UK Government

Disability Wales Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

Disability Wales in Geneva to take evidence of human rights violations to UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People

Disability Wales and Disabled People’s Organisations from across the UK join forces in Geneva today to meet with the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People.

During the first ever investigation of the UK Government’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, we will be providing evidence of systemic failure to support disabled people to live independently and to have access to social, educational and employment opportunities.

This is the first time the Committee will review a State that it has previously had under Inquiry for violating the Convention.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales says: “Disabled people are being failed by the UK Government and we will not be quiet whilst our rights continue to be violated.

Not only have the UK Government been dismissive of rights violations noted by the Inquiry, they have continued to progress policies and cuts that attack the rights and lives of disabled people and their families. We will continue to hold our Governments to account and put pressure on public institutions to value and uphold the rights of disabled people in Wales.”

In a closed three hour session with the Committee, DPOs will be identifying issues that have the most severe impact on disabled people in the UK. We will request that the Committee ask questions of the UK and Welsh Governments on actions they will take to progress the rights, access and inclusion of disabled people in all areas of their lives.

Returning from Geneva, Disability Wales will launch the Wales report on 15th March at the Cross Party Working Group on Disability.

The three key messages from Wales are:

  • To strengthen the Framework for Action on Independent Living by ensuring greater local accountability for delivering the Framework to enable genuine choice and inclusion in all areas of life, including employment.
  • Ensure that upcoming infrastructure projects are fully inclusive in creating an accessible Wales, from transport to provision of information and services and access to the built environment.
  • To address the barriers in accessing justice by improving provision of advice, advocacy and specialist legal representation.

Wendy Ashton, Chair of Disability Wales said, “It is important that disabled people realise that we do have a voice and are using this process to make the world aware of how we are being failed in the UK.

In Wales, devolution provides the opportunity to do things differently and we will continue to work closely with Welsh Government to press for implementation of our calls for action. We must make sure that a human rights based approach identifies and meets the needs of disabled people living in Wales and call upon Welsh Government to support us as we fight for a better future for all disabled people.”

 

Disability Wales Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE DISSEMINATION

Open letter to oppose Government’s disability benefit cuts

Ahead of next week’s Budget, Disability Wales are supporting a UK wide call for the Government to reconsider planned cuts to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of the disability benefit Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which will see new claimants lose out on £30-a-week, £1500 a year.

Wales has a higher proportion of disabled people than the rest of the UK with a greater proportion of disabled people also living in poverty.

The UK Government claims this cut to ESA will ‘incentivise’ disabled people to get in to work, despite a recent Work and Pensions Select Committee report highlighting that evidence towards this is ‘ambiguous at best’. Disability Wales argues that instead of halving the disability employment gap, the cuts will directly undermine this aim pushing disabled people closer to or into poverty, with a survey of over 500 disabled people finding:

* Almost 7 in 10 (69%) say cuts to ESA will cause their health to suffer

* More than a quarter (28%) say they sometimes can’t afford to eat on the current amount they receive from ESA

* Almost half (45%) of respondents say that the cut would probably mean they would return to work later

* Just 1% said the cut would motivate them to get a job sooner

A recent Disability Wales survey highlighted the desperate struggle of many disabled people dealing with the stress of a system that continues to obstruct and not support. We will be calling upon Welsh Government to put pressure on UK Government to reverse the policies of further cuts.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said:

“The UK Government has been heavily criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for breaching the rights of disabled people through its ongoing programme of austerity and welfare reform.  To continue to target disabled people with further cuts is beyond comprehension or humanity.

Poverty, poor housing, lack of access to transport, local services, education and skills training means that the odds are stacked up high against disabled people seeking employment. Increasing insecurity and distress by cutting income will do nothing but bring more harm to disabled people in Wales.”

Disability Wales will be taking evidence to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on March 13th which will demonstrate how the UK Government is continuing to fail disabled people in Wales and across the UK. The delegation will lobby for recommendations to be made to UK and Welsh Governments to take action to reverse the impact of these severe attacks on the rights of disabled people.

Open letter

“Dear Prime Minister,

“We urge the Government to reconsider the £30-a-week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit facing sick and disabled people. The cut has caused deep concern among the sector and unease among MPs from all parties and we remain united as a sector in our opposition.

“The cut to new claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group of ESA and within Universal Credit (UC) from 1st April 2017 will affect many people found currently ‘unfit for work’ but will also impact many disabled people in work and on low wages due to the way UC works.

“Almost 70% of sick and disabled people surveyed said this cut would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would probably not be able to return to work as quickly, therefore undermining the Government’s attempts to halve the disability employment gap – something we wholeheartedly support.

At a time when 1 in 3 households with a disabled member are living in poverty, £30 a week can be a huge loss in income. We therefore urge the Government to halt this cut immediately.”

Notes to editors:

1. Disability Wales is the national association of disabled people’s organisations in Wales championing the rights, equality and independence of all disabled people.

2. The Disability Wales response to the “Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability” Green Paper highlights the detrimental impact of welfare reform on disabled people seeking work and accessing benefits such as Employment Support Allowance. It can be accessed here: http://www.disabilitywales.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-Disability-Wales-response-to-Improving-Lives-Green-Paper.docx

3. The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities investigation throughout 2017 will assess what steps the UK has taken to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee is a body of experts, nominated and elected by governments, the majority of whom are disabled people.

4. The committee postponed its assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to investigate a complaint of the violation disabled people’s rights as a result of welfare reform. This was brought under the optional protocol of the Convention. That investigation looked only at a part of the UN Convention – with a particular focus on the impact of austerity measures and welfare reform. The current report looks at a much wider set of issues, including our laws on mental health and mental capacity, policies on employment and education and more.

5. For media enquiries, please contact:

Natasha Hirst on 029 2088 7325 or via Natasha.hirst@disabilitywales.org

Keep on keeping on

So, the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) has been extended to March 2017. This is a reason for celebration and is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people over the last 12 months to protect independent living for disabled people across Wales.

However, we cannot rest on our laurels and must start thinking about what we are going to do this time next year. We are still looking for a long-term solution to the problems that the Tories caused when they closed the Independent Living Fund (ILF) .

We also need to analyse the letter which was sent to Paul Swann at Disability Wales who acts as Secretary of the Cross Party Group on Disability. The full letter can be downloaded here:  Minister’s response to CPGD re ILFWILG.

As stated above, Mark Drakeford AM (Minister for Health and Social Services) has confirmed that the draft Welsh Government budget contains £27 million to enable WILG to continue until March 2017. However, it is clear from the letter that the current level of funding form the UK Government is only sufficient to maintain recipients’ payments at the same level as they previously received form the ILF. It does not cater for any changes in a person’s circumstances or any changes in the level of support they require. The Minister confirms that the funding provided by the UK Government does not include any funding in respect of administration costs.

The Minister does recognise that a long-term solution is required and he has confirmed that he hopes to be in a position to respond more fully with regard to the scheme within a month.

With an election on the horizon in Wales the Assembly Members will be preoccupied until May but this does not mean we can’t do our homework in building a strong case as to why we need a more lasting Welsh ILF system – similar to the ones that have been established in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

I intend on meeting my prospective AM and getting their commitment to safeguard independent living in writing, I’ll write to the Welsh national press to make this issue a political hot potato and in a change of tact I also hope to get back in touch with Ian Lucas, my local Labour MP, who has always represented me well in Westminster. I would like to ask him to press the Tories hard about the amount of money they give to the devolved governments to cover independent living. It is not good enough to simply pass on the same amount of money distributed in 2015 as this does not account for new claimants or changes in circumstances. As someone with a progressive disability, I fear that the time will come – sooner rather than later – when I won’t be able to pay for the hours of care needed for me to remain living independently in the community; The Tories must be challenged and stopped from pushing ahead with fascist plans that boil down to nothing less than systematic social cleansing.

Writing and campaigning is what I am good at. Back in December, I wrote a blog entry entitled Fighting for independent living in Wales in which I appealed for assistance from recipients of ILF in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I wanted their opinions and experiences on how their national ILF schemes functioned since the closure of the UK-wide ILF in the hope that it may prove an inspirational model for us to follow in Wales.

I received the following comment in response to my blog: 

Hi Nathan – My name is Charles Rainey and, in 2012, with my wife set up the ILF User Group NI, dedicated retaining the ILF in NI should Westminster decide to replace it. With the support of relevant charities and individual politicians we drove the decision to set up the current situation where users have basically noticed no difference going from one to the other. Send me an email and I can send you more details on our approach.

I sent an email to Mr Rainey and set up a telephone call in which I’d discovered that my new found friend from Northern Ireland had done wonders in setting up a User Group that actively lobbied for the retention of an ILF for Northern Ireland. Mr Rainey is an accountant by trade and deserves enormous credit for all his hard work in helping to create a stable future for disabled people in Northern Ireland. I wish that I could follow his inspirational lead, but I am just not cut out for all the paperwork and bureaucracy that is involved in establishing such a protest group. Therefore all I can do is appeal to any professionals with a conscience based in Wales to take up a similar challenge to Mr Rainey and help provide hope for disabled people nationwide.

On top of this I am also concerned about my own staffing situation. I currently have a vacancy for a personal assistant for 16 hours per week with every chance that this will lead to more hours. This is a great opportunity to work with a small team in a rewarding environment. Rates of pay are £7.26 (between 7am and 8pm) and £9.64 (between 8pm and 7am) and training opportunities are available. However, this position has been advertised for over 12 months with little response and even when I do receive applications from candidates and invite them for interview then I find they are far from suitable.

I believe this is a sign that we live in an increasingly uncaring society.

I guess this is a call for anyone in the Wrexham area, preferably female, with a caring attitude to read the following job advertisement and consider applying to become a member of my staff.

http://www.penderelstrust.org.uk/recruitmentDetailsPA.php?recruitment_id=5211

I don’t bite, honest.

 

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…

In Response: Leanne Wood AM

I received the second response to my letter to the four main political party leaders in Wales from Leanne Wood AM of Plaid Cymru. I thank her for her reply to my concerns over the future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG), which I have shared below.

***

Dear Mr Davies,

Thank you for your email dated 30 November regarding Plaid Cymru’s response to the UK Government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF). Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you.

Our MPs in Westminster have vehemently opposed this move in Westminster.  Our spokesperson on these matters, Hywel Williams MP, is particularly passionate about this issue as his brother benefitted directly from it and was enabled to live independently as a result of the ILF. It is a great shame that once again, the Welsh Government is forced to pick up the pieces in the wake of a UK Government intent on decimating valuable public services.

I also share your concerns about the Welsh Government’s response to the fund’s closure. Plaid Cymru has called for the Welsh Government to follow the example of Scotland and Northern Ireland in establishing its own scheme and this call was mentioned in the media. You can read about it on the disability wales website here. You can also read about this in greater detail, and about our wider approach to welfare support for disabled people, on our website here – although for clarity, this was clearly written before the decision to close the ILF was finalised.  

I hope this assures you of our position.

Warmest wishes,

Leanne Wood

Arweinydd Plaid Cymru ac Aelod Cynulliad Canol De Cymru

Leader of Plaid Cymru and South Wales Central Assembly Member 

 

***

 It’s no wonder I have a crush on Leanne Wood – she seems to genuinely understand the situation.

I am sorely tempted to vote for Plaid Cymru in May 2016 as the inspirational words and leadership of Leanne Wood make me feel safe and optimistic. This is more than I have felt under Welsh Labour in recent years, highlighted by their lack of decisiveness and clarity over the future of WILG. This inaction has left me feeling isolated, alone, let down and disposable as we enter the festive period.

In my book, Every Silver Lining has a Cloud, I describe my homesickness and unhappiness while living in Scotland. Six years after leaving the  Scottish Highlands and I sometimes wish that I still lived there now that the left-wing SNP have established control in Hollyrood and, amongst other refreshing and principled practices, have seamlessly rolled out the Scottish ILF.

I’d love to live in such a fair-minded society but as I’ve no intention of returning North of the Border I can only hope that either Welsh Labour wake from their trance and embrace the politics of their Westminster leader, or Leanne Wood and her Plaid politicians clear the deadwood and set Wales on a similar path to the one being blazed by the SNP in Scotland.

 

Wrexham Council receive better than expected settlement

A

TAKEN FROM THE NEWSLETTER OF LESLEY GRIFFITHS, WELSH LABOUR AM FOR WREXHAM. EVERY TIME I TRY TO OPEN HER BLOG MY LAPTOP SOUNDS AN ALARM AND WARNS ME THAT A THREAT HAS BEEN DETECTED.

SENSITIVE INTERNET SECURITY OR HAVE I MISJUDGED OUR LOCAL POLITICIAN?

 

Local Government settlements were announced this week and with Local Authorities braced for cuts of up to 4.5%, the Welsh Government delivered some positive news with the funding revenue decreased by a much smaller 1.4%. 

Wrexham Council will receive a 1.3% reduction in its budget, meaning the Authority will have millions more pounds than originally expected and I very much hope the extra funding will be reinvested into local public services. 

I understand the situation is still far from ideal, but further cuts to the Welsh Government budget from the UK Government unfortunately mean there are some difficult decisions for both the Welsh Government and Local Authorities to take. 

The situation is worse in England as councils, having already seen their Government funding cut significantly since 2010, will see it cut by a further 8% every year for the next 4 years. 

The Welsh Government has always done its best to mitigate against UK Government cuts and it will continue to do all it can to protect the people of Wales from Tory austerity.

 

Surely this makes it more difficult for the council to justify their cuts to adult social care?

I will be keeping and quoting such figures right back at the council as I fight for independent living for all.