Petitions Committee

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

     This is the letter that Huw Irranca-Davies has written to the Chair of the Petitions Committee – Mr David Rowlands – defending the Welsh Government’s decision to close WILG.

    My response appears in the next blog in which I have totally decimated the weak arguments in favour of signalling an end to the Welsh Independent Living Grant. 

    The fight continues…

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     Dear David, 

     Thank you for your letter of 31 October in connection with Nathan Davies’ petition to reconsider the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). 

    Before I respond to your questions I think it is important to remind ourselves of the purpose of the transition process we are undertaking.  We are introducing this change to ensure equality of access for all disabled people in Wales to support to live independently in the community.  This is to remove the two-tier arrangement which existed previously, where some were able to access support from their local authority and payments from the Independent Living Fund (ILF), while others, because of the UK Government’s decision to close the ILF to new applicants in 2010, have only been able to access support from their authority.  Hence the objective of this transition, and of the support reviews being undertaken within it, is to ensure all disabled people are empowered in a consistent way to be able to live independently in a manner that is appropriate in their particular circumstances.  This could be by support provided directly from their local authority, by support provided by direct payments from their authority, by support provided in other ways (such as from the third sector, family or friends) or by a mix of any of these.  This is the ethos and cornerstone the social services legislation we introduced and something which every disabled person in Wales deserves access to irrespective of how they may have been supported in the past. 

    Given the objective, and as I outline below the support for the majority of the disabled people affected by this transition is now being provided though their local authority, it is difficult to see how this could now be unpicked to reinstate the WILG as Mr Davies’ petitions without creating turmoil for those that have been through this transition. 

    We welcome receiving correspondence in Welsh.  Any correspondence received in Welsh will be answered in Welsh and corresponding in Welsh will not lead to a delay in responding. 

    As you say we have now completed our latest quarterly monitoring of local authorities’ progress in transitioning people who used to receive WILG payments to receiving their support to live independently through their local authority.  This latest monitoring covers the period up to the end of September this year and details of this are below.  Overall this shows good progress in undertaking future support reviews with people affected, in agreeing with them their future support package to deliver their wellbeing outcomes and in putting these in place to provide that support. 

    The data provided by local authorities shows that of the 1,336 people who were originally in receipt of payments under the WILG, over 1,242 (93%) had by the end of September completed or were in the process of completing their support review with their local authority.  As a result 717 people (54%) had now agreed their future support package with their local authority and were receiving this through their authority.  In the majority of these cases (531 – 74% of the 717) people were receiving support of a similar level and nature to that they would have received if they had still been receiving payments under the WILG.  In around 100 of the 717 (14%) the level of support being provided had increased due to the dependency of the person increasing since their last review.  In around 86 of the 717 cases (12%) the support from the authority itself has reduced as it was thought more appropriate in those people’s circumstances if the support they required was provided in a different manner than previously (such as support provided from a third party). 

    With a small number of people (20) their review identified it was no longer appropriate for them to receive community care from their local authority, either because the person had developed a need for healthcare or was now in need of some form of residential based care.  

    This left around 64 people who were at that time yet to begin their support review.  This is due to a mixture of social worker capacity within a small number of authorities, where they had not by that time been able to engage with all people affected, and a number of people who to date have not themselves engaged with their authority despite authorities’ approaches to them to do so.  As a result we have sought, and received, assurances from the seven authorities concerned that these remaining reviews will be completed by the end of the year at the latest so as not to impact upon the future support they agree with their authority being place by the end of March next year when the period for this transition is due to end. 

    Out of all the reviews completed as at the end of September there were 17 people who were challenging the outcome of their support reviews.  This is just under 2% of the people who had undergone their review with their authority. 

    Despite this good progress I am not complacent.  You will have seen the recent media coverage of this transition which focussed heavily on those people who are to receive less direct support from their local authority, with little or no reference to the majority who to receive the similar support from their local authority or indeed are to receive more.  I have, therefore, to be assured of this position, asked local authorities to undertake a deep dive review of all cases where following a support review there is an intention to reduce the authority’s direct support to the person.  This is to identify the reasons for this decision and the exact scale of any reductions and to receive from each Director of Social Services a personal assurance that where such changes occur they are appropriate and do not impact on people’s ability to live independently in the community.  The results of this deep dive review are due to be received and analysed by the end of November.  

    In addition to this I intend to undertake a series of regional meetings with Directors and Cabinet members for Health and Social Services within authorities to discuss the outcome of these reviews to ensure that it is the case that any reduction in direct support from an authority is not impacting on people’s ability to live independently.  My officials are in the process of arranging these meetings, which I hope to have concluded by early December.  That said, I have already visited both Wrexham County Borough Council and Powys County Council to meet their Directors and Cabinet Members and have received their assurance that people affected are genuinely being empowered to live independently to deliver their wellbeing outcomes. 

    You ask about the possibility of requiring local authorities to report the actual expenditure they incur on people who transition to local authority support.  The level of expenditure on the support an individual requires is, of course, dependent on the level, nature and complexity of that support as identified by their support review.  It is not determined by a standard amount per person and so the level of expenditure will vary from person to person as the support they require will vary.  As a result the fact that one person may be having more or less expenditure on their support than another is not an indicator of the appropriateness of that support, but of the cost of support they require. 

    Added to this it must be remembered that all people who received payments under the WILG would also have received a level of care and support from their local authority which it would have funded separately.  This is because this was a qualifying condition originally set by the ILF for receiving payments.  As such it is difficult to see how authorities could, if this request was made, separate out the cost of only one element of over 1,000 people’s overall support package or indeed what value there would be in doing so. 

    What I can say is that the full funding of £27 million a year transferred from the UK Government to support people affected has been added from this year to the Revenue Support Grant on a recurrent basis.  Not a single penny of this has been retained centrally.  As a result no local authority has raised with me or my officials that a lack of funding is an issue with this transition or that this is adversely affecting the outcomes which they able to receive for people affected. 

    Yours sincerely, 

    Huw Irranca-Davies AC/AM 

    Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care 

    Petitions Committee discuss WILG again… #SaveWILG

    Dear Petitioner

    Your petition will be considered at our next meeting on Tuesday 11 December at 9.30am.

    I enclose a link to the Agenda and Public Papers for your consideration:

    http://senedd.assembly.wales/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=430&MId=5070&Ver=4

    A live broadcast of the meeting will be available on Senedd TV at:

    http://www.senedd.tv/

    Kind regards,

    Petitions Committee

    Vital Twitter Thread #SaveWILG

    This morning I published a vitally important Tweet thread that I hope will capture the attention of those with the power to provide security to the 1,300 disabled people with high support needs throughout Wales who receive the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

    I publish memes and photographs alongside these Tweets. If you want to follow me on Twitter and perhaps Retweet my epic thread, my handle is @nathanleedavies

    I am currently extremely busy as we head into a crucial month for the #SaveWILG campaign.

    The fight continues…

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    The following Tweet thread is VERY IMPORTANT. I trust that ALL Assembly Members and those in the Media with the power to spread awareness of the struggles of disabled people with high support needs will READ THIS in full and take the appropriate action to help us

    There can be no denying that the WILG transition process is highlighting some major problems in the social care system throughout Wales. Local authorities cannot be trusted to provide adequate support for disabled people on their own.

    The evidence is overwhelming as displayed in the Freedom of Information requests gathered from all 22 LAs, first-hand stories from WILG recipients and clear evidence that the same system is failing people in England.

     The amount of support for #SaveWILG has been incredible. Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, MPs, AMs and celebrities such as Ken Loach have all backed our campaign while Welsh Labour members passed a motion at conference to protect the grant.

     A similar motion was also passed by Disability Labour, our friends in Scotland and Northern Ireland also show that there is clearly another way of doing things to protect those with high support needs.

    I haven’t even mentioned the UN report which found ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled ppls human rights’, saying it was a ‘human catastrophe’. This was partly based on concerns at the closure of the ILF. @WelshLabour are moving in the same direction. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-spending-cuts-human-catastrophe-un-committee-rights-persons-with-disabilities-disabled-a7911556.html …

     I am receiving emails on a daily basis from WILG recipients across Wales telling me about the difficulties they are facing with the transition process. These people are too afraid to speak out due to the fear of reprisals.

     Other recipients are also in the process of taking their LA’s to court and cannot speak out for fear of compromising their case. WILG will not or cannot raise their voice at all – for many reasons such as cognitive impairment, exhaustion or fear of further cuts to their hours.

     The absurd two-tier argument that Welsh Labour are using is absolutely ridiculous. It is to all intents and purposes an equalisation downward, however subtle and however long it takes to materialise. 

    The ‘two-tier’ system is entirely the choice of WAG. Not us or recipients. Again, using this as a reason to stop providing what is needed as a basic starting point, is not a reason!!!

    The effect being that money (saving) is at the root of this and the standard of life/living for recipients is not likely to be maintained in a way that allows them to have a really fulsome, fulfilled and rewarding life, rather than merely existing….

     I have spent all day writing this thread of Tweets and have sacrificed three years of my life to this campaign for common justice. I will not stop fighting for the rights of disabled people but it is a disgrace that I have to in 21st Century Wales. 

    WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

     

    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…

    Minutes from Petitions Committee #SaveWILG

    The #SaveWILG campaign is very disappointed that the Petitions Committee failed to move towards writing a report on the petition to reconsider the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

    Urgent action is required now as people continue to struggle as I know only too well. Last night I was awake from 03:00 onwards as I needed to use the urinal, could not grab the paracetamol that I needed to ease the pain in my legs and I had to struggle to get my phone that had slid under my back during a restless sleep. All these problems would have been easily prevented if I had adequate 24/7 care to allow me to live independently in the community like I deserve.

    The Petitions Committee – who have been supportive so far – need to remember that there are over 1000 disabled people struggling throughout Wales who are dependant on them taking quick and decisive action.
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    Dear Petitioner
     
    Please note that the actions following the Committee’s meeting have been posted on the Petitions webpage:
     
    English:
     
    If you have any queries – contact me.
     
    Regards
    Petitions Committee
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    Minutes:

    The Committee considered correspondence from a number of stakeholders and agreed to write to the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care to:

    • seek a detailed update on the progress of the transition arrangements to date including the outcome of the review of all support needs which was due to be completed by the end of September; and
    • ask whether, as a middle way between ring-fencing and funding through the Revenue Support Grant, he will consider requiring local authorities to provide a report detailing actual expenditure on care packages for previous recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant, including the number of recipients, the average amount received per person and the total amount awarded.

     

    Seconds Out: Petitions Committee Round Five #SaveWILG

    We are hoping that the Petitions Committee will reach a positive conclusion over our petition to save the Welsh Independent Living Grant when they meet next Tuesday (23 October).

    My petition was first heard over a year ago and I have since been locked in correspondence with the committee, compiled and even visited the Senedd to give evidence on why we need to #SaveWILG.

    Once again, I have provided extensive evidence and have been backed up by fellow activists and even – to a point –  Local Authorities.

    Fingers crossed for a positive outcome on Tuesday.

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    Dear Petitioner

    Your petition will be considered at our next meeting on Tuesday 23 October at 9.30am.

    I enclose a link to the Agenda and Public Papers for your consideration:

    http://senedd.assembly.wales/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=430&MId=5067&Ver=4

    A live broadcast of the meeting will be available on Senedd TV at:

    http://www.senedd.tv/

    Kind regards,

    Petitions Committee