Minister for Social Services and Public Health

Letter from Rebecca Evans AM #SaveWILG

I have just received the following letter from Rebecca Evans AM in response to the many #SaveWILG postcards she has received. I guess it shows that we have got her attention but it also underlines that we have a fight on our hands to educate the Minister on the impact of her changes.

There are so many points that I would like to bring up with the Minister after reading her letter and I am currently compiling a dossier in response, but due to limited care and support this will have to wait until later in the week. If anyone could copy this letter into a Word document to make it easier to share amongst comrades that would be great.

The fight for justice continues…

Silenced by Disability Wales

As I write this blog, I am feeling quite insulted as I have just received an email from the good people at Disability Wales who have sent me the agenda for their annual conference in Cardiff. It makes for interesting reading – not because of what it includes, but rather because of what it does not mention.

Of course, there are many important topics up for discussion with some excellent speakers – as well as Carl Sargeant AM. There is no doubt that this will be a well-organised and informative day, but to my mind there is one key issue that is missing from the agenda.

I received an email many moons ago, advising me that Disability Wales could not support my #SaveWILG campaign because of some political bias. This was disappointing and frustrating as I think that everything is political to a certain degree and I have made every effort to make my campaign about the future of independent living in Wales and beyond, rather than focusing on the failures of any political parties.

My campaign has been going really well without the support of Disability Wales. I have had my petition discussed by the Petitions Committee in the Senedd and they have agreed to the following :

  • Consider the petition further in the context of the budget announcement due later that afternoon; and in the meantime
  • Write to the Minister for Social Services and Public Health to share the concerns of the petitioner and ask:
    • whether she will publish the results of the public consultation and minutes of the stakeholder group as requested by the petitioner;
    • whether an Equality Impact Assessment of the decision was carried out and can be provided to the Committee and petitioner; and
    • for her views as to whether the planned transitional arrangements will ensure that the aims of the Social Services & Wellbeing (Wales) Act will have been put into practice by local authorities before the planned closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

This has all been achieved by me and my comrades so to be airbrushed from the main platform for disability activism in Wales is quite an insult. It is especially annoying as the reason that my campaign could not be supported by DW is so that they do not upset their funders even though my campaign is in the interests of DW members. I believe something’s are worth fighting for and I will continue fighting for my principles no matter who I disagree with.

I hope everyone enjoys the DW Conference and that the day is a success, but members should remember that they will not hear the voices of all disabled activists in Wales. If anyone who attends wants to contribute to the #SaveWILG campaign, please do get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or the Contact page.

Hello,
You are invited to the following event:

Annual Conference and AGM 19th October 2017

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Event to be held at the following time, date and location:

Thursday, 19 October 2017 from 09:30 to 15:30 (BST)

Orbit Centre
Rhydycar Business Park
CF48 1DL
United Kingdom

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During 2017, the review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living and the UN’s examination of the UK and Welsh Government regarding implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People has provided a timely focus on whether policies and provision in Wales deliver on disability rights and equality.

Furthermore, as arguments over ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ Brexit rage, what impact will it have on disabled people and following the outcome of the General Election, where does it leave the UK Government’s austerity agenda?

Disability Wales’s Annual Conference Defending our Rights: Challenging Attitudes explores these questions and issues with the assistance of a panel of expert speakers and round-table discussions.

  • Find out how Welsh Government proposes to take forward its commitment to disabled people’s rights from the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant AM
  • Hear how Access Consultant Dan Biddle challenges work place discrimination and barriers to employment
  • Learn about the EHRC’s approach to tackling discrimination faced by disabled people from Ruth Coombs, the new Head of Wales
  • Be inspired to campaign for change by leading disability rights activist Tara Flood from the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance
  • Network and exchange ideas with fellow DW members, stakeholders and supporters.
  • Be the first to preview DW’s new website as a tool for sharing information, resources and expertise on disability rights and equality

Annual Conference and AGM

Defending our Rights: Challenging Attitudes

Programme

9.30am:     Registration & Refreshments

10.15am:   Welcome and Scene Setting

                             Rhian Davies, Chief Executive

10.30am:   Personal Perspectives

Dan Biddle, Managing Director, Nationwide Access Consultants Ltd

10.45am:   Campaigning for Change

                             Tara Flood, Reclaiming our Futures Alliance

11.00am:   Regulating our Rights

                             Ruth Coombs, Head of Wales, EHRC

11.15am:   Panel Discussion

11.30am:   Break

11.45am:   Round Table Discussions

12.20pm:   Driving Forward Disability Rights

Carl Sargeant AM, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children

12.45pm:   Summary

1.00pm:     Lunch

2.00pm:     Website Launch

                             Demonstration: Promo Cymru

2.30pm:     AGM and Project Presentations      3.30pm:         Close

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We hope you can make it.

Best,
Disability Wales

Letter from Minister for Social Services and Public Health to the Chair of the Petitions Committee

David J Rowlands AM

Chair

Petitions Committee National Assembly for Wales

SeneddPetitions@assembly.wales

21 August 2017

Dear David,

Thank you for your letter seeking my views on a petition submitted to the Petitions Committee by Nathan Lee Davies in relation to the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

As Mr Davies outlines in his petition, the Welsh Government put in place in 2015 the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) with local authorities to enable them to maintain payments to recipients in Wales of the Independent Living Fund (ILF). This was following the closure at that time of the ILF by the UK Government. We introduced this grant to ensure continuity of support in the short-term for recipients. This was to help them meet the additional costs of living independently in the community in a similar manner to the financial support they received from the ILF. This arrangement was to provide time for us to consider the most appropriate way to provide support to recipients in the longer-term, so as continue their ability to live independently.

As Mr Davies indicates, to assist with our consideration of what that longer-term support should be a stakeholder advisory group had been established. This had representation from the organisations which represent and act for disabled people in Wales (such as Disability Wales and the Dewis Centre for Independent Living), representation from local authorities and some recipients themselves. The majority of the representatives on the advisory group were, as Mr Davies says, from the third sector or had themselves received payments from the ILF. This was because we wanted advice from those who fully appreciated the outcomes disabled people seek and what they required from the arrangements we were to put in place to support their independent living.

The advisory group considered a number of potential options to provide support in future to those who used to receive payments from the ILF. These ranged from perpetuating the WILG indefinitely, or for a set period of time, to establishing similar arrangements in Wales to that of the ILF outside of local authorities’ provision, to having support provided in future through local authorities’ social care. The advisory group considered the advantages and disadvantages of each option in terms of its effectiveness to support former recipients and its fit with supporting the larger group of disabled people in Wales who had been excluded by the UK Government from receiving support from the ILF (as it had in 2010 closed the ILF to new entrants).

I am not sure why Mr Davies thinks the advisory group wished to keep the WILG. On the contrary, overall it accepted that the arrangements we had put in place through the WILG could only ever be temporary while a longer-term solution was found. After considering the potential options in the light of the issues I set out above, the advisory group on balance favoured the option of future support being provided by local authorities as part of their social care provision. None of the members of the advisory group opposed this recommendation.

The advisory group favoured this option as it matched the future support former recipients would receive with that being provided generally to disabled and older people in Wales. This is through our new person-centred ethos for social care being delivered through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. The Act came into effect from April last year and changes the way people’s needs are assessed and the way support is delivered. People now have more of a say in the well-being outcomes they wish to achieve and the care and support they require to deliver those outcomes. This is similar to the ethos behind the original establishment of the ILF. The Act also contains stronger powers to keep people safe from abuse and neglect.

The advisory group also saw this option as the way forward as it removed the inequitable two-tier approach which currently exists to supporting disabled people in Wales, with some receiving only support from their local authority, while others can receive this as well as dedicated payments from the WILG.

It is also important to note that prior to the advisory group’s considerations we undertook a public consultation on a number of possible options to provide support in future. While it is true that the majority of those who responded favoured arrangements in Wales similar to those of the ILF, this was not the option favoured by all recipients who responded. Indeed the vast majority of recipients did not respond to the consultation at all. Nevertheless, my officials did contact those in the Scottish Government to establish the basis of the dedicated support arrangements for former ILF recipients in Scotland and the possibility of those arrangements being extended to Wales.

While ILF Scotland could administer and make payments on behalf of the Welsh Government, it became clear it would not be in a position to do this for a considerable period of time. In addition, it required significant set-up and operating funding to administer our payments, totalling in the first year of operation well over £1 million with annual operating funding in excess of £0.750 million. Such funding would have needed to be top-sliced from the overall funding available to support former recipients in Wales, thereby substantially reducing the funding available for their support itself. On this basis we did not believe that these arrangements would be acceptable given the reduction in support to which it would lead, or that they provided good value for money. Overall the advisory group shared this view and was keen that already limited funds were not used disproportionately on establishing and maintaining separate arrangements to provide support.

Consequently, I accepted the stakeholder advisory group’s advice to have support to former ILF recipients in Wales provided in future by local authorities as part of their social care provision. To put this into place the advisory group also recommended that there should be a two year transitional period, whereby in the first year authorities establish all recipients’ desired well-being outcomes and agree with them the support they require to achieve these. In the second year recipients would transfer over to receiving all of their support from their local authority, with their payments under the WILG ceasing at the point at which this occurred. I also accepted this recommendation in full, with as a result the transitional period commencing from 1 April this year and due to conclude on 31 March 2019.

Clearly those who wished to see a different option chosen will be disappointed with the decision taken. However, that decision did not ignore the advice of the representatives of disabled people in Wales on the stakeholder advisory group but was fully in accordance with it.

Yours sincerely,

Rebecca Evans AC/AM

Gweinidog Iechyd y Cyhoedd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Minister for Social Services and Public Health

 

Letter from Rebecca Evans AM

Yesterday I received an email from Ian Lucas MP who shared the response to his letter to Rebecca Evans AM about my WILG campaign.  His letter can be read here.  The response he received can be read below and it is most disappointing.

Instead of being disheartened by this response, it has given me and my comrades extra impetus for the fight ahead.  There are so many points that Evans has made here that are just quite simply unfair and discriminatory.  It is time to ramp up the pressure on Evans and her cronies in Cardiff.  We can not stand by and let this happen in 21st century Britain.

I am overwhelmed with the support I am getting from the north Wales public and this is really appreciated as it gives me the strength to carry on with the fight for all WILG recipients – the majority of who I are not even aware that this fight is going on.

I could write pages in response to this letter, but I do not have the time at the moment.  My time is better spent on the struggle to achieve liberty and justice for the disabled community.

Here is the letter from Rebecca Evans AM:

25 August 2017

Dear Ian,

Thank you for your letter on behalf of your constituent, Nathan Lee Davies regarding the decision to provide support in future to former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) through local authorities’ social care.

Following the closure of the ILF in 2015 by the UK Government, we put in place interim arrangements with local authorities to ensure continuity of support for former recipients in Wales through our Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). This has worked well and I understand Mr Davies has been receiving payments from Wrexham County Borough Council under this to continue to help him meet the costs of living independently.

These arrangements were put in place while we considered how support in the longer term should be provided. To assist with that consideration a stakeholder advisory group was established. This had representation from the organisations which represent and act for disabled people in Wales (such as Disability Wales and the Dewis Centre for Independent Living), representation from local authorities and some recipients themselves.

The advisory group considered a number of potential options to provide future support. These ranged from perpetuating the WILG indefinitely or for a set period of time, to establishing similar arrangements in Wales to that of the ILF outside of local authorities’ provision. The advisory group considered the advantages and disadvantages of each option in terms of its effectiveness to support former recipients and its fit with supporting the larger group of disabled people in Wales who had been excluded by the UK Government from receiving support from the ILF following its closure to new entrants in 2010.

In light of these issues the advisory group on balance favoured the option of future support being provided by local authorities as part of their social care provision. It did so because this option matched the future support former recipients would receive with that being provided generally to disabled and older people in Wales. This is in keeping with our person-centred ethos for social care being delivered through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. This is similar to the ethos behind the original establishment of the ILF.

The advisory group also saw this option as the way forward as it removed the inequitable two-tier approach which currently exists to supporting disabled people in Wales, with some receiving only support from their local authority while others can receive this as well as dedicated payments from the WILG.

I accepted the stakeholder advisory group’s advice in full. I appreciate that Mr Davies and others who wished to see a different option chosen will be disappointed with the decision taken and will be apprehensive about the future. However, to ensure a smooth transition in recipients’ support, all local authorities were issued with detailed guidance. This covered how authorities were to prepare and undertake the care assessments necessary to identify what recipients need to continue to live independently. It also covered the resultant agreement of the future care package a person required and provided clear advice that a person’s payments under the WILG should not cease until that care package was in place.

As part of our monitoring of local authorities’ preparations for this transition, all authorities have recently confirmed that they have plans in place to implement this change, with the majority having commenced their care assessments. In a small number of cases recipients have already had these, agreed a future care package and have transferred to receiving their support from their local authority. Most authorities are, therefore, confident of completing the care assessments they need to undertake in 2017-18.

In the case of Wrexham I understand it has a plan in place to implement this change and that care assessments have begun. I am aware, however, that completion of this to time is dependent on the authority creating additional social worker capacity. I understand the authority has secured funding but has yet to fill vacancies. In view of this, officials are maintaining a watching brief on the situation.

In view of Mr Davies’ and your concerns I am happy to meet with both of you, and one or two other recipients, to discuss the implementation of this change further, although I do not intend to revisit the decision for the reasons outlined above. Would you please arrange for your office to contact my Diary Secretary, to agree a mutually convenient date for this. His contact details are:

Tel No. 03000 259461

E-mail: DS.MinSSandPH@gov.wales

Rebecca Evans AC/AM

Gweinidog Iechyd y Cyhoedd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Minister for Social Services and Public Health