I am likely to have a busy schedule for the next few months – indeed it has been busy for the last 3 years, but we are coming to the zenith of the campaign – and the #SaveWILG campaign was represented by myself at the Disability Wales Conference and AGM at the Ramada Plaza, Wrexham on Friday 12th October.
Please find below the press release for the conference. I feel I spoke well and got my points across to Paul Deer of the Welsh Government who was sitting on the panel of experts. I was then given the opportunity to address the conference after lunch.
An enjoyable and constructive day was rounded off with drinks in the pub with a close comrade. I only hope all this hard work is being listened to by those who can make a difference…
Equal Before the Law?
Making Legislation Work for Disabled People
Today at the Ramada Plaza in Wrexham, Disability Wales is hosting a national conference themed on equality and human rights legislation; and whether disabled people are actually experiencing their rights along with everyone else.
Rhian Davies, Chief Executive Disability Wales states:
“In the wake of UK Government austerity measures, disabled people in Wales and across the UK continue to face serious regression of many of their hard-won rights. Disability Wales Annual Conference will provide a timely opportunity to hear from expert speakers about how disabled people can utilise equality and human rights laws to tackle barriers to independent living”
Disabled people make up 26% of the population in Wales, which has a higher proportion of disabled people than other nations and most regions of the UK. (Papworth Trust 2016)
Disabled people face a higher cost of living than non-disabled people, a cost which is rising year on year.b
Around a third of disabled people experience difficulties accessing public, commercial and leisure goods and services.
(ONS and Stats Wales)
Lesley Griffiths AM Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs will provide a key note address and outline the Welsh Government’s Draft Framework for Action on Disability: the Right to Independent Living.
“Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “We want to make sure disabled people have access to the same opportunities as everyone else. Next month we will be publishing our new Framework which sets out how we are addressing social barriers to equality and inclusion.
“It will be accompanied by an action plan to tackle some of the key barriers identified by disabled people themselves, including transport, employment, housing and access to buildings and places.
“This is a result of a great deal of engagement over nearly two years with disabled people and the organisations that represent them and I want to thank everybody who has helped in this process.”
Conference delegates will also hear from Simon Hoffman Associate Professor at the College of Law and Criminology at Swansea University. Simon will talk about Progress made on the incorporation of Human Rights in Wales.
Disabled activist and campaigner Doug Paulley will enlighten the conference on how he has challenged the discrimination he’s encountered using legislation. Doug has brought more than 40 legal cases against organisations that discriminated against him including bus and train companies.
“Fighting disability discrimination takes its toll on you. The constant battle with service providers to get what I am lawfully entitled to has affected my mental and physical health”
“So, the enforcement mechanism of the Equality Act is fundamentally broken, for me and for all disabled people. Despite this, I’ve produced a guide showing how I have occasionally managed to enforce my rights through the courts, and hopefully to help a few other disabled people do so too.”
Ellen Clifford, Campaigns and Policy Manager for Inclusion London will share her vast experience of campaigning for the rights of disabled people.
The event will be chaired and facilitated by Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales. Questions to the panel and round-table discussions will provide an opportunity for lively debate.
The audience includes disabled people and their allies, representatives of Disabled People’s Organisations, third sector and both local and national government bodies.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Further reading is available below:
There is so much to say about my first Welsh Labour Conference. I don’t have time to share everything that went on during this wonderful weekend as I have much to catch up with and organise for the next few busy weeks. Instead I will share a Facebook post that I added on Saturday night along with a collection of photographs taken by comrades during the weekend.
This was a hugely important conference for myself and all recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant due to Motion 4 that was proposed by Clwyd South CLP. The Motion read as follows:
Contemporary Resolution to Welsh Conference 2018
Clwyd South CLP
MOTION: TO DEFEND AND SAVE THE WELSH INDEPENDENT LIVING GRANT (WILG)
The Welsh Independent Living Grant (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 WILG scheme across Wales and recipients all have a high
degree of care and support needs.
The WILG was due to run until the end of March 2017, but it has been agreed that funding
would continue for another year. The annual £27million 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
This conference calls upon the Welsh Labour government to maintain the WILG, at least until
the next Welsh Assembly election, and to do so whilst retaining the following principles:
• Preservation of the triangular structure of the grant between the local authority, the
individual and a third-party stakeholder
• That the available funding should be ring-fenced in the future to ensure that allocated
monies are used for the purpose for which they are intended.
• That the well-being of disabled people should not be put at risk.
• That the most vulnerable people in society should be protected not endangered.
• That quality of life is a human right for our vulnerable individuals, rather than merely
The Welsh Labour Party to report back progress to conference 2019.
Following the proposal of this motion by my friend and comrade Angie Evans, the motion was supported by three other passionate delegates all of whom played a vital role ensuring that the proposal was passed convincingly. Cue celebrations.
The following post is from Facebook:
BOOM. What an emotional day at the Welsh Labour conference where Motion 4 was passed to #SaveWILG after comrades took the stage to praise a certain campaign and activist. However, this victory is not just mine but is key for disabled rights across Wales and throughout the UK. All my fellow campaigners should also take a bow – this wasn’t just a one man show. 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.
I propose a #SaveWILG celebration and review meeting next week. Have a drink for me tonight and sing ‘Ohhh Nathan Lee Davies‘
PS – Good riddance Carwyn…
[The following article first appeared on the excellent All too Human blog – After Carwyn Jones]
The important thing to remember is that the #SaveWILG campaign still continues as although we have won a key battle in our attempts to save WILG, The war to preserve independent living continues…
A coalition of disabled people’s organisations has today written to the
Prime Minister urging her to meet with them to discuss the deteriorating
quality of life experienced by millions of disabled people in the UK.
The call comes exactly six months since the United Nations’ damning
report on the UK Government’s implementation of the Convention on the
Rights of Disabled People (CRDP).
The report, published last August, made a number of recommendations
but disability organisations which gave evidence to the UN say that the Government is not taking the urgent action required
The coalition has highlighted five areas of particular concern:
1. The failure to fully implement the 2010 Equality Act.
2. The lack of joined up working across the 4 nations of the UK.
3. The lack of resources to ensure disabled people are included in their communities.
4. The continuing gap in employment opportunities for disabled people.
5. The right of disabled people to an adequate standard of living and social protection.
Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said:
“Six months on from the UN Disability Committee’s damning verdict on the UK Government’s failure to protect and progress Disabled people’s rights, things continue to get worse not better for Disabled people. The Government appears to be maintaining its position of blanket denial that there is anything wrong, dismissing our lived experience, the UN findings and failing to act on any of the recommendations put forward in the Committee’s Concluding Observations. This state of affairs cannot continue. Disabled people’s organisations from across the UK are calling on the Government to recognise the very serious concerns identified by the UN Disability Committee and to use the Concluding Observations as an opportunity to begin working with, not against Disabled people, so we can get our rights, inclusion and equality back on track.”
Welsh Government has responded to the UN’s Concluding Observations through continuing dialogue with disabled people and our organisations through the ongoing review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living. While we need to see progress towards completing and implementing the revised Framework, we are encouraged by Welsh Government’s ongoing commitment to tackling barriers to independent living.
However, as a devolved nation, it is not possible to entirely mitigate the impact of UK austerity policies so we join forces with our sister organisations across the UK in calling for urgent action from the Prime Minister in our quest to safeguard disabled people’s human rights in Wales.”
The Coalition members include:
Disability Wales, Disability Rights UK; Inclusion Scotland;; Disability Action Northern Ireland; Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance; Disabled People Against Cuts; Black Triangle; Alliance for Inclusive Education; British Deaf Association; People First (learning disability); National Mental Health System Service Users Network; UK Disabled People’s Council; Equal Lives; Inclusion London.
Rt. Hon Theresa May M.P.
Office of the Prime Minister
10 Downing Street,
London SW1A 2AA
28th February 2018
Dear Prime Minister
United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities
We are a coalition of disabled people’s organisations, led and controlled by disabled people, who, following our participation in the UN’s examination of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) have come together to promote the Convention.
We are writing to draw your attention to the fact that the examination by the U.N. of the U.K.’s implementation of the CRPD was concluded in Geneva six months ago and that, to date, there appears to have been no response from HM Government. In its Concluding Observations, a number of areas for action were identified.
Among these, the UNCRPD committee particularly highlighted five significant areas of concern:
1. the many gaps in safeguards and rights for disabled people including unimplemented sections of the Equality Act 2010, the lack of resources to ensure the Equality Act is implemented, and the need to enshrine the CRPD into U.K. law as we leave the E.U.
2. the lack of joined up working between the four nations of the U.K. and the need for a fully resourced action plan to implement the CRPD across the U.K.
3. our right to independent living and to be included in the community.
4. our right to employment and
5. our right to an adequate standard of living and social protection.
Further the U.N. committee recognised that the U.K. has previously been seen as a leader on disability rights by many countries around the world and therefore has a ‘special obligation’ to set world leading standards on the treatment of disabled people and their inclusion in society. Sadly, the committee concluded that the UK’s leading position has been lost.
We note that during the two-day hearing in Geneva, 23 and 24th August, the U.K. Government delegation gave a commitment to continuing the dialogue on how disabled people’s rights can be realised in the U.K. and specifically how engagement might be improved. In the spirit of Article 4.3 of the Convention, general obligations involvement of disabled people and their representative organisations we are willing, and indeed expect, to work with you on progressing disabled people’s rights across the whole spectrum covered by the Convention from access through to being included in the community and being able to realise our ambitions and potential.
We should therefore like to request a meeting with you and your officials to discuss:
1. How government is implementing the UNCRPD committee’s concluding observations and
2. How Government plans to work with organisations led by disabled people monitoring and implementing the Convention.
We trust that the Government will embrace the need to be more proactive in promoting and implementing disabled people’s rights and inclusion in society. We look forward to hearing from you further and working with government on an action plan to complete the implementation of the rights of disabled people detailed in the CRPD which was ratified by the U.K. in 2009. Our expectation is that the U.K. will once again be seen as a leader in implementing the human rights of disabled people by all countries across the world.
Kamran Mallick – CEO Disability Rights UK
Dr Sally Witcher OBE – CEO Inclusion Scotland
Rhian Davies – CEO Disability Wales
Patrick Malone – Disability Action Northern Ireland
Eleanor Lisney – Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance
Dr Terry Riley – British Deaf Association
Tracey Lazard – CEO Inclusion London
Linda Burnip – Disabled People Against Cuts
John McArdle – Black Triangle
Tara Flood – CEO Alliance for Inclusive Education
Anne Novis – UK Disabled People’s Council
Mark Harrison – CEO Equal Lives
Dorothy Gould – National mental health system Survivor Users Network
Andrew Lee – CEO People First learning disability
Briefing on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG)
The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) was introduced by Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM to help people with high care and support needs who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in June 2015. More than 1,500 people are helped by the scheme across Wales.
The grant was only ever meant to be a short-term measure as Mark Drakeford wanted to give “further thought to three longer-term options to identify which one might best deliver effective support, despite the difficult financial position.”
These options included the possible extension of current arrangements, a potential arrangement with the body set up in Scotland to provide payments to former ILF recipients there to do the same for Welsh recipients and, as in England, to transfer the funding to local authorities in Wales to bring ILF recipients within the arrangements for providing care and support set out under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 for disabled people more generally.
Substantial time and money was spent on a consultation that overwhelmingly showed support for either a partnership with the Scottish ILF or a continuation of WILG – anything rather than distribute the funds solely to local authorities and end the reliability of three-way funding between government, local authority and personal contribution…
The new Minister for Health and Social Services, Rebecca Evans AM, decided that the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales will be passed directly to councils.
There will be no new Welsh ILF – even though such a scheme has been set up in Scotland – and no continuation of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme the Welsh government has been running as a stopgap since the fund closed in June 2015.
Instead, Evans said that funding for WILG would continue in its current form through 2017-18, but would transfer to local authorities during 2018-19. All former ILF-recipients will have their support needs met solely by their local authority by 31 March 2019.
In addition, the Welsh government has not yet made it clear whether the funding it will transfer to local authorities during 2018-19 will be ring-fenced for former ILF-recipients, or even for social care spending.
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. Disabled people, their families and support workers 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.
In a written statement in February 2016, Mark Drakeford AM said: “The level of recurrent funding being transferred to the Welsh Government from the UK Government to meet this responsibility is flat-lined at £27 million per year. This is sufficient to be able to maintain recipients’ payments at the same level as when the ILF was closed. There is, however, no scope to fund a change in a person’s needs or for any changes in the cost of the support they require. Neither does this transfer include any element for the administration or set-up costs associated with the arrangements to provide support we operate in Wales. Such costs would have to be top-sliced from the £27 million per year thereby reducing the level of the payments we were able to afford. As a result, this level of transfer greatly restricts the options we are able to consider for providing support to recipients in the longer term.”
To an extent, we sympathise with this situation and recognise that funding difficulties have their roots in Westminster. However, a strong government should provide for and protect those they represent, instead of washing their hands of responsibility of those in need while passing the buck to over-stretched local authorities and frittering millions on harebrained schemes such as north Wales metro. People should be prioritised over profit.
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. At the moment, there is 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.