UK Government

Disability News Service: Last-ditch appeal to new Welsh First Minister over independent living scheme #SaveWILG

A disabled campaigner has sent an 80-page dossier of evidence to the new first minister of Wales in a last-ditch bid to persuade him to abandon plans to close the Welsh government’s independent living grant scheme.

Nathan Lee Davies has written to Mark Drakeford with just two months left until the planned closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG), which was itself set up as an interim scheme following the UK government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in June 2015.

Davies, who has led the Save WILG Campaign, told Drakeford in an open letter this week that closing WILG would leave disabled people with high support needs “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”.

He said that local authorities “seem to be treating disabled people as a burden”.

Davies points out in the letter that Drakeford had promised – during his successful campaign to lead the Welsh Labour party last year – that if an independent evaluation of the WILG closure showed the new system “not working as well as the old one” then he would be “prepared to reverse it”.

WILG was set up by the Welsh government – with UK government funding – as a short-term measure to support former ILF recipients when the fund was closed in June 2015.

But the Welsh government is now closing WILG and transferring the funding to local councils, and by April the 22 local authorities will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

Davies said the “deep dive review” of cases in which WILG recipients were having their support cut was “full of errors” and had failed to consult the disabled people who will be affected.

He pointed to his own experience at the hands of his local authority, Wrexham council, which he said had treated him “abysmally”.

Davies, who has a life-limiting condition, said that the process to reassess his support needs, due to end in September 2018, had still not been completed and was having “a negative impact” on both his physical and mental health.

He described how his social worker had laughed when he suggested he needed 24-hour support and told him that no-one in the borough received that level of support.

He said that the lack of overnight support in his current social care package meant he had to stop drinking at 8pm at night and get ready for bed at 10pm, and often had to call his 68-year-old father to assist him in the night, even though he lives a 10-minute drive away and has arthritis in both hands.

The dossier, which has already been shared with the deputy health and social services minister Julie Morgan, includes a description of a day in his life, from last January, showing the poor level of support he already receives – even before the closure of WILG – and the pain and indignity this exposes him to, as well as the lack of choice and control in his life.

Davies says: “It is 2018 and I am still being treated like a second class citizen.

“I have a progressive condition of the nervous system which is accelerating at quite a rate, yet I still have the same amount of inadequate care and support hours that I did in 2010 when I first began independent living.”

He updated this by posting a new blog yesterday, showing that little had changed in the last year.

In the dossier, he warns the Welsh Labour party: “I do not want to spend the last days of my life completely unnecessarily fighting against the party I have defended and campaigned for across many years.

“But I will if I have to. Please don’t make me.”

The dossier also includes a letter from a director of Disability Wales, Trevor Palmer, in which he says the planned WILG closure has “created serious disruptions” to his life, with local authority “incompetence and lack of understanding” that has led to his support package being “substantially” reduced.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We believe that disabled people’s ability to live independently should not be compromised by any changes to the way in which support is arranged for those people who previously received payments from the WILG.

“The first minister has just received Mr Davies’ open letter regarding the WILG and will carefully consider the detailed points it makes.

“He has asked the deputy minister for health and social services to consider what further action may be necessary to ensure disabled people in receipt of the WILG are not adversely affected by this change.

“The deputy minister has provided Mr Davies and the National Assembly’s petitions committee with details of the deep dive review.

“She also met Mr Davies at his home to hear his concerns and discuss the issues raised in his dossier.”

He said the deep dive review had seen the 22 Welsh local authorities audit all cases where they intended to cut the WILG element of people’s support.

This found planned reductions in about 157 cases, and increases in support in a similar number, out of 1,174 people.

He claimed that the cuts had taken place because “some people had developed a need for healthcare rather than social care while some, due to their support being provided in a different way or being of a different type, had a reduced need for care overall”.

He accepted that two questionnaires, commissioned from the All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers of People with Learning Disabilities, had had a low response rate, but he said that responses to it “have been positive about the way assessments have been undertaken and the outcomes people have received”.

Charlotte Walton, Wrexham council’s head of adult social care, said: “We cannot comment on any individual’s care and support needs.

“However we do not accept the allegations being made.

“We have carried out all of the WILG reviews in a person centred and inclusive manner and working with the individual recipients of the fund [has]enabled them to achieve positive outcomes from the reviews.”

Davies said he would now push for a meeting with the first minister.

He said: “I am not going anywhere and will continue to fight this until justice is served.”

Picture: Nathan Lee Davies with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

EHRC Report into Disability Rights in Wales #SaveWILG

This report by the European Human Rights Commission into Disability Rights in Wales really is essential reading. The section on independent living is especially relevant to the #SaveWILG campaign.

It reads as follows:

Independent living funding

The UK Government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF) closed across the UK in June 2015. In order to continue support for individuals, a new grant scheme (the Welsh Independent Living Grant) was set up by the Welsh Government to run until March 2017. As a result of the funding support transferred from the UK Government, funding in Wales for this interim arrangement was restricted to supporting existing ILF recipients.

In November 2016, the Welsh Government announced that by 31 March 2019 all former ILF recipients will have their care and support needs met through normal social care provision, having received an outcome and care and support assessment under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. This arrangement will aim to ensure that all disabled people with higher care and support needs are supported equally.

The decision to take forward this approach followed taking representation and advice from a stakeholder advisory group. 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?

The full damning report can be read by clicking the link below:

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/wales_supplementary_submission_to_crpd_uk_loi_-_ehrc.pdf

Response to Letter from Huw Irranca-Davies to the Chair of the Petitions Committee #SaveWILG

Below you can find my response to Mr David Rowlands – Chair of the Senedd Petitions Committee – in answer to the previous letter from the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies.

 ***

3rd December 2018

Dear Mr Rowlands,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to the letter you received from the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care regarding the planned closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

For this letter I have decided to list my responses to the Minister’s letter in an easy-to-read, bullet point format. This will allow the Committee time to access the key points against the weak arguments put forward by the Minister and the Welsh Government.

Without further ado, I will begin listing the reasons for which we strongly disagree with the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care.

The Minister begins his letter by stating that the purpose of the changes to Social Care are to end the “two-tier arrangement” that currently exists in order to provide a level playing field to all disabled people. The Minister is referring to a two-tier system that the Welsh Government chose to perpetuate. Meanwhile, during the consultation process ahead of the introduction of WILG, there were a number of other options on the table.  Option 4 proposed opening up the WILG for new applicants. This option was never fully investigated by the Welsh Government who seem averse to investing in people.

    The #SaveWILG campaign fully supports equality across the board and it is a bizarre argument that says essential support should be jeopardised to give equal treatment to all. What is actually happening is an EQUALISATION DOWNWARD, however subtle and however long it takes to materialise. We cannot just sit back and let this happen.

    It is not AND never has been an excuse not to do something because it is “difficult to unpick”. It would ONLY create “turmoil” if the Welsh Government handled it badly. It does not inspire confidence to witness such a lack of self-belief by our elected representatives. Of course, the obvious point is that there is mass turmoil NOW precisely BECAUSE of what the Welsh Government are doing. I’m afraid that those in power will have to put in the hours to make up for their initial mistakes against the warnings from disabled people and their families.

    In his letter, the Minister tries to blind the Committee with statistics. I prefer to concentrate on the human aspect and the number of emails that the #SaveWILG campaign receives regularly. These confidential messages are often found with tales of struggle, depression and desperation. On paper it is easy to ignore the negative effects of policies, but in the real world those that are directly affected deserve to be listened to. A large majority of struggling recipients do not have the ability to speak out against the Government in the way that I have done. Furthermore, many recipients are too afraid of the consequences of criticising Councils that have so much control over their lives.  This was why arrangements under the ILF provided a safety net for disabled people: because assessments were carried out by independent Social Workers, who could not be manipulated by local authorities.

    We are told that the Minister has instructed local authorities to perform a “deep dive” into the WILG transition. How can we begin to trust the findings of local authorities when they are under such immense pressure to cut costs due to a lack of funding from Central Government? Disabled people must be protected in the face of these cuts and not be seen as an easy group to exploit.

    I fully believe that the Welsh Government have a responsibility to support disabled people and should work with them instead of pointing them towards cash-strapped local authorities, many of whom do not have an adequate complaints procedure in place.

    The Minister and his team have repeatedly told us this is not about money. However, when we say that the Government should open WILG to all disabled people, they repeatedly say they can’t afford it. So, it is about money, then?

    This situation has arisen because of the heartless closure of the ILF by the UK Government but the current mistakes confusion, mess and inconsistencies proves that the Welsh Government are heading in the wrong direction.  Disabled people with high care and support needs are the ones paying the price for these errors.

    At no point do we see the Minister or the Welsh Government acknowledging that MOST WILG recipients are not able to contribute on a level playing field to any consultation. There seems to be a complete – I am sure unconscious – lack of understanding about this. People are not machines that fit neatly into box-ticking exercises.

    Informing us of the huge delays already, shows that the turmoil, and lack of a competent working system, already exists. Hence the need to make sure long-term that those who need this support most, do not have to worry about this kind of upheaval on a yearly basis.

    THE most important thing is the healthcare & support for recipients. Many do not have the luxury of time to be fighting this full-throttle. Let me be clear though, there are plenty of us fortunate enough not to be in their position who will never give up or shut up about this.

    QUESTION FOR COMMITTEE MEMBERS: When do we expect to get the full, published, unedited or un-amended report from the review? 

    Thank you very much indeed for facilitating this process. I am grateful to you and everyone at the Petitions Committee for taking the time to listen and consider our strong arguments.

    Yours in hope,

    Nathan Lee Davies

    #SaveWILG campaign

    Disability News Service: Ministers ‘failing to uphold a UN disability convention they do not understand’

    The following article was taken from the excellent Disability News Service website, written by John Pring.  This blogger takes no credit for the article below:

    ***

    Government ministers are failing to uphold the rights of disabled people, ignoring the need to engage with disabled people’s organisations, and do not understand the UN’s disability convention, according to a new report.

    The highly-critical report has been compiled by disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across the UK and submitted to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.

    It analyses how the UK and devolved governments have responded to key parts of last year’s highly-critical report by the committee on the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

    The new report includes some criticism of the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales – and raises concerns about the impact of the continuing political impasse over the Northern Ireland Executive – but most of its concerns are directed at the UK government in Westminster.

    The UK government, the report says, is responsible for “continuing retrogression and re-institutionalisation” of disabled people and continues to disagree with the UN committee’s findings and recommendations.

    It adds: “We have concerns that the UNCRPD is not embedded within government and is poorly understood at all levels, including ministerial.”

    It provides the example of international development secretary Penny Mordaunt, who appeared to try to redefine the meaning of inclusive education at the government’s Global Disability Summit in July, telling the international audience that inclusive education meant “that everyone has an education and it is done in a way to reach their full potential”.

    The report says that many of the concerns raised by DPOs last year in their evidence to the UN committee remained a “significant problem”, with disabled people still subject to “tightening eligibility” for support, the removal and sanctioning of benefits and the bedroom tax.

    It also raises concerns about the continuing rollout of universal credit (UC) and says DPOs are “gravely concerned” at the failure to assess the access needs of disabled people due to be moved onto UC and the lack of the necessary data to monitor its impact.

    It warns that the social care funding crisis has led to the removal of further essential independent living support for disabled people and the closure of community services for people with mental distress, while increasing social care charges are leaving thousands of disabled people in debt or choosing to pull out of receiving support completely.

    The DPOs also point to the chronic shortage of accessible housing in England, with new housing for disabled people often limited to segregated supported housing complexes.

    And the report says that the number of disabled children being forced into special schools is rising, while budget cuts are reducing the quality of inclusive education, and the number of disabled pupils left without any educational placement at all has risen, as has the number of disabled pupils excluded from school.

    Among the DPOs that contributed to the report are the Alliance for Inclusive EducationDisability Action (Northern Ireland)Disabled People Against CutsDisability WalesInclusion LondonInclusion Scotland, the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance and Sisters of Frida.

    They make 22 recommendations of their own that are aimed at the UK government, including calling for: a new legal right to independent living; the abolition of charging for social care; an end to the practice of placing disabled children and young people in long-stay hospitals; and a new social security system that is based on “an accurate analysis of need” and is “consistent with a human rights approach to disability”.

    There are also four recommendations for the Welsh government – including a call to incorporate the UNCRPD into Welsh law – and six for the Scottish government, including the need for a national strategy on the provision of accessible housing.

    The DPOs conclude that examples of “progressive” policy-making have been restricted to the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, although the two executives are “not without room for improvement” themselves.

    There is also repeated criticism in the report of the UK government’s “inadequate engagement” with DPOs and its failure to recognise the importance of consulting disabled people.

    The report says that “engagement with non-user-led charities is continuously prioritised over engagement with DPOs”, while requests by DPOs to meet ministers “are frequently turned down”.

    It also says that engagement with the UK government is “undermined by an increasing lack of trust”, and warns that “without trust, consultation and engagement cannot take place in ‘good faith’”.

    The report does welcome one measure taken by the UK government, the increased funding for disabled facilities grants, although it warns that “delays in processing applications can still be a problem for under-resourced local authorities”.

    This week’s report follows the publication of the government’s own progress report last month.

    The DPO report is highly critical of the government’s progress report, accusing it of effectively ignoring many of the UN committee’s recommendations.

    One of the recommendations ignored, it says, was to carry out a cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of its cuts and reforms on disabled people, with the UK government continuing to insist that this is not possible.

    It points out that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a CIA earlier this year, while the Greater London Assembly is conducting its own CIA for London “using the same methodology as the EHRC”, and both the Scottish and Welsh governments are “exploring carrying out their own”.

    There is also frustration at the government’s failure to follow up the UN committee’s recommendation that it should devise a “comprehensive” plan aimed at the “deinstitutionalisation” of disabled people, in “close collaboration” with DPOs.

    Disability News Service: Welsh government’s ‘ludicrous’ failure on independent living framework

    The following article was taken from the excellent Disability News Service website, written by John Pring.  This blogger takes no credit for the article below:

    ***

    The Welsh government has been criticised for a “ludicrous” and “insulting” failure to address the adult social care funding crisis in a new draft framework on independent living.

    Action on Disability, its new draft framework and action plan, was put out to consultation this week, and aims to “develop and improve access to help, advice and services for disabled people in Wales”.

    The plan will eventually replace the Welsh government’s 2013 framework for action on independent living and follows a series of meetings and engagement events with disabled people, disability organisations and other stakeholders.

    The report says that this public engagement process saw concerns raised about “cuts to social care provision” which had led to “lower allocations” of direct payments, leaving disabled people “increasingly isolated, and the impacts to their wellbeing compromised”.

    But despite these concerns, the action plan refers only to previous strategies on services for visually-impaired people, Deaf and autistic people and those with learning difficulties, and fails to include any measures to address the cuts to support and the social care funding crisis.

    This contrasts with its 2013 framework, which included lengthy sections on access to social care, direct payments and personalised support.

    Of 44 actions supposedly aimed at improving the right to independent living in the new action plan, not one of them explicitly addresses the need to improve the overall access to care and support, although it does promise a review of the aids and adaptations system that supports disabled and older people to live independently in their own homes.

    Instead, the action plan covers areas including disability employment, higher education – including a planned review of policy on disabled students’ allowance – public appointments, and access to public transport.

    There is also no mention of social care in the section describing the Welsh government’s “commitments” on independent living, even though it promises to “work for continuous improvement” on how it fulfils its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

    The failure of the action plan to suggest any measures to address the funding crisis and cuts to support suggests the Welsh government is in breach of the convention’s article 19, which says that governments signed up to UNCRPD should take “effective and appropriate measures” to enable disabled people to live in the community with “full inclusion and participation”.

    There is also no mention in the document of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), and the Welsh government’s decision to close its interim Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme, which it has been running as a stopgap with UK government transition funding since ILF closed in June 2015.

    Because of the WILG closure, Welsh local authorities will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients by 31 March 2019.

    Nathan Lee Davies (pictured), who is leading the campaign to persuade the Welsh government to overturn its decision to scrap WILG, said the failure to address social care in the action plan was “ludicrous” and “insulting”.

    He said: “They seem like a load of ostriches burying their heads in the sand. It’s just really worrying.

    “I am disillusioned but far from surprised. It just seems like they are copying what the Tories have done in Westminster, with the same devaluing of disabled people.”

    He suggested that the Welsh Labour government had simply published a “flimsy” framework document in order to “placate the UN, and to be able to say, ‘look, we are doing something to support disabled people’”.

    He said that ministers – by closing the WILG – were “washing their hands” of responsibility for social care and handing it to local councils, which could not afford to meet their responsibilities promised under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, which Davies said should be renamed the Pie in the Sky Act.

    Responding to criticisms of the document, a Welsh government official said: “Our ‘Action on Disability: the Right to Independent Living’ framework is a high-level plan covering a wide range of issues in line with our national strategy, Prosperity for All.

    “A number of the actions in this draft action plan relate to social care; nevertheless we are open to suggestions on how the plan could be strengthened.

    “We encourage everyone to contribute to the consultation – which we launched this week – to influence our future work to support disabled people as best we can.”

    Davies has contrasted the actions of the Welsh Labour government with those of the UK Labour party, whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has publicly supported his campaign to save the WILG, as did members of Welsh Labour at their annual conference earlier this year.

    Davies is determined to persuade the Welsh government to keep the current system, which allows former ILF-recipients some security by receiving funding from three different “pots”: WILG, local authorities and their own personal contributions.

    He said that this “tripartite” system had provided the support he needed that led to him being recognised with an honorary degree by Wrexham Glyndwr University for his services to disability rights.

    He has also been involved with Wrexham football club, Disabled People Against Cuts, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, as well as writing a new book, and running his campaign and a blog.

    He also worked with Disability Arts Cymru on a #SaveWILG exhibition of visual art and poetry earlier this year.

    Davies is now waiting to hear what will happen to his support package when WILG closes.

    BBC Report: Mark Drakeford may overturn Independent Living Fund changes

    The following article was published on BBC Wales News Online  and this blogger takes no credit or responsibility for anything written below.

    Welsh Labour leadership candidate Mark Drakeford has told supporters he is willing to reverse changes to funding for disabled people if there is evidence they are losing out.

    Councils have been put in charge of support for 1,300 former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

    But research by BBC Wales found that about 100 people had care packages cut.

    Mr Drakeford blamed the UK government for breaking up “that part of the welfare state”.

    The money was protected until earlier this year when the Welsh Government scrapped its Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG), and passed the responsibility to councils.

    The ILF was provided by the UK government until 2015, when it was transferred to English councils and devolved governments.

    Research by the BBC Wales Live programme showed about 100 of the 600 recipients who have been reassessed have had care packages cut.

    In response on Wednesday, the minister in charge, Huw Irranca-Davies, said he did not believe there would be any “losers” as a result of changes.

    Mr Irranca-Davies has previously said he will not “rethink the policy in its entirety.”

    But at a leadership campaign event in Blackwood on Thursday, Mr Drakeford 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”.

    He blamed the UK government for “breaking up that part of the welfare state”, saying the ILF had “more or less disappeared” in England.

     

    “I do understand that people who rely on the Independent Living Fund say to me when it was in a special grant we knew it was there and we had confidence that money would come to us,” Mr Drakeford said.

    “The money is the same as it always was and most local authorities I believe are doing a decent job of continuing to hand the money on.

    “But we are beginning to pick up information that in some places that is not happening and the money isn’t going to ILF recipients in the way that it would have been last year.”

    Huw Irranca-Davies

     

    Mr Irranca-Davies had agreed to the evaluation, he said, adding that it would be carried out by someone “who is nothing at all to do with local authorities or the Welsh Government”.

    If evidence shows the payments work as well as before “then I think we should carry on with what we are doing now”, Mr Drakeford said.

    “But if the evidence is the opposite – that the money isn’t reaching people for whom it is intended – then I think I will be prepared to look again and go back to the system that the recipients of ILF have had confidence in up until now.”

    The promise drew applause from a small audience of supporters at the event in Blackwood where Mr Drakeford laid out plans to help the least well-off in society.

    He said he would be prepared to set targets to reduce the number of children taken into care and promised he would appoint a cabinet minister responsible for housing.

    Campaigner Nathan Lee Davies with Jeremy Corbyn

     

    Welsh Labour’s Spring conference passed a motion supporting a campaign to reinstate the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

    ‘Save WILG’ has been run by Labour member Nathan Lee Davies and has had backing from Welsh Labour politicians and Welsh Labour Grassroots – the Welsh arm of the left-wing Momentum campaign group.

    But the Welsh Government has pressed ahead with the transfer of the money and the responsibility to local authorities.

    More on this story

     

    Meeting in Parliament #SaveWILG

    I am enjoying this politics lark and on October 25th I shall be attending a crucial meeting in The Houses of Parliament as we continue to fight for the rights of disabled people across the UK.

    Working together to implementing the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
    Committee Room 4, Houses of Parliament
    3.30 – 5pm Thursday 25th October 2018
    Hosted by Lord Colin Low
     
     Speakers to include representatives from the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Action (Northern Ireland), Marsha de Cordova (Shadow Minister for Disabled People) and Stephen Lloyd (Liberal Democrat Spokesperson Work and Pensions) and others to be announced.
     
     In July 2018 the UK government co-hosted a global disability summit in London with the aim of securing international commitments to upholding the rights of Disabled people under the UNCRPD.  Meanwhile Deaf and Disabled people and our organisations remain concerned about retrogression under the UNCRPD within the UK.
     
    Twelve months on from the Concluding Observations in the routine public examination of the UK under the UNCRPD, Government, equality commissions and civil society have been required to report back to the UN disability committee. This meeting will launch the alternative reports by UK Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations and be an opportunity to discuss how government, Parliamentary allies, and civil society can work together to implement the UNCRPD within the UK.
     
    BSL interpretation and a palantypist will be provided. For more information or to book a place please contact ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.org.uk.