Welsh Labour

U-turn on disabled living grant welcomed by Plaid

The following article was taken from the Plaid Wrecsam blog. I take no credit for the article and thank everyone at Plaid for their support.

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Today sees a Plaid Cymru-initiated debate on the Welsh Independent Living Grant in the Senedd. 

Coincidentally, the Welsh Government yesterday announced it was pausing its controversial plans to axe the grant, which enables disabled people in Wales to live independently and manage their own affairs. The pause comes after relentless pressure coordinated by Wrexham campaigner Nathan Lee Davies and many others. The debate was intended to maintain the pressure on the Labour Government, which had decided to follow the Tory line in Westminster and axe the grant.

Responding to the decision by the Welsh Government to bring in revised arrangements for the Welsh Independent Living Grant, Leanne Wood AM, Plaid Cymru shadow minister for social justice said:

 

“The Welsh Government should just have the guts to admit it got this wrong from the very beginning. After the proposed changes are filtered through, we should have a situation where no disabled person has lost out on care. However, we will be spending considerably more money on administration and reviews to get to this point than if the Welsh Government had just adopted the Scottish and Northern Ireland approach of retaining the fund – as we argued for at the time. 

“The problems identified that have led to this suspension of the transition were entirely predictable and have caused disabled people a great deal of anxiety and stress. All because Welsh Labour have been too stubborn to listen to disabled people and their own party activists over the bureaucrats in local authorities.”

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru AM for North Wales, has campaigned on behalf of WILG recipients for the past year and said:

“Without the tireless campaign of disability activists such as my constituent Nathan Lee Davies, it’s unlikely this U-turn would have happened. Disabled people would have faced yet another significant cut to the support they have and a loss to their independence. 

“Questions have to be asked about why the Welsh Government made the wrong decision in the first place and what it really says about how much it listens to disabled people. Where has the government been before now in acknowledging its proposals wouldn’t work?

“Coming twenty-four hours before Plaid Cymru’s debate to save the Welsh Independent Living Grant, they clearly did not relish defending their failed policy.”

 

Wales disability support cuts: ‘Second opinion’ offered by ministers

The following article is taken from BBC News online. I am not taking any credit for the article and the original piece can be accessed by clicking on this link. 

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Severely disabled people unhappy with their care package will be offered independent assessments, say ministers.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) is being scrapped with councils taking over funding care for the more than 1,000 people receiving it.

Previous social care minister Huw Irranca Davies had insisted there would be “no losers” due to the changes.

But, in October, BBC Wales discovered around 100 of the 600 recipients reassessed had lost some support.

The research was conducted by the Wales Live programme.

On Tuesday, the Welsh Government said anyone wanting a “second opinion” could have an “independent social work assessment” and the move to the new system would be put on hold while new arrangements are put in place.

Plaid Cymru said the Welsh Government should “admit it has got this one wrong from the very beginning”.

Announcing the change in policy, Deputy Health and Social Services Minister Julie Morgan said: “It is paramount that people’s ability to live independently is not compromised by changes the care and support provided for people previously in receipt of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

“These changes will ensure that is the case and deliver a consistent level of care and support across Wales.

The WILG was introduced in Wales to replace the UK-wide Independent Living Fund (ILF), which was closed down by the UK government in 2015.

“While the majority of former ILF [Independent Living Fund] recipients are receiving the same or more care as they were previously, a significant number have experienced a reduction in hours of support,” said Mrs Morgan.

“There is also considerable variation in the reductions in support.

“I have therefore written to local government leaders to request a pause of the transition with immediate effect in order to bring in the revised arrangements.

“This is a significant change of approach that ensures that the needs of former WILG recipients will be fully met, and that resources are no barrier to a full package of care and support.”

Julie Morgan
Image captionJulie Morgan campaigned for a change in the system as a backbencher

Mrs Morgan also announced that the Welsh Government would provide additional funding to councils for the cost of the workers to carry out these independent assessments and additional care hours that may result from the assessments.

The independent assessments will be consistent with people’s agreed “wellbeing outcome” and acknowledge the historical entitlement of former ILF recipients, she added.

Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood said the Welsh Government should “admit it has got this one wrong from the very beginning”.

“After the proposed changes are filtered through, we should thankfully have a situation where no disabled person has lost out on care.

“However, we will be spending considerably more money on administration and reviews to get to this point than if the Welsh Government had just adopted the Scottish and Northern Ireland approach of retaining the fund – as we argued for at the time.”

Huw David, Welsh Local Government Association social services spokesman, said: “In a time of austerity, any additional funding for social care is to be welcomed and I am pleased to see a commitment of extra investment from Welsh Government that will help to ensure the needs of former WILG recipients are fully met.

Local authorities would continue to work with ministers to address any concerns about the new system, he added.

Presentational grey line

Analysis

By Wales Live reporter Paul Martin

With an acknowledgement a “significant number” of people have had support cut, a guarantee of independent re-assessments, and extra cash for any increased care packages, this adds up to a pretty big shift.

It puts new Social Services Deputy Minister Julie Morgan at odds with her predecessor Huw Irranca Davies who had said the new council-run system would be fairer and that there would be “no losers.”

There are questions now about how easy this change will be, and how much it will cost.

But “Save WILG” campaigner Nathan Lee Davies – who won significant support at Welsh Labour conference – described it as “the perfect 42nd birthday present”.

Disability News Service: Last-ditch appeal to new Welsh First Minister over independent living scheme #SaveWILG

A disabled campaigner has sent an 80-page dossier of evidence to the new first minister of Wales in a last-ditch bid to persuade him to abandon plans to close the Welsh government’s independent living grant scheme.

Nathan Lee Davies has written to Mark Drakeford with just two months left until the planned closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG), which was itself set up as an interim scheme following the UK government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in June 2015.

Davies, who has led the Save WILG Campaign, told Drakeford in an open letter this week that closing WILG would leave disabled people with high support needs “at the mercy of cash-strapped Local Authorities who seem intent on cutting vital support packages across the board with no guarantee that further cuts will not follow”.

He said that local authorities “seem to be treating disabled people as a burden”.

Davies points out in the letter that Drakeford had promised – during his successful campaign to lead the Welsh Labour party last year – that if an independent evaluation of the WILG closure showed the new system “not working as well as the old one” then he would be “prepared to reverse it”.

WILG was set up by the Welsh government – with UK government funding – as a short-term measure to support former ILF recipients when the fund was closed in June 2015.

But the Welsh government is now closing WILG and transferring the funding to local councils, and by April the 22 local authorities will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

Davies said the “deep dive review” of cases in which WILG recipients were having their support cut was “full of errors” and had failed to consult the disabled people who will be affected.

He pointed to his own experience at the hands of his local authority, Wrexham council, which he said had treated him “abysmally”.

Davies, who has a life-limiting condition, said that the process to reassess his support needs, due to end in September 2018, had still not been completed and was having “a negative impact” on both his physical and mental health.

He described how his social worker had laughed when he suggested he needed 24-hour support and told him that no-one in the borough received that level of support.

He said that the lack of overnight support in his current social care package meant he had to stop drinking at 8pm at night and get ready for bed at 10pm, and often had to call his 68-year-old father to assist him in the night, even though he lives a 10-minute drive away and has arthritis in both hands.

The dossier, which has already been shared with the deputy health and social services minister Julie Morgan, includes a description of a day in his life, from last January, showing the poor level of support he already receives – even before the closure of WILG – and the pain and indignity this exposes him to, as well as the lack of choice and control in his life.

Davies says: “It is 2018 and I am still being treated like a second class citizen.

“I have a progressive condition of the nervous system which is accelerating at quite a rate, yet I still have the same amount of inadequate care and support hours that I did in 2010 when I first began independent living.”

He updated this by posting a new blog yesterday, showing that little had changed in the last year.

In the dossier, he warns the Welsh Labour party: “I do not want to spend the last days of my life completely unnecessarily fighting against the party I have defended and campaigned for across many years.

“But I will if I have to. Please don’t make me.”

The dossier also includes a letter from a director of Disability Wales, Trevor Palmer, in which he says the planned WILG closure has “created serious disruptions” to his life, with local authority “incompetence and lack of understanding” that has led to his support package being “substantially” reduced.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We believe that disabled people’s ability to live independently should not be compromised by any changes to the way in which support is arranged for those people who previously received payments from the WILG.

“The first minister has just received Mr Davies’ open letter regarding the WILG and will carefully consider the detailed points it makes.

“He has asked the deputy minister for health and social services to consider what further action may be necessary to ensure disabled people in receipt of the WILG are not adversely affected by this change.

“The deputy minister has provided Mr Davies and the National Assembly’s petitions committee with details of the deep dive review.

“She also met Mr Davies at his home to hear his concerns and discuss the issues raised in his dossier.”

He said the deep dive review had seen the 22 Welsh local authorities audit all cases where they intended to cut the WILG element of people’s support.

This found planned reductions in about 157 cases, and increases in support in a similar number, out of 1,174 people.

He claimed that the cuts had taken place because “some people had developed a need for healthcare rather than social care while some, due to their support being provided in a different way or being of a different type, had a reduced need for care overall”.

He accepted that two questionnaires, commissioned from the All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers of People with Learning Disabilities, had had a low response rate, but he said that responses to it “have been positive about the way assessments have been undertaken and the outcomes people have received”.

Charlotte Walton, Wrexham council’s head of adult social care, said: “We cannot comment on any individual’s care and support needs.

“However we do not accept the allegations being made.

“We have carried out all of the WILG reviews in a person centred and inclusive manner and working with the individual recipients of the fund [has]enabled them to achieve positive outcomes from the reviews.”

Davies said he would now push for a meeting with the first minister.

He said: “I am not going anywhere and will continue to fight this until justice is served.”

Picture: Nathan Lee Davies with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Open Letter to First Minister Mark Drakeford #SaveWILG

Dear Mark

This is an incredibly worrying time for all disabled people and their families across Wales.  There are only 63 days left before the Welsh Independent Living Grant is due to end, leaving individuals at the mercy of cash-strapped Local Authorities  who seem intent on cutting vital support packages across the board with no guarantee that further cuts will not follow.

The fact that this neo-liberal policy is still being forced through by a Welsh Labour Government is unbelievable: frankly, it makes it even worse. I always thought that I would be protected from the brutality shown by the Tories in Westminster, because I live in a land governed by a social, democratic party. Unfortunately, the Party that I know and love seem to have lost their way under the previous leadership, which is why I was overjoyed by your election victory to become our new First Minister.

I am confident that Welsh Labour is now travelling in the right direction towards a socialist future which you championed during the Leadership Hustings. In an interview with the BBC you also said the following about the future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant:

…”if an independent evaluation “shows the new system is not working as well as the old one then I would be prepared to reverse it because this is money intended for a very specific number of people for a very specific purpose”.

The deep-dive that was recently undertaken by the Welsh Government, to analyse the performance of Local Authorities relating to the WILG transition, is full of errors and quite frankly not worth the paper it is written on. How can an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the end of WILG be conclusive without having consulted disabled people who will be affected? My comrades dismantled the deep-dive results in our recent meeting with Deputy Health Minister, Julie Morgan AM.

The closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant is such a destructive move to disabled people’s rights and I do not believe that a progressive Party such as ours should be going down such an avenue.

#SaveWILG campaigners have presented the Deputy Health Minister with an 80 page dossier of evidence against the closure of WILG. In addition, we have the backing of Welsh Labour members who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Clwyd South motion to save WILG at Conference in April 2018. I believe you pledged to listen to the voices of members during the Hustings and they have certainly been vocal on this subject. We have also had support from Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP’s such as Chris Williamson, Ian Lucas and Chris Ruane. Film Director Ken Loach also supports our campaign.

Criticism of Welsh Government policy on Independent Living has also been made by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD):

However, various disability organisations in Wales had advocated setting up a national independent living scheme in Wales as aligning with a citizen directed system of support rather than the approach now adopted by the Welsh Government.

We recommend that the CRPD Committee asks:

Can the Welsh Government explain:

How it reached a decision to move all ILF recipients to normal social care provision from 31 March 2019, rather than setting up a national independent living scheme?

How it will ensure protection for article 19 rights of those formerly eligible for the Independent Living Fund after 31 March 2019?

I do not believe Welsh Labour should be having to defend themselves against the UN as I know your personal intentions are to ensure universal equality throughout Wales, but now is the time to take positive action and start listening to Welsh Labour members and disabled people and their families.

Personally, I have been treated abysmally by my Local Authority. I find myself in the position of having to teach my social worker about the Social Services and Well being Act. I am not being allowed to use my Direct Payments to meet my Personal Outcomes as described in the SSWBA and feel this vindicates my insistence on the need to maintain the tripartite system when deciding on and funding future care provision.

The reassessment process – which was originally due to end by September 30th 2018 and shows no sign of being completed soon – is really having a negative impact on my physical and mental health. When I first met with my social worker at the end of November 2018, she laughed when I suggested that I would need 24/7 support. She declared that no one in Wrexham gets such a thorough level of support [whether they require it or not?]. She said that even if we applied for such levels of care and support, that the panel would not accept such a request. This is a total departure from what the SSWBA promises. There is definitely no co-production going on and Local Authorities seem to be treating disabled people as a burden.

Without the overnight support I need to fully function in society, I have to stop drinking at 8pm at night, get ready for bed at 10pm and cannot wear my hand splints or use my leg supports during long and uncomfortable nights. I often find myself having to call on my 68-year-old father to assist me in the night, even though he lives a 10 minute drive away and has arthritis in both hands.

As Tanni Grey-Thompson said on Wales Live (23/01/19), it will cost the Welsh Government more in the long term to push ahead with this strategy of devolving funding to Local Authorities. It just makes no sense whatever way you look at it. Disabled people and their families never wanted such a situation to develop as was indicated in the original consultation that took place during 2015/16. I have been asking to see the consultation documents since October 2017, but I keep being directed towards a summary document. We all know that a summary can be manipulated and edited to suit the publishers. If the summary is accurate why can I not access original consultation responses?

It is often claimed by the Welsh Government that the original stakeholder group were united in agreement with the closure of WILG and the transferring of funds to local authorities.This is quite simply untrue. The members of the stakeholder group that I have spoken to have stated their frustrations with the whole process: “I disagreed with one side of the room almost continuously,“ and “I would be amazed to see minutes of a meeting where all participants agreed that passing this WILG over to the local authority beyond the ring-fenced period was the way forward.”  Others have said “I used to go home from all these stakeholder groups thinking we had agreed certain things to discover that was not what had been recorded.” and other activists argue that many officials and civil servants do not actually “know what Independent Living means – they still think ‘independent’ means managing without support”.

It would greatly assist me in understanding Welsh Government’s decision making process on this issue if the minutes of all of the meetings of the stakeholder advisory group can be provided, and I will submit a Freedom of Information Act request if necessary.

I could go on and on, but time is against me and I would merely be repeating much of what can be read in my attached dossier of evidence. At over 80 pages long, I believe it is a comprehensive guide as to why the Welsh Independent Living Grant should be maintained indefinitely. The dossier includes information of the success of the Independent Living Schemes set up in Scotland and Northern Ireland that shows the lack of imagination shown by the Welsh Government compared to our neighbours.

Please note that this letter is written with the deepest respect towards yourself and your cabinet members. I am a loyal Welsh Labour supporter and I have belief in the 21st Century socialism that you intend on developing. The problem is that we cannot wait any longer and the changes need to be made immediately. There is no sense in a proud socialist Government copying the exact same model rolled out by the Conservative Party in Westminster.  Moreover, if the original decision was wrong then your team needs to have the courage to simply reverse it.  Tinkering with the detail in a bid to spare the blushes of your predecessors is just not acceptable: in fact it’s morally dishonest.

I know that you are extremely busy with Brexit and other pressing concerns, but disabled people with high care and support needs across Wales are in need of your leadership now. I look forward to meeting you again in the near future and should you require any more information from the #SaveWILG campaign, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Wishing you strength and solidarity

In hope…

Nathan Lee Davies
#SaveWILG campaign

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Twitter Thread – #SaveWILG

I can’t remember the last time I had a proper nights sleep free from worry and pain. I wrote the following Tweet thread this morning and am looking forward to discovering how things develop over the coming weeks… There are so many other things that I could write about to highlight the incompetence of Local Authorities when dealing with disabled people with high support needs although I am running on empty this morning, so the following will have to do for now:

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05:11 this morning, I had to phone my 68-year-old Dad to rescue me even though both of his hands are riddled with arthritis. He literally can not and should not be having to do such call outs. WCBC should be ashamed of themselves for failing in their duty of care. 1/3

I can not wear my hand splints or a t-bar under my knees to keep my legs straight because then I wouldn’t be able to move at all at night. My dexterity is therefore getting worse and my legs give me agony at night. All this could be sorted easily with proper 24/7 care. 2/3

I am now counting on and to show that the new look has empathy and understanding at its core. One thing for certain is that I am going no where until Welsh Labour members who passed a motion to have their voices heard. 3/3

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(Something Inside) So Strong #SaveWILG

Dedicated to #SaveWILG campaigners everywhere.

To be fair to new First Minister Mark Drakeford, he is listening and making positive changes in the right direction. Solidarity to him and we look forward to working with the new look Welsh Labour in our quest to #SaveWILG.

The following song is about Apartheid in South Africa. Although I am not, in any way, trying to disrespect this, I do feel that this song has excellent lyrics that can also apply to the plight that disabled people find themselves in 21st Century Britain. I just feel it is a good rallying call to the 1,300 WILG recipients in the calamitous countdown to the end of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

Things may look bleak at the moment, but the campaign is still going strong and we have some crucial irons with which to stoke the fire in the weeks ahead. Do not lose hope as things are certainly happening behind the scenes.

Please do not hesitate to contact me via the contact page above, or via Facebook or Twitter if you feel you can add to the campaign or would just like to find out more information.

 

According to Wikipedia, “(Something Inside) So Strong” is a 1987 single written and recorded by British singer-songwriter Labi Siffre. The song was one of the biggest successes of his career, and peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart.[1]

The song was written in 1984, inspired by a television documentary on Apartheid South Africa seen by Siffre in which white soldiers were filmed shooting at black civilians in the street.[2] He told the BBC’s Soul Music programme in 2014 that the song was also influenced by his experience as a homosexual child, adolescent, and adult and his inner Chi.[3] Siffre originally intended to give the song to another artist to sing, but could find no one suitable and was convinced to release it himself.[2]

The song has remained enduringly popular and is an example of the political and sociological thread running through much of Siffre’s lyrics and poetry. It won the Ivor Novello Award for “Best Song Musically and Lyrically”, and has been used in Amnesty International campaigns, a television advertisement and Alice Walker‘s film against female genital mutilationWarrior Marks.

The song has been covered by many artists, including country singer Kenny Rogers who featured it on his 1989 best selling album of the same name, and also by Pop Idol contestant Rik Waller who reached #25 in the UK Single Charts with it in 2002.

The song was featured in an advertisement for the Peugeot 307 in 2001.

“(Something Inside) So Strong”

The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The farther you take my rights away
The faster I will run
You can deny me
You can decide to turn your face away
No matter, cos there’s….Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

The more you refuse to hear my voice
The louder I will sing
You hide behind walls of Jericho
Your lies will come tumbling
Deny my place in time
You squander wealth that’s mine
My light will shine so brightly
It will blind you
Cos there’s……

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters
When they insist we’re just not good enough
When we know better
Just look ’em in the eyes and say
I’m gonna do it anyway [x4]

Something inside so strong
And I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters
When they insist we’re just not enough
When we know better
Just look ’em in the eyes and say
I’m gonna do it anyway [x4]

Because there’s something inside so strong
And I know that I can make it
Tho’ you’re doing me, so wrong
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

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A Day of Mixed Emotions

Gained a First Minister, but lost a hero. Congratulations Mark. RIP Pete.

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The following Blog is taken from Skwawkbox. To view the original article, please click here. 

Left-wing candidate Mark Drakeford has just been elected as leader of the Welsh Labour Party – and therefore as First Minister – with a 53.9% share of the vote.

Wales at last has a leader from the left – and the UK-wide party benefits as well, a Drakeford will be eligible either to sit on the National Executive Committee in place of Carwyn Jones, or to appoint a trusted representative.

As the SKWAWKBOX showed in an exclusive two-part interview, Drakeford is a long-standing supporter of party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The SKWAWKBOX congratulates him on a resounding victory – and Welsh Labour left on an excellent result.

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The following article originally appeared on the BBC online. To view the original article, please click here.

Buzzcocks lead singer Pete Shelley has died at 63 of a suspected heart attack.

The punk band are best known for their hit, Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve).

Their management told the BBC that Shelley died on Thursday in Estonia where he was living.

BBC music correspondent Lizo Mzimba said Buzzcocks, who formed in Bolton in the 1970s, were regarded as more polished, but musically no less influential, than the Sex Pistols.

The band have tweeted saying Shelley was “one of the UK’s most influential and prolific songwriters and co-founder of the seminal original punk band Buzzcocks”.

His music inspired generations of musicians over a five-decade career with his band and as a solo artist, they said.

The Charlatans’ singer Tim Burgess said Shelley’s “perfect three-minute pop songs” were “the soundtrack to being a teenager”.

Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine said Buzzcocks were one of the most influential bands to emerge in the initial wave of punk rock, with echoes of their music in everyone from Hüsker Dü to Nirvana.

“The Buzzcocks were inspired by the Sex Pistols’ energy, yet they didn’t copy the Pistols’ angry political stance,” he wrote in AllMusic.

“Instead, they brought that intense, brilliant energy to the three-minute pop song. Shelley’s alternately funny and anguished lyrics about adolescence and love were some of the best and smartest of his era.”