On April 25th, the #Right2IL Campaign was launched in Parliament. Unfortunately, I could not be there so I wrote the following which was read out by my good friend and comrade, Ellen Clifford.
Apparently, the message was well-received. I am looking forward to playing my part in the fight for the rights of disabled people to be recognised.
“Good afternoon to everyone and apologies that I cannot be present today. As a disability activist who has spent the last 4 years campaigning for the protection of independent living for former ILF recipients in Wales, I feel that it is important to contribute to the meeting. I believe that it is essential that disabled people in Wales are also represented in the creation of any independent living scheme that we campaigned for.
The Welsh Independent Living Grant was given to former ILF recipients as a temporary measure while future arrangements were discussed. In November 2016, the Welsh Government announced they would be scrapping the grant and transferring all funds to local authorities. This could not be allowed to happen and we have campaigned tirelessly and imaginatively to push the Welsh Government into making a u-turn. Independent Social Workers and extra funds have been promised by the Welsh Government to ensure former ILF recipients can remain in their local communities.
Even though the #SaveWILG campaign has been a success in protecting the rights of former ILF recipients, the Welsh Government are not planning to extend these rights to disabled people who missed out on the ILF. Our campaign has produced a positive result for approximately 1,300 of us, but this does not mean we can forget about those who never received the Welsh Independent Living Grant. We do not believe any disabled people with high support needs should be purely at the mercy of cash strapped local authorities.
The tripartite system that the ILF established – between recipient, local authority and independent social worker – should be something that we all receive. I would welcome the opportunity to be part of the ROFA campaign and share the skills and tactics that we have built up during our successful campaign. Please do keep in touch and let me know how the people of Wales can get involved. There may be a different legal system in Wales to contend with, but I believe that any Welsh Political Party – with the possible exception of Plaid Cymru – would welcome the opportunity to work with the UK Government to protect disabled people with high support needs.
My contact details are as follows:
Many thanks for allowing me to be part of your discussion and let us hope that this is the beginning of a new campaign that will result in justice for disabled people and their families.
Solidarity to you all.
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.
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.”
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
Rhondda AM Leanne Wood has called upon the Labour Government to move fast to ensure that disabled people are not left out of pocket.
The Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Social Justice and Housing called upon Ministers to match words with deeds after they performed a U-turn on reinstating in all but name the Welsh Independent Living Fund last months after months of pressure.
Julie Morgan, the deputy minister for health and social services, wrote to local authorities to ask for a halt to the closure programme for the Welsh Independent Living Fund and its replacement with a system of council-funded support.
There will now be new assessments for former recipients with a view to new support packages allocated by their local council.
In a letter to Julie Morgan, Ms Wood called for a “clear timetable” to restore financial support for disabled people living at home.
Leanne wrote: “I am writing to you following last month’s announcement that an independent social work assessment will be offered to all former Independent Living Fund recipients who are unhappy with their new care and support package.
“You also committed to providing additional funding for councils to fund independence assessments and any additional care hours that may result from these assessments.
“I appreciate that we are only a month on from this welcome statement in the Welsh Parliament but the reality is that people are continuing to struggle without adequate support.
“A clear timetable for carrying out these assessments and restoring the financial packages for disabled people is required as a matter of expediency to provide clarity and hope for people in need of extra support.
“On behalf of disabled people and their families, can the Welsh Government provide that timetable as soon as possible please?”
Today sees a Plaid Cymru-initiated debate on the Welsh Independent Living Grant in the Senedd.
Responding to the decision by the Welsh Government to bring in revised arrangements for the Welsh Independent Living Grant, Leanne Wood AM, Plaid Cymru shadow minister for social justice said:
“The Welsh Government should just have the guts to admit it got this wrong from the very beginning. After the proposed changes are filtered through, we should have a situation where no disabled person has lost out on care. However, we will be spending considerably more money on administration and reviews to get to this point than if the Welsh Government had just adopted the Scottish and Northern Ireland approach of retaining the fund – as we argued for at the time.
“The problems identified that have led to this suspension of the transition were entirely predictable and have caused disabled people a great deal of anxiety and stress. All because Welsh Labour have been too stubborn to listen to disabled people and their own party activists over the bureaucrats in local authorities.”
“Without the tireless campaign of disability activists such as my constituent Nathan Lee Davies, it’s unlikely this U-turn would have happened. Disabled people would have faced yet another significant cut to the support they have and a loss to their independence.
“Questions have to be asked about why the Welsh Government made the wrong decision in the first place and what it really says about how much it listens to disabled people. Where has the government been before now in acknowledging its proposals wouldn’t work?
“Coming twenty-four hours before Plaid Cymru’s debate to save the Welsh Independent Living Grant, they clearly did not relish defending their failed policy.”
Severely disabled people unhappy with their care package will be offered independent assessments, say ministers.
The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) is being scrapped with councils taking over funding care for the more than 1,000 people receiving it.
Previous social care minister Huw Irranca Davies had insisted there would be “no losers” due to the changes.
But, in October, BBC Wales discovered around 100 of the 600 recipients reassessed had lost some support.
The research was conducted by the Wales Live programme.
On Tuesday, the Welsh Government said anyone wanting a “second opinion” could have an “independent social work assessment” and the move to the new system would be put on hold while new arrangements are put in place.
Plaid Cymru said the Welsh Government should “admit it has got this one wrong from the very beginning”.
Announcing the change in policy, Deputy Health and Social Services Minister Julie Morgan said: “It is paramount that people’s ability to live independently is not compromised by changes the care and support provided for people previously in receipt of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.
“These changes will ensure that is the case and deliver a consistent level of care and support across Wales.
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.
“While the majority of former ILF [Independent Living Fund] recipients are receiving the same or more care as they were previously, a significant number have experienced a reduction in hours of support,” said Mrs Morgan.
“There is also considerable variation in the reductions in support.
“I have therefore written to local government leaders to request a pause of the transition with immediate effect in order to bring in the revised arrangements.
“This is a significant change of approach that ensures that the needs of former WILG recipients will be fully met, and that resources are no barrier to a full package of care and support.”
Mrs Morgan also announced that the Welsh Government would provide additional funding to councils for the cost of the workers to carry out these independent assessments and additional care hours that may result from the assessments.
The independent assessments will be consistent with people’s agreed “wellbeing outcome” and acknowledge the historical entitlement of former ILF recipients, she added.
Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood said the Welsh Government should “admit it has got this one wrong from the very beginning”.
“After the proposed changes are filtered through, we should thankfully have a situation where no disabled person has lost out on care.
“However, we will be spending considerably more money on administration and reviews to get to this point than if the Welsh Government had just adopted the Scottish and Northern Ireland approach of retaining the fund – as we argued for at the time.”
Huw David, Welsh Local Government Association social services spokesman, said: “In a time of austerity, any additional funding for social care is to be welcomed and I am pleased to see a commitment of extra investment from Welsh Government that will help to ensure the needs of former WILG recipients are fully met.
Local authorities would continue to work with ministers to address any concerns about the new system, he added.
By Wales Live reporter Paul Martin
With an acknowledgement a “significant number” of people have had support cut, a guarantee of independent re-assessments, and extra cash for any increased care packages, this adds up to a pretty big shift.
It puts new Social Services Deputy Minister Julie Morgan at odds with her predecessor Huw Irranca Davies who had said the new council-run system would be fairer and that there would be “no losers.”
There are questions now about how easy this change will be, and how much it will cost.
But “Save WILG” campaigner Nathan Lee Davies – who won significant support at Welsh Labour conference – described it as “the perfect 42nd birthday present”.
Pressure is mounting on the Welsh Government to maintain an essential grant for disabled people after 20% of AMs backed a statement of opinion.
Plaid Cymru has tabled a Statement of Opinion in the National Assembly calling for the Welsh Independent Living Grant, which allows severely disabled people to continue to live independently, to be retained. The Welsh Government plans to scrap the grant next year, transferring the responsibilities over to Local Authorities.
Nathan Lee Davies, of Wrexham, has been campaigning to keep the grant for several years, and managed to pass a motion of support for maintain the grant at this year’s Welsh Labour Spring Conference.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood AM said:
“Those in receipt of the Welsh Independent Grant tell me how vitally important it is to them. Not only financially, but more importantly it gives them that independence to control their own lives. We all have our dignity, and having that ability to make our own decisions over our own lives is important for all of us. This is why recipients of the WILG wish to keep it, and given the chance to roll it out to other disabled people as well.
“Scotland have managed to keep their Independent Living Fund, ensuring that they have a national criteria. They’ve also invested more into it, meaning that more people can benefit from it. Evidence from London shows that former Independent Living Fund Recipients there have suffered as a consequence of the Tories cutting the grant and passporting the programme onto local authorities. Labour in Wales should follow the Scottish lead rather than the Tories in England, and ensure that our most seriously disabled people are shown respect and can live their lives as independently as possible. Recipients of WILG are seriously concerned about the future when they should be enjoying what is left of their lives.”
Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for North Wales, Llyr Gruffydd said:
“Recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant tell me that the system as it is now works well, and they fear that transferring the responsibility over to councils would compromise their independence. Maintaining their independence is paramount. Their dignity and right to independence should be respected.
“Scotland’s Government has maintained its Independent Living Grant and indeed invested in the scheme. It’s widely supported by disabled people, and it provides a national criteria instead of forcing a prescribed criteria locally that would result in a post code lottery for the most severely disabled people. This is what will happen in Wales under the proposals.
“I’m calling for each Assembly member to sign up to my Statement of Opinion, and urging as many people to contact their Assembly Member asking them to support it. So far 20% of Assembly Members have signed up. I would hope that Labour Assembly Members would support it, as it chimes with their own party policy that was only passed earlier this year following a strong grassroots campaign.”
Disability campaigner Nathan Lee Davies, of Wrexham, gave his backing for the Statement of Opinion:
“This is a very frightening time for disabled people with high care and support needs across Wales as they are being asked to rely solely on cash-strapped local authorities to meet their daily living requirements. The Welsh Government is quite simply washing its hands of all responsibility towards this section of society.
“Care packages were originally agreed upon by the disabled individual, local authorities and a third-party social worker who was entirely independent. Under the new system, who would disabled people be able to turn to if they did not agree with the local authority? The existing tripartite system for deciding care packages MUST be maintained.
“I should also underline the fact that I am an employer who provides work for five other people. The loss of WILG could mean that my personal assistants will be losing significant amounts of work.”
The Statement of Opinion says:
1. Notes the cuts suffered by local authorities over recent years, and the squeeze on social services budgets across Wales.
2. Further notes that article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states how people with disabilities should have “choices equal to others”.
3. Commends the Scottish Government on introducing a successful Independent Living Fund that is trusted and has a national criteria.
4. Believes that the Welsh Independent Living Grant should be retained as a national funding package with a national criteria, ensuring the recipients independence, along the lines of ILF Scotland.
Anybody wanting to urge their AM to sign the Statement of Opinion should ask them to support OPIN-2018-0094 The future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant
SOP and signatories here: http://record.assembly.wales/StatementOfOpinion/94