Minister for Children Older People and Social Care

Petitions Committee Actions #SaveWILG

Below I have copied part of the minutes from the Petitions Committee who met on Tuesday at the Senedd.

People are saying that Theresa May is running out of time to get a Brexit deal through Parliament.  They would be right.  However, it is also important to remember that WILG is due to close on March 31st 2019, so this is why it is so important for us to keep up the pressure now.   The Petition Committee have been talking about the closure of WILG since October 2017 and it is important that they now move towards writing a report, that will hopefully put the Welsh Government under even more pressure to act in a positive way and #SaveWILG.

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P-05-771 Reconsider the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant and support disabled people to live independently

Supporting documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered correspondence from the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care together with further comments from the petitioner and agreed to:

  • produce a summary of the evidence received, with a view to preparing a report or a detailed letter to the Minister setting out the evidence received and the Committee’s conclusions or recommendations; and
  • request a copy of the results of the deep dive review of all cases where there is an intention to reduce the local authority’s direct support for recipients of the WILG, and details of any actions that the Welsh Government will be taking as a result of this.

Response to Letter from Huw Irranca-Davies to the Chair of the Petitions Committee #SaveWILG

Below you can find my response to Mr David Rowlands – Chair of the Senedd Petitions Committee – in answer to the previous letter from the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies.

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3rd December 2018

Dear Mr Rowlands,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to the letter you received from the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care regarding the planned closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

For this letter I have decided to list my responses to the Minister’s letter in an easy-to-read, bullet point format. This will allow the Committee time to access the key points against the weak arguments put forward by the Minister and the Welsh Government.

Without further ado, I will begin listing the reasons for which we strongly disagree with the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care.

The Minister begins his letter by stating that the purpose of the changes to Social Care are to end the “two-tier arrangement” that currently exists in order to provide a level playing field to all disabled people. The Minister is referring to a two-tier system that the Welsh Government chose to perpetuate. Meanwhile, during the consultation process ahead of the introduction of WILG, there were a number of other options on the table.  Option 4 proposed opening up the WILG for new applicants. This option was never fully investigated by the Welsh Government who seem averse to investing in people.

    The #SaveWILG campaign fully supports equality across the board and it is a bizarre argument that says essential support should be jeopardised to give equal treatment to all. What is actually happening is an EQUALISATION DOWNWARD, however subtle and however long it takes to materialise. We cannot just sit back and let this happen.

    It is not AND never has been an excuse not to do something because it is “difficult to unpick”. It would ONLY create “turmoil” if the Welsh Government handled it badly. It does not inspire confidence to witness such a lack of self-belief by our elected representatives. Of course, the obvious point is that there is mass turmoil NOW precisely BECAUSE of what the Welsh Government are doing. I’m afraid that those in power will have to put in the hours to make up for their initial mistakes against the warnings from disabled people and their families.

    In his letter, the Minister tries to blind the Committee with statistics. I prefer to concentrate on the human aspect and the number of emails that the #SaveWILG campaign receives regularly. These confidential messages are often found with tales of struggle, depression and desperation. On paper it is easy to ignore the negative effects of policies, but in the real world those that are directly affected deserve to be listened to. A large majority of struggling recipients do not have the ability to speak out against the Government in the way that I have done. Furthermore, many recipients are too afraid of the consequences of criticising Councils that have so much control over their lives.  This was why arrangements under the ILF provided a safety net for disabled people: because assessments were carried out by independent Social Workers, who could not be manipulated by local authorities.

    We are told that the Minister has instructed local authorities to perform a “deep dive” into the WILG transition. How can we begin to trust the findings of local authorities when they are under such immense pressure to cut costs due to a lack of funding from Central Government? Disabled people must be protected in the face of these cuts and not be seen as an easy group to exploit.

    I fully believe that the Welsh Government have a responsibility to support disabled people and should work with them instead of pointing them towards cash-strapped local authorities, many of whom do not have an adequate complaints procedure in place.

    The Minister and his team have repeatedly told us this is not about money. However, when we say that the Government should open WILG to all disabled people, they repeatedly say they can’t afford it. So, it is about money, then?

    This situation has arisen because of the heartless closure of the ILF by the UK Government but the current mistakes confusion, mess and inconsistencies proves that the Welsh Government are heading in the wrong direction.  Disabled people with high care and support needs are the ones paying the price for these errors.

    At no point do we see the Minister or the Welsh Government acknowledging that MOST WILG recipients are not able to contribute on a level playing field to any consultation. There seems to be a complete – I am sure unconscious – lack of understanding about this. People are not machines that fit neatly into box-ticking exercises.

    Informing us of the huge delays already, shows that the turmoil, and lack of a competent working system, already exists. Hence the need to make sure long-term that those who need this support most, do not have to worry about this kind of upheaval on a yearly basis.

    THE most important thing is the healthcare & support for recipients. Many do not have the luxury of time to be fighting this full-throttle. Let me be clear though, there are plenty of us fortunate enough not to be in their position who will never give up or shut up about this.

    QUESTION FOR COMMITTEE MEMBERS: When do we expect to get the full, published, unedited or un-amended report from the review? 

    Thank you very much indeed for facilitating this process. I am grateful to you and everyone at the Petitions Committee for taking the time to listen and consider our strong arguments.

    Yours in hope,

    Nathan Lee Davies

    #SaveWILG campaign

    Letter from David J Rowlands, AM #SaveWILG

    Below I have copied a letter from David J Rowlands, AM, Chair of the Petitions Committee. That should be of interest to all WILG recipients and their families. 
     

     8 August 2018 

     

    Dear colleague, 

     Petition P-05-771 Reconsider the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant and support disabled people to live independently  

    The Petitions Committee is considering the following petition, which was received from Nathan Lee Davies having collected 631 signatures: 

     I am a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019.  

    The WILG was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015. More  than 1,500 people are helped by the scheme across Wales. Recipients all  have high degree of care and support needs. 

    It was due to run until the end of March 2017, but Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans said in November that funding would continue for another year. 

     The annual £27m fund will then transfer directly to local authorities during 2018-19 so they can meet the support needs of all former ILF recipients by 31 March 2019. 

     Additional information: 

    Why we oppose this decision: 

     The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens. But they didn’t want WILG scrapped and the key point is that our advice was not accepted. 

     It should also be remembered that closure of WILG is not inevitable as is proved through the formation and success of the Scottish Independent Living Fund; which also works to support the Northern Ireland ILF. 

     Furthermore, the hugely popular Labour Party Manifesto outlined plans to set up a national care system to exist independently of local authorities. 

     This is exactly the time that the Labour Party should be united on such issues against the Tories. We must question why Welsh Labour are not playing their part in the changing political landscape? 

     Indeed, eventually it should be our aim to set up an Independent Living Fund for Wales so that no disabled person should have to suffer the same uncertainty and isolation as WILG recipients are now experiencing. We can only begin to believe that true social justice and equality for all is possible if Welsh Labour revisit their WILG decision. 

     Welsh Labour will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed. However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success – with no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure. 

     Most recently, the Committee held evidence sessions with the petitioner and the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care. Details of all the evidence received to date can be found here: http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=19785&Opt=3 

     The Committee has agreed to seek the views of others who may have a perspective on the petition and the decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant from March 2019. 

     We would therefore be extremely grateful to receive any views you have in relation to the following issues (or any other matters which you feel are relevant): 

    • The Welsh Government’s decision to transfer funding for the Welsh Independent Living Grant to local authorities. 
    • The potential benefits or problems which may arise from supporting WILG recipients through local authority social care provision in the future. 
    • The current transition process, including assessment by local authorities, and any feedback from WILG recipients. 
    • If you (or your organisation) was involved in the work of the ILF stakeholder advisory group, your experience of this process and the extent to which the group’s deliberations and final recommendation reflected the views of members. 
    • Any alternative approaches that you believe should have been taken by the Welsh Government, or any changes which should be made at this stage. 
    • Any other views or comments that you have in relation to the petition. 

    I would be grateful if you could provide any response which you wish to make by e-mail to the clerking team at SeneddPetitions@assembly.walesif possible by Friday 14 September 2018. 

    Please feel free to share this letter with others who you feel would have views to share on any of the above. 

    Responses are typically published as part of our Committee papers and will be discussed at a future Committee meeting. 

     Yours sincerely 

     David J Rowlands AM Chair 

     

     

    Closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant: In the cause of equality of provision for disabled people? #SaveWILG

    The following article was written by Ann James and Luke Clements. It appears on their superbly informative website which can be viewed here.

    We would like to thank Ann and Luke for their research and work in putting together such a comprehensive report.

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    Local authorities in Wales are rushing to meet the new September deadline, set by the
    Minister for Health, for the re-assessment of the 1,300 or more recipients of the Welsh
    Independent Living Grant (WILG). In November 2016 the Welsh Government (following in the footsteps of the English Government) announced the closure of the WILG.

    The transfer of care and support of all recipients to local authority provision has been
    contentious and has left many recipients anxious and fearful that their right to Independent Living will be eroded by this decision. A strident campaign has been launched by recipients of the WILG (and the previous Independent Living Fund (ILF)) and their families and supporters under the campaign banner of #SWILG.

    Closure of the Wales Independent Living Grant

    The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was established by the Department of Health and
    Social Security in 1988 as an independent trust to provide a weekly payment to a
    small number of severely disabled people who would have suffered very significant
    financial loss as a result of the abolition of supplementary benefits ‘additional
    requirements’ payments in that year.4 It is however thought that about one million
    disabled people experienced considerable losses as a result of the 1988 changes.

    The ILF existed in various forms until it was closed by the Department for Works and
    Pensions to new applications in December 2010,  at which time it was providing support
    to 46,000 people with complex needs to live in the in the community.7 At that time the UK
    Government argued that it was an unsustainable cost; that it perpetuated an unfair funding of services to disabled people; that distribution of ILF was inconsistent across the four nations and within the four nations; and that the advent of direct payments and individual budgets in England obviated the need for ILF.8 The ILF closed in June 2015 and the funding was devolved to English local authorities and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments

    The WILG was set up in 2015 following a consultation exercise and gave the Welsh
    Government a period of moratorium to decide on how to proceed
    .
    The options before the Minister were:

    • the extension of current arrangements;
    • an arrangement with a third party to continue to provide payments to recipients in
    Wales, and;
    • to transfer the responsibility and funding to local authorities in Wales over a two-year
    transitional period so as to eventually provide support through nIn November 2016, it was announced that the WILG would close in March 2019 and that all recipients would be assessed by their Local Authority for care and support under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act (SSWBA) 2014 by March 2018. The March deadline was extended to–September 2018 to enable local authorities to complete their assessments of WILG recipients.

    The #SaveWILG campaigning group led by Nathan Davies continue to fight a vigorous campaign to persuade Welsh Government to retain the WILG and grow the provision in a similar fashion to Scotland.

    The Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out in advance of the closure decision in Wales conveys a Panglossian view, that is to say an overly optimistic view of what the 2014 Act will deliver following the closure of the WILG in 2019.  It also fails to acknowledge and consider the potential adverse effect on individuals who may have significant changes to provision and how this will be addressed to ensure the recipients right to Independent Living.

    The rational for the closure of the WILG is in keeping with the UK Government’s arguments for the closure of the ILF. Welsh Government argues that:

    • the continuation of the WILG will perpetuate a ‘two tier’ system of provision and that this is unfair on those who receive care and support solely through their local authority.
    • the cost of maintaining a Welsh version of the Independent Living Fund is financially unsustainable as money devolved to Wales from the UK Government’s closure does not have the capacity to respond to future need of recipients nor allow for the opening of the WILG to new applicants.
    • the SSWBA 2014 and Direct Payment provision will enable and support independent living and that the need for a discrete fund is not required.

     

    Transition from the WILG to local authority provision: are there messages from England?

    The analysis and studies of the impact of the closure on ILF in England are bound to give concern to WILG recipients in Wales. The Shakespeare and Porter 2016 study, which focused on the impact of the transition from ILF to local authority support, found high levels of concern and anxiety about Local Authority processes and provision during this period. The Department of Work and Pensions Post-Closure Review,found both positive and negative experiences of the transition. Those who had retained their provision or had an increase in provision or a slight reduction reported satisfaction without any loss to their independence. For those who had experienced a significant reduction there was a loss of independence, greater restrictions to their independence and an increased reliance on unpaid carers. There was also a concomitant impact on the emotional and physical health of these participants.

    An emerging theme from the research and reviews is the post-code lottery faced by previous recipients of ILF. The finding in Inclusion London’s  review confirmed this factor and found in addition inconsistent practice in relation to NHS Continuing Health Care (NHS CHC) referrals for funding and failings in the implementation of the Care Act 2014 which left services users without essential provision.

    Many disabled people who will be transiting from the WILG will be legally eligible for NHS CHC funding or at least NHS joint funding. In addition to the well-documented procedural hurdles they encounter in obtaining this support, in Wales a more troubling challenge exists.  The Welsh Government has made it clear that it will not permit direct payments to be made for people eligible for NHS CHC (unlike in England such payments can be made.  Many LHBs appear reluctant to facilitate direct payments via a trust arrangement (often referred to as an Independent User Trust (IUT)) even though the High Court has held this to be lawful (indeed necessary in certain situations).

    Anecdotally it is also reported that LHBs are placing obstacles in direct payments being made where there is a joint funding arrangement even though the Framework guidance makes it clear that where ‘an individual has existing Direct Payment arrangements, these should continue wherever and for as long as possible within a tailored joint package of care’.

     

    Concluding Comments

    About 1,300 people will transfer from the WILG to local authority care and support under the SSWBA 2014 by March 2019. Many of the recipients and their carers are concerned that their right to Independent Living will be compromised as local authorities re-assess and establish their eligibility to services.

    The R (CWR) v Flintshire County Council (2018) Case Note illustrates the challenges that a disabled person and his/her family can face in Wales as they seek to access care and support. This case note does however, highlight the statutory requirements for a comprehensive assessment of disabled people in need of care and support and their carers. It demonstrates too, that assessments undertaken in a cavalier manner can be challenged and local authorities held accountable for their assessment, determination of eligibility and care provision. This may provide some reassurance to WILG recipients although it is perhaps questionable how many will have the energy, knowledge and courage to pursue this option.

    While the term ‘well-being’ may be used in a perfunctory manner in discussion about social care, the definition in section 2 SSWBA 2014 is comprehensive and includes control over day to day life (s.2(4) (a)) and participation in work (s.2(4)(b)).

    Clements notes that section 6(3)(b) stresses ‘the importance of promoting the adult’s independence where possible’ and argues that this is amplified and bolstered by para 56 of the Part 2 Code of Practice (General Function) which states that the well-being duty ‘includes key aspects of independent living as expressed in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People in particular Article 19 which recognizes the right of disabled people to ‘full inclusion and participation in the community’; to choose where they live and with whom they live; and to have access to a range of community support services ‘to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community’. Assessment, eligibility determinations and decisions on how to meet need will need to be infused by these principles.

    R (JF) v. Merton LBC highlighted the requirement for an assessment to have regard to the dimensions of well-being set out in stature.

    A comprehensive overview of assessment, eligibility and meeting needs can be found at www.lukeclements.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Wales-SS-Well-being-Act-26.pdf page 9.

    This ‘post’, written by Ann James and Luke Clements, appears in Rhydian: Wales Social Welfare Law on-line (2018) 23-26: to access this click here.

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    Postcard Campaign Continues… #SaveWILG

    It is time to breathe new life into our #SaveWILG postcard campaign. We already have hundreds of photos and would like to reach out across Britain to ask people to show their solidarity by posing with one of our postcard which can then be posted to the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies.

    It is essential that we keep up the pressure and show the Minister the depth of support that we have on this matter. I have added some photos that we took at the Caia Park Environmental Group Fun Day in Wrexham on June 9th.

    These provide good examples of the type of photographs we would like. All you need to do is contact me to request a card and I can make sure you get one. All our cards include a message to Huw Irranca-Davies on the reverse and once you have taken photographs then you can pop a second class stamp on them and post it to the Minister. 

    Many thanks for your support 🙂

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