Scottish Government

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

 

Austerity policies have created a “human catastrophe” – UN Committee Chair condemns the UK’s record on human rights.

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations welcome the public unity of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their clear criticism of the UK Government’s ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s human rights.

Chairperson Theresia Degener in her closing questions stated, “Evidence before us now and in our Inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that social cut policies has led to human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in.”

The Committee condemned the UK’s attempts to misrepresent the impact of policies through unanswered questions, misused statistics and a smoke screen of statements on policies and legislation which fail to implement the rights of disabled people in reality.

Committee member Coomaraval Pyaneandee said “[I] Want to see you come back as a world leader which at the moment, I’m afraid you are not, but DPOs I congratulate. [They] are in fact, the world leaders in your country.”

The UK Independent Mechanism further reinforced the concerns of DDPOs in their concluding statement which called for:

  • Gaps and inconsistencies in disability discrimination legislation to be addressed including the legal basis for British Sign Language
  • Steps to be taken to embed the CRPD in domestic law, maintaining the protections in the Human Rights Act
  • A coordinated approach to implementing the Convention and the Committee’s recommendations across the UK, with fully resourced and meaningful involvement of disabled people.

Tara Flood, Alliance for Inclusive Education and Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance said, “The UK’s track record on article 24 is not acceptable. The Chairperson made it clear and unequivocal that inclusive education is not a choice, it is a right. We are not surprised but always disappointed by UK Government’s lack of commitment to inclusive education for disabled children and their efforts to mask segregation.”

Devolved Nations also had the opportunity to address questions put to them by the Committee.

Patrick Malone, Disability Action Northern Ireland said, “It is not acceptable for the UK Government to hide behind lack of an Executive or Ministers for NI for the disparity of equality in legal protection for disabled people in Northern Ireland as compared to the rest of the UK. The Government must ensure that all of the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010 are fully implemented in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.”

Rhian Davies, Disability Wales said, “We welcome Welsh Government’s commitment to a strengthened Framework for Action on Independent Living since much of the implementation of the UNCRPD is devolved to Welsh Government. However, as with the rest of the UK there is much more to be done in Wales in safeguarding disabled people’s human rights. This has been a historical week for the disabled people’s movement and one that we are proud to have played our part in.”

Sally Witcher, Inclusion Scotland said, “We wholeheartedly welcome the Committee’s comments on the UK. The government has not been allowed to get away with evasive responses which disregard the lived experiences of Deaf and Disabled people throughout the UK. We were disappointed that the opportunity was not available for Scottish Government to reply to all of the questions directed towards it, such as its plans to implement supported decision making for people with learning disabilities and how it will address the failings of the social care system. However, we anticipate opportunities to address these issues in response to the Committee’s concluding observations.”