Scotland

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

 

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Disabled activist ‘is fighting for his life’ as he hands petition to Welsh government

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE DISABILITY NEWS SERVICE WEBSITE AND WAS WRITTEN BY JOHN PRING.

A disabled activist has handed in a petition of hundreds of signatures that calls on the Welsh government to reverse its decision to close its version of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

Nathan Lee Davies (pictured) says he is fighting the decision to scrap the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) because he is terrified of the prospect of his cash-strapped local authority taking over full responsibility for providing his care package.

He has been told that without WILG his own care package would be reduced from 86.5 hours to just 31 hours a week.

He says that such a cut would put an end to all his current community activities, including his involvement with Wrexham Glyndwr University, Wrexham football club, Disabled People Against Cuts, FDF Centre for Independent Living, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.

He is also writing two books, and a blog, and is working with Disability Arts Cymru to create a performance and exhibition of his poetry.

He told Disability News Service (DNS): “I cannot cope with such a limited number of hours per week. This is why I am fighting with every fibre of my being.

“It really is a case of life or death. I have no interests in merely existing. I want to live.

“Without help and support I would be unable to do any of this work that involves me in the community.”

The Labour-run Welsh government announced last November that, after a two-year transition period, it would transfer all of the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales directly to councils.

There will be no new Welsh ILF – even though such a scheme has been set up in Scotland – and no continuation of the interim WILG scheme the Welsh government has been running as a stopgap to “ensure continuity of payments to recipients” since the Department for Work and Pensions closed ILF in June 2015.

Funding for WILG will now transfer to local authorities during 2018-19, with all former ILF-recipients in Wales having their support needs met solely by their local authority by 31 March 2019.

Since the Welsh government’s announcement, Davies has been campaigning to persuade it to reverse the decision, including setting up the petition – which has now been signed by more than 500 people online and in person – and collecting photographs of supporters holding one of his campaign postcards.

He said: “The current system allows users the security of depending on receiving their funding from three different ‘pots’ – WILG, local authorities and our own personal contribution.

“This gives us a sense of security and ensures that we cannot be dictated to as mere passive recipients.

“Instead, all parties have to be in agreement about what will benefit the individual the most.

“This is something worth fighting for.”

But instead of this three-tier system, he said, the Welsh government had now “sold disabled people down the river.

“They are washing their hands of all responsibility for social care to former ILF recipients and transferring the pressure onto local authorities.”

A Welsh government spokeswoman told DNS in a statement: “Organisations that represent disabled people who have been recipients of the Independent Living Fund, recommended that their future support would be best provided through local authority social care provision, with consistent arrangements in place to support disabled people in Wales.”

But Disability Wales, which was part of the stakeholder advisory group the Welsh government consulted, has made it clear to DNS that it did not support passing funding to local authorities.

The Welsh government added: “We would be surprised if Disability Wales were suggesting that certain disabled people in Wales should have their support needs met in a different way to other disabled people.”

Davies said he believed the Welsh government had listened only to the local authorities on the advisory group.

He has been supported by the north-east branch of the Labour left-wing grassroots campaign Momentum and the Unite union in Wales.

But he said he was disappointed that Disability Wales – the national association of disabled people’s organisations in Wales – had not supported his campaign.

Miranda Evans, policy and programmes manager for Disability Wales (DW), said they were not able to support the petition – which is critical of the Labour party in Wales – because it was too party political.

But she stressed that DW’s preferred option was for a new Welsh independent living scheme – a Welsh version of ILF – that would protect those currently receiving WILG funding and would also be open to new members.

DNS has seen DW’s response to an early consultation on the Welsh government’s plans, and it makes it clear that none of DW’s members or the other disabled people it had consulted about the future of WILG were in favour of handing the funding directly to local authorities, and had instead “expressed strong opposition” to this.

It also stressed that such an option was “totally unacceptable to existing ILF recipients, their carers and other disabled people”.

Briefing on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG)

Briefing on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG)

Background:

The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) was introduced by Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM to help people with high care and support needs who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in June 2015. More than 1,500 people are helped by the scheme across Wales.

The grant was only ever meant to be a short-term measure as Mark Drakeford wanted to give further thought to three longer-term options to identify which one might best deliver effective support, despite the difficult financial position.”

These options included the possible extension of current arrangements, a potential arrangement with the body set up in Scotland to provide payments to former ILF recipients there to do the same for Welsh recipients and, as in England, to transfer the funding to local authorities in Wales to bring ILF recipients within the arrangements for providing care and support set out under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 for disabled people more generally.

Substantial time and money was spent on a consultation that overwhelmingly showed support for either a partnership with the Scottish ILF or a continuation of WILG – anything rather than distribute the funds solely to local authorities and end the reliability of three-way funding between government, local authority and personal contribution…

 

November 2016:

The new Minister for Health and Social Services, Rebecca Evans AM, decided that the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales will be passed directly to councils.

There will be no new Welsh ILF – even though such a scheme has been set up in Scotland – and no continuation of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme the Welsh government has been running as a stopgap since the fund closed in June 2015.

Instead, Evans said that funding for WILG would continue in its current form through 2017-18, but would transfer to local authorities during 2018-19. All former ILF-recipients will have their support needs met solely by their local authority by 31 March 2019.

In addition, the Welsh government has not yet made it clear whether the funding it will transfer to local authorities during 2018-19 will be ring-fenced for former ILF-recipients, or even for social care spending.

 

Why we oppose this decision: 

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens. Disabled people, their families and support workers didn’t want WILG scrapped and the key point is that our advice was not accepted.​

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?

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.

In a written statement in February 2016, Mark Drakeford AM said: “The level of recurrent funding being transferred to the Welsh Government from the UK Government to meet this responsibility is flat-lined at £27 million per year. This is sufficient to be able to maintain recipients’ payments at the same level as when the ILF was closed. There is, however, no scope to fund a change in a person’s needs or for any changes in the cost of the support they require. Neither does this transfer include any element for the administration or set-up costs associated with the arrangements to provide support we operate in Wales. Such costs would have to be top-sliced from the £27 million per year thereby reducing the level of the payments we were able to afford. As a result, this level of transfer greatly restricts the options we are able to consider for providing support to recipients in the longer term.”

To an extent, we sympathise with this situation and recognise that funding difficulties have their roots in Westminster. However, a strong government should provide for and protect those they represent, instead of washing their hands of responsibility of those in need while passing the buck to over-stretched local authorities and frittering millions on harebrained schemes such as north Wales metro. People should be prioritised over profit.

Welsh Labour 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. At the moment, there is 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.​

 

English Translation of article published in Junge Welt magazine – The Legacy of Brexit for Disabled People in the UK

Taken from Disabled People Against Cuts website

It’s difficult if not impossible to adequately define the outcomes of Brexit for anyone living in the UK let alone for disabled people. The result where a small minority of the electorate voted to leave the EU has so far caused massive political turmoil but no concrete proposals as the new unelected Prime Minister, Teresa May, thrashes around wildly clutching at straws.

What is certain is that the promise of an extra £350 million a week for our National Health Service has not and will not be forthcoming. In fact this promise promoted widely by the Leave campaigners in the Tory Party and a reason why many UK citizens were conned into voting to leave turns out to have been an outright lie.

Many of the more deluded disabled people who also voted to leave did so simply because they wanted to punish David Cameron the then Tory Prime Minister who was stupid enough to call a referendum in the first place. Having resigned first as Prime Minister and then a little later as a Member of Parliament I’m sure the multi-millionaire Cameron is indeed ‘suffering’. What is certain that disabled people will.

As soon as the outcome of the referendum was known Cameron together with a whole host of Leave politicians turned their backs on guiding the UK through the Brexit process – no doubt so they don’t get blamed for the ensuing disaster.

The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not want to leave the EU and in the case of Northern Ireland the Good Friday agreement and peace process means that there must be a parliamentary vote if Northern Ireland is to leave the EU. There is also a legal challenge to seek a parliamentary vote on Brexit as the outcome of the referendum is advisory only. So chaos reigns as the UK population dangle precipitously in limbo.

As well as months spent focussed on the referendum campaign, the immediate aftermath was an election for a new Tory Party Leader and a second internal party election to try to remove the previously democratically elected Labour Party leader. During these many months of political bat and ball and trips around the country by various politicians the rights of disabled people have largely been forgotten especially by the media. Serious campaigning has been put back months as the political focus has been firmly placed elsewhere.

On a plus point the fascist party UKIP which very much led the Brexit campaign on an anti-immigration stance have also fallen into disarray and appear on the verge of oblivion. There have already been several elections for a new leader with none of them being successful in finding someone who stayed more than a couple of weeks. As the old British saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining”

What is certain for the UK is that Brexit has led to a massive increase in race-related hate crime and there is no doubt those who perpetrate these crimes feel their actions are vindicated by the vote to leave. Xenophobia is rampant in parts of the country fuelled by some of the media as well as the Brexit campaign rhetoric. Disability hate crime has been rising year on year since 2010 in part thanks once again to the media-fuelled ‘useless eater’ and scrounger propaganda. For disabled people as well as those perceived to not be British hatred and abuse is only likely to increase in the post-Brexit frenzy that currently pervades the country.

Since Brexit as well the value of the pound has slumped which has already led to an increase in price for even essential daily items including for some the #Marmitegate tragedy where the price of Marmite has already risen in some cases by 12.5 % in shops.

Price increases for food and other essential items is likely to pose a particular problems for disabled people and others in receipt of UK Social Security payments as there is an austerity-led freeze on the amount of benefits which will be paid until at least 2020. The UK already has some of the lowest rates for out-of-work benefit payments in the EU so starting from a very low base rate the value of payments will fall even further as exchange rates fall.

On top of this fall in the value of the pound and freeze on increases in social security payments early in November an austerity-led cap on the total overall amount of benefit payments per household will result in massive reductions of £3,000 less per annum being paid to claimants. Many of those affected by this drastic cut will be disabled although other disabled people will be exempt from this cut.

From next April 2017 disabled people who make a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance and who are found not to be fit for work but able to undertake Work Related Activity which involved forcibly being made to jump though inappropriate and unacceptable hoops to continue being entitled to payments will also see their weekly income cut drastically by one-third. All of these changes will as already said be taking place at the same time the value of the pound falls against other currencies. Needless to say fuel prices are also continuing to rise and the number of UK residents on low incomes who have to choose between eating and heating because they can’t afford both continues to rise.

As disabled people and others wait for the mythical 35 million a day that we’re apparently saving by leaving the EU to be redeployed to help fund our National Health Service as promised we find our Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt putting in place plans to drastically reduce both the number of hospitals – down from 9 to 5 in London – and health service funding elsewhere in the UK through the implementation of Sustainability and Transformation Plans. This is very definitely not what Brexit promised for our health service. Hunt has also further undermined our NHS by stating that we want British only doctors in the near future in spite of the fact that around one-third of doctors currently are from other EU countries.

For disabled people who need personal assistance to live and take part in society Brexit is also bad news. Many people employ care workers/personal assistants from EU countries and now not only does the fall in the value of the pound affect the exchange value of wages paid but on a longer term basis no-one, neither the employers or the employees, have any idea about a future right to work here when the UK leaves the EU. It could of course be years before any more is known.

Workers rights generally are very much an unknown quantity at the moment as well. Teresa May has said the Conservatives want to protect those in place yet many people are on insecure zero hours contracts with no legal protections. The introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal hearings has also negatively affected worker’s rights to challenge unfair dismissals. All of these issues regarding employment rights continue to disproportionately affect disabled workers and the fear that once EU constraints on our employment laws are removed is causing major concerns for those disabled people who are in work.

For disabled people not in work the ending of Workfare and Work Choice schemes funded by the European Social Fund can really only be seen as positive. Neither of these schemes worked well in finding disabled people suitable or sustainable employment opportunities.

Workfare schemes in particular have been likened to unpaid slave labour which they were since claimants were forced to work for no pay under threat of having their benefits removed if they did not. Having said that there were a number of locally EU funded schemes to help disabled and other people into work which have worked well and for which there will now be no further EU funding available.

In other areas of life shared by disabled and non-disabled people the loss of European funding from the Social Fund, from the Common Agricultural Policy and from Regional Development grants will nevertheless be grossly detrimental to the overall standards of living and is likely to have a further negative trickle down impact on food prices. The idea that these funding streams will be replaced by our own government’s spending is laughable given their ongoing austerity agenda and determination to replace Trident nuclear weapons.

My Racecourse – Mark Thompson

Nathan Lee Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success. He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike. As Euro 2016 approaches, Nathan talks to matchday programme contributor Mark Thompson about international football at the Racecourse, quiz nights with former managers and Christmas carols with television soap stars.

12/05/73

Wales v Scotland

Home International Tournament

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-2

Wales: Sprake, Rodrigues, Thomas, Hockey, England, Roberts, James, Mahoney, Toshack, Yorath (Davies 69), Evans (O’Sullivan 78)

Scotland: McCloy, McGrain, Donachie, Graham, Holton, Johnstone, Dalglish (Macari 84), Stanton, Parlane (Stein 80), Hay, Morgan

Goalscorer: Graham (60, 70)

Attendance: 18,682

With Wales about to play in their first major tournament since 1958 – or more accurately 1976 – I’ve been in a reflective international mood. I’d like to focus on my first international match at the Racecourse back in 1973 when Wales played Scotland in the Home International Tournament.

It was Wales’ first game since a 2-0 win over Poland at Ninian Park, which got the World Cup ’74 qualifying campaign off to a cracking start.  At school – Rhosddu Juniors – lots of my classmates were talking about a ‘new era’ having started for Wales. This was the first time I’d heard that phrase, but as a long-suffering Welshman it was certainly not the last.

The day of the match was overcast and a bit chilly while I was charged 10p to gain access to the Kop through the Boys turnstile.  My pal Neil Roberts and I were amongst the first in the ground.  After an abortive attempt to climb a floodlight pylon, we pottered down towards the Tech End in search of some pre-match entertainment.  We lingered on the terrace that became known as the Yale Paddock, but in those days it was just the terracing in front of the New Stand.  Once at the Tech End we sat on the wall behind the goal with our legs tucked in behind the advertising hoardings and watched the terraces filling up with Scotsmen behind us.  They all seemed to have those yellow flags with a red lion on them – AKA the Royal Standard of Scotland – not the traditional Saltire.  I remember us shouting “Get a dragon on them” with ridiculous bravado.

It was goalless at half-time. Unlike the football, the half-time entertainment was terrific. It comprised of a display by police dogs catching criminals. This got us warmed up for the second half, but our enthusiasm and excitement were soon extinguished…

As we were right next to the goal we had an excellent view of Wales goalkeeper Gary Sprake going down in instalments as Arsenal’s George Graham side-footed past him to put Scotland 0-1 up.  Ten minutes later, Graham scored his second goal as Scotland won 0-2.  After these goals I spent the rest of the game eating my packet of Spangles.

At the final whistle we ran on the pitch and I managed to secure an autograph from Rod Thomas of Swindon. Oh the glamour.

The following Tuesday, Wales lost 0-3 to England at Wembley. Wales’ new era looked a lot like the old one.

***

‘My Racecourse’ memories don’t have to be about matches attended. I vividly recall football quizzes from early/mid 1980s in the old Wrexham AFC Social Club. They were also held in the upstairs bar at the Centenary Club.

Usually I was on a team with former Chief Executive Dave Roberts, which was a very luck break as he has a thorough knowledge of football trivia.  Quizmaster Dave Davies also held quizzes where the competitors entered as individuals.  In one of them, I finished with the same score as manager Bobby Roberts. It was strangely satisfying to know exactly as much about football as the Boss.  I bumped into Bobby recently in Leicester and he told me that the Wrexham job was the most difficult of his career.

***

Of course, ‘My Racecourse’ memories don’t have to be about football. For example, I recall a Christmas carol concert in 1976 that featured Coronation Street actor Peter Adamson – AKA Len Fairclough – as the star guest.

Earlier that same year, the Racecourse held a ‘Festival of Entertainment’, culminating in people riding round the pitch on horseback dressed as characters from Planet of the Apes.  Trust me, it happened. I was there and not on drugs. Honest.

***

Over the summer months, Nathan Lee Davies hopes to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.

Disabled people are ‘stronger and safer’ in EU, say leading academics

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Taken from Disability News Service

Written by John Pring

Leaving the European Union (EU) would put at risk significant improvements that have been made to the lives of disabled people over the last 15 years, according to three of the country’s leading academics working in the disability rights field.

In the strongest statement yet on why remaining in the EU would be the right choice for those concerned about disability rights, the trio say in a new document that disabled people would be “stronger and safer” inside the union.

In UK Disabled People and their Families – Stronger and Safer Inside the EU, the trio point to the “dramatic shift of emphasis” in EU disability policy from the mid-1990s, which saw a move “away from charity and welfare [and]toward equality and human rights”.

This shift in emphasis saw the introduction of the Employment Equality Directive 2000, which led in the UK to the removal of the original exemption in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) for employers with fewer than 20 staff, so that in 2004 “it became unlawful for all employers (and not just very big ones) to discriminate against disabled people”.

The employment directive also led to the DDA being changed to make direct discrimination by employers against disabled people unlawful.

And it led to the law in England, Scotland and Wales being altered to make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against carers.

On transport, the EU Air Passengers Regulation 2006 means transport operators have to assist disabled passengers travelling by air through the EU, with similar obligations for travel by train, ship, and buses and coaches, while there is also “mutual recognition” of disabled people’s parking badges across the EU.

And because of the EU Medicinal Products for Human Use Directive 2004, they say, packaging of medicines must include labelling in Braille.

The document was written by the disabled academic Professor Anna Lawson, director of the influential Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds; Professor Gerard Quinn, director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland Galway; and Dr Hywel Ceri Jones, formerly co-chair of the European Consortium of Foundations on Human Rights and Disability, and a former director general for employment, social policy and industrial relations for the European Commission.

Among other benefits of membership, Lawson, Quinn and Jones point to the EU’s ratification of the UN disability convention, which means the EU now has to throw out or change laws and policies which do not comply with the treaty and has to “harness all its financial, legislative and other tools to benefit disabled people”.

The three academics also point to “exciting proposals” for new EU legislation that will benefit disabled people in the future.

These include the proposed Accessibility Act, which would ensure that manufacturers and suppliers of products such as computers, phones, ticketing machines and e-books would have to comply with new accessibility standards that would apply throughout the EU, while some service-providers would also have to comply with new accessibility standards.

The act would also ensure that EU and UK public sector money was “not spent on creating new barriers that lock disabled people out of the mainstream”, they say.

And the trio say that a proposed EU public sector website accessibility directive would force public sector providers of key services to ensure their sites were accessible.

They say that all European Commission proposals around disability follow consultations with disabled people’s organisations.

And they warn that leaving the EU would cause the UK’s disability movement to become “more detached from its European counterparts”.

They point out that the EU provides a platform for bringing together organisations that campaign for equality and human rights, including disabled people’s organisations, so they can “share innovative ideas about disability policy and practice”.

They conclude: “If we leave the EU, we will be cut off from these sources of fresh thinking. Neither will we be able to contribute to them.

“The end loser will undoubtedly be disabled people and their families – in the UK and also in the rest of Europe.”

The document has already secured the backing of leading disabled figures, including the crossbench peers Baroness [Jane] Campbell and Lord [Colin] Low; Diane Kingston, vice-chair of the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities; researcher and writer Jenny Morris, who helped write the Labour government’s Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People white paper; and Linda Burnip and Debbie Jolly, co-founders of Disabled People Against Cuts.

The co-authors of the document are now hoping to secure signatures from other supporters.

Groundtastic – Scots Scene – Summer 2003

Between 2002-2008 I was Scottish Correspondent for the wonderfully professional Groundtastic – The Football Grounds Magazine. I can not speak highly enough of the editors and contributors to this glossy magazine that is jam-packed with interesting information and photographic gold.

I haven’t been a subscriber to the magazine since my marriage imploded in 2008 and I was forced to leave Scotland. Since then my dexterity has deteriorated to such an extent that I now find it impossible to simply thumb through a magazine.

Imagine my excitement then when I visited the Groundtastic website to discover that they now have a digital edition available 🙂 I’ll definitely be subscribing.

Anyway, over the next few months I will be sharing a number of articles that I penned during my time North of the Border, including my regular Scots Scene news round-up of potential football ground developments and improvements. The following is from Spring 2003 and it will be evident to ground enthusiasts and football fans just how much has changed from the era in which it was written…

Enjoy a short step back in time.

GT

Dundee and Dundee United have joined forces with the University of Abertay to build a joint football academy costing £5 million. The two clubs have submitted a bid for £1 million in lottery funding to sportscotland while a further £450,000 is being sought from the Scottish Football Partnership.

Plans for the 42-acre site include 8 full-size pitches, two of which will boast synthetic, all-weather surfaces and four of which will include floodlights. In addition, the academy could be home to an indoor sports hall, fitness suites, media and press centre and kitchen, dining and laundry facilities – the clubs would be based at the academy for training and administrative purposes. However, such a centre is a long way off as the plans are only at the application stage.

Sports Administrator Alex Stuart who played for Dundee and United has been working on the scheme for past 3 months. He said, “Dundee United and Dundee deserve huge credit for coming together on the bid. They’ll always be massive rivals on the park but off it they’ve realised that by pooling strengths and expertise they can both be stronger We could see the project off the ground within 12 months.”

 

 Hearts’ plans to move to a new ground at Braehead on the outskirts of Edinburgh have been ditched. The 30,000-seater ground was to have been built on an area of land between Braehead Quarry and Turnhouse Golf Course. The Jambos have decided to look elsewhere – focussing on the western side of the city – for a suitable ground location. The club is moving because Tynecastle will be too small for European football in seven years time. New regulations concerning pitch sizes will come into force from UEFA in 2010 and the Gorgie Road site does not allow for expansion to meet them.

 

Livingston are looking at ways to help solve the problems encountered by their disabled supporters who have complained of a lack of protection from the elements in the West Stand at Almondville. The club is currently looking at a mirror image of what they already have in place within the East Stand. By removing a number of seats from the front row of block A3 and C2 we would be able to allow a carer to sit beside each wheelchair.

Livingston are also looking at other stadiums and how they accommodate wheelchair supporters.

 

The First Division title went to Falkirk, but will promotion to the SPL follow? By the time you read this you’ll know which division Falkirk will be playing in next season. Top-flight football will only be granted to The Bairns if SPL bosses decide to allow Falkirk to share New Broomfield Park with Airdrie United until their new all-seater community-stadium at Westfield is ready.

Mowlem Construction have been awarded the contract to build the new ground which will include 11 5-a-side pitches, a fitness centre and conference facilities. Meanwhile, Falkirk have auctioned off parts of Brockville, which staged its final game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle on May 10, and was due for demolition in early June to make way for a Morrison’s supermarket.

Falkirk chairman Campbell Christie said, “The demolition of Brockville will be a time of mixed emotions for fans. The ground holds precious memories for thousands of people and we will all be sad to see the stadium go. But it does mean that a new and exciting future is opening up for the football club – and for the Falkirk community as a whole”.

 

Asda is still in negotiations with Inverness Caledonian Thistle over the purchase and redevelopment of Caledonian Stadium, allowing ICT to relocate to a purpose-built ground in the Bught area of the city. Such a move would enable the Highlanders to meet strict SPL ground criteria but reports suggest Asda may be considering moving to the neighbouring travelling people’s site instead and sharing ICT’s car parking facilities.

 

Since St Mirren were relegated from the SPL in 2001, the club has struggled financially. The situation is now so critical that The Buddies are being forced to sell their Love Street ground and move to a new custom-built stadium in Paisley. The proposed relocation to the Ferguslie area hinges on the local council granting planning permission for a retail development at Love Street with supermarket chain Morrisons thought to be waiting in the wings.

 

Buckie Thistle, of the Highland League, is appealing to their fans for funds needed to upgrade Victoria Park’s ageing floodlights. Thistle’s President Mark Duncan said; “The existing lights were erected way back in 1978 so they are now 25 years old and although they have lasted well, they are now beginning to show their age with repairs now being regularly required. A total upgrade of all of the lights is now required and this will cost a figure of around £15,000. The existing floodlight pylons are still in good condition and it is only the lights themselves that need replacing.”

The club is hopeful of raising enough funds to have the new lights in place by the end of the season. Meanwhile, the Main Stand at Victoria Park has received a facelift. The cost of these improvements was paid for in full by Buckie’s main sponsor Planwell Roofing Supplies and include the installation of new front cladding, new lightweight shutters, new signs and a new flagpole, all of which now make the stand wind and watertight for years to come.