Scotland

Disability News Service: Failure to extend ILF transition funding would be ‘another nail in coffin’ #SaveWILG

Following the positive news from the Welsh Government in providing an independent reassessment for WILG recipients should they be unhappy with the reassessment from local authorities, comes more uncertainty.

I had been looking forward to spending the rest of my life without having to worry about the ability to live my life independently. However, the following article by John Pring of Disability News Service, underlines the uncertainty that disabled people with high support needs face, due to fears that the buffoons in Westminster will fail to provide the vital grant that former ILF recipients need. 

I would like to ask those who have worked hard to protect recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant, if we will still be protected if the grant from Westminster fails to be continued?

Just when I thought I could relax…

***

The government has failed to ease fears that it plans to scrap a vital grant that has been supporting former users of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) for more than three years.

The four-year Former ILF Recipient Grant was agreed in February 2016, with the government agreeing to provide £675 million over four years to local authorities in England.

The announcement of the grant was a significant victory for disabled activists, whose direct action protests had ensured that the plight of former ILF recipients remained a high-profile issue after the fund’s closure on 30 June 2015.

The recipient grant was not ring-fenced, so councils were not forced to spend it supporting former ILF-users, but it has allowed thousands of disabled people with high support needs to continue to live independently since ILF’s closure.

But disabled activists have now pointed out that the four years of funding is due to end next April, and there has been no mention by ministers of any extension to the grant.

And when Disability News Service contacted the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government this week, it refused to say if an extension of the funding was being considered.

Instead, a spokesperson said: “The upcoming [cross-government] spending review will be our opportunity to look at funding for local authorities in the round and work is well underway to secure the resources and flexibilities councils need to deliver services for communities across the country.”

John Kelly, a former ILF-recipient and prominent campaigner, who lives in south-west London, said that any decision to end the grant would be “another nail in the coffin”.

He said: “I don’t want to be alarmist, but things are so awful at the moment that we could be saying goodbye to our rights to independent living, where the limited options on offer could be going back to living in care homes.

“Our predictions when ILF closed have all come true. We said it would be a postcode lottery. It is.

“We predicted the closure would be a drip, drip erosion of our ability and rights to an independent full life.

“We said that people’s packages may be cut. Some disabled people’s packages have been cut.

“We said local authorities wouldn’t be able to cope with applying the principles of independent living to our lives, because all they would be worried about was very basic care needs, because their budgets have been cut. That’s happening.

“We’re in a crisis. That’s not our words, that’s the directors of social services saying it.

“We knew local authorities wouldn’t be able to cope with the freedoms that ILF did give. Those freedoms are being threatened more and more.

“And we knew that ILF was working and those freedoms should have been given to more disabled people, not less.”

He added: “In the spending review, they must ensure that that money continues, but critically our rights to independent living must also be reconsidered, protected and actually furthered.

“My life is more than a one-hour call to make sure I am fed and watered.”

Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said the government had been “shamed” into providing the transition grant through the efforts of disabled activists.

One example was DPAC launching a direct action protest in the lobby of the House of Commons, days before ILF was due to close, with activists nearly succeeding in breaking into the main Commons chamber during prime minister’s questions.

But she said the transition funding provided by the government, including the four-year extension agreed in 2016, was never ring-fenced.

Clifford said: “Even before the ILF closed some local authorities started making dramatic cuts.

“It has been a complete postcode lottery from area to area.

“If the grant is ending, it will be a terrible blow to former ILF recipients whose local authorities have been protecting their support packages.

“We would be likely to see an even greater level of re-institutionalisation, neglect, denial of opportunity and dehumanisation of people with high support needs living in the community and a greater pressure to go into segregated institutions against their wishes.”

She called on disabled people and allies to support the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance’s Independent Living for the Future campaign, which calls for a new national independent living service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support, and finally make the right to independent living a reality.

ILF was originally funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and when it closed on 30 June 2015 it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.

But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred to councils in England and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland, to cover the period until April 2016.

It then agreed to extend that funding to English councils for another four years.

There were separate arrangements in Scotland and Wales.

Scotland set up its own Scottish Independent Living Fund on 1 July 2015, after the closure of the UK-wide ILF.

In Wales, a temporary replacement for ILF, the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme, ran from July 2015 but was due to close this spring and be replaced by a system of council-funded support.

But the closure was paused, after campaigning by disabled activists and allies, to allow all WILG recipients to request an independent reassessment of their new council support packages, with the Welsh government promising to fund the reassessments and any extra support they might need as a result.

Image (4)

Wales disability support cuts: ‘Second opinion’ offered by ministers

The following article is taken from BBC News online. I am not taking any credit for the article and the original piece can be accessed by clicking on this link. 

***

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.”

Julie Morgan
Image captionJulie Morgan campaigned for a change in the system as a backbencher

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.

Presentational grey line

Analysis

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”.

Closure  of the Welsh Independent Living Grant #SaveWILG

The following article was taken from the excellent blog by Luke Clements – a Professor of Law at Leeds University and a Solicitor. 

We really appreciate all the support from Luke Clements and the formidable Ann James in our bid to #SaveWILG. Let’s hope the Welsh Government actually listen to the mounting critics of their decision to close WILG.

***

A case of Wales following in the footsteps of England?

While attention is focused on the countdown to leaving the European Union, one should not lose sight of the impending closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) which has been earmarked for the 31 March 2019.  The impact of the closure is already being felt by people who have transitioned from the WILG to Local Authority funded care and support.

A strenuous and valiant campaign to # SaveWILG has been led by Nathan Davies.

The sustained #SaveWILG campaign has gathered momentum in the final weeks before the proposed closure and has been given greater impetus by a letter from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services.  In this letter Julie Morgan, sets out the outcome of the Deep Dive Review that was put into place by the previous Minister to evaluate the process and outcomes of the re-assessment of WILG recipients who have been re-assessed for Local Authority Services. The letter notes that 157 disabled people (of the 1,174 people who have been re-assessed – i.e. 13%) have suffered a reduction in their care and support provision.

The Minister has since met with representatives of the #SaveWILG Campaign Group who have presented her with a dossier of evidence to reconsider her decision.

The BBC Wales Live news item https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0c0x936/bbc-wales-live-23012019(at 8 minutes 40 seconds) has highlighted the impact on disabled people who have been reassessed and the impact on carers. The long term costs of leaving disabled people with high level care needs with insufficient support was highlighted by Tanni Grey Thompson who supports the continuation of central government funding.

Nathan Davies on behalf of the #SaveWILG  has written an impassioned open  letter  to the First Minister for Wales https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/open-letter-to-first-minister-mark-drakeford-savewilg/  in which he sets out the deep concerns of disabled people who have been moved to local authority care and support, reminding him that during the campaign for the office of First Minister, and in response to a question from the BBC he said,

“… if an independent evaluation shows the new system is not working as well as the old one then I would be prepared to reverse it because this is money intended for a very specific number of people for a very specific purpose”.

One must reluctantly come to the conclusion that the Welsh Government is following in the footsteps of England, albeit three years later.  The closure decision has given scant consideration to the evidence from England on the effect of closure on disabled people and their carers and Wales has been prepared to continue along a trajectory that risks destabilising the established care and support  of WILG recipients.  A critical analysis of the intended closure of the WILG can be found by clicking here.

The Deep Dive Review, referred to by the current Minister for Health and Social Services, was intended to be an independent audit of the process, impact and outcomes of assessing WILG recipients for transition to local authority services. Embedded in the review was the possibility of reversing the decision. If not it was merely a cosmetic exercise.

The detail of the Deep Dive Review has not been made public as yet. There is neither information as to whether local authorities provided each previous recipient of WILG with independent advocacy nor if they offered a carers assessment to relevant carers.

It is an indictment of a review which was supposed to give reassurance to disabled people about the veracity of the evaluation of the process of transition to local authority services, that disabled people were not consulted about their experience of the process  and their satisfaction with the outcomes.  Local Authorities representatives were however consulted and provided reassurance to the Minister that no major implementation issues had come to light.

The letter from the Minister to the #SaveWILG campaign notes that some of the previous recipients of WILG are no longer eligible for social care and have been moved to NHS Continuing Health Care.

Unlike in England, recipients of NHS Continuing Health Care are prevented by statute from having a Direct Payment to arrange care and support. This is a significant impediment to independent living and yet this has not been attended to in legislation (although in England this barrier has been removed).

It now rests with the Minister of Health and Social Services to reverse the decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant and to offer a clear view on how Wales will meet the needs of disabled people with complex needs.

The case note R (CWR) v Flintshire County Council(2018) is a salutary reminder of the experience of a disabled person in need of care and support in Wales under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 and illustrates the understandable fears of disabled people when being assessed for care and support.

The case is also a clear reminder that it is possible to effectively challenge unfair, unlawful or irrational decisions by local authorities.

Minutes of the Cross Party Group on Disability #SaveWILG

Minutes of the Cross Party Group on Disability

Friday, 11th January 2019, Wrexham Glyndŵr University,

Mold Road, Wrexham, LL11 2AW

Present: Carol Gardener, Jo Woodward, Tom Hall, Mark Davies, Eric Owen, Sorrel Taylor, Maureen Lee, Sharon O’Connor, Chris Roberts, Jayne Goodrick, Paul Johnson, Lynne Jones, Lynne Davies, Nathan Davies, Sandra Morgan, Bill Fawcett, Vince West, Laura Seddon, Lisa Pollard, Simon Green, Michelle Brown AM, Eluned Plack, Eluned’s carer, Jacqui Hurst, Kathryn Shaw, Brian Harrison, Rhian Davies, Martyn Jones, Zoe Richards, Mark Isherwood AM, Gareth Davies, Rebecca Phillips.

Apologies: Llyr Grufydd AM, Jan Thomas, Helen Mary Jones AM, Rob Williams, Kathryn Jellings, Andrea Wayman, Stephen Ben Morris, Louise (WCD), Owen Williams, Glenn Page.

1. Welcome and introductions

Mark Isherwood AM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

2. Minutes of the last meeting.

The minutes were approved as an accurate record.

3. Presentations:

Rhian Davies – Draft Framework for Action on Disability

Rhian provided an overview of the Welsh Government’s Draft Framework for Action on Disability. The document was created following a review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living, produced in 2013 to provide a strategic approach to independent living across Wales and to promote the social model of disability.

Disability Wales strongly believe that the Framework for Action on Disability should be under-pinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. Disability Wales worked with its partners in Scotland and Northern Ireland to produce a Manifesto for independent living and identified six calls to action:

1. Improved access to information, advice, independent advocacy and peer support services.

2. Availability of accessible and supported housing to meet individual requirements.

3. A comprehensive range of options and genuine choice and control in how social care and support is delivered.

4. Improved access to person-centered technology.

5. Barrier-free transport system that includes all forms of transport.

6. Enabling access, involvement and social economic and cultural inclusion of all disabled people.

There was a ministerial agreement to review the Framework for Action on Independent Living, three years on. This resulted in the Independent Living Steering group, comprising representatives from disability organisations across Wales, chaired by Rhian, to re-convene. The group reflected on what had been achieved since 2013. They recognised that whilst the introduction of the Framework was ground-breaking, progress on the ground was very slow and that national policy set by Welsh Government had not translated into local action. There was limited evidence in the change in culture, particularly by local authorities and local health boards in terms of taking on board a more rights-based approach to disabled people and to tackling barriers to independent living.

This was endorsed in 2017 during a Welsh Government consultation. The general feedback was that very little had changed in the lives of many disabled people and has even got worse which was also a key finding from the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. The UN Committee in Geneva was very critical of the UK Government in that they had regressed in their local policies.

The steering group’s aspirations for the revised version is that it should be much stronger in terms of the UN Convention of the Rights of Disabled People. The Convention should be at the heart of the new Framework with a stronger commitment to implementation of the social model of disability and more robust action in terms of how that is understood by people.

Rhian reported that the steering group took a strategic decision to align it with Welsh Government’s own strategic plan, ‘Prosperity for All’ which has four key themes:

1. Prosperous and secure

2. Healthy and active

3. Ambitious and learning

4. United and connected

The steering group was of the opinion that there should be two documents. The main document, to set out the key commitments and principles for Welsh Government to abide by, plus a separate action plan that could be regularly updated and monitored with more specific detail about what different the Welsh Government departments would do in terms of delivery.

The action plan, which is currently out for consultation, links more closely to the articles of the UN Convention. In order to produce a response to the consultation, Disability Wales ran two events along with an online survey to gather the views of disabled people. The deadline for responses is Friday 18th January but there could be an extension. Rhian added that Alison Tarrant from Cardiff University has produced an interesting paper looking at independent living policy. The paper was circulated to members prior to the meeting. The paper critiques the Framework for Action on Disability and a number of issues were identified.

Disability Wales and other members of the steering group have been calling for incorporation into the UN Convention for the Rights of Disabled People (UCRDP), giving it similar status to that of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Helen Mary-Jones AM is looking at how human rights can be incorporated in Wales.

Rhian noted that there is a disconnect between Welsh Government’s principles and aspirations in relation to improving independent living for disabled people and the actual reality of accessing services and achieving their rights.

Rhian highlighted the importance of the CPGD submitting a robust response to the consultation with the aim of strengthening the new Framework to ensure it takes forward the rights of disabled people in Wales.

MI highlighted some of the findings from the study based on the Draft Framework for Action on Disability produced by Alison Tarrant of Cardiff University. These included the absence of ‘Advocacy’, which was previously identified in the 2013 Framework as one of the highest priorities. In addition, the 2013 Framework was constructed around a series of priorities identified by disabled people. The foregrounding of the priorities and expertise of disabled people has been removed. MI suggested these be considered when submitting a response.

Nathan Davies – Wales Independent Living Grant

Nathan shared a video with the group, titled ‘Save WILG Campaign’. The video highlighted the issues faced by more than 1300 recipients of the grant. On March 31st, Welsh Government plan to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and transfer the funds to the Local Authorities. The funds will not be ring-fenced. The video, features an insight into Nathan’s condition, Friedreich Ataxia, a progressive disease of the nervous system. Nathan states that in order to be a productive member of society, he requires the help and support from personal assistants, funded by WILG. Without the grant, his care will be reduced from 86.5 hours per week to 31 hours per week. Back in April 2018, at the Welsh Labour Conference, a motion was passed to save WILG. However, this has not been acted upon yet. The Campaign has gathered political support from across the spectrum and still Welsh Ministers and some civil servants refuse to listen to the evidence collected. Nathan is particularly concerned that the money being given to Local Authorities has not been ring-fenced.

Nathan’s strength and campaigning has been recognised by the Wrexham Glyndwr University who have made him an honorary fellow.

To highlight the issues surrounding WILG, Nathan is running a series of campaigns across social media to influence a positive decision.

Mark Isherwood AM invited questions and comments.

Questions / Comments:

In relation to WILG, Rhian informed the group that Nathan and the BBC made a Freedom of Information request. It emerged that only two-thirds of people have been assessed and although some had their packages maintained and some increased, a significant number had their hours cut. There were circa 17 instances of clients taking legal action against their local authority. In response to the Freedom of Information outcome, Huw Irranca-Davies AM agreed to examine this further to establish whether the issues solely related to Wrexham or whether the problem was more widespread. Rhian suggested the CPGD write to the new Minister, Julie Morgan AM for an update.

The importance of disabled people needed better access to lawyers was raised.

Mark Isherwood AM stated that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will occasionally fight a trial case to establish a precedent. The CPGD could submit a request if there was a particular matter that needed to be tested in court. He added that Welsh Government do not have control over Legal Aid but it is still worth highlighting any concerns and to ask what support they can offer to better access legal advice.

Various sources of legal services were identified and will be circulated following the meeting. Disability Wales also have a guide on their website offering advice and information called ‘Know Your Rights, Use Your Rights, Live Your Rights’.

Concerns were raised around the lack of proper planning and services available for the increasing number of children with disabilities which will result in their needs not being met.

A member asked why Welsh Government has decided not to follow Scotland or Northern Ireland in terms of how they manage the Welsh Independent Living Grant if there is evidence to prove the system is working well in those areas.

Mark Isherwood AM suggested Disability Wales seek data from Disability Scotland to identifying the positive impact the grant has had on recipients of the grant.

The Chair welcomed further comments from the floor. Learning Disability Wales gave an update their work. In December Learning Disability Wales held its first ministerial advisory group meeting, chaired by Gwenda Thomas AM. The main focus was the Children’s Commissioner’s ‘Dont Hold Back’ report, investigating children and young people’s experience of transition across various policy areas. Martyn also informed members that Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has been consulting on a document around commissioning services and are looking to hold a national conference around it. Public Health Wales are working with LDW on a conference on reducing restrictive practice with the Education Minister. The Equality and Human Rights Committee are about to start a piece of work around access to courts to support disabled people to fully engage in the system.

Rhian added that Disability Wales are working with Women’s Aid to establish the accessibility of refuges. A survey has been produced and will be circulated. The results will be compiled soon and asked whether it would be an opportunity hold a joint meeting with the Party Group on Violence against Women and Children to share the findings.

Mark Isherwood AM welcomed a joint meeting with the Cross Party Group on Domestic Violence.

Date of the next meeting:

Zoe Richards will circulate the date of the next meeting, to be held in Cardiff.

Actions:

1. CPGD to produce a response to the Framework for Action on Disability consultation document and seek an extension to the deadline of the 31st January.

2. Zoe to share the link to Nathan Davies’ campaign video to members.

3. CPGD to write to Julie Morgan to summarise concerns and seek an update in relation to the issues identified following the Freedom of Information request.

4. Disability Wales to seek data from Disability Scotland to support the evidence around the positive impact of WILG on Scottish recipients.

5. Circulate an email requesting responses to the consultation.

6. Circulate Women’s Aid and Disability Wales’ survey

Open Letter to First Minister Mark Drakeford #SaveWILG

Dear Mark

This is an incredibly worrying time for all disabled people and their families across Wales.  There are only 63 days left before the Welsh Independent Living Grant is due to end, leaving individuals at the mercy of cash-strapped Local Authorities  who seem intent on cutting vital support packages across the board with no guarantee that further cuts will not follow.

The fact that this neo-liberal policy is still being forced through by a Welsh Labour Government is unbelievable: frankly, it makes it even worse. I always thought that I would be protected from the brutality shown by the Tories in Westminster, because I live in a land governed by a social, democratic party. Unfortunately, the Party that I know and love seem to have lost their way under the previous leadership, which is why I was overjoyed by your election victory to become our new First Minister.

I am confident that Welsh Labour is now travelling in the right direction towards a socialist future which you championed during the Leadership Hustings. In an interview with the BBC you also said the following about the future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant:

…”if an independent evaluation “shows the new system is not working as well as the old one then I would be prepared to reverse it because this is money intended for a very specific number of people for a very specific purpose”.

The deep-dive that was recently undertaken by the Welsh Government, to analyse the performance of Local Authorities relating to the WILG transition, is full of errors and quite frankly not worth the paper it is written on. How can an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the end of WILG be conclusive without having consulted disabled people who will be affected? My comrades dismantled the deep-dive results in our recent meeting with Deputy Health Minister, Julie Morgan AM.

The closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant is such a destructive move to disabled people’s rights and I do not believe that a progressive Party such as ours should be going down such an avenue.

#SaveWILG campaigners have presented the Deputy Health Minister with an 80 page dossier of evidence against the closure of WILG. In addition, we have the backing of Welsh Labour members who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Clwyd South motion to save WILG at Conference in April 2018. I believe you pledged to listen to the voices of members during the Hustings and they have certainly been vocal on this subject. We have also had support from Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP’s such as Chris Williamson, Ian Lucas and Chris Ruane. Film Director Ken Loach also supports our campaign.

Criticism of Welsh Government policy on Independent Living has also been made by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD):

However, various disability organisations in Wales had advocated setting up a national independent living scheme in Wales as aligning with a citizen directed system of support rather than the approach now adopted by the Welsh Government.

We recommend that the CRPD Committee asks:

Can the Welsh Government explain:

How it reached a decision to move all ILF recipients to normal social care provision from 31 March 2019, rather than setting up a national independent living scheme?

How it will ensure protection for article 19 rights of those formerly eligible for the Independent Living Fund after 31 March 2019?

I do not believe Welsh Labour should be having to defend themselves against the UN as I know your personal intentions are to ensure universal equality throughout Wales, but now is the time to take positive action and start listening to Welsh Labour members and disabled people and their families.

Personally, I have been treated abysmally by my Local Authority. I find myself in the position of having to teach my social worker about the Social Services and Well being Act. I am not being allowed to use my Direct Payments to meet my Personal Outcomes as described in the SSWBA and feel this vindicates my insistence on the need to maintain the tripartite system when deciding on and funding future care provision.

The reassessment process – which was originally due to end by September 30th 2018 and shows no sign of being completed soon – is really having a negative impact on my physical and mental health. When I first met with my social worker at the end of November 2018, she laughed when I suggested that I would need 24/7 support. She declared that no one in Wrexham gets such a thorough level of support [whether they require it or not?]. She said that even if we applied for such levels of care and support, that the panel would not accept such a request. This is a total departure from what the SSWBA promises. There is definitely no co-production going on and Local Authorities seem to be treating disabled people as a burden.

Without the overnight support I need to fully function in society, I have to stop drinking at 8pm at night, get ready for bed at 10pm and cannot wear my hand splints or use my leg supports during long and uncomfortable nights. I often find myself having to call on my 68-year-old father to assist me in the night, even though he lives a 10 minute drive away and has arthritis in both hands.

As Tanni Grey-Thompson said on Wales Live (23/01/19), it will cost the Welsh Government more in the long term to push ahead with this strategy of devolving funding to Local Authorities. It just makes no sense whatever way you look at it. Disabled people and their families never wanted such a situation to develop as was indicated in the original consultation that took place during 2015/16. I have been asking to see the consultation documents since October 2017, but I keep being directed towards a summary document. We all know that a summary can be manipulated and edited to suit the publishers. If the summary is accurate why can I not access original consultation responses?

It is often claimed by the Welsh Government that the original stakeholder group were united in agreement with the closure of WILG and the transferring of funds to local authorities.This is quite simply untrue. The members of the stakeholder group that I have spoken to have stated their frustrations with the whole process: “I disagreed with one side of the room almost continuously,“ and “I would be amazed to see minutes of a meeting where all participants agreed that passing this WILG over to the local authority beyond the ring-fenced period was the way forward.”  Others have said “I used to go home from all these stakeholder groups thinking we had agreed certain things to discover that was not what had been recorded.” and other activists argue that many officials and civil servants do not actually “know what Independent Living means – they still think ‘independent’ means managing without support”.

It would greatly assist me in understanding Welsh Government’s decision making process on this issue if the minutes of all of the meetings of the stakeholder advisory group can be provided, and I will submit a Freedom of Information Act request if necessary.

I could go on and on, but time is against me and I would merely be repeating much of what can be read in my attached dossier of evidence. At over 80 pages long, I believe it is a comprehensive guide as to why the Welsh Independent Living Grant should be maintained indefinitely. The dossier includes information of the success of the Independent Living Schemes set up in Scotland and Northern Ireland that shows the lack of imagination shown by the Welsh Government compared to our neighbours.

Please note that this letter is written with the deepest respect towards yourself and your cabinet members. I am a loyal Welsh Labour supporter and I have belief in the 21st Century socialism that you intend on developing. The problem is that we cannot wait any longer and the changes need to be made immediately. There is no sense in a proud socialist Government copying the exact same model rolled out by the Conservative Party in Westminster.  Moreover, if the original decision was wrong then your team needs to have the courage to simply reverse it.  Tinkering with the detail in a bid to spare the blushes of your predecessors is just not acceptable: in fact it’s morally dishonest.

I know that you are extremely busy with Brexit and other pressing concerns, but disabled people with high care and support needs across Wales are in need of your leadership now. I look forward to meeting you again in the near future and should you require any more information from the #SaveWILG campaign, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Wishing you strength and solidarity

In hope…

Nathan Lee Davies
#SaveWILG campaign

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

MINISTER URGED TO RESPOND TO DISABLED PEOPLE’S CONCERNS OVER SCRAPPING OF WELSH INDEPENDENT LIVING GRANT #SaveWILG

Below is a press release sent to me by Mark Isherwood AM who has been very supportive of the #SaveWILG campaign over the last three years. We would like to thank Mark for his continued support which will hopefully benefit all disabled people across  Wales.

*** 

 Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, Mark Isherwood AM, has called on the Welsh Government to respond to concerns regarding the scrapping of the Welsh Independent Living Grant which were raised at a meeting in North Wales earlier this month.

The Welsh Government are transferring the Welsh Independent Living Grant to local authorities and many of the estimated 1,300 disabled people in Wales who received the Grant are reporting that their personal care packages have been greatly reduced.

 Mr Isherwood has previously described the move as “a betrayal of  the right of disabled people to live independently and make their own decisions”.

 In yesterday’s Business Statement, he called for an Oral Statement on the grant, stating that he had been asked by attendees of the packed meeting of the Assembly Cross Party Group on Disability, which took place in  Wrexham 12 days ago,  “to get answers, because time is running out”.

Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Isherwood, who is Chair of the Cross Party Group, said:  

 “We know that when the Independent Living Fund (ILF) was devolved by the UK Government in England to Local Authorities, and in Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland to the respective Governments, that Scotland launched ILF Scotland to ensure recipients have choice and control. Northern Ireland chose to join the Scottish scheme, and disabled people and disabled groups in Wales said they wanted to join it too, but instead the Welsh Government gave the money to local authorities.

 “In May last year, we were told in a Written Statement by the Welsh Government that Local Authorities were reporting that most people were receiving similar support to that they’d had with their ILF payments, with no significant issues being raised, but we know, since, there has been extensive coverage of disabled people suffering because of the decisions made.

 “A particular point I was asked to raise at the meeting in Wrexham by a packed room of people, many of whom were disabled themselves, was to emphasise this is about the difference between staying in bed or getting out of bed, about having dinner or not having dinner, about having control or being controlled. They said, ‘They just don’t understand the importance of one word to disabled people – independence – and the impact on mental health and well-being, and the ability to interact with society’.

 “That’s lived experience, articulated again by Nathan Lee Davies at the meeting in North Wales, who has led the (Save the) Welsh Independent Living Grant Campaign on behalf of recipients of the grant – including himself, but also very many others.

 “As we approach the final point on this, when nobody will be left in receipt of Independent Living Grant, will you as a Government, for once, in this case, deliver an oral statement and answer the questions that disabled people across Wales who were in receipt of the ILF are increasingly asking?”

 Replying, the Minister for Finance, Rebecca Evans, said the First Minister has asked the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services to review the progress that there’s been to date in terms of moving across to the new system of receiving care and support, to decide what further action might be necessary to ensure that there is a fair outcome for everybody concerned.

 She added: “You’ll be aware, of course, of the Deep-Dive Review, which took place to ensure that where there were changes to people’s support it was appropriate and not compromising, in any way, that person’s ability to live independently. I understand that work has been completed, and the review will be shared with the Petitions Committee, and I know that there’ll be opportunities to question the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services on her approach in due course.”

 ENDS

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. 

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