Northern Ireland

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


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.”

Falling Apart at the Seams

 Loads of things to let you know, but so little time.

First of all a little self promotion, as the following paragraph is from Ian Lucas MP’s monthly CLP report:

I have been working alongside Nathan Davies, a party member here in Wrexham, over the changes the Government has made to the Independent Living Fund. The debate included MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England as well as Welsh Labour colleagues Susan Elan Jones and Jessica Morden, and it was notable that each part of England criticised the changes the UK Government has made to the administration of the successor to ILF. I was able to pay tribute to the work Nathan has been doing – and to highlight his front page appearance in the Leader that morning. I was not particularly impressed with the Minister’s response, although I will take her up on her offer to meet to discuss my concerns. 

The following video accompanies this text:

Independent Living Debate with Ian Lucas

I think we have established how brilliant I am, but this awesome individual is also struggling at the moment with the effects of Friedrich’s Ataxia. This cruel disease is progressing quickly and really starting to affect my swallowing and speech. I have particular problems before food as I am regularly coughing and choking uncontrollably on my own saliva as I anticipate my food.

Another problem is with my speech. I am afraid that I am beginning to slur more than I use to and I just cant bear listening to myself on TV or radio as the voice that I hear is not the one that I hear in my head when speaking. I really should do something about both problems, but as I am so busy trying to save WILG, I am letting my health slide.

Earlier this week, I received a phone call from the local hospital asking me to come in for a camera down my throat following discussion with my GP about my difficulties choking. I chose to decline there kind offer as I am so busy with other things and cannot afford to lose my voice or become ill at the moment.

I received a newsletter from Ataxia UK today informing me of a speech and language therapy course that they are running in association with the University of Stirling. The second are all taking place through Skype so they are open to everyone. I really should take part and I would like to if only I had the luxury of time to spend looking after myself. The Tories and Wrexham council are ensuring that this is just not possible at the moment.

1Study Advert, Version 4.0, 05 January 2018

Speech Therapy Treatment Study for Friedreich’s Ataxia

Communication problems are a frequent consequence of ataxia. Many people report a decrease in quality of life as they can impact on our social relationships, employment opportunities, etc. Yet there currently is no effective treatment for speech problems that has been properly evaluated, and there is uncertainty amongst clinicians on how best to support people with ataxia with their communication.

We are looking for participants for a study investigating a new treatment approach for speech problems. There is good evidence that this approach is effective for Parkinson’s Disease and we  want to find out whether it can also help those with ataxia. This study is funded by Ataxia UK and aCHaf and carried out by researchers at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

The treatment will be administered via Skype in your home and there is no need to attend a clinic. It will run for 8 weeks, with two therapy sessions per week and homework practice for the other days. A typical LSVT therapy session will involve practising a good voice production on a series of long ‘ahhhs’ focusing on controlling the loudness of your voice, as well as the pitch. We will then try and transfer these skills to speaking by reading out individual words and functional phrases, working our way up to longer stretches of speech over the course of therapy. As treatment will be carried out in English, it is important that you have Basic English speaking and reading skills. This protocol of activities will be the same for each session, but the materials will increase in complexity. Homework exercises will follow a similar protocol to the therapy sessions and will take about 30 minutes. Ideally, we would like you to practise at least another four times during the week.

We will measure how much your speech has changed after treatment, and also ask you what youthought of the therapy approach. To do this, we will perform two short assessments before and two after treatment, and also do an interview. This will again be done via Skype. Altogether, the study will take about 6 months.

To be able to take part, you need to fulfil the following criteria:
􀁸 Have a confirmed diagnosis of Friedreich’s Ataxia
􀁸 Experience speech or voice problems
􀁸 Not have any other neurological or speech problems
􀁸 Be aged 16 or over
􀁸 Have access to the necessary technology (good internet connection, access to a computer

that allows you to use Skype and has a functional microphone input)
􀁸 Have Basic English speaking and reading skills

If you are interested in participating, please get in touch with us by phone or email and we will give you more detailed information. Please contact:

Aisling Egan
Speech and Language Therapy Unit
School of Psychological Sciences and Health
Strathclyde University
Tel: 0141 548 4393

I should probably email Aisling to find out more information.

I cannot end this blog without mentioning the two events that have on this week.  The first of which is a #SaveWILG Art exhibition at Theatr Clwyd in Mold, north Wales. This event runs from January 24th to February 12th and includes art, poetry and pictures from a wide range of disability activists and artists. The official media day for this is on February 2nd. I am very proud of what we have put together in such a short space of time.

A leaflet for the Theatr Clwyd event has also been produced by Heather Wilson.


SaveWILGSideB2 copy

Our North-East Wales WLG/M comrades are centrally involved in organising this great event. It will be a fantastic occasion, but we need to get as many people there as possible! This is a day of entertainment and information. There is alcohol, soft drinks and food on sale at the venue and there is full Disabled access and a Disabled toilet.  The least we hope anyone can do is promote this event by sharing the flyer and printing it off and putting around your area, disability groups, CLPs etc etc. Raising awareness of the event is crucial to the campaign’s success!The event is FREE to all. Please do help in any way you can.



Austerity policies have created a “human catastrophe” – UN Committee Chair condemns the UK’s record on human rights.

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations welcome the public unity of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their clear criticism of the UK Government’s ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s human rights.

Chairperson Theresia Degener in her closing questions stated, “Evidence before us now and in our Inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that social cut policies has led to human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in.”

The Committee condemned the UK’s attempts to misrepresent the impact of policies through unanswered questions, misused statistics and a smoke screen of statements on policies and legislation which fail to implement the rights of disabled people in reality.

Committee member Coomaraval Pyaneandee said “[I] Want to see you come back as a world leader which at the moment, I’m afraid you are not, but DPOs I congratulate. [They] are in fact, the world leaders in your country.”

The UK Independent Mechanism further reinforced the concerns of DDPOs in their concluding statement which called for:

  • Gaps and inconsistencies in disability discrimination legislation to be addressed including the legal basis for British Sign Language
  • Steps to be taken to embed the CRPD in domestic law, maintaining the protections in the Human Rights Act
  • A coordinated approach to implementing the Convention and the Committee’s recommendations across the UK, with fully resourced and meaningful involvement of disabled people.

Tara Flood, Alliance for Inclusive Education and Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance said, “The UK’s track record on article 24 is not acceptable. The Chairperson made it clear and unequivocal that inclusive education is not a choice, it is a right. We are not surprised but always disappointed by UK Government’s lack of commitment to inclusive education for disabled children and their efforts to mask segregation.”

Devolved Nations also had the opportunity to address questions put to them by the Committee.

Patrick Malone, Disability Action Northern Ireland said, “It is not acceptable for the UK Government to hide behind lack of an Executive or Ministers for NI for the disparity of equality in legal protection for disabled people in Northern Ireland as compared to the rest of the UK. The Government must ensure that all of the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010 are fully implemented in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.”

Rhian Davies, Disability Wales said, “We welcome Welsh Government’s commitment to a strengthened Framework for Action on Independent Living since much of the implementation of the UNCRPD is devolved to Welsh Government. However, as with the rest of the UK there is much more to be done in Wales in safeguarding disabled people’s human rights. This has been a historical week for the disabled people’s movement and one that we are proud to have played our part in.”

Sally Witcher, Inclusion Scotland said, “We wholeheartedly welcome the Committee’s comments on the UK. The government has not been allowed to get away with evasive responses which disregard the lived experiences of Deaf and Disabled people throughout the UK. We were disappointed that the opportunity was not available for Scottish Government to reply to all of the questions directed towards it, such as its plans to implement supported decision making for people with learning disabilities and how it will address the failings of the social care system. However, we anticipate opportunities to address these issues in response to the Committee’s concluding observations.”

English Translation of article published in Junge Welt magazine – The Legacy of Brexit for Disabled People in the UK

Taken from Disabled People Against Cuts website

It’s difficult if not impossible to adequately define the outcomes of Brexit for anyone living in the UK let alone for disabled people. The result where a small minority of the electorate voted to leave the EU has so far caused massive political turmoil but no concrete proposals as the new unelected Prime Minister, Teresa May, thrashes around wildly clutching at straws.

What is certain is that the promise of an extra £350 million a week for our National Health Service has not and will not be forthcoming. In fact this promise promoted widely by the Leave campaigners in the Tory Party and a reason why many UK citizens were conned into voting to leave turns out to have been an outright lie.

Many of the more deluded disabled people who also voted to leave did so simply because they wanted to punish David Cameron the then Tory Prime Minister who was stupid enough to call a referendum in the first place. Having resigned first as Prime Minister and then a little later as a Member of Parliament I’m sure the multi-millionaire Cameron is indeed ‘suffering’. What is certain that disabled people will.

As soon as the outcome of the referendum was known Cameron together with a whole host of Leave politicians turned their backs on guiding the UK through the Brexit process – no doubt so they don’t get blamed for the ensuing disaster.

The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not want to leave the EU and in the case of Northern Ireland the Good Friday agreement and peace process means that there must be a parliamentary vote if Northern Ireland is to leave the EU. There is also a legal challenge to seek a parliamentary vote on Brexit as the outcome of the referendum is advisory only. So chaos reigns as the UK population dangle precipitously in limbo.

As well as months spent focussed on the referendum campaign, the immediate aftermath was an election for a new Tory Party Leader and a second internal party election to try to remove the previously democratically elected Labour Party leader. During these many months of political bat and ball and trips around the country by various politicians the rights of disabled people have largely been forgotten especially by the media. Serious campaigning has been put back months as the political focus has been firmly placed elsewhere.

On a plus point the fascist party UKIP which very much led the Brexit campaign on an anti-immigration stance have also fallen into disarray and appear on the verge of oblivion. There have already been several elections for a new leader with none of them being successful in finding someone who stayed more than a couple of weeks. As the old British saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining”

What is certain for the UK is that Brexit has led to a massive increase in race-related hate crime and there is no doubt those who perpetrate these crimes feel their actions are vindicated by the vote to leave. Xenophobia is rampant in parts of the country fuelled by some of the media as well as the Brexit campaign rhetoric. Disability hate crime has been rising year on year since 2010 in part thanks once again to the media-fuelled ‘useless eater’ and scrounger propaganda. For disabled people as well as those perceived to not be British hatred and abuse is only likely to increase in the post-Brexit frenzy that currently pervades the country.

Since Brexit as well the value of the pound has slumped which has already led to an increase in price for even essential daily items including for some the #Marmitegate tragedy where the price of Marmite has already risen in some cases by 12.5 % in shops.

Price increases for food and other essential items is likely to pose a particular problems for disabled people and others in receipt of UK Social Security payments as there is an austerity-led freeze on the amount of benefits which will be paid until at least 2020. The UK already has some of the lowest rates for out-of-work benefit payments in the EU so starting from a very low base rate the value of payments will fall even further as exchange rates fall.

On top of this fall in the value of the pound and freeze on increases in social security payments early in November an austerity-led cap on the total overall amount of benefit payments per household will result in massive reductions of £3,000 less per annum being paid to claimants. Many of those affected by this drastic cut will be disabled although other disabled people will be exempt from this cut.

From next April 2017 disabled people who make a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance and who are found not to be fit for work but able to undertake Work Related Activity which involved forcibly being made to jump though inappropriate and unacceptable hoops to continue being entitled to payments will also see their weekly income cut drastically by one-third. All of these changes will as already said be taking place at the same time the value of the pound falls against other currencies. Needless to say fuel prices are also continuing to rise and the number of UK residents on low incomes who have to choose between eating and heating because they can’t afford both continues to rise.

As disabled people and others wait for the mythical 35 million a day that we’re apparently saving by leaving the EU to be redeployed to help fund our National Health Service as promised we find our Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt putting in place plans to drastically reduce both the number of hospitals – down from 9 to 5 in London – and health service funding elsewhere in the UK through the implementation of Sustainability and Transformation Plans. This is very definitely not what Brexit promised for our health service. Hunt has also further undermined our NHS by stating that we want British only doctors in the near future in spite of the fact that around one-third of doctors currently are from other EU countries.

For disabled people who need personal assistance to live and take part in society Brexit is also bad news. Many people employ care workers/personal assistants from EU countries and now not only does the fall in the value of the pound affect the exchange value of wages paid but on a longer term basis no-one, neither the employers or the employees, have any idea about a future right to work here when the UK leaves the EU. It could of course be years before any more is known.

Workers rights generally are very much an unknown quantity at the moment as well. Teresa May has said the Conservatives want to protect those in place yet many people are on insecure zero hours contracts with no legal protections. The introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal hearings has also negatively affected worker’s rights to challenge unfair dismissals. All of these issues regarding employment rights continue to disproportionately affect disabled workers and the fear that once EU constraints on our employment laws are removed is causing major concerns for those disabled people who are in work.

For disabled people not in work the ending of Workfare and Work Choice schemes funded by the European Social Fund can really only be seen as positive. Neither of these schemes worked well in finding disabled people suitable or sustainable employment opportunities.

Workfare schemes in particular have been likened to unpaid slave labour which they were since claimants were forced to work for no pay under threat of having their benefits removed if they did not. Having said that there were a number of locally EU funded schemes to help disabled and other people into work which have worked well and for which there will now be no further EU funding available.

In other areas of life shared by disabled and non-disabled people the loss of European funding from the Social Fund, from the Common Agricultural Policy and from Regional Development grants will nevertheless be grossly detrimental to the overall standards of living and is likely to have a further negative trickle down impact on food prices. The idea that these funding streams will be replaced by our own government’s spending is laughable given their ongoing austerity agenda and determination to replace Trident nuclear weapons.

Memory Match – 10-09-05

Throughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.


Wrexham v Cheltenham Town

Coca-Cola League Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-0

Wrexham: Ingham, Linwood (Spender), Smith, Ferguson, Bennett, Warhurst, Jones (Mackin), Williams, Walters, Foy (McEvilly), Holt

Goalscorers: Holt 8, Walters 69

Cheltenham Town: Higgs, Gill, Victory, Taylor, Townsend (Caines), Wilson, Melligan, Finnigan (Bird), Spencer (Vincent), Odejayi, McCann

Attendance: 3,671

Wrexham actually had to postpone the previous match against Lincoln City as they had three players on international duty. Michael Ingham (Northern Ireland) and Simon Spender (Wales) both reported back for duty in time for the Cheltenham game, but Dennis Lawrence (Trinidad and Tobago) was not so lucky.

The club captain had been playing for his country in Costa Rica, but his flight home had to be diverted after smoke was smelt in the cabin. This meant that our defensive lynchpin missed his connecting flight and did not return to Manchester until shortly before kick-off.

This was another headache for Wrexham manager Denis Smith as the start of the 2005/06 season had already been ravaged by injury and suspension. Lee Roche, Shaun Pejic, Dean Bennett and Lee McEvilly had all crowded the treatment room while Simon Spender and Dave Bayliss had both seen red in the opening matches.

Smith had subsequently been forced to bleed a number of youngsters and make some emergency loan signings such as Paul Linwood from Tranmere Rovers who replaced the absent Lawrence for the visit of unbeaten Cheltenham Town. Despite being promoted from the Conference in 1999, this was actually the first League meeting between the clubs.

Our patched up team certainly proved their worth with a magnificent performance full of slick passing and attacking intent to record their third home win of the season. The Red Dragons were fiery from the first whistle with Paul Warhurst and Jon Walters – whatever happened to him? – both having shots blocked inside the box.

After only eight minutes Andy Holt scored the goal we’d been threatening from the outset when he met Darren Ferguson’s corner with a bullet header that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

It was all one-way traffic as the midfield trio of Ferguson, Danny Williams and Mark Jones dictated play. In a hectic four minute period we had four chances to double our lead. Walters headed over from Holt’s cross, Robbie Foy – on-loan from Liverpool – had a shot saved by Town goalkeeper Shane Higgs, Walters was then denied by Jamie Victory’s block and his next attempt was well-dealt with by Higgs.

Wrexham’s passing and movement was exceptional, but on the stroke of half-time they were almost made to pay for not extending their lead when Kayode Odejayi saw his shot turned around the post by Ingham. The fleet-footed Odejayi also threatened early in the second-half when he raced past Linwood only to see his shot hit the side netting.

At the other end of the pitch, Walters had a penalty appeal turned down following a challenge by JJ Melligan. He was promptly booked for diving.

Warhurst, Dean Bennett and Foy all had opportunities to increase our advantage, but it was left to Walters to do the damage on 69 minutes with his first competitive goal for the club. Smith found Jones who played a superb ball through for Walter’s to dispatch beyond Higgs.

Reflecting on the game, Smith said: “I think it was a performance which deserved a better crowd than we had and people who didn’t come today missed an absolute treat. That’s as good a football game as you’ll see at most levels, never mind this level. I thought some of the football was outstanding.”

Cheltenham manager John Ward said: “I said before the game that Wrexham shouldn’t be in this League, but because of administration they are. This is a good side and anyone who gets a point or three here will have to be very lucky or play very well.”


Keep on keeping on

So, the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) has been extended to March 2017. This is a reason for celebration and is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people over the last 12 months to protect independent living for disabled people across Wales.

However, we cannot rest on our laurels and must start thinking about what we are going to do this time next year. We are still looking for a long-term solution to the problems that the Tories caused when they closed the Independent Living Fund (ILF) .

We also need to analyse the letter which was sent to Paul Swann at Disability Wales who acts as Secretary of the Cross Party Group on Disability. The full letter can be downloaded here:  Minister’s response to CPGD re ILFWILG.

As stated above, Mark Drakeford AM (Minister for Health and Social Services) has confirmed that the draft Welsh Government budget contains £27 million to enable WILG to continue until March 2017. However, it is clear from the letter that the current level of funding form the UK Government is only sufficient to maintain recipients’ payments at the same level as they previously received form the ILF. It does not cater for any changes in a person’s circumstances or any changes in the level of support they require. The Minister confirms that the funding provided by the UK Government does not include any funding in respect of administration costs.

The Minister does recognise that a long-term solution is required and he has confirmed that he hopes to be in a position to respond more fully with regard to the scheme within a month.

With an election on the horizon in Wales the Assembly Members will be preoccupied until May but this does not mean we can’t do our homework in building a strong case as to why we need a more lasting Welsh ILF system – similar to the ones that have been established in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

I intend on meeting my prospective AM and getting their commitment to safeguard independent living in writing, I’ll write to the Welsh national press to make this issue a political hot potato and in a change of tact I also hope to get back in touch with Ian Lucas, my local Labour MP, who has always represented me well in Westminster. I would like to ask him to press the Tories hard about the amount of money they give to the devolved governments to cover independent living. It is not good enough to simply pass on the same amount of money distributed in 2015 as this does not account for new claimants or changes in circumstances. As someone with a progressive disability, I fear that the time will come – sooner rather than later – when I won’t be able to pay for the hours of care needed for me to remain living independently in the community; The Tories must be challenged and stopped from pushing ahead with fascist plans that boil down to nothing less than systematic social cleansing.

Writing and campaigning is what I am good at. Back in December, I wrote a blog entry entitled Fighting for independent living in Wales in which I appealed for assistance from recipients of ILF in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I wanted their opinions and experiences on how their national ILF schemes functioned since the closure of the UK-wide ILF in the hope that it may prove an inspirational model for us to follow in Wales.

I received the following comment in response to my blog: 

Hi Nathan – My name is Charles Rainey and, in 2012, with my wife set up the ILF User Group NI, dedicated retaining the ILF in NI should Westminster decide to replace it. With the support of relevant charities and individual politicians we drove the decision to set up the current situation where users have basically noticed no difference going from one to the other. Send me an email and I can send you more details on our approach.

I sent an email to Mr Rainey and set up a telephone call in which I’d discovered that my new found friend from Northern Ireland had done wonders in setting up a User Group that actively lobbied for the retention of an ILF for Northern Ireland. Mr Rainey is an accountant by trade and deserves enormous credit for all his hard work in helping to create a stable future for disabled people in Northern Ireland. I wish that I could follow his inspirational lead, but I am just not cut out for all the paperwork and bureaucracy that is involved in establishing such a protest group. Therefore all I can do is appeal to any professionals with a conscience based in Wales to take up a similar challenge to Mr Rainey and help provide hope for disabled people nationwide.

On top of this I am also concerned about my own staffing situation. I currently have a vacancy for a personal assistant for 16 hours per week with every chance that this will lead to more hours. This is a great opportunity to work with a small team in a rewarding environment. Rates of pay are £7.26 (between 7am and 8pm) and £9.64 (between 8pm and 7am) and training opportunities are available. However, this position has been advertised for over 12 months with little response and even when I do receive applications from candidates and invite them for interview then I find they are far from suitable.

I believe this is a sign that we live in an increasingly uncaring society.

I guess this is a call for anyone in the Wrexham area, preferably female, with a caring attitude to read the following job advertisement and consider applying to become a member of my staff.

I don’t bite, honest.


Minister provides an update on the Welsh Independent Living Grant


The Minister for Health & Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM, has responded to a letter from the Co-Chairs of the Cross Party Group on Disability, Mark Isherwood AM and Aled Roberts AM.

The Minister confirms that  “the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2016-17 contains £27m to enable the WILG to continue to March 2017 as planned.”

He adds that “I am currently re-appraising the options for long term support …and plan to confirm later this month my present thinking in this area.

“My officials have met representatives of stakeholders to identify the key information needed, including experience of providing support in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Options for a way forward will be identified by the middle of this year and will be available for the new incoming government to put into place in good time before March 2017.”

Minister’s response to CPGD re ILFWILG.