Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act

Call Out To Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) Recipients

I am writing as a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Labour to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019. I would like to hear from other WILG recipients in the hope of holding a series of public/virtual meetings to discuss how we can best oppose this closure and create a pressure group to support each other through this worrying time.

The WILG was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015.

More than 1,500 people are helped by the scheme.

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

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

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

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. This is hardly surprising when we consider that the stakeholder group is largely comprised of representatives from local authorities…

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

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

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

They will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed. However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success – with no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This is not the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered. Disabled people merely crave continuity and reliability that the ILF provided.

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…

WILG recipients who wish to help make a difference should contact nathandavies01@hotmail.com

Further reading is available below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-38385381?SThisFB

http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/welsh-government-has-sold-disabled-people-down-the-river-on-post-ilf-plans/

Written statement by the Welsh Government

Future Arrangements in Wales to Support Former Independent Living Fund Recipients

By Mark Drakeford AM, Minister for Health and Social Services

Members will know from my Written Statement of 13 March last year that following the outcome of the UK Government’s spending review, I was to reconsider the options for providing long term support to those in Wales who used to receive payments from the Independent Living Fund (ILF). These payments were to help disabled people meet the additional costs of living independently in the community. This is to update Members on the arrangements to provide this support in 2016-17 and on the potential options for support in the longer term that are being developed further.

 
The UK Government closed the ILF on 30 June last year and transferred responsibility for providing support to ILF recipients in Wales to the Welsh Government. To provide continuity of support, I put in place for the short-term a grant scheme with local authorities – the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) – to run until at least 31 March 2017. Under this, £20.4 million was provided to authorities in 2015-16 to enable them to maintain payments to former ILF recipients at the level they used to receive from the ILF. The WILG has worked well with disabled people who used to receive payments from the ILF receiving these from their local authority instead, with the minimum of issues raised. I must record my thanks to local authorities for achieving this.

 

Following the UK Government’s spending review, I can now confirm that the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2016-17 contains £27 million to enable the WILG to continue until 31 March 2017 as planned. This is welcome news for recipients as local authorities will be able to continue to provide their payments next financial year at the level they used to receive from the ILF at the time it closed. This will continue to assist in their ability to live independently in the community. As soon as the Welsh Government’s final budget for 2016-17 is agreed, officials will issue grant allocations to authorities to enable payments to be made during 2016-17 on time.

 

Looking ahead 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.

 

In light of this, I have asked my officials to work with stakeholder representatives to develop detailed options for long term arrangements, beyond 31 March 2017. These will include 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. Further options can be considered as they arise in stakeholder discussions, but all would have to operate within the £27 million per year provided for this purpose by the Westminster Government. All would also have to pass the test of maximising the proportion of that £27 million which would go to support recipients, rather than the cost of administration. The work set out above will be carried out as quickly as is possible so that the incoming Welsh Government can make a decision early in its term as to which of these options to implement. This is to ensure that sufficient time is available later this year and next to consider and put in place future arrangements so that these are in place in good time for when the current WILG is due to end on 31 March 2017.

 

I will, of course, ensure Members are kept informed of progress.

Open letter to Debbie Abrahams – shadow minister for disabled people

Dear Ms Abrahams

I am writing to you in your role as shadow minister for disabled people about the on going struggles across the UK to protect Independent Living for all.

As a disabled activist I have been campaigning for the rights of disabled people to independent living in Wales.  Recently we have received promising news that we are moving towards a brighter future with the forthcoming Social Services and Wellbeing Act and the fact that the Welsh Independent Living Grant has been continued until March 2017.  Please visit my blog, using the link below, to find out more information.

https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/in-response-first-minister-carwyn-jones-am/

Even though there is more work to be done I am fortunate that I live in Wales as Welsh Labour are providing hope for the future. Whether this hope is well-placed remains to be seen. Scotland and Northern Ireland have superb Independent Living Funds in place for disabled people, but this does not mean that we should forget about the struggles of our friends in England. I am not an expert on the situation in England though I believe local authorities have received a monetary transfer of the Independent Living Funds, but the amount of support provided varies from authority to authority. What once was an independent scheme to protect and enhance the lives of all disabled people has now become nothing short of a disgusting postcode lottery.

I am therefore writing to you to ask what is being done to fight back against Tory decimation of welfare and equality?  I feel that this is such a big issue as disabled people fought for years to be treated as a valuable part of their communities.  For this to be taken away under the guise of ideological austerity is no less than social cleansing.  Shouldn’t your party be standing up for the rights of disabled people in the face of such unsympathetic treatment by the Tories?

Since Jeremy Corbyn has been leader of your party much good has been done such as the victory on tax credits and the prevention of cuts to the police service.  Are you able to do more to help bring the plight of disabled people to the public attention and ensure their rights to control, dignity and equality are met?

Speaking at the time of the closure of the ILF, Jeremy is quoted as saying:

“Today will be a day of deep anguish for many disabled people and their carers, as the government closes the Independent Living Fund. I have supported the campaign to save the ILF from the start and pledge to support its reinstatement.”

I believe your party needs to reaffirm your position on ILF and provide reassurance that the ILF system will be re-introduced nationally under a Labour government.  Sure, we have made progress in Wales but we shouldn’t have to go through such stress and I don’t believe the right to live independently should depend on where you live.  A UK-wide national system is what is needed for disabled people to look to the future with unequivocal confidence and security – wherever they reside.

Many thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Nathan Lee Davies
https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/

In Response: First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

I received the third response to my letter to the four main political party leaders in Wales from First Minister Carwyn Jones AM of Welsh Labour. I thank him for his reply to my concerns over the future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG), which I have shared below.

***

Dear Nathan

I am writing in response to your e-mail of 30 November in which you expressed your concern over the future support provided to disabled people in Wales. You asked about the continuation of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) which we put in place to replace the Independent Living Fund (ILF) which was closed this year by the UK Government.

The Welsh Government is committed to supporting disabled people in Wales to live as independently as possible. The new social services legislation we are introducing from April next year, the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, has at its core the requirement for local authorities to support people who require care and support in a way which maximises their ability to live independently. Such care and support should be delivered in a way which provides them with the voice and control over how this is achieved. Never is this more pronounced than with the provision of direct payments under the Act, where we have extended the circumstances where direct payments can be provided and the range of people who are able to receive these. Through the Act, and the regulations and codes of practice we are making under this, disabled people in Wales will receive care and support in future which enables them to live in the way they wish and to receive the care and support they require to achieve this in the way they also wish.

With the closure of the ILF on 30 June by the UK Government, the Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM, announced earlier this year that he was putting in place a grant scheme with local authorities (the Welsh Independent Living Grant – WILG) to ensure that ILF recipients in Wales continued to receive the level of financial support they received from the ILF before its closure. This was to ensure that recipients could continue to live as independently as possible in the community.

As he confirmed at the time, subject to the outcome of the UK Government’s spending review, the grant will continue to at least until March 2017 while he considers the options for the longer term provision of support to recipients. As a result of that review, I can confirm that the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2016-17 contains £27 million to enable the WILG to continue to March 2017 as planned.

I understand that the Minister for Health and Services will shortly be engaging with representatives of stakeholders to identify the best way of providing support in future. This will be in the light of the public consultation held earlier this year. This is to ensure that future arrangements are in place for when the current grant concludes in 2017.

Yours sincerely

CARWYN JONES 

Bae Caerdydd • Cardiff Bay English Enquiry Line 0300 0603300

***

This is WONDERFUL news. The best Christmas gift I could have asked for as now I have it in writing that WILG will continue to March 2017 as planned. Result 🙂

Cynics might see it as a simple stay of execution and fear that I’ll be in the same situation this time next year. It is correct that such concerns should be aired and I accept that there is still a lot of hard work to be done to ensure independent living for all, but I take great heart from the protection and control provided to disabled people in the forthcoming Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. This Act “has at its core the requirement for local authorities to support people who require care and support in a way which maximises their ability to live independently”.

As I type the future seems a little brighter. I must keep my eye on the ball and continue to fight to secure long-term assurances for disabled people, but I  can now forge forward with hope in my heart.

I now have little option, but to simply observe developments in the run-up to the May 2016 elections and enter the purdah period – the time between an announced election and the final election results. The time period prevents central and local government from making announcements about any new or controversial government initiatives (such as modernisation initiatives or administrative and legislative changes) which could be seen to be advantageous to any candidates or parties in the forthcoming election.

This also brings me to the question of who I should vote for. I know that I won’t be backing the Welsh Conservatives or UKIP as I am not a fascist, racist, sexist moron, but Welsh Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats all have strong appeal. Thank heavens for our complicated proportional representation voting system. Find out more about the voting system for National Assembly for Wales elections.

I can only have faith that Welsh voters are not as blinkered as their English counterparts and see through right-wing propaganda. Whoever I decide to back though, I have the opportunity to mull things over while living independently with dignity and contributing to society.

* I am not in the least bit surprised that the only party leader that hasn’t replied to my letter is the head of the Welsh Conservatives. I will stop typing now before I get myself in trouble…

Press Release: Disability Wales at risk of closure following funds shake-up

PRESS RELEASE
 
Disability Wales at risk of closure following funds shake-up
 
Following a Welsh Government funding change, as from the 1st of April 2016, DW will lose 68% of its income after its recent application to the Sustainable Social Services Third Sector Grant Scheme was turned down and risks closure in less than four months’ time.
 
Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales explains:
 
Since 1972 Disability Wales (DW) has received core funding from the Welsh Government’s Department for Health and Social Services to enable it to represent the voice of members with the aim of informing and influencing government policy. It has enabled DW to successfully influence priority issues for members such as Independent Living, Hate Crime and Access to the High Street as well as providing information and support to disabled people’s organisations around Wales.
 
Welsh Government decided to replace core funding arrangements to national third sector organisations with a new project based grant scheme called the Sustainable Social Services Third Sector Grant. The narrower focus of this grant aimed at delivery of social care services meant that DW as a rights and equality based umbrella organisation no longer fitted the funding criteria.”
 
Wendy Ashton, Chair of Disability Wales states:
 
“Losing the core grant from Welsh Government is a devastating blow particularly at a time when disabled people, who make up one fifth of the Welsh population, are experiencing cuts both to benefits and services.
 

In his speech to DW’s Annual Conference on 8 October, the Minister for Health and Social Services Prof Mark Drakeford AM paid tribute to the ‘impact’ which Disability Wales has had on the new Social Services and Well-being Act as well as the ‘exciting projects’ it is delivering including the development of citizen-led co-operatives to support people with managing their Direct Payments.
 

Disabled people form one fifth of the Welsh population and face higher levels of poverty than any other group of people with protected characteristics, a situation worsening by the day following continued UK government cuts in benefits and services.”
 
Simon Green Disabled Activist and Chair of Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, a member of Disability Wales states:
 
Without Disability Wales there will be no national representative pan-impairment, barriers focussed body able to co-ordinate the views of disabled people and their organisations across Wales
 
“I think it will have a massive impact not just on Disability Wales but all the groups it represents including Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People.  Bridgend Coalition have benefited from being a member of Disability Wales for many years and if it wasn’t for Disability Wales we probably wouldn’t exist”
 
Rhian Davies:
 
“DW is in negotiation with Welsh Government regarding a short-term support package whilst a longer term solution is identified.  However, DW requires an urgent response and time is limited as we approach Christmas and the end of the financial year!  After more than 40 years as a national voice DW has less than four months to ensure its survival.  Who will fight for disabled people’s rights if DW is not there?!” 
  
Now the future looks uncertain for Caerphilly-based disability rights organisation. 
 

Written Statement

Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014: An update on legislative, national and regional implementation

Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services

 

In May 2015, the Welsh Government began formal consultation on the second tranche of regulations, codes of practice and statutory guidance to be made under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.

Following the end of the consultation on 31 July 2015, this statement updates Assembly Members on progress to date, highlights forthcoming activity and advises members of the communications support that we are making available.

The consultation covered 4 parts of the Act – specifically parts 5 (Charging and Financial Assessment), 6 (Looked After and Accommodated Children), 9 (Co-operation and Partnership) and 10 (Advocacy Services) – in line with the approach set out by the former Deputy Minister for Social Services Gwenda Thomas AM in her written statement of 16 July 2014.

During the 12-week consultation period, 2 events were held, involving over 200 delegates representing a wide range of stakeholder bodies from across Wales. More than 200 substantive written responses were received to the consultation from a broad mix of individuals, representative groups, local government and professional organisations.

The overall feedback was positive with respondents broadly supportive of both the principles and detail of the draft regulations, codes of practice and statutory guidance. Further detail on these will be available within the consultation summary reports to be published shortly.

As a result of consultation a number of key changes have been made. These include:

  • Adding a new chapter on debt recovery to the part 5 code on charging and financial assessment.
  • Creating a new requirement in the choice of accommodation regulations (under part 5) so that where a person’s preferred choice of care home cannot be met, the local authority must inform them of the specific reason for this.
  • Using clearer terminology in the care planning and placement regulations, around care and support plans, and in the part 6 code on looked after children, around the review of plans and their relationship with other plans.
  • Changing the regional collaboration footprint under part 9 to establish a separate partnership board for Powys, encompassing the local authority, Powys Teaching Health Board and key local partners.
  • Refining provisions within the part 10 code on advocacy around when a local authority must provide independent professional advocacy and including a reference to advocacy in each of the codes and statutory guidance produced under the Act.

The revised tranche 2 regulations and final codes of practice for parts 2 (General Functions), 3 (Assessing the Needs of Individuals), 4 (Meeting Needs), 5 (Charging and Financial Assessment), 6 (Looked After and Accommodated Children), 10 (Complaints, Representations and Advocacy) and 11 (Miscellaneous and General) of the Act, have now been laid before the Assembly for scrutiny. I will also publish statutory guidance on parts 7 (Safeguarding) and 9 (Co-operation and Partnership) later this month.

The regulations and codes of practice, as laid, can be viewed at:
http://www.assembly.wales/en/bus-home/Pages/Plenary.aspx?category=Laid Document

These, together with the code of practice in relation to measuring social services performance – laid before the Assembly in June and subsequently issued on 5 October – will substantially complete the legislative framework under the Act and provide much of the detail required for implementation. The final code of practice, in relation to part 8 of the Act (the role of Directors of Social Services) is currently out to consultation – closing on 4 December – and will be laid before the Assembly in early 2016, along with regulations in respect of consequential amendments.

Implementation will not be achieved through the making of legislation alone. We rely on a range of key partners to provide the national and regional leadership required to deliver the Act on the ground. Working with our immediate partners – the Welsh Local Government Association, the Welsh NHS Confederation, the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru and the Care Council for Wales – we have prepared a collaborative statement, Delivering the Social Service and Well-being (Wales) Act. This sets out the main activities each partner will take forward over the coming months in progressing the national implementation programme. This joint approach demonstrates the commitment of each partner to ensuring that the Act delivers better, more sustainable social services for the people of Wales.

I have provided financial support to the 6 regional implementation collaboratives for the past 3 years, through the Delivering Transformation Grant (£3m in 2015-16), to enable capacity for implementation planning and preparations to deliver the new duties contained within the Act from 6 April 2016. Each regional collaborative has detailed implementation plans in place, and they are working together, with the support of the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru and the Welsh Local Government Association to ensure consistent national approaches in key delivery areas.

The Care Council for Wales is delivering the National Learning and Development Strategy for the Act funded through a £1m allocation from the Social Care Workforce Development Programme 2015-16, with an additional £7.1m available to local authorities in order to prepare their workforces for the commencement of the Act. As part of this strategy the Care Council is preparing to roll-out bespoke learning materials on the Act for all partners to support the cascade of training within the regions from January 2016. This will be supported by the Care Council’s Information and Learning Hub – an accessible, one-stop-shop for information and resources on the Act, including the collaborative statement.

Shortly we will publish a set of technical briefings summarising the duties placed upon local authorities and their statutory partners by the Act to complement the themed infographics for key stakeholder groups already in circulation. Two major information events for stakeholders are also being held this month, one in North and one in South Wales.

One of the key messages highlighted through consultation has been the need to communicate the changes the Act will make to the general public. To this end, a Welsh Government-led national awareness raising campaign will commence in January 2016, preceded by an easily accessible summary publication developed for a wide range of audiences.

I am grateful to Members for the support provided in making the changes required to improve social services in Wales. Supported by input from the national partnership forum, leadership group and citizens panel, I will continue to ensure all the key aspects of Sustainable Social Services for Wales are taken forward by strong joint leadership from local government, the NHS and private and third sector partners, and that people who have need of care and support in Wales remain at the heart of our programme for change.

Speech by Professor Mark Drakeford AM

Professor Mark Drakeford AM,

at Disability Wales’ Annual Seminar,

You Say You Want a Revolution: Getting to the Heart of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 

at the Copthorne Hotel, Culverhouse Cross,

on 8 October 2015.

 

Good morning, Bore da. Thank you very much for the invitation and for the opportunity to be here this morning.

I knew it would be an unusual experience when I saw the programme also featured 2 slots by comedian Ted Shiress.  My office in the Bay thinks it is very amusing indeed that I should be on a programme with a comedian and spent all week telling me what a brave decision it must have been to agree to speak here! I am reminded of a famous political story and as we have a doyen of Welsh reporting in the chair, I thought I would just start by sharing this with you.

So, this is a story from the early 1980s when Mrs. Thatcher was Prime Minister, and a by-election happened in one of the Blackpool constituencies. In those days by-elections were very big business, when the whole of the media and national press would descend on any constituency where a by-election was being held.

The Conservative Party chose as its candidate a local Blackpool bus driver. He was unveiled to the waiting media in a press conference where he was to speak and where the local, biggest Conservative Party supporter, Ken Dodd, was also part of the press conference.

 

So, a press conference is held, the Blackpool bus driver is unveiled and unfortunately his grasp of policy turned out not to be quite as detailed as his grasp of the Blackpool bus timetable, and he had a rather torrid time in front of the national press. Willy Whitelaw, the Deputy Prime Minister, had been sent up to be in charge of the campaign. When the questions to the bus driver had finished, and Ken Dodd was to speak next, apparently he turned to the press and said: “Ladies and gentlemen now over to a professional comedian.”  Or a professional comedian, depending on your point of view.

That will be my only attempt to tell a joke you’ll be pleased to know!  I am going to concentrate as you would expect in the rest of the time I have on the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, put on the statute book in 2014 ready for implementation on 6 April next year. A landmark Act.

The Fourth Assembly is the first assembly to have law making powers in the full sense of that term. A referendum in March 2011 led to this Assembly being able to make laws on exactly the same basis as any law passed in the Parliament in Westminster. I actually don’t think that it is an accident that with devolved powers of that sort for the first time, the National Assembly has decided to make Social Services the subject of by far the biggest single piece of legislation which will have gone through the Assembly during this Assembly term.  The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act is quite certainly in terms of its scale and scope, the largest piece of legislation that the Assembly will have tackled and in some ways amongst the most profound in the impact that it will have on people’s lives.

We have been involved, as many of you in this room will know, since the Act made its way through the Assembly on to the statute book, in putting down the detail that is needed to underpin any major piece of legislation into the system as well.  So, the Act itself is a major piece of legislation but the detail of it, how it will actually work in practice, comes through in regulations that flow from it, from statutory guidance, from the code of practice.  And these are major undertakings in themselves.  And we have consulted in 2 different tranches on the regulations that the Act requires to be in place in time for it to go live in April of next year.

The first tranche of regulations were consulted upon and made their way through the Assembly just before the summer break and the second tranche of the consultation is now closed and completed, and we will bring those regulations in front of the National Assembly in November. And if all goes according to plan, then they will complete their passage through the National Assembly this side of Christmas, which means that everything that we need to make this Act go live on 6 April next year will be in place.

Now, I know that that is still only 3 or 4 months before the Act happens, but I am confident that with our partners in local authorities, in health boards and in the third sector as well we will have certainty about the way that this act is intended to operate. The rule book which will be in place to make it all happen will be there, and there in sufficient time for everybody to do the difficult job of preparing themselves for its implementation.

Nobody should imagine that the world of social services will change on 6 April.  That will be the start of the process of implementing this Act.  And the Act is as much about cultural change as it is about some of the specific strands that lie within it.  The specific strands, of course, are very important and very important to people in this room and the organisations that you all represent.  Strands such as the strand on direct payments, on financial assessment, on advocacy, on social enterprises.  All of those are things which the disability movement in Wales has been especially influential in the way that the regulations and the code of practice and the guidance flowing from the Act has been developed.

So, I am immensely grateful to all those individuals and organisations who have helped us during the period of consultation to make this Act as good as we can make it, including well over 200 contributions in the second tranche of consultation from organisations right across Wales.

And I sometimes think that members of the public would be surprised at the seriousness with which consultation is taken in government.  Every one of those consultation responses has been gone through by officials working for the Welsh Government; every one of them has been reported to me in terms of the views that people have expressed in them; every one of them has had an influence and an impact in some way on the final codes and guidance that we will issue.  You will know, some of you, that the codes we put out to consultation are not the codes that we will have confirmed by the National Assembly because those codes will genuinely have been improved and influenced by the consultation process.

And as you heard Rhian say, I was especially pleased to be able to respond positively to the concerns that bodies such as Disability Wales and others have expressed during the consultation exercise about the need to put a statutory framework into the supporting paraphernalia of the act, to make sure that the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People is firmly embedded in the codes of practice. You’ll see that that has now been agreed and is taking plac. And when you see the results of the tranche 2 consultation I hope you will be pleased to see as well that we have been able to respond positively to calls from Disability Wales and others to strengthen the citizens’ voice at the regional partnership boards which will be the engine rooms through which so much of this Act will be put into practice. Those regional partnership boards where we bring together senior people from our Health Service, senior people from Local Government, senior people from the third sector in Wales and now you will hear I hope when the tranche is published how we are going to strengthen the voice of the citizen at that top level decision-making layer in the way that this Act will now be put into practice.  All of that will be complete by Christmas, then we move into that period of final preparation for the Act’s implementation.

I wanted though this morning to say something. Not just about the detail of the Act, and the way that it will be put into practice.  But about what lies behind the Act, because in a way that is the most important thing of all.  What lies behind the Act is a new way of thinking about the way that we provide services to people who rely on our social services here in Wales.  A new model was put, I thought eloquently, to you in the start of the video you have seen this morning, because it genuinely is about taking some very important messages from the way in which the disability movement has developed a social model of the way that services need to be provided, and putting that social model at the heart of the way that our statutory and voluntary Social Services are provided.  It really is an Act that has at its starting point the view of people who come through the door looking for assistance – that those people are not problems to be solved. They are people who have strengths and who have assets, who have managed successfully through long periods in their own lives and when they now need help, our job is to start from the strengths and the assets that they possess.

People are absolutely equal partners in the way that this Act is constructed. They are not the passive objects of the benign concern of the people who provide services.  They are equal participants who bring the skills, the knowledge, the expertise, the life experience that they will have had, and put that to work in a joint enterprise with the people who provide services.

This is about shifting power isn’t it? That is what the disability movement has taught us about the way that they operate.  At the heart it is about tackling the way the power is distributed and operated between citizens who use services and people who provide them.  This Act is about democratising services and about equalising the way that power is distributed across the system.

So when someone comes through the door, the question we need to ask someone is, not what can we do for you today? Because that is an invitation to hand the issue over to the service and to put the service in charge.  The question we need to ask is:  What are we going to do today?  Jointly?  Together?  So that we pool the expertise that lies with the service provider and the person who uses the service.  The issue is not handed from one side of the table to the other, it is put in the middle of the table, where everybody has both joint ownership of it and therefore a joint responsibility to make a contribution to addressing that problem and to move that issue forward in people’s lives.

The word that was used in the video – a word I had on my scribbled notes – it is all about enabling people to maximise control over their lives.  It is not about turning people into the dependent clients of services that then inevitably move in and take over control that people would otherwise exercise for themselves.  The Act is all about trying to make sure that people are able to feel, as much as they possibly can, in charge of the things that matter to them most, and that new co-productive relationship is at the heart of the culture that this Act is aiming to bring about.  So, “Nothing About Us Without Us”.  I think that could have been the slogan written through the rock, that this Act is trying to bring about.

 

Let me respond very briefly to one or two of the issues that were raised in the video. There is no getting away from the fact that we live in the toughest times any of us in this room will ever have known in the way that money to do absolutely vital things in Wales is now available to us. The budget that the Welsh Government has in 2015 has now been reduced back to where it was in 2005.  So ten years later, with all that we know about the way that the growth of services, the demand for services the things we would want to do, all that has grown and yet we are back to where we were ten years ago as far as money is concerned.

In addition to the cuts we already know about, we have a new set of them coming our way at the end of November in the Chancellor’s autumn statement. I can be confident of that. But even with the cuts we already know, we are only 40% through what has already been announced.  So, far from being down at the bottom of the valley and ready to come up to the other side, we are yet to get to the floor. When the cuts bite directly, both in the lives of people who use services and in the lives of people who provide services as well.

Our public services in Wales are, by and large, not staffed by people who are on enormous salaries and wages. They are staffed by people who have modest incomes themselves.  We have the highest proportion of single earner households anywhere in the United Kingdom and that single earner is very likely to be a woman.  A woman therefore managing all the demands that that household has to manage, and managing on incomes that are fixed while costs are going up.

That sense of stress and strain in our system happens right across the board. So, any sense that there is a cavalry coming over the hill, with money on its back to allow us to do all the things we want to do.  I am afraid that is not going be the way it happens.

What we have done in Wales is to protect our social services budgets alongside our health budgets. You have heard many criticisms, I am sure, of the way that the health service budget in Wales, it is wrongly said, has not been protected in the way it has been protected elsewhere in the United Kingdom.  What we have done is to protect our budgets in the round.  It is absolutely useless from the point of view of the individual citizen to have budgets artificially protected in the NHS only to find out that when they need services from social services, that those budgets have been slashed, burned and robbed from social services, artificially to make it look as though the health service has had a better deal.  What we have done here in Wales is to recognise from the point of view of the user, what you have to have is a service that works across both boundaries and available for you, whichever part of the system you happen to need it.  As a result, spending on health and social services in Wales remains 8% higher for every single person in the land than it would be if we were across our border.

We are doing that partly by making sure that the money that we are putting into implementing the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act is protected. We preserved £3 million in this financial year and if after the 25th November, and the Chancellor’s next set of cuts, we are able to continue to go on doing it into the next 3 financial years, then that is our ambition as a government here in Wales.

Let me end if I could just by paying tribute to the impact which Disability Wales and other disability organisations have had on the Act and the way we want to take it forward.

In the early days of devolution – and I have been at the Assembly one way or another, since the year 2000 – I remember just how amazed people were by the fact that in a devolved Wales, organisations were suddenly able to get close to people who made decisions and made the laws about them in a way that simply was never possible when Wales was run by the Wales Office with 3 Ministers who inevitably spent most of their time in London and a small part in Wales. John Redwood spent more nights on the Dordogne than he spent in Wales.

In the early days of devolution we got used to the sense of closeness between civic society and life in Wales. We take it more for granted now. But it is still something to be genuinely celebrated and it is something envied by people who live in other parts of the United Kingdom when the ability to get into the room to talk together – “Nothing About Us Without Us” – simply doesn’t exist in the way it does in Wales.

The impact of Disability Wales and others has been enormous from the beginning with the tool kit and the impact that continues to have, through the technical groups in the way Disability Wales was influencing the detail on which this Act will rely. In the fantastically exciting work that is going on to create citizen directed co-operatives that is happening in Wales, something that is not happening elsewhere, something I am keen to see the results of it.  So we move direct payments on from being simply something where someone is offered a chance to paddle their own canoe through the rough waters of life, to a position where people using direct payments are able to co-operatively share their risks and pool the rewards to allow people working in the sector as well, to mitigate the risks. It is an enormously exciting project and Disability Wales is right at the heart of it.  Over the next few months we will rely on Disability Wales as well to deliver training to local authorities across Wales on the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities so that the decisions that flow from this Act in future will be properly informed by the due regard duties that the Act now places on the shoulders of our local authorities.

So, Diolch yn Fawr, thank you for listening so attentively. Thank you for being here today, thank you for your commitment to this whole agenda on behalf of those many other people across Wales in whose lives this Act will be making such a difference. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to make the excellent progress we have achieved in Wales.  I have seen the rest of the programme and it looks interesting and exciting.  I hope you enjoy it all.

Thank you for giving me the chance to speak to you this morning.