Welsh Government

Letter from Huw Irranca-Davies AM

I am sharing this letter from Huw Irranca-Davies  AM to Lesley Griffiths AM concerning my #SaveWILG campaign. There are many, many issues that I would like to pick up from this email, but I am biting my lip until we can arrange a meeting with my MP and Huw Irranca-Davies himself.

I hope this can be in one of the 24 days before Christmas, so that I can discuss my concerns and enjoy the festive break but I am not holding my breath and am preparing for my 8th consecutive Christmas of concern and worry over the future of Independent Living for disabled people in 21st century Britain.

Seasons Greetings…

***

Lesley Griffiths AM
Assembly Member for Wrexham
Lesley.Griffiths@assembly.wales

 

14- November 2017

Dear Lesley

Thank you for your letter to Rebecca Evans AM on behalf of your constituent, Mr Nathan Davies, outlining his ongoing concerns regarding the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). I am replying as policy on social care in Wales now forms part of my Ministerial portfolio.

I have agreed to meet Mr Davies and his MP, Ian Lucas, and my Diary Secretary is arranging for this to take place as soon as is possible.

In relation to Mr Davies’ comments about Wrexham County Borough Council, my officials have been in contact with the authority to ascertain the latest position. I am aware that Wrexham initially had social worker vacancies which impacted upon its ability to undertake future support reviews of WILG recipients and reviews of those receiving social care more generally. This seems to have occurred in Mr Davies’ case.

Wrexham County Borough Council now informs us that it has recently recruited additional social workers to undertake reviews of those receiving social care from the authority, thereby releasing more experienced officers to undertake future support reviews of its WILG recipients. Recipients will be contacted individually by the authority to enter into a dialogue as to the wellbeing outcomes they wish to achieve to live independently and to agree the future support they require to achieve these. The authority intends to complete as many of these support reviews as possible within this financial year, with those not able to be completed by then as soon as possible in next financial year. Whenever a WILG recipient’s support review is completed, their payments under the WILG will not cease until a package of care to deliver the future support they require is in place.

One public consultation on the way in which former recipients of the Independent Living Fund should be supported in the future was held. This ran from October to December 2014 and asked for views on the principle of four potential options to provide support. A summary of the responses received and the conclusions reached was published in March 2015. Stakeholders, including recipients, were informed of this at the time and until recently this summary appeared on the Welsh Government’s website (only being removed as part of a wider updating of our website). I attach a copy of the consultation summary published in 2015 together with a copy of the information letter on this which officials sent to local authorities at the time for them to provide to recipients. I would be grateful if you would provide these to Mr Davies as part of your response to him.

As regards Direct Payments, I understand Wrexham County Borough Council currently operates around 200 such payments to adults to enable them to have control over the care and support they obtain to meet their wellbeing outcomes. The authority is not aware of any operational issues affecting the delivery of these, although accepts that some individuals experience difficulties with recruiting appropriate staff or with securing the care they need from support providers. To ensure their practice is current and appropriate, it has held discussions with officers from Flintshire County Council relating to a collaborative approach to delivering Direct Payments in the region.

If Mr Davies has specific concerns regarding his care package or his Direct Payments from the authority, I understand that Sheila Finnigan-Jones, Service Manager for Disability Services, is happy to meet him to discuss these. Her contact details are:

Tel: Wrexham (01978) XXXXXX E-mail: Sheila.finnigan-jones@wrexham.gov.uk

Huw lrranca-Davies AC/AM

Y Gweinidog Gofal Cymdeithasol a Phlant Minister for Children and Social Care

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Cabinet Reshuffle #SaveWILG

Interesting news from Cardiff today as there has been a cabinet reshuffle at the Senedd. This means Rebecca Evans is no longer the Minister for Social Services and Public Health. The person we now need to lobby with regard to the #SaveWILG campaign is Huw Irranca-Davies who has been made Minister for Children and Social Care. I congratulate him on his appointment and look forward to working with him to help support and salvage Independent Living for disabled people across Wales.

The BBC published a full account of the cabinet reshuffle, which can be read below:

Independent AM and former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Elis-Thomas is to join the Welsh Government as a minister.

Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle – promoting five AMs.

Lord Elis-Thomas will be minister for culture, tourism and sport – a deputy to economy secretary Ken Skates.

He left the party in October last year following a series of disputes with Leanne Wood, and has been voting with the Welsh Government.

The reshuffle came as Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant was removed from the cabinet amid allegations about his behaviour.

Other promotions include Neath AM Jeremy Miles becoming Counsel General, replacing Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw, and Alun Davies, the AM for Blaenau Gwent, joining as cabinet secretary for local government and public services.

The latter appointment marks the return of Mr Davies to the cabinet since he was sacked from it in 2014.

Swansea West AM Julie James replaces Vale of Glamorgan AM Jane Hutt – a minister since 1999 and the longest-serving Labour minister of all time in the UK – as leader of the house and chief whip.

Below cabinet level, Delyn AM Hannah Blythyn, Eluned Morgan, the AM for mid and west Wales, and Huw Irranca-Davies, Ogmore AM, join the government in junior jobs.

Ms Blythyn will be minister for the environment, Ms Morgan is minister for Welsh language and life-long learning, and Mr Davies becomes minister for children and social care.

All three – and Mr Miles – were newly elected to the Senedd in 2016.

Mark Drakeford remains cabinet secretary for finance, but his responsibility for local government has been given to Alun Davies.

Meanwhile social services minister Rebecca Evans moves to become minister for housing and regeneration.

‘Experience and stability’

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “I am proud to announce my new ministerial team, which provides a balance of experience and stability, with new drive and energy.

“This strong team will drive forward our ambitious plans for Wales – focusing on growing the Welsh economy, creating jobs, supporting our public services and improving the day-to-day lives of the people of Wales.”

But Plaid Cymru Group Chair Dai Lloyd AM said his party was “unimpressed”.

“Wales as a nation is crying out for new ideas and a change of direction. Wales still does not have a government that will lift the country up the league tables and inspires people with its agenda,” he said.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, praised Ms Hutt’s contribution but added: “New names and new faces count for very little – positive outcomes are all that matter to the people of Wales. We need a change in ideology”.

Disabled activist ‘is fighting for his life’ as he hands petition to Welsh government

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE DISABILITY NEWS SERVICE WEBSITE AND WAS WRITTEN BY JOHN PRING.

A disabled activist has handed in a petition of hundreds of signatures that calls on the Welsh government to reverse its decision to close its version of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

Nathan Lee Davies (pictured) says he is fighting the decision to scrap the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) because he is terrified of the prospect of his cash-strapped local authority taking over full responsibility for providing his care package.

He has been told that without WILG his own care package would be reduced from 86.5 hours to just 31 hours a week.

He says that such a cut would put an end to all his current community activities, including his involvement with Wrexham Glyndwr University, Wrexham football club, Disabled People Against Cuts, FDF Centre for Independent Living, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.

He is also writing two books, and a blog, and is working with Disability Arts Cymru to create a performance and exhibition of his poetry.

He told Disability News Service (DNS): “I cannot cope with such a limited number of hours per week. This is why I am fighting with every fibre of my being.

“It really is a case of life or death. I have no interests in merely existing. I want to live.

“Without help and support I would be unable to do any of this work that involves me in the community.”

The Labour-run Welsh government announced last November that, after a two-year transition period, it would transfer all of the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales 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 interim WILG scheme the Welsh government has been running as a stopgap to “ensure continuity of payments to recipients” since the Department for Work and Pensions closed ILF in June 2015.

Funding for WILG will now transfer to local authorities during 2018-19, with all former ILF-recipients in Wales having their support needs met solely by their local authority by 31 March 2019.

Since the Welsh government’s announcement, Davies has been campaigning to persuade it to reverse the decision, including setting up the petition – which has now been signed by more than 500 people online and in person – and collecting photographs of supporters holding one of his campaign postcards.

He said: “The current system allows users the security of depending on receiving their funding from three different ‘pots’ – WILG, local authorities and our own personal contribution.

“This gives us a sense of security and ensures that we cannot be dictated to as mere passive recipients.

“Instead, all parties have to be in agreement about what will benefit the individual the most.

“This is something worth fighting for.”

But instead of this three-tier system, he said, the Welsh government had now “sold disabled people down the river.

“They are washing their hands of all responsibility for social care to former ILF recipients and transferring the pressure onto local authorities.”

A Welsh government spokeswoman told DNS in a statement: “Organisations that represent disabled people who have been recipients of the Independent Living Fund, recommended that their future support would be best provided through local authority social care provision, with consistent arrangements in place to support disabled people in Wales.”

But Disability Wales, which was part of the stakeholder advisory group the Welsh government consulted, has made it clear to DNS that it did not support passing funding to local authorities.

The Welsh government added: “We would be surprised if Disability Wales were suggesting that certain disabled people in Wales should have their support needs met in a different way to other disabled people.”

Davies said he believed the Welsh government had listened only to the local authorities on the advisory group.

He has been supported by the north-east branch of the Labour left-wing grassroots campaign Momentum and the Unite union in Wales.

But he said he was disappointed that Disability Wales – the national association of disabled people’s organisations in Wales – had not supported his campaign.

Miranda Evans, policy and programmes manager for Disability Wales (DW), said they were not able to support the petition – which is critical of the Labour party in Wales – because it was too party political.

But she stressed that DW’s preferred option was for a new Welsh independent living scheme – a Welsh version of ILF – that would protect those currently receiving WILG funding and would also be open to new members.

DNS has seen DW’s response to an early consultation on the Welsh government’s plans, and it makes it clear that none of DW’s members or the other disabled people it had consulted about the future of WILG were in favour of handing the funding directly to local authorities, and had instead “expressed strong opposition” to this.

It also stressed that such an option was “totally unacceptable to existing ILF recipients, their carers and other disabled people”.

Austerity policies have created a “human catastrophe” – UN Committee Chair condemns the UK’s record on human rights.

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations welcome the public unity of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their clear criticism of the UK Government’s ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s human rights.

Chairperson Theresia Degener in her closing questions stated, “Evidence before us now and in our Inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that social cut policies has led to human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in.”

The Committee condemned the UK’s attempts to misrepresent the impact of policies through unanswered questions, misused statistics and a smoke screen of statements on policies and legislation which fail to implement the rights of disabled people in reality.

Committee member Coomaraval Pyaneandee said “[I] Want to see you come back as a world leader which at the moment, I’m afraid you are not, but DPOs I congratulate. [They] are in fact, the world leaders in your country.”

The UK Independent Mechanism further reinforced the concerns of DDPOs in their concluding statement which called for:

  • Gaps and inconsistencies in disability discrimination legislation to be addressed including the legal basis for British Sign Language
  • Steps to be taken to embed the CRPD in domestic law, maintaining the protections in the Human Rights Act
  • A coordinated approach to implementing the Convention and the Committee’s recommendations across the UK, with fully resourced and meaningful involvement of disabled people.

Tara Flood, Alliance for Inclusive Education and Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance said, “The UK’s track record on article 24 is not acceptable. The Chairperson made it clear and unequivocal that inclusive education is not a choice, it is a right. We are not surprised but always disappointed by UK Government’s lack of commitment to inclusive education for disabled children and their efforts to mask segregation.”

Devolved Nations also had the opportunity to address questions put to them by the Committee.

Patrick Malone, Disability Action Northern Ireland said, “It is not acceptable for the UK Government to hide behind lack of an Executive or Ministers for NI for the disparity of equality in legal protection for disabled people in Northern Ireland as compared to the rest of the UK. The Government must ensure that all of the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010 are fully implemented in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.”

Rhian Davies, Disability Wales said, “We welcome Welsh Government’s commitment to a strengthened Framework for Action on Independent Living since much of the implementation of the UNCRPD is devolved to Welsh Government. However, as with the rest of the UK there is much more to be done in Wales in safeguarding disabled people’s human rights. This has been a historical week for the disabled people’s movement and one that we are proud to have played our part in.”

Sally Witcher, Inclusion Scotland said, “We wholeheartedly welcome the Committee’s comments on the UK. The government has not been allowed to get away with evasive responses which disregard the lived experiences of Deaf and Disabled people throughout the UK. We were disappointed that the opportunity was not available for Scottish Government to reply to all of the questions directed towards it, such as its plans to implement supported decision making for people with learning disabilities and how it will address the failings of the social care system. However, we anticipate opportunities to address these issues in response to the Committee’s concluding observations.”

Disability Wales calls out UK Government on human rights violations of disabled people

PRESS RELEASE

Disability Wales calls out UK Government on human rights violations of disabled people.

Disability Wales and Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) from across the UK join forces in Geneva this week, presenting evidence of ongoing human rights violations to the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People.

In a closed session on Monday 21st August, Disabled People’s Organisations will highlight the UK Government’s failure to respond to many of the questions put to it by the Committee throughout this process, and will tell the Committee of the systemic failure to support disabled people to live independently and to have access to social, educational and employment opportunities.

Key issues include:

  • The UK Government’s failure to answer the questions put to it by the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People in their List of Issues.
  • The retrogression in implementation of disabled people’s rights in the UK.
  • The UK Government’s dismissal of the 2016 Inquiry recommendations and lack of respect for implementing the range of human rights Conventions.

Disability Wales will also call for Welsh Government to strengthen its own approach to fulfilling its obligations under the CRDP. Recent engagement with disabled people across Wales regarding the review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living, confirmed that barriers to achieving disability rights and equality in Wales, remain firmly in place.

The Public Examination of the UK and devolved Governments will take place on Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th August.

This is the first time the Committee will review a State that it has previously had under Inquiry for violating the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. Disability activists will draw attention to the UK Government’s dismissal of recommendations for action noted by the Inquiry.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales says: “Disabled people are being failed by the UK Government and we are in Geneva to call out these violations of our rights.

The recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Tribunal Fee charges is just one example of where discriminatory policies have been deemed unacceptable. There are many more policies that need throwing out in order to protect the rights and lives of disabled people and their families.

This is our opportunity to show that we will not stop challenging Government sanctioned discrimination and exclusion of disabled people in the UK.”

In a closed session with the Committee, DDPOs will be identifying issues that have the most severe impact on disabled people in the UK.

We will request that the Committee make recommendations to the UK and Welsh Governments on actions they should take to progress the rights, access and inclusion of disabled people in all areas of their lives.

Wendy Ashton, Chair of Disability Wales said, “The Examination gives disabled people a voice and shines a spotlight on decisions the Government has taken to marginalise us.

In Wales, devolution provides the opportunity to do things differently. It is essential that Welsh Government strengthen the role of the Framework for Action on Independent Living since there is no other overarching mechanism in Wales that outlines our rights.

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.”

 

Support from Ian Lucas MP #SaveWILG

I am pleased with how the #SaveWILG campaign is going so far as I’ve had plenty of media coverage, a good response to my postcard campaign, solidarity and support from Welsh Labour Grassroots and now I have had support from Ian Lucas MP, totally justifying the efforts I made to help him get re-elected in June.  He has written to Rebecca Evans AM to voice his concerns over the closure of WILG and to ask for a meeting between her good-self and recipients.  I have copied the letter below with permission from Ian Lucas.

This has made me think… If other people could write to their local MP and highlight the worrying WILG situation, then any further letters like the one below will only serve to increase the pressure on the Welsh Government and make them think twice about their decision to close WILG.  This would be great wherever you live as a letter from an MP outside of Wales would be just as effective.  Thanks for your support.

Anyway, here is the letter from Ian Lucas:

Rebecca Evans AM
Minister for Social Services and Public Health
Welsh Government
5th Floor
Tŷ Hywel
Cardiff Bay
CF99 1NA

14 August 2017

Our Ref: ZA19750

Dear Rebecca,

I am writing on behalf of a constituent, Mr Nathan Lee Davies who recently contacted me regarding the Welsh Government proposal to transfer administration of the Independent Living Fund to local authorities.

Nathan is a beneficiary of the fund with whom both Lesley Griffiths and I have worked over a number of years on disability issues. Nathan suffers from Friedreich’s ataxia, a disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system. We have participated together in consultation events on ILF and discussed the fund with other recipients at consultation events, some of which were organised by the Welsh Government.

I am acutely aware that the UK Government has passed responsibility for the difficult decisions relating to the future of the ILF to the Welsh Government and I do not envy you the decision you have been asked to make. However, I am very concerned indeed, having discussed the issue in depth with Nathan, at the decision to transfer administration of the scheme to local authorities.

Neither of us believe that our Council has either the capacity or expertise to carry out this function and this decision is causing real concern to Nathan and other recipients of the scheme.

I would be very grateful if you would agree to meet with Nathan, me and other recipients of the scheme to discuss their concerns.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Lucas MP

 

Writing to local newspapers…

I have written the following letter to a number of local newspapers across Wales, urging the Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).The campaign for justice continues…

If you wish to write a letter in support of this campaign, use the following emails:

This is the email that I fired off in the hope that people will read it and take notice of what is going on. It is worth a go.

 

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. This payment was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015.

WILG 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. Disabled people must organise themselves 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 who didn’t want WILG scrapped. The key point is that the advice of disabled people was ignored.

This is the time to fight back as Welsh Labour are basking in the glory of Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the recent General Election. The prevailing mood has changed and Welsh Labour have apparently made a significant shift to the left. Surely, Welsh Labour will want to distance themselves from a decision that mirrors the one made by the Tory Government in 2010?

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?

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…

There are a number of ways that WILG recipients, family members and personal assistants can help to make a difference. Those concerned can sign the petition that has currently received almost 250 signatures, take part in the postcard campaign that is being orchestrated across social media and put pen to paper to their local AM. To find out more about these projects, please contact Nathan Lee Davies at nathandavies01@hotmail.com or search Facebook for the Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) page. Twitter users can find me on @nathanleedavies or you can find all the information about this campaign on my blog at https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/

Thank you for your time.

Nathan Lee Davies, Wrexham