Rebecca Evans AM

Letter from Huw Irranca-Davies AM

I am sharing this letter from Huw Irranca-Davies  AM to Lesley Griffiths AM concerning my #SaveWILG campaign. There are many, many issues that I would like to pick up from this email, but I am biting my lip until we can arrange a meeting with my MP and Huw Irranca-Davies himself.

I hope this can be in one of the 24 days before Christmas, so that I can discuss my concerns and enjoy the festive break but I am not holding my breath and am preparing for my 8th consecutive Christmas of concern and worry over the future of Independent Living for disabled people in 21st century Britain.

Seasons Greetings…

***

Lesley Griffiths AM
Assembly Member for Wrexham
Lesley.Griffiths@assembly.wales

 

14- November 2017

Dear Lesley

Thank you for your letter to Rebecca Evans AM on behalf of your constituent, Mr Nathan Davies, outlining his ongoing concerns regarding the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). I am replying as policy on social care in Wales now forms part of my Ministerial portfolio.

I have agreed to meet Mr Davies and his MP, Ian Lucas, and my Diary Secretary is arranging for this to take place as soon as is possible.

In relation to Mr Davies’ comments about Wrexham County Borough Council, my officials have been in contact with the authority to ascertain the latest position. I am aware that Wrexham initially had social worker vacancies which impacted upon its ability to undertake future support reviews of WILG recipients and reviews of those receiving social care more generally. This seems to have occurred in Mr Davies’ case.

Wrexham County Borough Council now informs us that it has recently recruited additional social workers to undertake reviews of those receiving social care from the authority, thereby releasing more experienced officers to undertake future support reviews of its WILG recipients. Recipients will be contacted individually by the authority to enter into a dialogue as to the wellbeing outcomes they wish to achieve to live independently and to agree the future support they require to achieve these. The authority intends to complete as many of these support reviews as possible within this financial year, with those not able to be completed by then as soon as possible in next financial year. Whenever a WILG recipient’s support review is completed, their payments under the WILG will not cease until a package of care to deliver the future support they require is in place.

One public consultation on the way in which former recipients of the Independent Living Fund should be supported in the future was held. This ran from October to December 2014 and asked for views on the principle of four potential options to provide support. A summary of the responses received and the conclusions reached was published in March 2015. Stakeholders, including recipients, were informed of this at the time and until recently this summary appeared on the Welsh Government’s website (only being removed as part of a wider updating of our website). I attach a copy of the consultation summary published in 2015 together with a copy of the information letter on this which officials sent to local authorities at the time for them to provide to recipients. I would be grateful if you would provide these to Mr Davies as part of your response to him.

As regards Direct Payments, I understand Wrexham County Borough Council currently operates around 200 such payments to adults to enable them to have control over the care and support they obtain to meet their wellbeing outcomes. The authority is not aware of any operational issues affecting the delivery of these, although accepts that some individuals experience difficulties with recruiting appropriate staff or with securing the care they need from support providers. To ensure their practice is current and appropriate, it has held discussions with officers from Flintshire County Council relating to a collaborative approach to delivering Direct Payments in the region.

If Mr Davies has specific concerns regarding his care package or his Direct Payments from the authority, I understand that Sheila Finnigan-Jones, Service Manager for Disability Services, is happy to meet him to discuss these. Her contact details are:

Tel: Wrexham (01978) XXXXXX E-mail: Sheila.finnigan-jones@wrexham.gov.uk

Huw lrranca-Davies AC/AM

Y Gweinidog Gofal Cymdeithasol a Phlant Minister for Children and Social Care

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Cabinet Reshuffle #SaveWILG

Interesting news from Cardiff today as there has been a cabinet reshuffle at the Senedd. This means Rebecca Evans is no longer the Minister for Social Services and Public Health. The person we now need to lobby with regard to the #SaveWILG campaign is Huw Irranca-Davies who has been made Minister for Children and Social Care. I congratulate him on his appointment and look forward to working with him to help support and salvage Independent Living for disabled people across Wales.

The BBC published a full account of the cabinet reshuffle, which can be read below:

Independent AM and former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Elis-Thomas is to join the Welsh Government as a minister.

Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle – promoting five AMs.

Lord Elis-Thomas will be minister for culture, tourism and sport – a deputy to economy secretary Ken Skates.

He left the party in October last year following a series of disputes with Leanne Wood, and has been voting with the Welsh Government.

The reshuffle came as Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant was removed from the cabinet amid allegations about his behaviour.

Other promotions include Neath AM Jeremy Miles becoming Counsel General, replacing Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw, and Alun Davies, the AM for Blaenau Gwent, joining as cabinet secretary for local government and public services.

The latter appointment marks the return of Mr Davies to the cabinet since he was sacked from it in 2014.

Swansea West AM Julie James replaces Vale of Glamorgan AM Jane Hutt – a minister since 1999 and the longest-serving Labour minister of all time in the UK – as leader of the house and chief whip.

Below cabinet level, Delyn AM Hannah Blythyn, Eluned Morgan, the AM for mid and west Wales, and Huw Irranca-Davies, Ogmore AM, join the government in junior jobs.

Ms Blythyn will be minister for the environment, Ms Morgan is minister for Welsh language and life-long learning, and Mr Davies becomes minister for children and social care.

All three – and Mr Miles – were newly elected to the Senedd in 2016.

Mark Drakeford remains cabinet secretary for finance, but his responsibility for local government has been given to Alun Davies.

Meanwhile social services minister Rebecca Evans moves to become minister for housing and regeneration.

‘Experience and stability’

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “I am proud to announce my new ministerial team, which provides a balance of experience and stability, with new drive and energy.

“This strong team will drive forward our ambitious plans for Wales – focusing on growing the Welsh economy, creating jobs, supporting our public services and improving the day-to-day lives of the people of Wales.”

But Plaid Cymru Group Chair Dai Lloyd AM said his party was “unimpressed”.

“Wales as a nation is crying out for new ideas and a change of direction. Wales still does not have a government that will lift the country up the league tables and inspires people with its agenda,” he said.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, praised Ms Hutt’s contribution but added: “New names and new faces count for very little – positive outcomes are all that matter to the people of Wales. We need a change in ideology”.

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…

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

 

Support from Ian Lucas MP #SaveWILG

I am pleased with how the #SaveWILG campaign is going so far as I’ve had plenty of media coverage, a good response to my postcard campaign, solidarity and support from Welsh Labour Grassroots and now I have had support from Ian Lucas MP, totally justifying the efforts I made to help him get re-elected in June.  He has written to Rebecca Evans AM to voice his concerns over the closure of WILG and to ask for a meeting between her good-self and recipients.  I have copied the letter below with permission from Ian Lucas.

This has made me think… If other people could write to their local MP and highlight the worrying WILG situation, then any further letters like the one below will only serve to increase the pressure on the Welsh Government and make them think twice about their decision to close WILG.  This would be great wherever you live as a letter from an MP outside of Wales would be just as effective.  Thanks for your support.

Anyway, here is the letter from Ian Lucas:

Rebecca Evans AM
Minister for Social Services and Public Health
Welsh Government
5th Floor
Tŷ Hywel
Cardiff Bay
CF99 1NA

14 August 2017

Our Ref: ZA19750

Dear Rebecca,

I am writing on behalf of a constituent, Mr Nathan Lee Davies who recently contacted me regarding the Welsh Government proposal to transfer administration of the Independent Living Fund to local authorities.

Nathan is a beneficiary of the fund with whom both Lesley Griffiths and I have worked over a number of years on disability issues. Nathan suffers from Friedreich’s ataxia, a disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system. We have participated together in consultation events on ILF and discussed the fund with other recipients at consultation events, some of which were organised by the Welsh Government.

I am acutely aware that the UK Government has passed responsibility for the difficult decisions relating to the future of the ILF to the Welsh Government and I do not envy you the decision you have been asked to make. However, I am very concerned indeed, having discussed the issue in depth with Nathan, at the decision to transfer administration of the scheme to local authorities.

Neither of us believe that our Council has either the capacity or expertise to carry out this function and this decision is causing real concern to Nathan and other recipients of the scheme.

I would be very grateful if you would agree to meet with Nathan, me and other recipients of the scheme to discuss their concerns.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Lucas MP

 

Writing to local newspapers…

I have written the following letter to a number of local newspapers across Wales, urging the Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).The campaign for justice continues…

If you wish to write a letter in support of this campaign, use the following emails:

This is the email that I fired off in the hope that people will read it and take notice of what is going on. It is worth a go.

 

I am writing as a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Labour to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019. This payment was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015.

WILG was due to run until the end of March 2017, but Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans said in November that funding would continue for another year.

The annual £27m fund will then transfer directly to local authorities during 2018-19 so they can meet the support needs of all former ILF recipients by 31 March 2019.

Something needs to be done as our disabled friends in England have suffered under a similar system that has seen local authorities being solely responsible for their care and support since 2015. This cannot be allowed to happen in Wales as well. Disabled people must organise themselves and demand to be listened to.

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens who didn’t want WILG scrapped. The key point is that the advice of disabled people was ignored.

This is the time to fight back as Welsh Labour are basking in the glory of Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the recent General Election. The prevailing mood has changed and Welsh Labour have apparently made a significant shift to the left. Surely, Welsh Labour will want to distance themselves from a decision that mirrors the one made by the Tory Government in 2010?

It should also be remembered that closure of WILG is not inevitable as is proved through the formation and success of the Scottish Independent Living Fund; which also works to support the Northern Ireland ILF.

Furthermore, the hugely popular Labour Party Manifesto outlined plans to set up a national care system to exist independently of local authorities. This is exactly the time that the Labour Party should be united on such issues against the Tories. We must question why Welsh Labour are not playing their part in the changing political landscape?

They will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed. However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success – with no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure. 

Indeed, eventually it should be our aim to set up an Independent Living Fund for Wales so that no disabled person should have to suffer the same uncertainty and isolation as WILG recipients are now experiencing. We can only begin to believe that true social justice and equality for all is possible if Welsh Labour revisit their WILG decision…

There are a number of ways that WILG recipients, family members and personal assistants can help to make a difference. Those concerned can sign the petition that has currently received almost 250 signatures, take part in the postcard campaign that is being orchestrated across social media and put pen to paper to their local AM. To find out more about these projects, please contact Nathan Lee Davies at nathandavies01@hotmail.com or search Facebook for the Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) page. Twitter users can find me on @nathanleedavies or you can find all the information about this campaign on my blog at https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/

Thank you for your time.

Nathan Lee Davies, Wrexham