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BBC Report: Wales disability support cuts: Care to be re-assessed in July #SaveWILG

Elderly man in wheelchair

Re-assessments of severely disabled people unhappy with their care packages will not begin before July.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant has ended with councils funding care for more than 1,000 people receiving it.

In February, the Welsh Government announced anyone unhappy with their new council care package would be offered independent re-assessments.

Plaid Cymru said the wait was “way too long”. The Welsh Government has been asked to respond to the criticism.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the Welsh Government told BBC Wales it has set aside up to £60,000 to pay an independent organisation to do the reassessments.

It anticipates the contract will be awarded by the end of June and re-assessments will begin in July.

£2.4m per year has also been budgeted, “for planning purposes”, to cover the potential costs of any increased packages.

157 people out of 1,174 assessed by their councils by the end of last year had had their support reduced.

There have been big regional variations, with cuts most common in Wrexham, Newport and Ceredigion.

Julie Morgan

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

In a letter to ex-WILG recipients, Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan said their “patience” would be appreciated.

“I do not want people to be waiting for an independent assessment,” she said.

“However, it is important to organise these independent assessments properly, so that they meet the required standards.”

Plaid Cymru’s social justice spokeswoman Leanne Wood questioned whether the reassessments were necessary.

“Initially many of these people were given an award for life and going through a reassessment process is extremely stressful,” she said.

“Particularly if you have a condition that everybody knows is not going to improve, it’s only going to deteriorate.

“So putting people through those reassessments is potentially problematic but at the same time this does need to be resolved quickly.”

‘Irresponsible’

Nathan Davies, a Labour member and founder of the Save WILG campaign, said the wait was “inconvenient” but criticised the previous Welsh Labour Government, led by Carwyn Jones, which made the initial decision to transfer the responsibility to councils.

“The fact that they [the current Welsh Government] are having to do this work now is because the previous neo-liberal regime did not listen to our campaign team and disregarded the evidence that we presented.

“The fact that we are having to endure an uncomfortable few months is totally down to them and a number of irresponsible local authorities.”

You can see more on this story on the BBC Wales Live programme at 22:30 BST on Wednesday BBC One Wales, and then on BBC iPlayer

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.

Some Party leaders come to Wrexham for Election Debate

On Wednesday 30 March I attended the FSB Welsh Leaders’ Debate at the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr University. I have a rather exciting story to share from the evening, but I don’t want to share it at the moment because I do not want to give away my political allegiances before the hustings that I have arranged with Sheila Meadows OBE at the end of the month.

Until then, here is the story of the evening as taken from Wrexham.com

 

With the Federation of Small Business hosting the event at Wrexham Glyndwr University the debate itself was a businesslike affair.

First Minster Carwyn Jones was subbed by Edwina Hart AM, with Mr Jones having understandable business regarding Tata Steel. Mark Reckless of Rochester and Strood fame stood in for UKIP’s Nathan Gill, with the other parties having their leadership lining up as promised – Andrew Davies from the Conservatives, Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats and Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru.

Wrexham.com did offer to film and live stream the event, however organisers have said BBC Radio Wales will be ‘carrying the event’ in some form, so we will provide a link if/when we spot it, for now there is a summary of some of the points made and a few observations of the evening.

( UPDATE there is a 30 minute edit that you can listen to online, or download an MP3 of on the BBC website here )

The debate was fast paced crammed into an hour with topics focused on Welsh business and related subjects.

The initial question that dominated the first quarter of the discussions centred around the news over Tata Steel looking to dispose of their assets in the UK (More coverage on this can be found on Deeside.com, with the obvious Shotton interest).

The responses from the panel were along party lines nationally through today, with Labour stating it was not just a Welsh Government issue but global due to ‘dumping’ from China with a wish that the issue will ‘rise above politics’. Edwina Hart said she wanted to see a ‘fit for purpose’ steel industry in the UK as regardless of Tata or state owner it is making £1m per day claimed losses.

In a conciliatory tone the Conservative leader stated it was ‘vital’ that both the Welsh and UK Governments worked together, and that they were not against a ‘stake’ being taking in the business for a short while if it was so required. A ‘tit for tat tariff war’ was warned against, with a refusal of Chinese steel being linked to possible knock on effects to other demand such as Airbus planes.

UKIP cited the lack of protection from the EU over ‘dumping’, with Mr Reckless wanting the UK to stand alone to enable ‘anti dumping tariffs’. EU rules over clean energy were noted with new coal power plants being on UKIP’s agenda if the referendum votes ‘out’.

The Liberal Democrats echoed other views of steel being an ‘industry of national strategic importance’, explaining that Shotton appears to be the only profitable part of the Tata UK operation and concern over the lack of clarity to its future. Referring to the banking bail outs, Kirsty Williams said “We need to put our money where our mouth is” to similarly bail out the steel industry, saying governments spend money on things ‘a lot worse’ than saving jobs.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru introduced a political fight, challenging Labour’s record saying manufacturing had ‘not been a priority for years’, pointing out that the Conservatives had been lobbying for China to be granted market economy status – a move that would it is claimed have severe impact on the competitiveness of the UK steel industry. UKIP also had their nose tweaked as their EU argument was skewered with it pointed out regardless if the UK was in or out, there is still a Conservative Government in Westminster so the policy on China would not change.

Another question was asked over divides in spending, with the implication the M4 corridor in South Wales and Deeside get a bigger bite at the proverbial cherry than other areas. The M4 is currently due to get a £1 billion upgrade, with a controversial relief road being much debated. The various black and blue versions of routes were mentioned several times leaving a debate in North Wales with a question over a southern focus bruised.

All parties noted issues with the A55, with electrification of the North Wales mainline or associated transport link improvements also being seen as important by all. The dividing lines were drawn over the implementation of spending, with UKIP looking to develop links with the so called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in a geographically imprecise area.

Edwina Hart challenged the view on the south getting a better deal than the north, saying that us here in the north get more per head spent on transport than the south. Looking at Andrew Davies, she also pointed out that the limits to cash available are due to the Conservative party in Westminster.

Kirsty Williams said there ‘was life outside of Cardiff and Newport’ and favoured a balanced regional approach, explaining how she was from mid-wales and therefore knows how it feels to be ‘not listened to’ by Cardiff. Leanne Wood went a step further saying Plaid Cymru would entrench fairness in spending into law to ensure there could be no geographical bias.

Wrexham.com has covered the mystery over the ‘deal’ for North Wales, and with the Chancellor George Osbourne putting it on par with a £1 billion city deal for Cardiff (signed and sealed) it did seem odd there was no mention of it. Andrew Davies reiterated that a strong economy was required for growth, and echoed UKIP’s view to ‘plug in’ to the Northern Powerhouse, explaining how he sees more east-west connections rather north-south.

With only twenty minutes remaining the last two questions about inward investment, tax reform, business rates and business support were answered in an often tangential manner.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru explained plans for Welsh Government to take equity stakes in new startups rather than straight grants, a system that would share the risk and reward.

Mark Reckless from UKIP said it was a ‘disgrace’ that the Severn Bridge tolls were to be kept under Conservative plans, with Andrew Davies from the Conservatives responding to abolish them would cost £15-20m and increase road use by 25%.

Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats made the only mention of tourism, saying she welcomed more visitors and encouraged more to be done to promote Wales.

Edwina Hart from Labour spoke of her positive experiences of visiting classrooms and seeing entrepreneurial spirit from children however pondered when it was ‘knocked out of them’.

No large scale reforms of the business rates systems were proposed, with various tapers and reliefs being put forward by all to help business. Kirsty Williams did give a warning that any wholesale changes would need to be ‘very careful’ as her locality does not collect much in rates but gets much more benefit, and devolving collection and control to local authorities could exacerbate any finance gaps.

In what was quite a tranquil debate the only audience applause (and a whoop) occurred when Edwina Hart suggested that Andrew Davies’ Conservative Party could make large global corporates pay tax, presumably referring to the likes of Facebook and similar who paid £4,327 in corporation tax in the UK in 2014 despite making $2.9bn profit globally.

Mr Davies replied that more had been collected under the Conservatives recently than under the whole of the previous Labour Government, a similar applause then took place.

The event went well, with the BBC Wales host Brian Meechan conducting his work with a subtle touch, however after the meeting there was mutterings on the small scale of the event and inability to get tickets. One told us they had many interested friends who were unable to attend, with them disappointed the audience appeared ‘packed’ with ‘political types’ – we did spot a couple of candidates for various positions and members of their entourages sitting in.

There was a video link in place to Swansea, with one question posed via the connection, one wag after the meeting said: “We have a meeting about North Wales in North Wales and still South Wales gets focus”, although for those unaware of the M4 routes it would have been an educational experience.