Welsh Independent Living Grant

#SaveWILG Tweets

We have not forgotten…

A Decade of Growth…

The annoyingly nameless decade that is rapidly drawing to a close has been a time of desperate struggle for many sick and disabled people living, or trying to, in these bleak times of austerity.

The Conservative – Lib Dem coalition was unleashed on the great British public back in May 2010. They immediately announced that they would be making severe cuts to the benefits system, and public services in order to balance the books. This political choice would target the poor and vulnerable, as they were held responsible for the global financial crash.

I don’t have the time to go through the last decade month by month, but suffice to say that these austere policies set the mood for the entire decade. I remember watching the TV news with a feeling of dread, as I knew what would follow would damage our society in ways that we hadn’t even dreamt of.

I had just escaped from an unhappy marriage, and had moved in to my new bachelor pad where I was to employ a team of personal assistants to help me to live independently. Unfortunately, I was in and out of hospital during 2010, as I suffered a nasty bout of pneumonia as well as having three operations to remove kidney stones.

This wasn’t going to be an easy decade, that much was obvious. I had a decision to make – do I give in and accept my position as a worthless member of society, or do I stand up for myself and fight back against the establishment? – I decided on the latter option…

I was forced in to politics as an activist, by my repressors and they have created a monster that will not rest until social justice is served to each and every one of us. It all began when the coalition government introduced the bedroom tax, and WCBC targeted me as someone who should be paying for having more than one bedroom. I wasn’t standing for that, and decided to make a piece of art in protest, that appeared in the Daily Mirror and had the desired impact. Combining art and activism was something I would continue to do with success throughout the decade.

1243_1368119611

One of 20 postcards created for the Postcards from the Edges initiative. 

Fortunately, I seem to have blossomed with my back against the wall. This is particularly evident through the success of the #SaveWILG campaign, through which I have made numerous friends, enjoyed trips to Cardiff and Westminster and built political connections on a cross-party basis. We have held an art exhibition to promote the campaign and even had a awareness day in Wrexham, that saw musicians, poets and comedians show their solidarity. The postcard campaign that we ran, also saw the campaign gather support from acclaimed film director Ken Loach, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and even Jeremy Corbyn.

nathan-and-corbyn.jpg

Jeremy Corbyn meets Nathan Lee Davies at the Welsh Labour Conference in April 2018. 

There is still some work to be done to finalise everything with regard to independent living for former ILF recipients in Wales, but sincere thanks must go to everyone who has helped make this campaign a success.

The fact that I have also managed to publish two books and receive an Honorary Fellowship from Glyndwr University within this period, is something that I am very proud of. It seems that I can be productive with the right levels of support. It also helps not having to put up with a significant other and her three noisy children. Married life is just not something I am cut out for. Of course, I get lonely at times, but I do not think that a conventional relationship is the answer for me. The need to remain focused is more important at this moment in time.  I wrote a blog about my personal situation earlier this year. You can read it by clicking here. 

23130775_10154861709506576_4695910532263596758_n

Receiving an Honorary Fellowship from Glyndwr University.

Whilst enjoying the company of three great friends at the pub yesterday, I was comparing my situation with the one I found myself in at the dawn of the previous decade. There is no doubt that the work I have done over the past ten years has put me in a stronger position for the difficult years ahead. Let no one be in any doubt that the Johnson regime will lead to considerable difficulties for many of us, but it is no good just moaning and worrying about it all. The time to act is now, and we all have a part to play in creating a society that works for the many, not the few.

80803629_1266664110186288_7064975396646682624_n

Good friends are hard to find, but I have been extremely fortunate. 

I have a few exciting projects lined up for 2020 and beyond, such as developing my poetry, working on my third book and creating art exhibitions to try to reach the politically confused.

Whatever I end up doing, it is sure to be a bumpy ride. Buckle up…

BBC News: Disability Work Opportunities Under Threat

The BBC have written a shocking story about the potential closure of work opportunities for disabled people in the Wrexham area, due to further council cuts.

This is depressing news, but hardly surprising under a Conservative/Independent led council with a history of putting profit before people.

This cannot be allowed to happen, and I would offer support to anyone interested in campaigning to stop this measure.

I have included yesterday’s BBC report below.

***

Two projects which provide work opportunities for about 75 people with a disability look set to be closed in the latest round of council cuts.

Wrexham Council plans could hit the Cunliffe enablement centre in Rhosddu and the Erlas garden project.

It closed other schemes last year as part of an ongoing disability services review aimed at saving £334,000.

Council bosses said they would find other ways to support those affected.

The review has already led to the closure of Le Cafe and Portable Appliance Testing in Rhosddu, along with the Coverall laundry in Rhosymedre.

Councillor Joan Lowe, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said the Cunliffe and Erlas projects “deliver good services that are well regarded by service users, their families and carers”.

“There are, however, a number of issues and challenges with the sites and facilities that mean they do not offer the best opportunities for community participation and can limit community inclusion.

“The proposal is for the council to reshape day and work opportunities services to deliver more flexible, person-centred services that are fit for purpose, offer quality, are sustainable and make more effective use of available resources.”

The changes to the service form part of cuts agreed by executive board members for 2019/20, which were met with anger by opposition councillors last year.

There are currently 39 people supported at the Cunliffe Enablement Centre and 36 at the Erlas Garden project.

The latest plans will be discussed by councillors at a scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

 

_109609307_cunliffecentre_wxm_google

Pulling Myself Together

I have been a little out of sorts over the past week or so, thanks to a chest infection. Thankfully, I have come out the other side and am feeling stronger with every passing day.

It is always scary to be inflicted with a chest infection, as I am only too aware that such infections usually finish off my brothers and sisters who live with Ataxia. I didn’t want to join those unlucky few at this time. There is an election to win before I go anywhere…

The article I have put together below, just sums up some of my moods and feelings over the past few days, while the madness continues with my valued members of staff also being stricken down by illness.

***

FACEBOOK STATUS 1:

I will probably have to stay offline for the next few days as I have just seen the doctor who said I have a chest infection. Bloody hell, this is all I need. I have to take this seriously as living with Ataxia is enough on it’s own without the added complications of a chest infection. I am now on antibiotics so hopefully they will do the trick as I do not fancy a stint in the Maelor. Thankfully, I have some excellent PA’s who will help me get over this and I will be back to full strength in no time.

***

FACEBOOK STATUS 2:

I have just had another home visit by a GP who has put me on a stronger set of antibiotics. Hopefully, these will calm me down and stop me from having regular panic attacks. If I can get a good night sleep, I am sure that will help me loads.

I have also had a letter from ICS detailing the protest for them to make a decision. Basically, I think they were just playing for time. I am too exhausted to think of the ramifications of this. That is a battle for another day…

***

FACEBOOK STATUS 3:

A third out of hours doctor visited me last night and provided me with the super strength antibiotics that I need to shift this infection off my chest. It seems to be doing the trick and I am regaining my appetite while breathing has become easier.

I am disappointed that I still do not have the strength needed to attend the Nick Whitehead Theatre this evening to vote for Helen Grout as Wrexham’s Labour Party candidate for the forthcoming General Election. I am totally pleased to openly back Helen as the only candidate capable of making a real difference to the community of Wrexham as a whole.

I am also pleased that my good friend, Julie Rogers-Owen, will be attending the Hustings and voting in the only sensible way. If the people of Wrexham, really want to see positive politics in action then it is crucial that Labour Party members vote for Helen Grout tonight.

***

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Nathan a dull boy.

***

I have two piles of books in my living room. They need shifting if only to quieten the taunting voices in my head. You know it makes sense…

thumbnail_image

Please read the following article: Dancing on Thin Ice: Available Now

***

There is still much work to be done on the #SaveWILG campaign. It seems as if recipients from several Local Authority areas are still waiting on the results of their assessments. I want to emphasise that this is not because of any failing from ICS Services – the independent assessment company who have been put in charge of carrying out the reassessments – but because we are still waiting on the Local Authorities that let us down in the first place. This appears to be a totally ludicrous situation, as it was because we had no confidence in the Councils in the first place, that we launched the campaign. They are still making us wait by holding up discussions with ICS Services. I want to make sure that this situation is sorted out way before the upcoming festive period, as all WILG recipients deserve this after the torrid time they have been put through.

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001


***

Please watch the following video before deciding what to do at the Ballot Box on December 12th:

 

#SaveWILG Campaign Update

I have received an update from the Welsh Government, on their efforts to provide independent assessments to all WILG recipients who requested one. It read as follows:

All 14 local authorities who have former WILG recipients who have requested an independent assessment now have a data sharing agreement in place with ICS. As a result ICS now has basic data on the majority of the 50 recipients who have requested an independent assessment in order to progress these. This does not include details of previous care assessments or care plans as both ICS and us wanted their social workers to go into this process without any preconceptions of people’s care needs.

Consequently ICS is now arranging appointments for their social workers to undertake these and has already undertaken first appointments with a number of the 50 recipients across Wales. Following these ICS’ social workers will write up respective care assessments for submission to ICS’ quality control, before discussion with the relevant local authority representative and subsequently a joint discussion with the former WILG recipient concerned. On the basis of the current position ICS estimates it will have completed all assessments by the end of November. 

The reassessment that I received went very well, and was not hard work at all. I had feared that it would be much more invasive than it was. The social worker from ICS was both professional and friendly. She listened attentively to the case we made for 24/7 support, and said that she would be in touch with a decision in between three and five weeks. That was on October 1st.

It is good news to hear that ICS plan to have all the assessments complete by the end of November. This is something that I believe is very important, as the WILG recipients affected do not want another Xmas of worry and stress.

I have spent the last two Christmas periods busy on Twitter, while the rest of my family have enjoyed Xmas dinner. I could not detach myself from the fight to #SaveWILG, even during the festivities. My very way of life was on the line, and I was in no mood to join in with the celebrations while WILG recipients were struggling in such a way. Fingers crossed that this year I will be able to enjoy some Turkey, rather than the meagre meal of beans on toast that I have stubbornly eaten for the past two years in order to make a point.

If any WILG recipients, or their families/friends, still have concerns over the assessment process then please do get in touch.

WALESPOSTCARDFRONT001

Disability News Service: Welsh government ignores social care funding crisis… in independent living action plan #SaveWILG

The following is an article written by John Pring on his excellent Disability News Service website. This can be accessed by clicking here. 

I have been put in a difficult position following the publication of the Welsh Government’s new framework on independent living – Action On Disability – The Right to Independent Living.

I have been extremely critical of this new legislation, but I want to make it very clear that this is a separate issue to my WILG campaign. I will be forever grateful to the Welsh Government for listening to campaigners and acting decisively. Our new First Minister and the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services deserve particular praise for their hard work and determination to protect a vulnerable section of society.

However, I hope both Mark Drakeford and Julie Morgan can appreciate why I  have to speak out against the new framework due to the lack of consideration of social care. I am a proud member of the Labour Party and fully support the vast majority of the party’s policies, but I reserve the right to be critical of specific programmes and will campaign to improve them.

***

The Welsh government has completely ignored the social care funding crisis in a new action plan aimed at ensuring disabled people’s right to independent living.

A public consultation process with disabled people and disability organisations led to “multiple calls” for increased social care funding.

But the final version of the Labour government’s framework and action plan on the right to independent living – which includes 55 actions – says nothing about the funding crisis or the need for more spending on adult social care.

This contrasts with its 2013 framework, which it replaces and which included lengthy sections on access to social care, direct payments and personalised support.

In discussing the engagement process, which took place in 2017, with further engagement late last year on a draft version of the framework, the document says: “We heard that cuts to social care provision have led to lower allocations for Direct Payments which means disabled adults and young people are becoming increasingly isolated and impact to their well-being compromised.”

It also admits that there were “multiple calls for increased funding for health and social care” during that process.

But despite those calls, not one of the 55 actions in the plan mentions social care funding, or the need to address the cuts.

Instead, the action plan details wider measures around independent living, including: barriers to employment; recruitment of disabled apprentices; a review of funding for housing adaptations; collecting evidence on disability poverty; and improving access to health services.

It also includes a planned review of the disabled students’ allowance system; a pledge to improve understanding of the social model of disability across the Welsh government; and action on access to public transport.

There is also a pledge to introduce a scheme in Wales to provide financial support for the extra costs of disabled people seeking election to local councils, to match schemes in Scotland and England.

Nathan Lee Davies, a leading disabled campaigner who has helped secure concessions from the Welsh government on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), said the omission was “bemusing” and appeared to be a “major step backwards”.

A spokesperson for the Welsh government refused to comment on the failure to mention cuts to social care funding in the action plan.

But Jane Hutt, the Welsh government’s deputy minister and chief whip, who has responsibility for equality issues, said in announcing the new framework that “supporting people to live their lives in the way they choose is the right thing to do”.

She said the framework sets out how the government was fulfilling its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

But the failure of the action plan to suggest any measures to address the funding crisis and cuts to support suggests the Welsh government could be in breach of the convention’s article 19.

Article 19 says that governments signed up to the convention should take “effective and appropriate measures” to enable disabled people to live in the community with “full inclusion and participation”.

Despite this omission, the framework pledges to “work for continuous improvement in how Wales fulfils its obligations with regard to [UNCRPD] and the Rights of the Child”.

There is also no mention in the document of ILF, and the Welsh government’s decision to close its interim Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme, which it had been running as a stopgap with UK government transition funding since ILF closed in June 2015.

WILG closed on 31 March 2018, when the £27 million a year funding provided by the UK government to maintain support to former ILF recipients transferred to local authorities in Wales.

Because of the WILG closure, Welsh local authorities are now solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients.

More than 1,200 former ILF recipients will now have their needs met through council funding, while 50 of them have requested an independent assessment of their new support package, a process being funded by the Welsh government following a campaign led by Davies over concerns about post-WILG support.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “The Welsh Independent Living Grant was introduced as an interim measure to support people who received payments from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund which closed in 2015.

“Our new framework focuses on the future of independent living in Wales, and what Welsh government can do to support disabled people going forward.”

Davies said: “On the face of it the new framework that has been introduced by the Welsh government, following a lengthy consultation process, is as bemusing as it was when [the draft version] was originally launched last year.

“It seems as if I wasted my breath at two consultation days as many of the failings of the framework that I highlighted have failed to be addressed in a [document] that does not seem to address the needs of disabled people with high support needs.

“Social care does not seem to be addressed at all. This is an absolutely bizarre situation when discussing a framework supposedly designed to promote independent living for disabled people.

“Not one of the 55 actions in the action plan mentioned social care funding, which is extremely worrying.”

He added: “After achieving success with the #SaveWILG Campaign – where former ILF recipients have been offered the opportunity of an independent assessment if they disagreed with the decision of the local authority, all funded by the Welsh government – it was hoped that this would signal a change in attitude going forward.

“The dynamic brand of 21st century socialism introduced by first minister Mark Drakeford has delivered positive change that deserves to be recognised.”

But he said the new framework and action plan “seems like a major step backwards”.

He added: “It just seems that the socialist values that the Welsh government demonstrated with their reaction to the WILG campaign have not been utilised in the new framework.

“It does not sit well with me to criticise this new [document], but the fact that it seems to blatantly flaunt the UNCRPD article 19 is a major cause for concern.

“It would be very easy for me to ignore this as WILG recipients have now been protected, but as a disabled activist I remain vigilant to the needs of my disabled brothers and sisters across Wales.

“All disabled people with high support needs should be able to access adequate social care and I will not rest until justice prevails for those in need.”

Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales (DW), who led the national steering group on the framework, welcomed its publication, particularly “the renewed commitment to implementation of the [UNCRPD] and consideration of options to incorporate this and other UN treaties in Welsh law together with a stronger focus on the social model of disability and proposals to tackle the disability employment gap and support disabled people to take up positions in public life.”

But she added: “Some aspects of the action plan are stronger and more developed than others, often in those areas where disabled people have been closely involved in informing and influencing policy.

“With regard to social care, there appear to be relatively few initiatives cited in the action plan compared with other policy areas.

“Key issues raised during the consultation are omitted, including low take-up of direct payments, provision of advocacy services, WILG developments and the impact of austerity on social care as a whole.

“We understand that the action plan is a work in progress so DW will continue to press for these issues to be addressed, including through Welsh government’s Disability Equality Forum which plays a vital role in monitoring implementation of the framework.”

The Last Time? #SaveWILG

I received the following email to inform me that the Petitions Committee at the Senedd will be discussing my petition to Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant on Tuesday 17th September at 9.00.  This may be one of the final times that the petition is considered by the committee in question, considering how far we have come over the last seven months.

We are still waiting for our reassessments, but the end is in sight…

Nevertheless, I would still recommend that all those affected by WILG should tune in to the following:

***

Dear Petitioner

Your petition will be considered at our next meeting on Tuesday 17 September at 9.00.

I enclose a link to the Agenda and Public Papers for your consideration:

http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=430&MId=5650&Ver=4

A live broadcast of the meeting will be available on Senedd TV at:

http://www.senedd.tv/

Kind regards,

Petitions Committee