UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People

Disability News Service: Labour ‘on collision course with UN and EHRC over independent living’

The following article has been written by John Pring and appears on his excellent Disability News Service website which can be found by clicking on this link.

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The Labour party is on a “collision course” with the equality and human rights watchdog and the United Nations because of its failure to accept the need for a legal right to independent living, according to a national network of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) has called on Labour to join the TUC in backing its proposals for a new National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS) that would give disabled people crucial new rights to free support.

A meeting of ROFA members and supporters from across England agreed on Friday on their priorities for winning support for NILSS.

Among those priorities was to push Labour to include the plans in its next general election manifesto.

There was also “contempt” at the meeting for the Conservative-led government’s continuing failure to publish its own much-delayed plans for solving the adult social care funding crisis.

ROFA’s demands for a NILSS were first set out in January, in the Independent Living for the Future document, and backing for the plan appears to be growing.

On Friday, the Trades Union Congress passed a motion – proposed by Sean McGovern, co-chair of TUC’s disabled workers’ committee – that calls on the next Labour government to establish a NILSS.

The motion had been passed by TUC’s annual Disabled Workers’ Conference in May.

Such a service, running alongside the NHS, would provide a universal right to independent living, with support provided free at the point of need, funded by general taxation, managed by central government, and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people.

Similar motions have been passed by local Labour branches, with the hope that the proposals will be debated on the floor of the party’s annual conference in Brighton from 21 September.

And the day after Friday’s meeting, ROFA member Andrew Day passed Jeremy Corbyn a letter, when the Labour leader visited him during a visit to Norwich, in which he asked him to meet ROFA to discuss the NILSS proposals.

Mark Harrison, a ROFA member who helped draw up the strategy and took part in Friday’s meeting, said the disabled people’s movement was united behind NILSS.

He said the idea could be “transformational” if it was adopted by Labour as part of its general election manifesto.

But he said he did not believe that the party’s shadow social care minister, Barbara Keeley, had engaged with representative DPOs on social care and the right to independent living, as the party should have been doing because of principles laid out in article four of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Labour disputed this and insisted that Keeley had not refused to meet with RoFA, and “regularly consults with a range of stakeholders, including people with lived experience, on social care policy development”.

Harrison said Labour’s current policies on social care were “pathetic” and “neither transformational nor socialist”.

He said Labour was currently on a “collision course” with the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which has called for the UK to introduce a legal right to independent living, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has also backed such a move.

Although Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto (PDF) promised to sign the UN convention into UK law, the party has since shied away from promising a legal right to independent living, which is offered by article 19 of the treaty.

Harrison said ROFA would hold the Labour party’s “feet to the fire” over independent living.

He said: “This could be a flagship commitment of a new Labour government coming to power.”

He also said there was “complete contempt” for the government at Friday’s meeting over its failure to publish its plans for social care, and for its own failure to engage with representative organisations of disabled people.

He said “momentum was building” behind the NILSS idea, and he added: “That was the good thing about Friday: the momentum is building up and people are really on it, determined that we are not going to let this one go.

“The Labour party should not be waiting. It should be engaging with us now.”

A Labour party spokesperson said: “The proposals fall across a range of government policy areas, from work and pensions and health and social care to justice.

“They will be considered carefully as part of Labour’s policy development process.”

She added: “Labour is committed to addressing the crisis in social care.

“Our plans for a National Care Service will provide dignity in older age, and independence and support for people with disabilities.

“Our plans will ensure that social care receives the funding it needs, at a time when Tory austerity has created the national crisis in social care.”

The Department of Health and Social Care had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).

Minutes of the Cross Party Group on Disability #SaveWILG

Minutes of the Cross Party Group on Disability

Friday, 11th January 2019, Wrexham Glyndŵr University,

Mold Road, Wrexham, LL11 2AW

Present: Carol Gardener, Jo Woodward, Tom Hall, Mark Davies, Eric Owen, Sorrel Taylor, Maureen Lee, Sharon O’Connor, Chris Roberts, Jayne Goodrick, Paul Johnson, Lynne Jones, Lynne Davies, Nathan Davies, Sandra Morgan, Bill Fawcett, Vince West, Laura Seddon, Lisa Pollard, Simon Green, Michelle Brown AM, Eluned Plack, Eluned’s carer, Jacqui Hurst, Kathryn Shaw, Brian Harrison, Rhian Davies, Martyn Jones, Zoe Richards, Mark Isherwood AM, Gareth Davies, Rebecca Phillips.

Apologies: Llyr Grufydd AM, Jan Thomas, Helen Mary Jones AM, Rob Williams, Kathryn Jellings, Andrea Wayman, Stephen Ben Morris, Louise (WCD), Owen Williams, Glenn Page.

1. Welcome and introductions

Mark Isherwood AM welcomed everyone to the meeting.

2. Minutes of the last meeting.

The minutes were approved as an accurate record.

3. Presentations:

Rhian Davies – Draft Framework for Action on Disability

Rhian provided an overview of the Welsh Government’s Draft Framework for Action on Disability. The document was created following a review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living, produced in 2013 to provide a strategic approach to independent living across Wales and to promote the social model of disability.

Disability Wales strongly believe that the Framework for Action on Disability should be under-pinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. Disability Wales worked with its partners in Scotland and Northern Ireland to produce a Manifesto for independent living and identified six calls to action:

1. Improved access to information, advice, independent advocacy and peer support services.

2. Availability of accessible and supported housing to meet individual requirements.

3. A comprehensive range of options and genuine choice and control in how social care and support is delivered.

4. Improved access to person-centered technology.

5. Barrier-free transport system that includes all forms of transport.

6. Enabling access, involvement and social economic and cultural inclusion of all disabled people.

There was a ministerial agreement to review the Framework for Action on Independent Living, three years on. This resulted in the Independent Living Steering group, comprising representatives from disability organisations across Wales, chaired by Rhian, to re-convene. The group reflected on what had been achieved since 2013. They recognised that whilst the introduction of the Framework was ground-breaking, progress on the ground was very slow and that national policy set by Welsh Government had not translated into local action. There was limited evidence in the change in culture, particularly by local authorities and local health boards in terms of taking on board a more rights-based approach to disabled people and to tackling barriers to independent living.

This was endorsed in 2017 during a Welsh Government consultation. The general feedback was that very little had changed in the lives of many disabled people and has even got worse which was also a key finding from the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. The UN Committee in Geneva was very critical of the UK Government in that they had regressed in their local policies.

The steering group’s aspirations for the revised version is that it should be much stronger in terms of the UN Convention of the Rights of Disabled People. The Convention should be at the heart of the new Framework with a stronger commitment to implementation of the social model of disability and more robust action in terms of how that is understood by people.

Rhian reported that the steering group took a strategic decision to align it with Welsh Government’s own strategic plan, ‘Prosperity for All’ which has four key themes:

1. Prosperous and secure

2. Healthy and active

3. Ambitious and learning

4. United and connected

The steering group was of the opinion that there should be two documents. The main document, to set out the key commitments and principles for Welsh Government to abide by, plus a separate action plan that could be regularly updated and monitored with more specific detail about what different the Welsh Government departments would do in terms of delivery.

The action plan, which is currently out for consultation, links more closely to the articles of the UN Convention. In order to produce a response to the consultation, Disability Wales ran two events along with an online survey to gather the views of disabled people. The deadline for responses is Friday 18th January but there could be an extension. Rhian added that Alison Tarrant from Cardiff University has produced an interesting paper looking at independent living policy. The paper was circulated to members prior to the meeting. The paper critiques the Framework for Action on Disability and a number of issues were identified.

Disability Wales and other members of the steering group have been calling for incorporation into the UN Convention for the Rights of Disabled People (UCRDP), giving it similar status to that of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Helen Mary-Jones AM is looking at how human rights can be incorporated in Wales.

Rhian noted that there is a disconnect between Welsh Government’s principles and aspirations in relation to improving independent living for disabled people and the actual reality of accessing services and achieving their rights.

Rhian highlighted the importance of the CPGD submitting a robust response to the consultation with the aim of strengthening the new Framework to ensure it takes forward the rights of disabled people in Wales.

MI highlighted some of the findings from the study based on the Draft Framework for Action on Disability produced by Alison Tarrant of Cardiff University. These included the absence of ‘Advocacy’, which was previously identified in the 2013 Framework as one of the highest priorities. In addition, the 2013 Framework was constructed around a series of priorities identified by disabled people. The foregrounding of the priorities and expertise of disabled people has been removed. MI suggested these be considered when submitting a response.

Nathan Davies – Wales Independent Living Grant

Nathan shared a video with the group, titled ‘Save WILG Campaign’. The video highlighted the issues faced by more than 1300 recipients of the grant. On March 31st, Welsh Government plan to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and transfer the funds to the Local Authorities. The funds will not be ring-fenced. The video, features an insight into Nathan’s condition, Friedreich Ataxia, a progressive disease of the nervous system. Nathan states that in order to be a productive member of society, he requires the help and support from personal assistants, funded by WILG. Without the grant, his care will be reduced from 86.5 hours per week to 31 hours per week. Back in April 2018, at the Welsh Labour Conference, a motion was passed to save WILG. However, this has not been acted upon yet. The Campaign has gathered political support from across the spectrum and still Welsh Ministers and some civil servants refuse to listen to the evidence collected. Nathan is particularly concerned that the money being given to Local Authorities has not been ring-fenced.

Nathan’s strength and campaigning has been recognised by the Wrexham Glyndwr University who have made him an honorary fellow.

To highlight the issues surrounding WILG, Nathan is running a series of campaigns across social media to influence a positive decision.

Mark Isherwood AM invited questions and comments.

Questions / Comments:

In relation to WILG, Rhian informed the group that Nathan and the BBC made a Freedom of Information request. It emerged that only two-thirds of people have been assessed and although some had their packages maintained and some increased, a significant number had their hours cut. There were circa 17 instances of clients taking legal action against their local authority. In response to the Freedom of Information outcome, Huw Irranca-Davies AM agreed to examine this further to establish whether the issues solely related to Wrexham or whether the problem was more widespread. Rhian suggested the CPGD write to the new Minister, Julie Morgan AM for an update.

The importance of disabled people needed better access to lawyers was raised.

Mark Isherwood AM stated that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will occasionally fight a trial case to establish a precedent. The CPGD could submit a request if there was a particular matter that needed to be tested in court. He added that Welsh Government do not have control over Legal Aid but it is still worth highlighting any concerns and to ask what support they can offer to better access legal advice.

Various sources of legal services were identified and will be circulated following the meeting. Disability Wales also have a guide on their website offering advice and information called ‘Know Your Rights, Use Your Rights, Live Your Rights’.

Concerns were raised around the lack of proper planning and services available for the increasing number of children with disabilities which will result in their needs not being met.

A member asked why Welsh Government has decided not to follow Scotland or Northern Ireland in terms of how they manage the Welsh Independent Living Grant if there is evidence to prove the system is working well in those areas.

Mark Isherwood AM suggested Disability Wales seek data from Disability Scotland to identifying the positive impact the grant has had on recipients of the grant.

The Chair welcomed further comments from the floor. Learning Disability Wales gave an update their work. In December Learning Disability Wales held its first ministerial advisory group meeting, chaired by Gwenda Thomas AM. The main focus was the Children’s Commissioner’s ‘Dont Hold Back’ report, investigating children and young people’s experience of transition across various policy areas. Martyn also informed members that Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has been consulting on a document around commissioning services and are looking to hold a national conference around it. Public Health Wales are working with LDW on a conference on reducing restrictive practice with the Education Minister. The Equality and Human Rights Committee are about to start a piece of work around access to courts to support disabled people to fully engage in the system.

Rhian added that Disability Wales are working with Women’s Aid to establish the accessibility of refuges. A survey has been produced and will be circulated. The results will be compiled soon and asked whether it would be an opportunity hold a joint meeting with the Party Group on Violence against Women and Children to share the findings.

Mark Isherwood AM welcomed a joint meeting with the Cross Party Group on Domestic Violence.

Date of the next meeting:

Zoe Richards will circulate the date of the next meeting, to be held in Cardiff.

Actions:

1. CPGD to produce a response to the Framework for Action on Disability consultation document and seek an extension to the deadline of the 31st January.

2. Zoe to share the link to Nathan Davies’ campaign video to members.

3. CPGD to write to Julie Morgan to summarise concerns and seek an update in relation to the issues identified following the Freedom of Information request.

4. Disability Wales to seek data from Disability Scotland to support the evidence around the positive impact of WILG on Scottish recipients.

5. Circulate an email requesting responses to the consultation.

6. Circulate Women’s Aid and Disability Wales’ survey

Plaid Cymru AM Issues Statement of Opinion #SaveWILG

Plaid Cymru AM, Llyr Gruffydd has released the following Statement of Opinion to the delight of everyone working on the #SaveWILG campaign:

OPIN-2018-0094 The future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant
Tabled on 18/06/2018

This Assembly:

1. Notes the cuts suffered by local authorities over recent years, and the squeeze on social services budgets across Wales.

2. Further notes that article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states how people with disabilities should have “choices equal to others”. 

3. Commends the Scottish Government on introducing a successful Independent Living Fund that is trusted and has a national criteria. 

4. Believes that the Welsh Independent Living Grant should be retained as a national funding package with a national criteria, ensuring the recipients independence, along the lines of ILF Scotland.

Subscribers

Adam Price – Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Sian Gwenllian – Arfon

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A Statement of Opinion on a matter affecting Wales may be tabled by any Member other than a member of the government; and any such Statement may be supported, opposed or otherwise subject to comment in writing by any other Member. Statements of Opinion are published on the Assembly website but there is no Assembly decision on them.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE Disability coalition calls for talks with prime minister over ‘human catastrophe’

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.

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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.

Yours faithfully

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

Disabled people and their concerns can no longer be ignored

Reblogged from the Morning Star: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-761f-Disabled-people-and-their-concerns-can-no-longer-be-ignored#.WZ9EjD595dg

Thursday 24th Aug 2017

ELLEN CLIFFORD and ANITA BELLOWS report on how disability rights activists brought evidence of the Tories’ savage policies to the United Nations

DEAF and disabled people’s organisations from across Britain have come together this week to give evidence about Westminster’s continuing violations of disabled people’s rights under the Convention on the Rights of Disabled people (UNCRPD), with a delegation that includes representatives from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, as well as Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Action Northern Ireland.

There are two parallel processes. The UNCRPD committee will simultaneously hear about British progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, as part of a periodic review of all nations that are signed up to the convention, as well as a presentation following up on the initial complaint made by DPAC under the optional protocol of the CRPD, which triggered the first inquiry against a state under this process.

The periodic review is wide-ranging and covers detentions under mental health legislation, employment, education, transport, housing, social care and independent living, specific discrimination against women, black people, intersex people, people with learning difficulties and so on.

On Monday August 21, deaf and disabled people’s organisations from across Britain gave a presentation in front of the committee in a closed session.

We highlighted the gaps in state provisions which undermine the government’s claim that the Westminster government’s public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany.

The issue is complicated by devolution and the different laws and arrangements which exist in the four nations.

What came out of the meeting was that not only has the Westminster government failed to progress CRPD implementation, but that rights hard fought for by disabled people have been dramatically eroded since 2010 by cuts. This has led us to today’s state of crisis where high numbers of people with learning difficulties and autism are trapped in institutions, there has been a rise in disabled children educated in special schools and the destruction of community support is leading to greater marginalisation and isolation of disabled people.

Following the closed session, deaf and disabled people’s organisations will have the chance to arrange meetings with individual committee members on specific matters such as access to justice, before the committee quizzes the Westminster government representatives on August 23-24. These examination sessions will be open to the public and livestreamed.

Also this week, the CRPD committee heard a follow-up presentation on the specific issues which triggered its inquiry in 2015 which found evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the Westminster government due to welfare reform.

These violations were closely related to welfare reform and the devastating and disproportionate impact on disabled people. The investigation carried out by the committee was indepth, involving reading thousands of pages of evidence and reports and a visit to Britain where disability committee members spoke to over 200 disabled people and organisations.

However, the government rejected the findings and dismissed the inquiry report as “patronising and offensive,” questioning the competence of the committee members.

The CRPD committee’s report was leaked to the Daily Mail the day before the US election. The response from the government was dismissive and totally ignored the committee’s conclusions.

One specific demand was for the government to undertake a cumulative impact assessment of the cuts, something that it has consistently refused to do.

This week disabled people had the chance to give a presentation on the worsening of the situation since that inquiry took place and the new cuts and measures that have been introduced withouBrit consultation or by bypassing Parliament and scrutiny — including the cut to personal independence payments brought in at the start of the year that will affect 164,000 people, predominantly those who experience psychological distress.

One major concern that disabled people have is around proposals outlined in the government green paper Work, Health and Disability: Improving Lives.

Its purported aim is to reduce the disability employment gap, but key measures it introduces will extend conditionalities and sanctions to more disabled people, ignoring calls from the National Audit Office to follow up on its initial examination of the impact of sanctions on disabled people, which suggests they actually lower chances for disabled people of finding employment.

For the government, the default position is that all disabled people are able to work, or able to do some work, if given the right incentives and motivation to do.

Using the flawed argument that work is the best way out of poverty, when more and more people in work are getting poorer, the government has devised a regime even more coercive than the previous one, for which impairments are something temporary which can be overcome with willpower and the right mindset. This government is a step away from denying the existence of disability.

Reflecting on the long journey, which has taken disability activists to the United Nations, there is some grounds for optimism.

The inquiry and its outcome mean that disabled people and disability issues can no longer be ignored. Their experiences have been validated by the inquiry’s findings, and the CRPD provides a framework for expressing our grievances and holding the government to account that is missing from domestic legislation. The fight is far from being over, but disabled people have become a vocal and powerful force in Britain.

  • Ellen Clifford is campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London and Anita Bellows is a Disabled People Against Cuts activist.

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.”

 

Speech by Professor Mark Drakeford AM

Professor Mark Drakeford AM,

at Disability Wales’ Annual Seminar,

You Say You Want a Revolution: Getting to the Heart of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 

at the Copthorne Hotel, Culverhouse Cross,

on 8 October 2015.

 

Good morning, Bore da. Thank you very much for the invitation and for the opportunity to be here this morning.

I knew it would be an unusual experience when I saw the programme also featured 2 slots by comedian Ted Shiress.  My office in the Bay thinks it is very amusing indeed that I should be on a programme with a comedian and spent all week telling me what a brave decision it must have been to agree to speak here! I am reminded of a famous political story and as we have a doyen of Welsh reporting in the chair, I thought I would just start by sharing this with you.

So, this is a story from the early 1980s when Mrs. Thatcher was Prime Minister, and a by-election happened in one of the Blackpool constituencies. In those days by-elections were very big business, when the whole of the media and national press would descend on any constituency where a by-election was being held.

The Conservative Party chose as its candidate a local Blackpool bus driver. He was unveiled to the waiting media in a press conference where he was to speak and where the local, biggest Conservative Party supporter, Ken Dodd, was also part of the press conference.

 

So, a press conference is held, the Blackpool bus driver is unveiled and unfortunately his grasp of policy turned out not to be quite as detailed as his grasp of the Blackpool bus timetable, and he had a rather torrid time in front of the national press. Willy Whitelaw, the Deputy Prime Minister, had been sent up to be in charge of the campaign. When the questions to the bus driver had finished, and Ken Dodd was to speak next, apparently he turned to the press and said: “Ladies and gentlemen now over to a professional comedian.”  Or a professional comedian, depending on your point of view.

That will be my only attempt to tell a joke you’ll be pleased to know!  I am going to concentrate as you would expect in the rest of the time I have on the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, put on the statute book in 2014 ready for implementation on 6 April next year. A landmark Act.

The Fourth Assembly is the first assembly to have law making powers in the full sense of that term. A referendum in March 2011 led to this Assembly being able to make laws on exactly the same basis as any law passed in the Parliament in Westminster. I actually don’t think that it is an accident that with devolved powers of that sort for the first time, the National Assembly has decided to make Social Services the subject of by far the biggest single piece of legislation which will have gone through the Assembly during this Assembly term.  The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act is quite certainly in terms of its scale and scope, the largest piece of legislation that the Assembly will have tackled and in some ways amongst the most profound in the impact that it will have on people’s lives.

We have been involved, as many of you in this room will know, since the Act made its way through the Assembly on to the statute book, in putting down the detail that is needed to underpin any major piece of legislation into the system as well.  So, the Act itself is a major piece of legislation but the detail of it, how it will actually work in practice, comes through in regulations that flow from it, from statutory guidance, from the code of practice.  And these are major undertakings in themselves.  And we have consulted in 2 different tranches on the regulations that the Act requires to be in place in time for it to go live in April of next year.

The first tranche of regulations were consulted upon and made their way through the Assembly just before the summer break and the second tranche of the consultation is now closed and completed, and we will bring those regulations in front of the National Assembly in November. And if all goes according to plan, then they will complete their passage through the National Assembly this side of Christmas, which means that everything that we need to make this Act go live on 6 April next year will be in place.

Now, I know that that is still only 3 or 4 months before the Act happens, but I am confident that with our partners in local authorities, in health boards and in the third sector as well we will have certainty about the way that this act is intended to operate. The rule book which will be in place to make it all happen will be there, and there in sufficient time for everybody to do the difficult job of preparing themselves for its implementation.

Nobody should imagine that the world of social services will change on 6 April.  That will be the start of the process of implementing this Act.  And the Act is as much about cultural change as it is about some of the specific strands that lie within it.  The specific strands, of course, are very important and very important to people in this room and the organisations that you all represent.  Strands such as the strand on direct payments, on financial assessment, on advocacy, on social enterprises.  All of those are things which the disability movement in Wales has been especially influential in the way that the regulations and the code of practice and the guidance flowing from the Act has been developed.

So, I am immensely grateful to all those individuals and organisations who have helped us during the period of consultation to make this Act as good as we can make it, including well over 200 contributions in the second tranche of consultation from organisations right across Wales.

And I sometimes think that members of the public would be surprised at the seriousness with which consultation is taken in government.  Every one of those consultation responses has been gone through by officials working for the Welsh Government; every one of them has been reported to me in terms of the views that people have expressed in them; every one of them has had an influence and an impact in some way on the final codes and guidance that we will issue.  You will know, some of you, that the codes we put out to consultation are not the codes that we will have confirmed by the National Assembly because those codes will genuinely have been improved and influenced by the consultation process.

And as you heard Rhian say, I was especially pleased to be able to respond positively to the concerns that bodies such as Disability Wales and others have expressed during the consultation exercise about the need to put a statutory framework into the supporting paraphernalia of the act, to make sure that the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People is firmly embedded in the codes of practice. You’ll see that that has now been agreed and is taking plac. And when you see the results of the tranche 2 consultation I hope you will be pleased to see as well that we have been able to respond positively to calls from Disability Wales and others to strengthen the citizens’ voice at the regional partnership boards which will be the engine rooms through which so much of this Act will be put into practice. Those regional partnership boards where we bring together senior people from our Health Service, senior people from Local Government, senior people from the third sector in Wales and now you will hear I hope when the tranche is published how we are going to strengthen the voice of the citizen at that top level decision-making layer in the way that this Act will now be put into practice.  All of that will be complete by Christmas, then we move into that period of final preparation for the Act’s implementation.

I wanted though this morning to say something. Not just about the detail of the Act, and the way that it will be put into practice.  But about what lies behind the Act, because in a way that is the most important thing of all.  What lies behind the Act is a new way of thinking about the way that we provide services to people who rely on our social services here in Wales.  A new model was put, I thought eloquently, to you in the start of the video you have seen this morning, because it genuinely is about taking some very important messages from the way in which the disability movement has developed a social model of the way that services need to be provided, and putting that social model at the heart of the way that our statutory and voluntary Social Services are provided.  It really is an Act that has at its starting point the view of people who come through the door looking for assistance – that those people are not problems to be solved. They are people who have strengths and who have assets, who have managed successfully through long periods in their own lives and when they now need help, our job is to start from the strengths and the assets that they possess.

People are absolutely equal partners in the way that this Act is constructed. They are not the passive objects of the benign concern of the people who provide services.  They are equal participants who bring the skills, the knowledge, the expertise, the life experience that they will have had, and put that to work in a joint enterprise with the people who provide services.

This is about shifting power isn’t it? That is what the disability movement has taught us about the way that they operate.  At the heart it is about tackling the way the power is distributed and operated between citizens who use services and people who provide them.  This Act is about democratising services and about equalising the way that power is distributed across the system.

So when someone comes through the door, the question we need to ask someone is, not what can we do for you today? Because that is an invitation to hand the issue over to the service and to put the service in charge.  The question we need to ask is:  What are we going to do today?  Jointly?  Together?  So that we pool the expertise that lies with the service provider and the person who uses the service.  The issue is not handed from one side of the table to the other, it is put in the middle of the table, where everybody has both joint ownership of it and therefore a joint responsibility to make a contribution to addressing that problem and to move that issue forward in people’s lives.

The word that was used in the video – a word I had on my scribbled notes – it is all about enabling people to maximise control over their lives.  It is not about turning people into the dependent clients of services that then inevitably move in and take over control that people would otherwise exercise for themselves.  The Act is all about trying to make sure that people are able to feel, as much as they possibly can, in charge of the things that matter to them most, and that new co-productive relationship is at the heart of the culture that this Act is aiming to bring about.  So, “Nothing About Us Without Us”.  I think that could have been the slogan written through the rock, that this Act is trying to bring about.

 

Let me respond very briefly to one or two of the issues that were raised in the video. There is no getting away from the fact that we live in the toughest times any of us in this room will ever have known in the way that money to do absolutely vital things in Wales is now available to us. The budget that the Welsh Government has in 2015 has now been reduced back to where it was in 2005.  So ten years later, with all that we know about the way that the growth of services, the demand for services the things we would want to do, all that has grown and yet we are back to where we were ten years ago as far as money is concerned.

In addition to the cuts we already know about, we have a new set of them coming our way at the end of November in the Chancellor’s autumn statement. I can be confident of that. But even with the cuts we already know, we are only 40% through what has already been announced.  So, far from being down at the bottom of the valley and ready to come up to the other side, we are yet to get to the floor. When the cuts bite directly, both in the lives of people who use services and in the lives of people who provide services as well.

Our public services in Wales are, by and large, not staffed by people who are on enormous salaries and wages. They are staffed by people who have modest incomes themselves.  We have the highest proportion of single earner households anywhere in the United Kingdom and that single earner is very likely to be a woman.  A woman therefore managing all the demands that that household has to manage, and managing on incomes that are fixed while costs are going up.

That sense of stress and strain in our system happens right across the board. So, any sense that there is a cavalry coming over the hill, with money on its back to allow us to do all the things we want to do.  I am afraid that is not going be the way it happens.

What we have done in Wales is to protect our social services budgets alongside our health budgets. You have heard many criticisms, I am sure, of the way that the health service budget in Wales, it is wrongly said, has not been protected in the way it has been protected elsewhere in the United Kingdom.  What we have done is to protect our budgets in the round.  It is absolutely useless from the point of view of the individual citizen to have budgets artificially protected in the NHS only to find out that when they need services from social services, that those budgets have been slashed, burned and robbed from social services, artificially to make it look as though the health service has had a better deal.  What we have done here in Wales is to recognise from the point of view of the user, what you have to have is a service that works across both boundaries and available for you, whichever part of the system you happen to need it.  As a result, spending on health and social services in Wales remains 8% higher for every single person in the land than it would be if we were across our border.

We are doing that partly by making sure that the money that we are putting into implementing the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act is protected. We preserved £3 million in this financial year and if after the 25th November, and the Chancellor’s next set of cuts, we are able to continue to go on doing it into the next 3 financial years, then that is our ambition as a government here in Wales.

Let me end if I could just by paying tribute to the impact which Disability Wales and other disability organisations have had on the Act and the way we want to take it forward.

In the early days of devolution – and I have been at the Assembly one way or another, since the year 2000 – I remember just how amazed people were by the fact that in a devolved Wales, organisations were suddenly able to get close to people who made decisions and made the laws about them in a way that simply was never possible when Wales was run by the Wales Office with 3 Ministers who inevitably spent most of their time in London and a small part in Wales. John Redwood spent more nights on the Dordogne than he spent in Wales.

In the early days of devolution we got used to the sense of closeness between civic society and life in Wales. We take it more for granted now. But it is still something to be genuinely celebrated and it is something envied by people who live in other parts of the United Kingdom when the ability to get into the room to talk together – “Nothing About Us Without Us” – simply doesn’t exist in the way it does in Wales.

The impact of Disability Wales and others has been enormous from the beginning with the tool kit and the impact that continues to have, through the technical groups in the way Disability Wales was influencing the detail on which this Act will rely. In the fantastically exciting work that is going on to create citizen directed co-operatives that is happening in Wales, something that is not happening elsewhere, something I am keen to see the results of it.  So we move direct payments on from being simply something where someone is offered a chance to paddle their own canoe through the rough waters of life, to a position where people using direct payments are able to co-operatively share their risks and pool the rewards to allow people working in the sector as well, to mitigate the risks. It is an enormously exciting project and Disability Wales is right at the heart of it.  Over the next few months we will rely on Disability Wales as well to deliver training to local authorities across Wales on the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities so that the decisions that flow from this Act in future will be properly informed by the due regard duties that the Act now places on the shoulders of our local authorities.

So, Diolch yn Fawr, thank you for listening so attentively. Thank you for being here today, thank you for your commitment to this whole agenda on behalf of those many other people across Wales in whose lives this Act will be making such a difference. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to make the excellent progress we have achieved in Wales.  I have seen the rest of the programme and it looks interesting and exciting.  I hope you enjoy it all.

Thank you for giving me the chance to speak to you this morning.