UKIP

Open Letter to Welsh CLPs #SaveWILG


I am writing to you as a Labour Party member, Unite activist and disability rights campaigner to call on your support as we work together to Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

#SaveWILG OUTLINED

WAG is devolving the funds and responsibility for former Independent Living Fund (ILF) recipients to 22 local authorities.  Many of these authorities are not Labour controlled, many are already strapped for cash and the money that is due to be transferred hasn’t been ringfenced for the benefit of current WILG recipients…

Under the ILF, recipients received an independent third person who was involved in negotiating care packages along with the Local Authority.  This was a great source of support to people with high care and support needs and is something that needs to be re-established.  Sole reliance on local authorities is dangerous and lessons should be learned from England where funds have been distributed to local authorities since 2015 with disastrous effects.

The money from the WAG is a clear (transparent) amount specific to WILG recipients. However, it is currently planned for this money to be paid to local authorities under the Revenue Support Act and could therefore be subsumed into other projects while local authorities try to cut back on our specific care package provision.

Why should former WILG recipients have to fight for the care package they need, not simply to exist, but to be able to live a decent and fulfilled life?  This is an impossible task for the vast majority of recipients who live with conditions such as learning disabilities, cerebral palsy or Friedreich’s Ataxia.

The families of former WILG recipients will inevitably suffer as they will find themselves trying to fill the gaps in care provision not covered in the new “reduced” care package provided by the local authority.

Our care package is essential to our existence, it is not a privilege: Why would a civilised society put us through this misery? It is a human right to be treated fairly and equally with everyone else, so why are we being squeezed into this disadvantageous position by our own Labour government. They have got this wrong, but there is still time for them to revisit this decision and retain the WILG…

Motion 4 to save WILG was overwhelmingly passed at the Welsh Labour Conference in Llandudno during April 2018, but Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies has since stated that he would not rethink the policy “in its entirety”. This has transformed the #SaveWILG campaign from a quest to protect independent living for vulnerable individuals to exactly that plus a fight to preserve Party Democracy. The will of our members MUST be listened to.

The Welsh Government tried to defend their actions by claiming they had acted in accordance to the instructions of a stakeholder group. I have spoken to several members of the advisory group who DID oppose LA provision. Surely, this calls into question the basis for the Minister’s decision. There’s been a total lack of imagination on the part of the Welsh Government in terms of creating an independent living plan that all local authorities must buy into. This would be a guarantee of ensuring equity across Wales

We are constantly being told that it is unfair that only a certain percentage of the population receive WILG and that this creates a two-tier system throughout Wales. I would suggest that the WAG should look to the fine example of ILF Scotland and roll out such a system to all disabled people with high care and support needs in Wales.

This motion has cross-party support with Plaid Cymru, and even UKIP & Conservative AMs lending support and fighting against this proposal. Welsh Deputy Leader candidate Julie Morgan AM also supports the campaign and has called for an “urgent enquiry” re scrapping WILG. We have had support from English MPs like Chris Williamson, many AMs, officials etc. The film director Ken Loach (pictured below) also supports the campaign, as do many other high-profile cultural figures like the poet & musician Atilla The Stockbroker, comedian & campaigner Mark Thomas, esteemed Welsh footballers like Joey Jones, Mickey Thomas, Wayne Phillips and so many more people from all sorts of backgrounds.

Support disabled people and their families 

WILG – Because we’re worth it

#SaveWILG

HOW YOU CAN HELP?

We are urging our comrades to get involved in the important campaign in a number of ways. Please see below how you can support our postcard campaign and spread memes across social media and email to raise awareness. There are also a number of campaigns being planned over the next few months and details will be posted on my blog.

The main people that we need to convince to change direction are First Minister Carwyn Jones, Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies and all of the candidates in the Welsh Labour Leadership Election. The key emails are:

First Minister Carwyn Jones: Carwyn.Jones@gov.wales or Tweet @fmwales
Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies: DS.MinCandSC@gov.wales or Tweet @huw4ogmore
Mark Drakeford AM: Mark.Drakeford@gov.wales or Tweet @wgcs_finance

Other emails will be published once we have a full list of candidates running in the meantime you can contact your local AM and anyone connected to the Welsh Government.

For more information please contact Nathan Lee Davies at nathandavies01@hotmail.com There is also a dedicated Facebook page to Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant and Twitter users should follow @nathanleedavies

Continue reading for further supporting evidence on why saving this grant is so crucial for 1,300 disabled people and the democratic future of the Party we all believe in.

Media Articles

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

Postcards

Take part in our postcard campaign in a number of ways. We would like to encourage people to print the image below and pose for a selfie while holding it to show your support and help raise awareness  of our campaign. You can share it on Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat or Instagram using #SaveWILG.

Alternatively, you can contact me for one of the 500 cards I have had printed with a special message to Children and Social Care Minister Huw Irranca-Davies. There are also cards to be sent to First Minister Carwyn Jones and blank cards that can be sent to the Leadership Candidates who must realise that if they want our support they must publicly support our campaign. You can also send these postcards to your local AM to encourage them to argue our case in the Senedd.

Memes

To be shared on social media or sent to your AM via email.

Button badges – Only £1

Wear one of our badges with pride to help raise awareness and raise much-needed funds to propel the campaign forward. Contact me to make a purchase and I will make sure the badges get to you quickly and safely.

English Translation of article published in Junge Welt magazine – The Legacy of Brexit for Disabled People in the UK

Taken from Disabled People Against Cuts website

It’s difficult if not impossible to adequately define the outcomes of Brexit for anyone living in the UK let alone for disabled people. The result where a small minority of the electorate voted to leave the EU has so far caused massive political turmoil but no concrete proposals as the new unelected Prime Minister, Teresa May, thrashes around wildly clutching at straws.

What is certain is that the promise of an extra £350 million a week for our National Health Service has not and will not be forthcoming. In fact this promise promoted widely by the Leave campaigners in the Tory Party and a reason why many UK citizens were conned into voting to leave turns out to have been an outright lie.

Many of the more deluded disabled people who also voted to leave did so simply because they wanted to punish David Cameron the then Tory Prime Minister who was stupid enough to call a referendum in the first place. Having resigned first as Prime Minister and then a little later as a Member of Parliament I’m sure the multi-millionaire Cameron is indeed ‘suffering’. What is certain that disabled people will.

As soon as the outcome of the referendum was known Cameron together with a whole host of Leave politicians turned their backs on guiding the UK through the Brexit process – no doubt so they don’t get blamed for the ensuing disaster.

The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not want to leave the EU and in the case of Northern Ireland the Good Friday agreement and peace process means that there must be a parliamentary vote if Northern Ireland is to leave the EU. There is also a legal challenge to seek a parliamentary vote on Brexit as the outcome of the referendum is advisory only. So chaos reigns as the UK population dangle precipitously in limbo.

As well as months spent focussed on the referendum campaign, the immediate aftermath was an election for a new Tory Party Leader and a second internal party election to try to remove the previously democratically elected Labour Party leader. During these many months of political bat and ball and trips around the country by various politicians the rights of disabled people have largely been forgotten especially by the media. Serious campaigning has been put back months as the political focus has been firmly placed elsewhere.

On a plus point the fascist party UKIP which very much led the Brexit campaign on an anti-immigration stance have also fallen into disarray and appear on the verge of oblivion. There have already been several elections for a new leader with none of them being successful in finding someone who stayed more than a couple of weeks. As the old British saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining”

What is certain for the UK is that Brexit has led to a massive increase in race-related hate crime and there is no doubt those who perpetrate these crimes feel their actions are vindicated by the vote to leave. Xenophobia is rampant in parts of the country fuelled by some of the media as well as the Brexit campaign rhetoric. Disability hate crime has been rising year on year since 2010 in part thanks once again to the media-fuelled ‘useless eater’ and scrounger propaganda. For disabled people as well as those perceived to not be British hatred and abuse is only likely to increase in the post-Brexit frenzy that currently pervades the country.

Since Brexit as well the value of the pound has slumped which has already led to an increase in price for even essential daily items including for some the #Marmitegate tragedy where the price of Marmite has already risen in some cases by 12.5 % in shops.

Price increases for food and other essential items is likely to pose a particular problems for disabled people and others in receipt of UK Social Security payments as there is an austerity-led freeze on the amount of benefits which will be paid until at least 2020. The UK already has some of the lowest rates for out-of-work benefit payments in the EU so starting from a very low base rate the value of payments will fall even further as exchange rates fall.

On top of this fall in the value of the pound and freeze on increases in social security payments early in November an austerity-led cap on the total overall amount of benefit payments per household will result in massive reductions of £3,000 less per annum being paid to claimants. Many of those affected by this drastic cut will be disabled although other disabled people will be exempt from this cut.

From next April 2017 disabled people who make a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance and who are found not to be fit for work but able to undertake Work Related Activity which involved forcibly being made to jump though inappropriate and unacceptable hoops to continue being entitled to payments will also see their weekly income cut drastically by one-third. All of these changes will as already said be taking place at the same time the value of the pound falls against other currencies. Needless to say fuel prices are also continuing to rise and the number of UK residents on low incomes who have to choose between eating and heating because they can’t afford both continues to rise.

As disabled people and others wait for the mythical 35 million a day that we’re apparently saving by leaving the EU to be redeployed to help fund our National Health Service as promised we find our Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt putting in place plans to drastically reduce both the number of hospitals – down from 9 to 5 in London – and health service funding elsewhere in the UK through the implementation of Sustainability and Transformation Plans. This is very definitely not what Brexit promised for our health service. Hunt has also further undermined our NHS by stating that we want British only doctors in the near future in spite of the fact that around one-third of doctors currently are from other EU countries.

For disabled people who need personal assistance to live and take part in society Brexit is also bad news. Many people employ care workers/personal assistants from EU countries and now not only does the fall in the value of the pound affect the exchange value of wages paid but on a longer term basis no-one, neither the employers or the employees, have any idea about a future right to work here when the UK leaves the EU. It could of course be years before any more is known.

Workers rights generally are very much an unknown quantity at the moment as well. Teresa May has said the Conservatives want to protect those in place yet many people are on insecure zero hours contracts with no legal protections. The introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal hearings has also negatively affected worker’s rights to challenge unfair dismissals. All of these issues regarding employment rights continue to disproportionately affect disabled workers and the fear that once EU constraints on our employment laws are removed is causing major concerns for those disabled people who are in work.

For disabled people not in work the ending of Workfare and Work Choice schemes funded by the European Social Fund can really only be seen as positive. Neither of these schemes worked well in finding disabled people suitable or sustainable employment opportunities.

Workfare schemes in particular have been likened to unpaid slave labour which they were since claimants were forced to work for no pay under threat of having their benefits removed if they did not. Having said that there were a number of locally EU funded schemes to help disabled and other people into work which have worked well and for which there will now be no further EU funding available.

In other areas of life shared by disabled and non-disabled people the loss of European funding from the Social Fund, from the Common Agricultural Policy and from Regional Development grants will nevertheless be grossly detrimental to the overall standards of living and is likely to have a further negative trickle down impact on food prices. The idea that these funding streams will be replaced by our own government’s spending is laughable given their ongoing austerity agenda and determination to replace Trident nuclear weapons.

Some Party leaders come to Wrexham for Election Debate

On Wednesday 30 March I attended the FSB Welsh Leaders’ Debate at the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr University. I have a rather exciting story to share from the evening, but I don’t want to share it at the moment because I do not want to give away my political allegiances before the hustings that I have arranged with Sheila Meadows OBE at the end of the month.

Until then, here is the story of the evening as taken from Wrexham.com

 

With the Federation of Small Business hosting the event at Wrexham Glyndwr University the debate itself was a businesslike affair.

First Minster Carwyn Jones was subbed by Edwina Hart AM, with Mr Jones having understandable business regarding Tata Steel. Mark Reckless of Rochester and Strood fame stood in for UKIP’s Nathan Gill, with the other parties having their leadership lining up as promised – Andrew Davies from the Conservatives, Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats and Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru.

Wrexham.com did offer to film and live stream the event, however organisers have said BBC Radio Wales will be ‘carrying the event’ in some form, so we will provide a link if/when we spot it, for now there is a summary of some of the points made and a few observations of the evening.

( UPDATE there is a 30 minute edit that you can listen to online, or download an MP3 of on the BBC website here )

The debate was fast paced crammed into an hour with topics focused on Welsh business and related subjects.

The initial question that dominated the first quarter of the discussions centred around the news over Tata Steel looking to dispose of their assets in the UK (More coverage on this can be found on Deeside.com, with the obvious Shotton interest).

The responses from the panel were along party lines nationally through today, with Labour stating it was not just a Welsh Government issue but global due to ‘dumping’ from China with a wish that the issue will ‘rise above politics’. Edwina Hart said she wanted to see a ‘fit for purpose’ steel industry in the UK as regardless of Tata or state owner it is making £1m per day claimed losses.

In a conciliatory tone the Conservative leader stated it was ‘vital’ that both the Welsh and UK Governments worked together, and that they were not against a ‘stake’ being taking in the business for a short while if it was so required. A ‘tit for tat tariff war’ was warned against, with a refusal of Chinese steel being linked to possible knock on effects to other demand such as Airbus planes.

UKIP cited the lack of protection from the EU over ‘dumping’, with Mr Reckless wanting the UK to stand alone to enable ‘anti dumping tariffs’. EU rules over clean energy were noted with new coal power plants being on UKIP’s agenda if the referendum votes ‘out’.

The Liberal Democrats echoed other views of steel being an ‘industry of national strategic importance’, explaining that Shotton appears to be the only profitable part of the Tata UK operation and concern over the lack of clarity to its future. Referring to the banking bail outs, Kirsty Williams said “We need to put our money where our mouth is” to similarly bail out the steel industry, saying governments spend money on things ‘a lot worse’ than saving jobs.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru introduced a political fight, challenging Labour’s record saying manufacturing had ‘not been a priority for years’, pointing out that the Conservatives had been lobbying for China to be granted market economy status – a move that would it is claimed have severe impact on the competitiveness of the UK steel industry. UKIP also had their nose tweaked as their EU argument was skewered with it pointed out regardless if the UK was in or out, there is still a Conservative Government in Westminster so the policy on China would not change.

Another question was asked over divides in spending, with the implication the M4 corridor in South Wales and Deeside get a bigger bite at the proverbial cherry than other areas. The M4 is currently due to get a £1 billion upgrade, with a controversial relief road being much debated. The various black and blue versions of routes were mentioned several times leaving a debate in North Wales with a question over a southern focus bruised.

All parties noted issues with the A55, with electrification of the North Wales mainline or associated transport link improvements also being seen as important by all. The dividing lines were drawn over the implementation of spending, with UKIP looking to develop links with the so called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in a geographically imprecise area.

Edwina Hart challenged the view on the south getting a better deal than the north, saying that us here in the north get more per head spent on transport than the south. Looking at Andrew Davies, she also pointed out that the limits to cash available are due to the Conservative party in Westminster.

Kirsty Williams said there ‘was life outside of Cardiff and Newport’ and favoured a balanced regional approach, explaining how she was from mid-wales and therefore knows how it feels to be ‘not listened to’ by Cardiff. Leanne Wood went a step further saying Plaid Cymru would entrench fairness in spending into law to ensure there could be no geographical bias.

Wrexham.com has covered the mystery over the ‘deal’ for North Wales, and with the Chancellor George Osbourne putting it on par with a £1 billion city deal for Cardiff (signed and sealed) it did seem odd there was no mention of it. Andrew Davies reiterated that a strong economy was required for growth, and echoed UKIP’s view to ‘plug in’ to the Northern Powerhouse, explaining how he sees more east-west connections rather north-south.

With only twenty minutes remaining the last two questions about inward investment, tax reform, business rates and business support were answered in an often tangential manner.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru explained plans for Welsh Government to take equity stakes in new startups rather than straight grants, a system that would share the risk and reward.

Mark Reckless from UKIP said it was a ‘disgrace’ that the Severn Bridge tolls were to be kept under Conservative plans, with Andrew Davies from the Conservatives responding to abolish them would cost £15-20m and increase road use by 25%.

Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats made the only mention of tourism, saying she welcomed more visitors and encouraged more to be done to promote Wales.

Edwina Hart from Labour spoke of her positive experiences of visiting classrooms and seeing entrepreneurial spirit from children however pondered when it was ‘knocked out of them’.

No large scale reforms of the business rates systems were proposed, with various tapers and reliefs being put forward by all to help business. Kirsty Williams did give a warning that any wholesale changes would need to be ‘very careful’ as her locality does not collect much in rates but gets much more benefit, and devolving collection and control to local authorities could exacerbate any finance gaps.

In what was quite a tranquil debate the only audience applause (and a whoop) occurred when Edwina Hart suggested that Andrew Davies’ Conservative Party could make large global corporates pay tax, presumably referring to the likes of Facebook and similar who paid £4,327 in corporation tax in the UK in 2014 despite making $2.9bn profit globally.

Mr Davies replied that more had been collected under the Conservatives recently than under the whole of the previous Labour Government, a similar applause then took place.

The event went well, with the BBC Wales host Brian Meechan conducting his work with a subtle touch, however after the meeting there was mutterings on the small scale of the event and inability to get tickets. One told us they had many interested friends who were unable to attend, with them disappointed the audience appeared ‘packed’ with ‘political types’ – we did spot a couple of candidates for various positions and members of their entourages sitting in.

There was a video link in place to Swansea, with one question posed via the connection, one wag after the meeting said: “We have a meeting about North Wales in North Wales and still South Wales gets focus”, although for those unaware of the M4 routes it would have been an educational experience.

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…