her severely disabled brother has said funding cuts have negatively affected her life, as pressure to change the system grows.

Jayne Newman, from Newport, said she was given “no reason” for a loss of support, which saw 15 hours of care for her brother Tommy cut.

MP Ian Lucas said changes to support for people who used to get a special grant were causing “real distress”.

Newport council said Mr Newman received a “generous” support package.

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

But WILG is being scrapped and the funding and responsibility for more than 1,000 people who received it transferred to Wales’ 22 local authorities, leading to fears of cuts to support.

More than 100 of the first 600 people who were assessed by their councils had their support reduced.

Jayne Newman
Image caption Jayne Newman said the level of care her brother needs was akin to looking after a baby 

Ms Newman, whose brother lives with her, said she was given “no reason” for the cuts of 15 hours per week, which equates to paying a carer for an overnight stay and five hours of day care.

“He needs total care, so he needs to be washed, dressed, shaved,” she said.

“He is now on a liquid diet which means it’s a bit like having a baby, we’ve got to give him hourly feeds to maintain his weight and wellbeing.

“As long as somebody is there he doesn’t really understand whether it’s me or one of the carers, so he doesn’t understand that the cuts have made a difference to my life.

“It’s like I have to be in every night by nine o’clock. I still want to have a life as well as look after my brother.

“They said they would work with you and not have it done to you and that’s not what happened.”

 

 

But Newport council said Mr Newman’s care package was “over and above” what he would have been allocated as a new case.

A spokesman said: “Although certain elements of the original package of care have been removed, they have been replaced with a more flexible package.

“There has been no significant reduction in the overall level of care that has been provided to the extent that it no longer meets his eligible needs.”

The minster responsible for overseeing the transition from WILG to council-run support, Huw Irranca-Davies, left government in December in new First Minister Mark Drakeford’s reshuffle.

Julie Morgan
Image caption Julie Morgan campaigned for a change in the system as a backbencher 

His replacement as deputy minister for health and social services, Julie Morgan, called for a review of the policy while on the backbenches, and Mr Drakeford said during his leadership campaign changes would be made if people were losing out.

Mr Lucas, the Labour MP for Wrexham, suggested a possible solution could be for those who have lost out to apply for a top-up from Welsh Government.

“I don’t think we’re going to have the same scheme that we had previously but I do expect a big improvement in the scheme as it exists at the moment,” he said.

“I think this is causing real distress for people who need help.

“We know that local authorities are under a lot of pressure and I don’t think they’re the right people to be administering those schemes.”

Welsh Government emails seen by BBC Wales Live show government officials were told by a “number” of councils “the overall cost of the support provided to people who have transitioned (to council funding) is more than the WILG funding transferred (from the Welsh Government to councils)”.

The Welsh Government said it was “reviewing progress rigorously to achieve a fair outcome” for all.

“It is paramount that a person’s ability to live independently is not compromised by the change in the way care and support is arranged for people previously in receipt of the WILG,” it said.

It added all money had been passed on to councils, and none had been reclaimed despite the number of eligible recipients falling.

Wales Live is on BBC One Wales at 22:35 on Wednesday.

(Something Inside) So Strong #SaveWILG

Dedicated to #SaveWILG campaigners everywhere.

To be fair to new First Minister Mark Drakeford, he is listening and making positive changes in the right direction. Solidarity to him and we look forward to working with the new look Welsh Labour in our quest to #SaveWILG.

The following song is about Apartheid in South Africa. Although I am not, in any way, trying to disrespect this, I do feel that this song has excellent lyrics that can also apply to the plight that disabled people find themselves in 21st Century Britain. I just feel it is a good rallying call to the 1,300 WILG recipients in the calamitous countdown to the end of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

Things may look bleak at the moment, but the campaign is still going strong and we have some crucial irons with which to stoke the fire in the weeks ahead. Do not lose hope as things are certainly happening behind the scenes.

Please do not hesitate to contact me via the contact page above, or via Facebook or Twitter if you feel you can add to the campaign or would just like to find out more information.

 

According to Wikipedia, “(Something Inside) So Strong” is a 1987 single written and recorded by British singer-songwriter Labi Siffre. The song was one of the biggest successes of his career, and peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart.[1]

The song was written in 1984, inspired by a television documentary on Apartheid South Africa seen by Siffre in which white soldiers were filmed shooting at black civilians in the street.[2] He told the BBC’s Soul Music programme in 2014 that the song was also influenced by his experience as a homosexual child, adolescent, and adult and his inner Chi.[3] Siffre originally intended to give the song to another artist to sing, but could find no one suitable and was convinced to release it himself.[2]

The song has remained enduringly popular and is an example of the political and sociological thread running through much of Siffre’s lyrics and poetry. It won the Ivor Novello Award for “Best Song Musically and Lyrically”, and has been used in Amnesty International campaigns, a television advertisement and Alice Walker‘s film against female genital mutilationWarrior Marks.

The song has been covered by many artists, including country singer Kenny Rogers who featured it on his 1989 best selling album of the same name, and also by Pop Idol contestant Rik Waller who reached #25 in the UK Single Charts with it in 2002.

The song was featured in an advertisement for the Peugeot 307 in 2001.

“(Something Inside) So Strong”

The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The farther you take my rights away
The faster I will run
You can deny me
You can decide to turn your face away
No matter, cos there’s….Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

The more you refuse to hear my voice
The louder I will sing
You hide behind walls of Jericho
Your lies will come tumbling
Deny my place in time
You squander wealth that’s mine
My light will shine so brightly
It will blind you
Cos there’s……

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters
When they insist we’re just not good enough
When we know better
Just look ’em in the eyes and say
I’m gonna do it anyway [x4]

Something inside so strong
And I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters
When they insist we’re just not enough
When we know better
Just look ’em in the eyes and say
I’m gonna do it anyway [x4]

Because there’s something inside so strong
And I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me, so wrong
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

Wales’ new first minister Mark Drakeford appoints his team #SaveWILG

BREAKING: Huw Irranca-Davies has left the Cabinet. I am not sure but I am hoping that Julie Morgan will now have responsibility for WILG recipients in her position as Deputy Health Minister. #SaveWILG campaigners look forward to working with members of the new Cabinet in their quest to protect disabled people with high support needs across Wales. For the full story, click here.

A Day of Mixed Emotions

Gained a First Minister, but lost a hero. Congratulations Mark. RIP Pete.

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The following Blog is taken from Skwawkbox. To view the original article, please click here. 

Left-wing candidate Mark Drakeford has just been elected as leader of the Welsh Labour Party – and therefore as First Minister – with a 53.9% share of the vote.

Wales at last has a leader from the left – and the UK-wide party benefits as well, a Drakeford will be eligible either to sit on the National Executive Committee in place of Carwyn Jones, or to appoint a trusted representative.

As the SKWAWKBOX showed in an exclusive two-part interview, Drakeford is a long-standing supporter of party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The SKWAWKBOX congratulates him on a resounding victory – and Welsh Labour left on an excellent result.

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The following article originally appeared on the BBC online. To view the original article, please click here.

Buzzcocks lead singer Pete Shelley has died at 63 of a suspected heart attack.

The punk band are best known for their hit, Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve).

Their management told the BBC that Shelley died on Thursday in Estonia where he was living.

BBC music correspondent Lizo Mzimba said Buzzcocks, who formed in Bolton in the 1970s, were regarded as more polished, but musically no less influential, than the Sex Pistols.

The band have tweeted saying Shelley was “one of the UK’s most influential and prolific songwriters and co-founder of the seminal original punk band Buzzcocks”.

His music inspired generations of musicians over a five-decade career with his band and as a solo artist, they said.

The Charlatans’ singer Tim Burgess said Shelley’s “perfect three-minute pop songs” were “the soundtrack to being a teenager”.

Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine said Buzzcocks were one of the most influential bands to emerge in the initial wave of punk rock, with echoes of their music in everyone from Hüsker Dü to Nirvana.

“The Buzzcocks were inspired by the Sex Pistols’ energy, yet they didn’t copy the Pistols’ angry political stance,” he wrote in AllMusic.

“Instead, they brought that intense, brilliant energy to the three-minute pop song. Shelley’s alternately funny and anguished lyrics about adolescence and love were some of the best and smartest of his era.”

 

Get Involved: Send an Email to Leadership Candidates #SaveWILG

I am asking all my loyal readers and comrades to spare 3 minutes of their time and send the following postcard picture and message to the 3 Welsh Labour leadership candidates, plus other important figures who will be able to influence Welsh Government thinking with regard to the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

The email can be copied and pasted from below. It should include an inline image of the postcard to maximise impact. The end of WILG is imminent and we MUST keep up the pressure and show those in power that we are not going anywhere. We will continue to protest and defend the rights of disabled people with high care and support needs across Wales.

Help us do this by sending the email below. Thanks, as ever, for your support.

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SUBJECT: Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (#SaveWILG) 
 
Message to Mark Drakeford AM, Eluned Morgan AM, Vaughan Gething AM (Delete as appropriate
 
This is a crucial time for the future of Social Care in Wales. The SSWBA is an excellent piece of legislation, but it will take many years to come to fruition. 
 
In the meantime, WILG recipients will be at the mercy of local authorities who are unprepared for this Act and are already threatening substantial cuts in the care and support services that recipients need to function as a part of their local communities.
 
We are calling on the Welsh Government to reconsider the decision to end WILG as of April 2019 and fully explore the alternative options while listening to recipients and party members who voted overwhelmingly for a motion to save WILG  at the Welsh Labour conference in April 2018.
 
Our campaign to save WILG  has won cross party support, two motions have been passed, a number of MP’s and AM’s have lent their support including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. We have also had the backing of Unions and celebrities such as Ken Loach who all agree that the Freedom of Information work that we have done provides glaring evidence that disabled people with high care and support needs require and are entitled to third party support from an independent body.

The 3 candidates can be emailed at the following addresses:

Mark Drakeford AM: Mark.Drakeford@assembly.wales

Eluned Morgan AM: Eluned.Morgan@assembly.wales

Vaughan Gething AM: Vaughan.Gething@gov.wales

While you are at it the same message could also be sent to the Minister for Older People, Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies who is currently responsible for WILG. He can be contacted at Huw.Irranca-Davies@assembly.wales

It is also important that we continue to put pressure on the Petitions Committee who need to realise that NOW is the time to write a report on WILG to help preserve disabled peoples rights in Wales and force the Welsh Government to take the necessary steps and #SaveWILG.

David Rowlands: DavidJ.Rowlands@assembly.wales

Janet Finch Saunders: Janet.Finch-Saunders@Assembly.Wales

Mike Hedges: Mike.Hedges@assembly.wales

Rhun Ap Iopwerth: rhun.apiorwerth@assembly.wales

Neil McEvoy: Neil.McEvoy@assembly.wales

Any help and support you can give would be much appreciated. Together we can make a difference…

BBC Report: Mark Drakeford may overturn Independent Living Fund changes

The following article was published on BBC Wales News Online  and this blogger takes no credit or responsibility for anything written below.

Welsh Labour leadership candidate Mark Drakeford has told supporters he is willing to reverse changes to funding for disabled people if there is evidence they are losing out.

Councils have been put in charge of support for 1,300 former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

But research by BBC Wales found that about 100 people had care packages cut.

Mr Drakeford blamed the UK government for breaking up “that part of the welfare state”.

The money was protected until earlier this year when the Welsh Government scrapped its Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG), and passed the responsibility to councils.

The ILF was provided by the UK government until 2015, when it was transferred to English councils and devolved governments.

Research by the BBC Wales Live programme showed about 100 of the 600 recipients who have been reassessed have had care packages cut.

In response on Wednesday, the minister in charge, Huw Irranca-Davies, said he did not believe there would be any “losers” as a result of changes.

Mr Irranca-Davies has previously said he will not “rethink the policy in its entirety.”

But at a leadership campaign event in Blackwood on Thursday, Mr Drakeford said if an independent evaluation “shows the new system is not working as well as the old one then I would be prepared to reverse it because this is money intended for a very specific number of people for a very specific purpose”.

He blamed the UK government for “breaking up that part of the welfare state”, saying the ILF had “more or less disappeared” in England.

 

“I do understand that people who rely on the Independent Living Fund say to me when it was in a special grant we knew it was there and we had confidence that money would come to us,” Mr Drakeford said.

“The money is the same as it always was and most local authorities I believe are doing a decent job of continuing to hand the money on.

“But we are beginning to pick up information that in some places that is not happening and the money isn’t going to ILF recipients in the way that it would have been last year.”

Huw Irranca-Davies

 

Mr Irranca-Davies had agreed to the evaluation, he said, adding that it would be carried out by someone “who is nothing at all to do with local authorities or the Welsh Government”.

If evidence shows the payments work as well as before “then I think we should carry on with what we are doing now”, Mr Drakeford said.

“But if the evidence is the opposite – that the money isn’t reaching people for whom it is intended – then I think I will be prepared to look again and go back to the system that the recipients of ILF have had confidence in up until now.”

The promise drew applause from a small audience of supporters at the event in Blackwood where Mr Drakeford laid out plans to help the least well-off in society.

He said he would be prepared to set targets to reduce the number of children taken into care and promised he would appoint a cabinet minister responsible for housing.

Campaigner Nathan Lee Davies with Jeremy Corbyn

 

Welsh Labour’s Spring conference passed a motion supporting a campaign to reinstate the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

‘Save WILG’ has been run by Labour member Nathan Lee Davies and has had backing from Welsh Labour politicians and Welsh Labour Grassroots – the Welsh arm of the left-wing Momentum campaign group.

But the Welsh Government has pressed ahead with the transfer of the money and the responsibility to local authorities.

More on this story

 

Your Chance to Contribute to the #SaveWILG Campaign

You can donate by visiting our JustGiving Crowdfunding page. 

The election for the next leader of the Labour Party in Wales is now upon us. The candidates will aim to become the new party leader and, subsequently, the First Minister.

The Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (#SaveWILG) campaign intends to make sure the importance of Welsh Independent Living Grant is made crystal clear to all three candidates (Mark Drakeford, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan). The policy of the Labour Party in Wales is determined at the Welsh annual conference and the decision there to back the #SaveWILG campaign is one that should be honoured by the next Leader of the Labour Party in Wales.

In order to raise our concerns, over the next two months, of the campaign, we need to raise some funds.  Our target is a modest £160. We aim to raise this through donations by sympathetic political party branches and trade unions.

We are appealing to readers of this blog, who are in a position to do so, to donate £5 each. A mere thirty odd donations of a fiver would help us reach our goal and allow the immediate purchase of more campaign materials.

You can donate by visiting our JustGiving Crowdfunding page. 

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It is our intention to keep raising this issue in every possible forum, both formal and informal. The picture shows campaign supporters pressing leadership candidate Vaughan Gething on our concerns. 

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There’s No Other Way #SaveWILG

I have thought long and hard about posting this blog after an exhausting trip to Cardiff on Tuesday [June 5th] to meet with Ministers and discuss the future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

It was a very productive day, but one that resulted in much work still to be done along with a conscious effort on my behalf to review, renew and strengthen my aims and objectives for this campaign.

I had to start the day at 03:00 to venture down to Cardiff and meet the Petitions Committee at 10:00 in the Senedd. The committee are very much onside with the objective to save WILG , and Huw Irranca-Davies AM is due to give evidence in response on June 19th. Every minister on the committee is very supportive, and spent some time chatting to me, Adam and Angie following this meeting. A video of our meeting with the Petitions Committee can be viewed here. Our section on the meeting can be viewed after 1Hr 17Min.

We were full of positivity for our next meeting with the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies AM, but he spent the first fifteen minutes on the defensive and stated why the Welsh Government would be “standing firm” on their commitment to scrap WILG, and pass all responsibility for social care to local authorities. We all chipped in, but Adam Samuels was particularly effective in getting his point across, leading to HID asking Adam to ” calm down”. I don’t think Huw liked being spoken to by a confident person who was in possession of some convincing arguments about money and neo-liberalism.

HID had to leave early to support Carwyn Jones answering First Minister questions. You would have thought Carwyn was big enough to face these questions alone, #justsaying.

We were then left speaking to Gareth Griffiths, the Special Policy Advisor to HID. This was a positive and constructive conversation. We appreciated his points and vice versa. There could be areas to work towards a special compromise here, as Mr Griffiths struck a pragmatic and concilliatory tone. He advised me to send him all of the information that we have at our disposal, which shows that local authorities do not have a clear grasp on the transition process. We will also be submitting evidence of individuals who have suffered dramatic cuts in their levels of care, and the success of other schemes such as the Scottish ILF.

This was followed by positive meetings with both Mark Drakeford AM and Julie Morgan AM. Now is the time to let the information gleaned from these meetings sink in, and wait to see what happens at the Petitions Committee meeting in a couple of weeks. However, anyone who knows me will realise that I am not built to remain silent, and action must be taken immediately, in an appropriate and decisive manner.

I have been lying awake most of the night, since returning from Cardiff and it was during these frustrating hours that I discovered what we must do. All talk of compromise should be rejected. We have been running a hugely successful campaign, that has gained much momentum. Now is the time to use the soft power we have collected, in a positive manner, and keep on campaigning. It is essential that we do so, because the fight to save WILG is vital to disability rights across the UK. We owe it to our friends in England and the 1,300 recipients [though this has gone down to 1,250 according to the latest figures quoted by the Welsh Government].

The fact that i qualify for extra hours of care and support is not something that i am particularly happy about, but it is a fact that i require extra help to get the most out of my limited life. My desire for extra care is not motivated by greed at all, simply NEED. I do not need or expect to see “every penny piece” of the £27 million given to the Welsh Government to provide full Social Care to former ILF recipients. I would gladly see a fraction of this money being spent on administration so that we had a independent social worker to turn to rather than complete reliance on local authorities.

Former ILF recipients who currently receive WILG, have already been through an assessment process to prove that they have a certain level of care and support needs to be eligible for special treatment. Why should this certainty be pulled from underneath them in a cruel and callous manner? 

HID keeps saying that 400 WILG recipients have already made the transfer to direct payment, and some of these have received more hours of care. They are still at the mercy of underfunded local authorities and even though the Welsh Government promised to keep an eye on this, I cannot see this happening once the transition period has ended.

I was worrying about all of this last night. At 3.00 I woke up needing the loo. I use a bottle beside my bed that I had already filled with urine before waking up again. I struggled for 30 minutes to pick up  my full urinal, with my spasticated hands, through fear of spillage. When I finally managed to move the urinal in to position, I had already lost some of the contents of my bladder  on to the mattress. I had to remain on my wet mattress until help arrived at 9.00am. Try telling me that I don’t deserve 24 hour care, something that my own social worker told me that I would have “no chance” of getting from Wrexham Council, as “no one in Wrexham gets that amount of care”.

I should also note that I do not believe that I am in a good mental place to be going through the stresses and strains of another social care reassessment. It is totally needless and uncalled for, but it could save Wrexham Council a few pennies and we must remember that they need to find some spare cash to give the councillors another pay rise, and the latest iPads. I shouldn’t really complain.

I don’t see why we can’t protect people with high care and support needs, by noting all of the problems in this transition period and extending it indefinitely for at least 1,250 people. We should also allow this scheme to be open to others with high care and support needs, who need the guarantee of adequate support that local authorities alone just cannot provide. After bringing the campaign so far, I have certainly got no intention of cosying up to Wrexham Council. Someone has got to put their neck on the line for the sake of disabled rights in the UK, it may as well be me. I want to show the authorities up for what they really are.

I would also ask, yet again, for full access again to the consultation papers that were sent out to recipients. The Welsh Government have previously tried to fob us off with a mere summary that they have produced. This is not what we are asking for as we are only to aware that a summary document can be edited to suit the views of the Government. It does appear that the consultation was not adequately considered and that a decision to scrap WILG had been made before the consultation process even started. It also seems highly unusual that no minutes exist from the stakeholder group meetings.

I am not asking for the moon on a stick, just the chance to play the game of life on a level playing field. In turn, this would give Welsh Labour the opportunity to create some positive PR [at a time when they need it], and show that politicians can show some humility and humanity.

The fight continues …