#SaveWILG

#SaveWILG Campaign Update

I have received an update from the Welsh Government, on their efforts to provide independent assessments to all WILG recipients who requested one. It read as follows:

All 14 local authorities who have former WILG recipients who have requested an independent assessment now have a data sharing agreement in place with ICS. As a result ICS now has basic data on the majority of the 50 recipients who have requested an independent assessment in order to progress these. This does not include details of previous care assessments or care plans as both ICS and us wanted their social workers to go into this process without any preconceptions of people’s care needs.

Consequently ICS is now arranging appointments for their social workers to undertake these and has already undertaken first appointments with a number of the 50 recipients across Wales. Following these ICS’ social workers will write up respective care assessments for submission to ICS’ quality control, before discussion with the relevant local authority representative and subsequently a joint discussion with the former WILG recipient concerned. On the basis of the current position ICS estimates it will have completed all assessments by the end of November. 

The reassessment that I received went very well, and was not hard work at all. I had feared that it would be much more invasive than it was. The social worker from ICS was both professional and friendly. She listened attentively to the case we made for 24/7 support, and said that she would be in touch with a decision in between three and five weeks. That was on October 1st.

It is good news to hear that ICS plan to have all the assessments complete by the end of November. This is something that I believe is very important, as the WILG recipients affected do not want another Xmas of worry and stress.

I have spent the last two Christmas periods busy on Twitter, while the rest of my family have enjoyed Xmas dinner. I could not detach myself from the fight to #SaveWILG, even during the festivities. My very way of life was on the line, and I was in no mood to join in with the celebrations while WILG recipients were struggling in such a way. Fingers crossed that this year I will be able to enjoy some Turkey, rather than the meagre meal of beans on toast that I have stubbornly eaten for the past two years in order to make a point.

If any WILG recipients, or their families/friends, still have concerns over the assessment process then please do get in touch.

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“I won’t belong to a club that does not accept me as a member”

I have been a supporter of Wrexham AFC for 35 years. I have ploughed tens of thousands of pounds into the club I love. My relationship with the football club has been the one consistent relationship in my life and  outlasted failed relations with the opposite sex. I believed I would be Wrexham til I die, but unfortunately things don’t always turn out the way you expect them to.

The way the Disabled Supporters Association has been treated over the past few years is nothing short of a disgrace. The DSA is run by a team of dedicated committee members who represent the best interests of football supporters from all walks of life. They have done a sterling job in trying to maintain a community feel around a heartless carcass of a club.

The official club statement below describes the club’s biased view, but there are two sides to every story. I have been busy with the #SaveWILG campaign so have not been able to give this divide my full attention. I only know that instead of welcoming disabled supporters, Wrexham AFC are driving them away and totally failing in their moral obligations to the community at large.

Nothing has happened with regard to the resolution that myself and Ian Parry made to the Wrexham Supporters Trust (WST) AGM back in 2018. To read the full story about this, click here.

Because I no longer feel welcomed at the Racecourse, it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to cancel my monthly direct debit to the WST. I cannot justify giving any more money to an organisation that clearly does not value my presence at games. Last season, the club actually used a hashtag at the end of their tweets – #WeAreOneTeam. This is an absolute joke and I encourage everyone with an ounce of solidarity and common decency to listen to their hearts before deciding whether or not to return to the Racecourse while the current regime is in control.

Wrexham fans might be interested in knowing about the eBay auctions that I will be listing soon of all the merchandise I have collected since we have been under the ownership of the WST. I have to find a way of getting some compensation. I will notify readers when these auctions go live.

I will still be writing my book about the history of the club. The volume will only focus on our time in the Football League when it was worth attending the Racecourse. I can’t recall the last time I actually got excited at a Wrexham game. Sadly, I just don’t have the time to waste anymore. The median age of death for someone with Friedreich’s Ataxia is 35. I am now 42 and determined to squeeze the most out of life while I can.

Cheers WST, you may have done me a favour…

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WST STATEMENT | STATEMENT REGARDING WREXHAM DSA & VIEWING PLATFORM

The Wrexham Supporters Trust need to respond to a growing social media storm regarding the club taking over the stewarding of the viewing platform at the Racecourse from the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association. It is important that the situation is clarified and people understand the background to the decision.

Before the game vs Ebbsfleet

In the run up to the home fixture vs Ebbsfleet United, Wrexham AFC received a request from the DSA for complimentary tickets and a presentation on the pitch before our game against St Mirren Colts on Saturday, 12th October for a group called the ‘Allies in Access’.

Unfortunately we were unable to facilitate this request on this occasion as rules of the competition do not allow for complimentary tickets to be given away, apart from those stipulated by the competition.

The presentation on the pitch was for the ‘Allies in Access’ group who had won an award recently at the ‘Fans for diversity’ awards, which Wrexham DSA attended. The Allies in Access are a group based in the West Midlands, who represent their clubs, Walsall, Wolves, West Brom, Birmingham and Aston Villa. The group support their own clubs with disability requirements.

Unfortunately, Wrexham AFC were further unable to facilitate this request due to the tunnel area being restricted from 2pm onwards on matchday. This operation is standard practice at all of our home games.

As a compromise, the WST and Wrexham AFC offered the DSA to invite the ‘Allies in Access’ group for a pitchside photograph on a non-match day, an offer that is still open.

Upon receiving the news, the DSA contacted the club on Friday, 27th September to inform us they were going on ‘strike’ and would not be attending the Ebbsfleet game the following day in protest.

The DSA also informed our stadium manager and our DLO they were not prepared to supply the names of the supporters attending the platform and intended not to run their Audio Descriptive Commentary (ADC).

This left Wrexham AFC in a difficult position, with no alternative other than to steward the platform ourselves, so some of our most vulnerable supporters received the match day services they have become accustomed to.

Wrexham AFC contacted the suppliers of the ADC to see if we could make alternative arrangements to allow our supporters who use the service an option to have the commentary on the day. As a contingency measure we made plans for the commentators to sit next to the users of the commentary service.

The day of the game vs Ebbsfleet

Thankfully a DSA committee member contacted the club on the Saturday morning to say that they were prepared to organise the ADC, as Wrexham AFC did not have access to the equipment required. Wrexham AFC are grateful to the DSA committee member for providing the service, as we know how valuable it is to those supporters who use the ADC.

At midday in the run up to the game the DSA having previously informed us they were withholding the names of who was due to be on the platform, thankfully changed their stance and provided the names of the platform users to the club.

Unfortunately, Wrexham AFC were unable to provide any assistance with the car parking at Glyndwr University. Wrexham AFC do not have an organising relationship for activities in the car park area, which are usually carried out by the DSA in conjunction with the owners of the car park.

Following the Ebbsfleet Fixture

An email was sent to the DSA the following Thursday, as we had not been informed if they were intending to resume their role providing stewarding on the platform for the fixture vs Harrogate Town. So that alternative arrangements could be arranged in time, a deadline was put in place, if the deadline wasn’t met, the club would need seek to make alternative arrangements, as 12pm is the cut off for making professional staffing arrangements.

The DSA replied to an email after the deadline and as such Wrexham AFC operations had already acted to put alternative arrangements into place to ensure the platform could be used by our supporters, both on Tuesday and for the rest of the season, so we can be certain to keep continuity of service to fans.

The decision was not taken lightly and given the situation, Kerry Evans, Wrexham AFC Disability Liaison Officer has agreed to take over the organisation of the platform alongside her other roles at the club, which will not be affected by her taking the extra work on.

The DSA kindly agreed to deliver the ADC at the Ebbsfleet game and have been invited to continue to deliver the service at the Racecourse Ground on match days. Should the DSA feel unable to provide the receivers to our supporters who use the service, Wrexham AFC will look to source more receivers to ensure ADC can continue.

There appears to be some confusion among supporters regarding the DSA and disability projects that are being run by Wrexham AFC through Kerry Evans.

Wrexham AFC projects include:

  • The Autism Friendly area and quiet room
  • Accessible away travel scheme
  • Kerry has been instrumental in Wrexham AFC and The Racecourse being the first professional football club in Wales to be granted Autism Friendly status
  • Dementia friendly status for the ground
  • Autism friendly football sessions
  • Anti-bullying workshops in schools
  • Representing Wrexham AFC in her official capacity at many community events in the area. Kerry will continue to provide our supporters with all the usual along with these extra tasks.

The DSA’s role on matchdays has been:

  • Stewarding the viewing plaform
  • Handing out receivers for the ADC
  • Working with the WSA on the Blue badge car parking
  • Supporting Wrexham DSA members

In the spirit of openness and transparency, below is a copy of the email sent to the DSA informing them of the decision by Wrexham AFC.

We would prefer to resolve these issues in a face to face meeting and by reasonable discussion, but when individuals resort to social media it is important that the full facts are brought to the attention of our supporters. That is why we have taken the unusual step of making this statement.

Ultimately all of us want to provide the best facilities for all our fans and our DLO in particular has worked tirelessly to help bring that about. In fairness to her (and our other volunteers) it is important that the full facts are aired in response to what others have chosen to publish.

“Thanks for your reply Andy.

Unfortunately as the DSA did not reply until after the 12pm deadline, which was required by us, Wrexham AFC had no alternative but to ensure the services were available for some of our most vulnerable of supporters.

As such, the DSA presence will not be required on the platform for Tuesday evening at Wrexham AFC and for the remainder of the season. Our disabled supporters rely on the provision of services and we have to ensure they continue to receive a high quality service without the potential for any possible disruption as it really makes a difference to their match day experience.

Wrexham AFC will continue to strive for excellence with regards to inclusion and diversity as anyone would expect as a minimum. This has been a difficult decision to take by Wrexham AFC but we must ensure the services for some of our most vulnerable supporters are never placed in jeopardy and taking these services in house is the most sensible solution at this time. Wrexham AFC will strive to improve on the services currently offered which I am sure you would welcome.

I would like to add our gratitude to Darren for facilitating the ADC on Saturday. The continuation of this service is a high priority for Wrexham AFC and if you can commit and guarantee to providing the service you would be welcomed to do so on behalf of the football club. Should you be unable to guarantee providing the service to our supporters who gain an enhanced match day service, Wrexham AFC will have no option other than to source alternative arrangements. Feedback from the supporters who use the ADC has been so positive, we know how much they value the service and will take all steps necessary to ensure its continuation.

With regards to any meeting, Wrexham AFC were unaware of any issue until the request one made by the DSA for tickets and pitch presentation for the St Mirren Colts game, unfortunately this was unable to be facilitated. Alternative arrangements were offered for the allies in access group to attend the ground on a non match day to have a pitch side presentation but we have not heard back regarding the offer which still stands. Should you wish to email a request with an agenda for items you wish to discuss at a meeting we would look to meet you at a convenient time and date in the near future.

Wrexham AFC would like to thank you for your past presence on the viewing platform and hope we can continue working together in providing services to some of our most vulnerable supporters in the future.”

Issued jointly by: Wrexham AFC Operations and Wrexham Supporters Trust Governing Body.

Disability News Service: Welsh government ignores social care funding crisis… in independent living action plan #SaveWILG

The following is an article written by John Pring on his excellent Disability News Service website. This can be accessed by clicking here. 

I have been put in a difficult position following the publication of the Welsh Government’s new framework on independent living – Action On Disability – The Right to Independent Living.

I have been extremely critical of this new legislation, but I want to make it very clear that this is a separate issue to my WILG campaign. I will be forever grateful to the Welsh Government for listening to campaigners and acting decisively. Our new First Minister and the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services deserve particular praise for their hard work and determination to protect a vulnerable section of society.

However, I hope both Mark Drakeford and Julie Morgan can appreciate why I  have to speak out against the new framework due to the lack of consideration of social care. I am a proud member of the Labour Party and fully support the vast majority of the party’s policies, but I reserve the right to be critical of specific programmes and will campaign to improve them.

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The Welsh government has completely ignored the social care funding crisis in a new action plan aimed at ensuring disabled people’s right to independent living.

A public consultation process with disabled people and disability organisations led to “multiple calls” for increased social care funding.

But the final version of the Labour government’s framework and action plan on the right to independent living – which includes 55 actions – says nothing about the funding crisis or the need for more spending on adult social care.

This contrasts with its 2013 framework, which it replaces and which included lengthy sections on access to social care, direct payments and personalised support.

In discussing the engagement process, which took place in 2017, with further engagement late last year on a draft version of the framework, the document says: “We heard that cuts to social care provision have led to lower allocations for Direct Payments which means disabled adults and young people are becoming increasingly isolated and impact to their well-being compromised.”

It also admits that there were “multiple calls for increased funding for health and social care” during that process.

But despite those calls, not one of the 55 actions in the plan mentions social care funding, or the need to address the cuts.

Instead, the action plan details wider measures around independent living, including: barriers to employment; recruitment of disabled apprentices; a review of funding for housing adaptations; collecting evidence on disability poverty; and improving access to health services.

It also includes a planned review of the disabled students’ allowance system; a pledge to improve understanding of the social model of disability across the Welsh government; and action on access to public transport.

There is also a pledge to introduce a scheme in Wales to provide financial support for the extra costs of disabled people seeking election to local councils, to match schemes in Scotland and England.

Nathan Lee Davies, a leading disabled campaigner who has helped secure concessions from the Welsh government on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), said the omission was “bemusing” and appeared to be a “major step backwards”.

A spokesperson for the Welsh government refused to comment on the failure to mention cuts to social care funding in the action plan.

But Jane Hutt, the Welsh government’s deputy minister and chief whip, who has responsibility for equality issues, said in announcing the new framework that “supporting people to live their lives in the way they choose is the right thing to do”.

She said the framework sets out how the government was fulfilling its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

But the failure of the action plan to suggest any measures to address the funding crisis and cuts to support suggests the Welsh government could be in breach of the convention’s article 19.

Article 19 says that governments signed up to the convention should take “effective and appropriate measures” to enable disabled people to live in the community with “full inclusion and participation”.

Despite this omission, the framework pledges to “work for continuous improvement in how Wales fulfils its obligations with regard to [UNCRPD] and the Rights of the Child”.

There is also no mention in the document of ILF, and the Welsh government’s decision to close its interim Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme, which it had been running as a stopgap with UK government transition funding since ILF closed in June 2015.

WILG closed on 31 March 2018, when the £27 million a year funding provided by the UK government to maintain support to former ILF recipients transferred to local authorities in Wales.

Because of the WILG closure, Welsh local authorities are now solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients.

More than 1,200 former ILF recipients will now have their needs met through council funding, while 50 of them have requested an independent assessment of their new support package, a process being funded by the Welsh government following a campaign led by Davies over concerns about post-WILG support.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “The Welsh Independent Living Grant was introduced as an interim measure to support people who received payments from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund which closed in 2015.

“Our new framework focuses on the future of independent living in Wales, and what Welsh government can do to support disabled people going forward.”

Davies said: “On the face of it the new framework that has been introduced by the Welsh government, following a lengthy consultation process, is as bemusing as it was when [the draft version] was originally launched last year.

“It seems as if I wasted my breath at two consultation days as many of the failings of the framework that I highlighted have failed to be addressed in a [document] that does not seem to address the needs of disabled people with high support needs.

“Social care does not seem to be addressed at all. This is an absolutely bizarre situation when discussing a framework supposedly designed to promote independent living for disabled people.

“Not one of the 55 actions in the action plan mentioned social care funding, which is extremely worrying.”

He added: “After achieving success with the #SaveWILG Campaign – where former ILF recipients have been offered the opportunity of an independent assessment if they disagreed with the decision of the local authority, all funded by the Welsh government – it was hoped that this would signal a change in attitude going forward.

“The dynamic brand of 21st century socialism introduced by first minister Mark Drakeford has delivered positive change that deserves to be recognised.”

But he said the new framework and action plan “seems like a major step backwards”.

He added: “It just seems that the socialist values that the Welsh government demonstrated with their reaction to the WILG campaign have not been utilised in the new framework.

“It does not sit well with me to criticise this new [document], but the fact that it seems to blatantly flaunt the UNCRPD article 19 is a major cause for concern.

“It would be very easy for me to ignore this as WILG recipients have now been protected, but as a disabled activist I remain vigilant to the needs of my disabled brothers and sisters across Wales.

“All disabled people with high support needs should be able to access adequate social care and I will not rest until justice prevails for those in need.”

Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales (DW), who led the national steering group on the framework, welcomed its publication, particularly “the renewed commitment to implementation of the [UNCRPD] and consideration of options to incorporate this and other UN treaties in Welsh law together with a stronger focus on the social model of disability and proposals to tackle the disability employment gap and support disabled people to take up positions in public life.”

But she added: “Some aspects of the action plan are stronger and more developed than others, often in those areas where disabled people have been closely involved in informing and influencing policy.

“With regard to social care, there appear to be relatively few initiatives cited in the action plan compared with other policy areas.

“Key issues raised during the consultation are omitted, including low take-up of direct payments, provision of advocacy services, WILG developments and the impact of austerity on social care as a whole.

“We understand that the action plan is a work in progress so DW will continue to press for these issues to be addressed, including through Welsh government’s Disability Equality Forum which plays a vital role in monitoring implementation of the framework.”

Committee discuss #SaveWILG

By visiting Senedd.tv and watching the Petitions Committee meeting from September 17, you can listen to probably the final discussion of the #SaveWILG campaign by the committee. 

Many thanks to the Petitions Committee for all the time and work put into considering the petition. I am glad to report that I received an email from the independent assessors this afternoon proposing the beginning of my assessment on October 1st.

The information below has been taken from the official minutes of Tuesday’s Petitions Committee meeting.

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P-05-771 Reconsider the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant and support disabled people to live independently

Supporting documents:

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The Last Time? #SaveWILG

I received the following email to inform me that the Petitions Committee at the Senedd will be discussing my petition to Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant on Tuesday 17th September at 9.00.  This may be one of the final times that the petition is considered by the committee in question, considering how far we have come over the last seven months.

We are still waiting for our reassessments, but the end is in sight…

Nevertheless, I would still recommend that all those affected by WILG should tune in to the following:

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Dear Petitioner

Your petition will be considered at our next meeting on Tuesday 17 September at 9.00.

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

http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=430&MId=5650&Ver=4

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

http://www.senedd.tv/

Kind regards,

Petitions Committee 

The Final Furlong #SaveWILG

I am up to my neck in negotiations with my local authority over emergency payments for my depleted Direct Payments account. It has taken a beating over the past six months, as I have been using it to fund the 24/7 support that I so desperately need. I had saved quite a sum to be used in such a situation – it was always going to happen, due to the fact that I live with a progressive disability and had not been fully reassessed since 2010.

I am pleased to report that, having met with the Head of Adult Social Care, WCBC have agreed to make the relevant payments to ensure that I can continue to receive the support I need, at least until the end of my forthcoming WILG reassessment.

There is one thing that I would like to make clear to WCBC and all local authorities. One of the meetings I recently had with WCBC, through up the question of where the additional funds that I am now in desperate need of, would come from? I was shocked and disappointed that WCBC and a number of other local authorities, do not seem to grasp the fact that the #SaveWILG campaign that I led, resulted in the Welsh Government agreeing to fund any extra costs incurred. This was clearly outlined in a written statement on the future of WILG payments, made by the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan on the 18th of July:

I would remind Members that the cost of these independent care assessments, and any additional support for people that might be identified from them, will be met by the Welsh Government. This is so that there can be no question of changes being made to people’s care and support as a cost cutting measure. The under-pinning principle of my approach is to ensure that outcomes reached are consistent with supporting people’s agreed well-being outcomes.

It is important that all local authorities realise that Ministers have agreed to fund any increased care costs that may arise from the outcome of an independent assessment.

Even though the #SaveWILG campaign has been extremely critical of local authorities in Wales over the past four years when dealing with WILG recipients, we have actually assisted cash-strapped councils by reducing the amount they are expected to pay to support disabled people with high support needs across Wales.

WILG recipients and their supporters need to remember this fact, and hammer it home when confronted by adult social care professionals who do not keep up with the news, or realise just what an impact the #SaveWILG campaign has had. The Welsh Government has actually done something pretty special and deserve all the credit in the world. They have listened to our fears, read the evidence we collected and acted decisively. Sadly, there is little room for any positive news in the media at the moment, as we are all obsessed with the actions of a Conservative Muppet and the mess he is making of the BREXIT debacle.

All we need to do now, is remind all local authorities of the changes that have been introduced…

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Mile End #SaveWILG

I must begin by apologising for not updating my followers for a few weeks. I have been in battle – mode against my local authority who seem determined not to increase my package of social care, unless I undertake a health assessment that everyone can clearly see I don’t need. This has caused several sleepless nights, panic attacks, depression and exhaustion. I simply want to enjoy what is left of my life, but I am not being allowed to by the Council who preside over the town in which I was born, and have lived most of my life.

I have to be careful what I say, as there is plenty going on behind the scenes. I do not want to upset any of the staff who are employed by Wrexham CBC, and are merely following orders from above.

As I write, I am full of anxiety and have never felt so alone, even though I am surrounded by an army of supporters who are always on hand to steer me in the right direction. Unfortunately, these supporters cannot be with me around the clock and I am forced to spend frustrating hours on my own. I am full of energy and ideas, but this is agony as I need social support to communicate, wash, dress, eat, drink and do everything that most people take for granted.

There are a few ideas that I have come up with that I will be sharing over the next week or two, when the time is right. Those who know me, will be confident in the knowledge that I won’t be manipulated or threatened by anyone. For the time being, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am definitely still in the game and attempting to secure justice for myself and other disabled people with high support needs in Wales.