Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act

Closure  of the Welsh Independent Living Grant #SaveWILG

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

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

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A case of Wales following in the footsteps of England?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Letter to First Minister Mark Drakeford #SaveWILG

Dear Mark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We recommend that the CRPD Committee asks:

Can the Welsh Government explain:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you strength and solidarity

In hope…

Nathan Lee Davies
#SaveWILG campaign

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

Letter from David J Rowlands, AM #SaveWILG

Below I have copied a letter from David J Rowlands, AM, Chair of the Petitions Committee. That should be of interest to all WILG recipients and their families. 
 

 8 August 2018 

 

Dear colleague, 

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

The Petitions Committee is considering the following petition, which was received from Nathan Lee Davies having collected 631 signatures: 

 I am a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019.  

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 across Wales. Recipients all  have high degree of care and support needs. 

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. 

 Additional information: 

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. But they 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. 

 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 – with 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. 

 Most recently, the Committee held evidence sessions with the petitioner and the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care. Details of all the evidence received to date can be found here: http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=19785&Opt=3 

 The Committee has agreed to seek the views of others who may have a perspective on the petition and the decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant from March 2019. 

 We would therefore be extremely grateful to receive any views you have in relation to the following issues (or any other matters which you feel are relevant): 

  • The Welsh Government’s decision to transfer funding for the Welsh Independent Living Grant to local authorities. 
  • The potential benefits or problems which may arise from supporting WILG recipients through local authority social care provision in the future. 
  • The current transition process, including assessment by local authorities, and any feedback from WILG recipients. 
  • If you (or your organisation) was involved in the work of the ILF stakeholder advisory group, your experience of this process and the extent to which the group’s deliberations and final recommendation reflected the views of members. 
  • Any alternative approaches that you believe should have been taken by the Welsh Government, or any changes which should be made at this stage. 
  • Any other views or comments that you have in relation to the petition. 

I would be grateful if you could provide any response which you wish to make by e-mail to the clerking team at SeneddPetitions@assembly.walesif possible by Friday 14 September 2018. 

Please feel free to share this letter with others who you feel would have views to share on any of the above. 

Responses are typically published as part of our Committee papers and will be discussed at a future Committee meeting. 

 Yours sincerely 

 David J Rowlands AM Chair 

 

 

Closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant: In the cause of equality of provision for disabled people? #SaveWILG

The following article was written by Ann James and Luke Clements. It appears on their superbly informative website which can be viewed here.

We would like to thank Ann and Luke for their research and work in putting together such a comprehensive report.

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Local authorities in Wales are rushing to meet the new September deadline, set by the
Minister for Health, for the re-assessment of the 1,300 or more recipients of the Welsh
Independent Living Grant (WILG). In November 2016 the Welsh Government (following in the footsteps of the English Government) announced the closure of the WILG.

The transfer of care and support of all recipients to local authority provision has been
contentious and has left many recipients anxious and fearful that their right to Independent Living will be eroded by this decision. A strident campaign has been launched by recipients of the WILG (and the previous Independent Living Fund (ILF)) and their families and supporters under the campaign banner of #SWILG.

Closure of the Wales Independent Living Grant

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was established by the Department of Health and
Social Security in 1988 as an independent trust to provide a weekly payment to a
small number of severely disabled people who would have suffered very significant
financial loss as a result of the abolition of supplementary benefits ‘additional
requirements’ payments in that year.4 It is however thought that about one million
disabled people experienced considerable losses as a result of the 1988 changes.

The ILF existed in various forms until it was closed by the Department for Works and
Pensions to new applications in December 2010,  at which time it was providing support
to 46,000 people with complex needs to live in the in the community.7 At that time the UK
Government argued that it was an unsustainable cost; that it perpetuated an unfair funding of services to disabled people; that distribution of ILF was inconsistent across the four nations and within the four nations; and that the advent of direct payments and individual budgets in England obviated the need for ILF.8 The ILF closed in June 2015 and the funding was devolved to English local authorities and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments

The WILG was set up in 2015 following a consultation exercise and gave the Welsh
Government a period of moratorium to decide on how to proceed
.
The options before the Minister were:

• the extension of current arrangements;
• an arrangement with a third party to continue to provide payments to recipients in
Wales, and;
• to transfer the responsibility and funding to local authorities in Wales over a two-year
transitional period so as to eventually provide support through nIn November 2016, it was announced that the WILG would close in March 2019 and that all recipients would be assessed by their Local Authority for care and support under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act (SSWBA) 2014 by March 2018. The March deadline was extended to–September 2018 to enable local authorities to complete their assessments of WILG recipients.

The #SaveWILG campaigning group led by Nathan Davies continue to fight a vigorous campaign to persuade Welsh Government to retain the WILG and grow the provision in a similar fashion to Scotland.

The Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out in advance of the closure decision in Wales conveys a Panglossian view, that is to say an overly optimistic view of what the 2014 Act will deliver following the closure of the WILG in 2019.  It also fails to acknowledge and consider the potential adverse effect on individuals who may have significant changes to provision and how this will be addressed to ensure the recipients right to Independent Living.

The rational for the closure of the WILG is in keeping with the UK Government’s arguments for the closure of the ILF. Welsh Government argues that:

  • the continuation of the WILG will perpetuate a ‘two tier’ system of provision and that this is unfair on those who receive care and support solely through their local authority.
  • the cost of maintaining a Welsh version of the Independent Living Fund is financially unsustainable as money devolved to Wales from the UK Government’s closure does not have the capacity to respond to future need of recipients nor allow for the opening of the WILG to new applicants.
  • the SSWBA 2014 and Direct Payment provision will enable and support independent living and that the need for a discrete fund is not required.

 

Transition from the WILG to local authority provision: are there messages from England?

The analysis and studies of the impact of the closure on ILF in England are bound to give concern to WILG recipients in Wales. The Shakespeare and Porter 2016 study, which focused on the impact of the transition from ILF to local authority support, found high levels of concern and anxiety about Local Authority processes and provision during this period. The Department of Work and Pensions Post-Closure Review,found both positive and negative experiences of the transition. Those who had retained their provision or had an increase in provision or a slight reduction reported satisfaction without any loss to their independence. For those who had experienced a significant reduction there was a loss of independence, greater restrictions to their independence and an increased reliance on unpaid carers. There was also a concomitant impact on the emotional and physical health of these participants.

An emerging theme from the research and reviews is the post-code lottery faced by previous recipients of ILF. The finding in Inclusion London’s  review confirmed this factor and found in addition inconsistent practice in relation to NHS Continuing Health Care (NHS CHC) referrals for funding and failings in the implementation of the Care Act 2014 which left services users without essential provision.

Many disabled people who will be transiting from the WILG will be legally eligible for NHS CHC funding or at least NHS joint funding. In addition to the well-documented procedural hurdles they encounter in obtaining this support, in Wales a more troubling challenge exists.  The Welsh Government has made it clear that it will not permit direct payments to be made for people eligible for NHS CHC (unlike in England such payments can be made.  Many LHBs appear reluctant to facilitate direct payments via a trust arrangement (often referred to as an Independent User Trust (IUT)) even though the High Court has held this to be lawful (indeed necessary in certain situations).

Anecdotally it is also reported that LHBs are placing obstacles in direct payments being made where there is a joint funding arrangement even though the Framework guidance makes it clear that where ‘an individual has existing Direct Payment arrangements, these should continue wherever and for as long as possible within a tailored joint package of care’.

 

Concluding Comments

About 1,300 people will transfer from the WILG to local authority care and support under the SSWBA 2014 by March 2019. Many of the recipients and their carers are concerned that their right to Independent Living will be compromised as local authorities re-assess and establish their eligibility to services.

The R (CWR) v Flintshire County Council (2018) Case Note illustrates the challenges that a disabled person and his/her family can face in Wales as they seek to access care and support. This case note does however, highlight the statutory requirements for a comprehensive assessment of disabled people in need of care and support and their carers. It demonstrates too, that assessments undertaken in a cavalier manner can be challenged and local authorities held accountable for their assessment, determination of eligibility and care provision. This may provide some reassurance to WILG recipients although it is perhaps questionable how many will have the energy, knowledge and courage to pursue this option.

While the term ‘well-being’ may be used in a perfunctory manner in discussion about social care, the definition in section 2 SSWBA 2014 is comprehensive and includes control over day to day life (s.2(4) (a)) and participation in work (s.2(4)(b)).

Clements notes that section 6(3)(b) stresses ‘the importance of promoting the adult’s independence where possible’ and argues that this is amplified and bolstered by para 56 of the Part 2 Code of Practice (General Function) which states that the well-being duty ‘includes key aspects of independent living as expressed in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People in particular Article 19 which recognizes the right of disabled people to ‘full inclusion and participation in the community’; to choose where they live and with whom they live; and to have access to a range of community support services ‘to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community’. Assessment, eligibility determinations and decisions on how to meet need will need to be infused by these principles.

R (JF) v. Merton LBC highlighted the requirement for an assessment to have regard to the dimensions of well-being set out in stature.

A comprehensive overview of assessment, eligibility and meeting needs can be found at www.lukeclements.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Wales-SS-Well-being-Act-26.pdf page 9.

This ‘post’, written by Ann James and Luke Clements, appears in Rhydian: Wales Social Welfare Law on-line (2018) 23-26: to access this click here.

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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.

We are particularly interested in those living outside of Wrexham County Borough Council as we attempt to show that this problem of reducing hours of care and support is not just confined to residents of Wrexham. Having said that, please don’t hesitate to get in touch even if you live in Wrexham. The more evidence we can gather, the better. 

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 1,200 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. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens. But they 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.

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 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.​ 

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:

‘I will spend what remains of my life fighting this if I have to’ – Disabled man’s battle for grant to live independently

Wales Live, BBC One Wales, 09/05/2018

Welsh Government under pressure over disabled grant

Disabled man continues fight for independent lives in Flintshire and Wrexham

This disabled man has lost half his care after Tories axed the Independent Living Fund

Welsh Government has ‘sold disabled people down the river’

Independent living grants: Disability campaigner fear cuts

Response from Huw Irranca-Davies to Open Letter #SaveWILG

Same old story…

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4 June 2018

Dear Nathan,

Thank you for sending the link to your blog https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com
on which you have posted an open letter to me, dated 10 May 2018, seeking my support to retain the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). I was also grateful for the opportunity to meet you at your home earlier in the year, and to discuss your concerns with you in detail. I reiterate again that the Welsh Government is firmly committed
to ensuring a smooth transition from the temporary WILG to the new arrangements, as
agreed with the stakeholder advisory group, and to ensure the focus at all times is on the
well-being and independent-living outcomes of every individual.

I note what you say about the information you have received from local authorities about their experience of the transition process to transfer people’s future support to their social services provision. You will understand that without sight of this information it is not possible for me to comment, and I would therefore be grateful if you could pass  any information on to me. However, I can report on progress on the transition to date, and the feedback we have received from local authorities through the periodic monitoring of the transition.

As of 31 March this year local authorities have reported they have completed, or are in the process of completing, around 1,000 of the reviews they need to undertake as part of this process. These are to agree people’s well-being outcomes and how they can be met in
future. As a result, around 400 people have now gone on to receive their support from their local authority – nearly a third of the total number of 1,250 who were receiving ILF payments as at 31 March.

In terms of outcomes, authorities report that a large number of those now receiving their
support from their local authority are receiving support similar to that they received from the ILF. Some people are receiving a slightly different level of support than previously and this includes people whose level of support has increased. Overall, local authorities inform us that no major concerns have been raised about the support received. Clearly there will be some individual circumstances where people will be uneasy about the nature and level of the support their authority considers appropriate in their case, but where this has occurred authorities are discussing this with the person concerned.

Local authorities providing support in this way is, of course, not new, as most individuals
would have had to receive this from their authority as part of the eligibility to receive ILF payments. Implementing this change in a managed approach, with the two-year transition period we have put in place, has ensured there is an appropriate period of time in which individuals can consider and agree their well-being outcomes with their authority, and agree all of the support they require to deliver these outcomes, not just the support they previously obtained through their ILF payments. To facilitate this, the funding of £27 million a year, which is provided by the UK Government for this purpose, has been distributed in its entirely to local authorities on the basis of the level of grant funding they previously received. This is to ensure they have the level of funding they require to maintain payments to people while their future support package is agreed and provided, following which this funding can be used to meet the cost of that support package.

Let me turn to matters you raise in respect of the stakeholder advisory group. This group
was established by the then Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM,
with the purpose of agreeing a way forward following the temporary two-year transition
period. The group comprised of representatives of Disability Wales, the Dewis Centre for
Independent Living and the All Wales Forum; a service user’s parent; and representatives from local authorities and the Welsh Local Government Association.

As I advised the Chair of the Petitions Committee, David J Rowlands AM, in my letter to him of 14 November last year, which I believe you have seen, no formal minutes of the meetings of the stakeholder advisory group which considered this issue were made. Instead short summary emails were sent to members setting out agreed action points arising from meetings.

The advisory group considered a number of potential options to provide future support.
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. The advantages and disadvantages of each option were considered, in terms of its effectiveness to support people who had previously received ILF payments 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 following its closure to new entrants in 2010.

There was a fine balance between these issues and on occasions members had slightly
differing opinions on the potential options. Nevertheless, the stakeholder advisory group on balance favoured the option of future support being provided by local authorities as part of their social care provision. This it considered was, overall, the best way forward for individuals and the most effective way of utilising the limited funding available for their direct benefit. It also acknowledged that this matched the support other disabled people in Wales were already receiving and was in keeping with our person-centred ethos for social care being delivered through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. It therefore removes the inequitable two-tier approach which existed, with some disabled people receiving only support from their local authority while others could receive this in addition to dedicated payments from the ILF. At the time of this decision, and indeed since, no member of the group or any organisation represented on it has indicated they disagreed with the advice given to the then Minister upon which he made his decision.

I am happy to agree to your request to meet to discuss matters relating to the WILG. I met you earlier in the year to hear your concerns, as outlined again in your open letter, and to explain how this decision was reached and the future action I am taking. It would be good to follow up on that earlier discussion. My Diary Secretary is, I believe, already in contact with you to arrange the details of this. In the meantime, I would be grateful if you would post this reply to your letter on your blog.

Yours sincerely,
Huw Irranca-Davies AC/AM
Y Gweinidog Plant, Pobl Hyn a Gofal Cymdeithasol
Minister for Children, Older People & Social Care

Activist celebrates after Welsh Labour backs independent living campaign #SaveWILG

Taken from an original article by John Pring on the Disability News Service website:

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A disabled activist who has campaigned to save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) is celebrating after the Welsh Labour annual conference voted to back his campaign.

Nathan Lee Davies has led a campaign to force the Labour-run Welsh government to reverse its decision to scrap the grant, which was introduced to support disabled people with high support needs in Wales to live independently after the UK government closed the Independent Living Fund in 2015.

An estimated 1,300 people in Wales receive support through the WILG scheme.

And this week, at their annual conference, members of Welsh Labour voted in favour of a motion that called on their government to maintain WILG, at least until the next Welsh assembly elections in 2021.

Before the vote, Davies had also secured support from Labour’s UK leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who posed for a picture holding one of the campaign’s “WHERE THERE’S A W.I.L.G. THERE’S A WAY” tee-shirts.

After the vote, Davies posted a blog in which he described his “emotional day” following a victory he said was “key for disabled rights across Wales and throughout the UK”.

He added: “We should all rejoice while remembering the fight is far from over as we need to ensure Welsh Labour listen to the will of their members.”

Davies has previously described his terror at the prospect of his cash-strapped local authority taking over full responsibility for providing his care package, having been told that without WILG his own care package would be reduced from 86.5 hours to just 31 hours a week.

He has described the campaign as a “life or death” fight.

He told Disability News Service yesterday (Wednesday) that the passing of the motion was “obviously the high point of our ever-growing campaign” but that it “does not mean that we have succeeded in securing WILG”.

He said: “We must continue with our campaign and ensure the Welsh government listen and act upon the wishes of their members.

“One thing is for sure, we won’t rest until we preserve and improve the Welsh Independent Living Grant.”

He thanked the cross-party and union support for his campaign – including the “wonderfully supportive” Clwyd constituency Labour party, which proposed the motion – and the other recipients of WILG.

He particularly praised members of Welsh Labour Grassroots – which represents the Momentum movement in Wales – who he said had “worked tirelessly to ensure independent living remains an option for those with high care and support needs”.

Davies is hoping that the Welsh government – which will have a new first minister in the autumn after Carwyn Jones announced that he would be standing down – will now reverse its decision to scrap WILG.

A spokeswoman for Welsh Labour said: “As with all motions passed at conference, this will now be considered by Welsh Labour’s policy process ahead of the next assembly elections.”

The Welsh government announced in 2016 that, after a two-year transition period, it would transfer all the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales directly to councils.

It decided there would be no continuation of the interim WILG scheme it had been running as a stopgap since the Department for Work and Pensions closed ILF in June 2015, and would not set up a new Welsh ILF, even though such a scheme had been set up in Scotland.

All the £27 million-a-year funding is set to be transferred to Welsh local authorities this year, and they will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients by 31 March 2019.

The Welsh government’s new Social Services and Wellbeing Act is supposed to provide new rights for people to access a re-assessment of their support at any time, with local authorities under new legal duties to support independent living.

It believes that this is a more progressive system than the one operating in England.

But Davies has said previously that the decision to transfer the £27 million to councils and close WILG meant the Welsh government had “sold disabled people down the river” and was “washing their hands of all responsibility for social care to former ILF recipients and transferring the pressure onto local authorities”.