I am sharing the following email that I received as a Labour Party member, from our First Minister, Mark Drakeford. Throughout the email, Drakeford puts forward views that are necessary to get us out of the impossible situation that has been created by the Tories in Westminster.
I know that over the past few days you will have seen many reports in the press around Brexit and our Welsh Labour Government’s view on what should happen next. And I wanted to write to you directly to explain how our position has evolved.
Since 2016, when Wales voted – narrowly – to leave the European Union, the Welsh Government has argued for a form of Brexit which would, as far as possible, protect Welsh jobs and the Welsh economy. Our Labour colleagues in Westminster have done the same – most recently in negotiations with the UK Tory Government.
However, the collapse of the talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn and the current election for a new leader of the Conservative Party changes all that. The Tory leadership race is rapidly becoming a contest between harder and harder forms of Brexit – hugely increasing the very real danger of a no-deal Brexit that would be catastrophic for our nation. Recognising that, means we have to re-think how we approach Brexit in Wales. I believe the chance to do the sort of deal I have always advocated – a deal that would protect Welsh jobs and the Welsh economy – is now at an end. That is why my view, and the view of the Welsh Labour Government, is that going back to the people and asking them for their verdict is the best way forward. The final decision on Brexit must now be made by the public in a referendum. And, for the avoidance of any doubt, a Welsh Labour Government would campaign in such a vote for Wales to remain in the EU.
I am delighted that following last week’s election, Jackie Jones will sit in the European Parliament, and I know she will be a brilliant Welsh Labour MEP. But there is no hiding the fact that last week’s results were clearly deeply disappointing for our Party. Over the coming weeks and months, I want to take every opportunity to get out across Wales and hear from as many of you as possible. I know that many of you have passionate, differing, and sincerely held views, and I believe that the diversity of our membership is a strength, not a weakness. We are – and always have been – a broad church, but we are united by our belief in social justice and the firm conviction that we achieve more together than we do alone. In these turbulent and polarised times, it is more important than ever to remember that and act accordingly.
Best wishes, Mark Drakeford
Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister
Last night I attended An Evening with Mark Drakeford – a Clwyd South CLP event in Llangollen.
About this Event
An opportunity to meet Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford in Llangollen.
There will be an introduction from local AM Ken Skates and your £10 ticket includes a light buffet. There will also be a bar and a raffle with a range of prizes to be won.
The First Minister spoke brilliantly at this event about the forthcoming EU elections, the rise of the far right and the achievements of Welsh Labour. One of the four Welsh Labour candidates in the forthcoming EU elections – Mary Wimbury – also roused the audience and explained why she needed their support. It was also good to catch up with Ken Skates AM, who I used to work with at North Wales Newspapers, and Susan Elan Jones MP who supported me throughout the campaign.
The personal highlight of the evening though came with the drawing of the raffle. I had bought two strips of tickets and was fortunate enough to have one of my numbers plucked from the hat by the First Minister himself at the start of the draw. I therefore had my choice of all the prizes on offer and chose a bottle of whiskey from the House of Commons which can be seen below.
This is something I will enjoy once I have finished my WILG reassessment and all former ILF recipients in Wales are happy with the support they are receiving…
This will certainly be a good reason to raise a glass to the efforts of this proudly socialist Welsh Government.
Re-assessments of severely disabled people unhappy with their care packages will not begin before July.
The Welsh Independent Living Grant has ended with councils funding care for more than 1,000 people receiving it.
In February, the Welsh Government announced anyone unhappy with their new council care package would be offered independent re-assessments.
Plaid Cymru said the wait was “way too long”. The Welsh Government has been asked to respond to the criticism.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, the Welsh Government told BBC Wales it has set aside up to £60,000 to pay an independent organisation to do the reassessments.
It anticipates the contract will be awarded by the end of June and re-assessments will begin in July.
£2.4m per year has also been budgeted, “for planning purposes”, to cover the potential costs of any increased packages.
157 people out of 1,174 assessed by their councils by the end of last year had had their support reduced.
There have been big regional variations, with cuts most common in Wrexham, Newport and Ceredigion.
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.
In a letter to ex-WILG recipients, Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan said their “patience” would be appreciated.
“I do not want people to be waiting for an independent assessment,” she said.
“However, it is important to organise these independent assessments properly, so that they meet the required standards.”
Plaid Cymru’s social justice spokeswoman Leanne Wood questioned whether the reassessments were necessary.
“Initially many of these people were given an award for life and going through a reassessment process is extremely stressful,” she said.
“Particularly if you have a condition that everybody knows is not going to improve, it’s only going to deteriorate.
“So putting people through those reassessments is potentially problematic but at the same time this does need to be resolved quickly.”
Nathan Davies, a Labour member and founder of the Save WILG campaign, said the wait was “inconvenient” but criticised the previous Welsh Labour Government, led by Carwyn Jones, which made the initial decision to transfer the responsibility to councils.
“The fact that they [the current Welsh Government] are having to do this work now is because the previous neo-liberal regime did not listen to our campaign team and disregarded the evidence that we presented.
“The fact that we are having to endure an uncomfortable few months is totally down to them and a number of irresponsible local authorities.”
You can see more on this story on the BBC Wales Live programme at 22:30 BST on Wednesday BBC One Wales, and then on BBC iPlayer
Rhondda AM Leanne Wood has called upon the Labour Government to move fast to ensure that disabled people are not left out of pocket.
The Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Social Justice and Housing called upon Ministers to match words with deeds after they performed a U-turn on reinstating in all but name the Welsh Independent Living Fund last months after months of pressure.
Julie Morgan, the deputy minister for health and social services, wrote to local authorities to ask for a halt to the closure programme for the Welsh Independent Living Fund and its replacement with a system of council-funded support.
There will now be new assessments for former recipients with a view to new support packages allocated by their local council.
In a letter to Julie Morgan, Ms Wood called for a “clear timetable” to restore financial support for disabled people living at home.
Leanne wrote: “I am writing to you following last month’s announcement that an independent social work assessment will be offered to all former Independent Living Fund recipients who are unhappy with their new care and support package.
“You also committed to providing additional funding for councils to fund independence assessments and any additional care hours that may result from these assessments.
“I appreciate that we are only a month on from this welcome statement in the Welsh Parliament but the reality is that people are continuing to struggle without adequate support.
“A clear timetable for carrying out these assessments and restoring the financial packages for disabled people is required as a matter of expediency to provide clarity and hope for people in need of extra support.
“On behalf of disabled people and their families, can the Welsh Government provide that timetable as soon as possible please?”
I have written to the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services in order to encourage her team to publish a timetable which will allow WILG recipients to plan their futures with certainty, and extricate themselves from limbo land. WILG recipients, such as myself, are still struggling after years of neglect from clueless local authorities. and everyone at the #SaveWILG campaign has faith that Welsh Government now fully understand these difficulties and will be implementing their proposals very soon.
On Tuesday, the Deputy Minister, Julie Morgan will be speaking with the Petitions Committee on Senedd.tv at about 10pm. The meeting will be available to view whenever you can on the website. I am looking forward to hearing constructive plans that can assist me out of the current predicament I find myself in – inadequate care and support is taking it’s toll on my physical and mental health…
Your petition will be considered at our next meeting on Tuesday 05 March at 9.00.
I enclose a link to the Agenda and Public Papers for your consideration:
It has been an exciting period for the #SaveWILG campaign after we made a huge breakthrough a couple of weeks ago. We are now in a position of working with Welsh Labour rather than campaigning against them, which is a position we are all happy with.
However, amidst all the congratulatory messages and kind words that I have received in the past few weeks, it has become clear that there is still much work to be done in order to protect independent living for WILG recipients.
While it is clearly a positive that the transition period has been paused and WILG recipients are now entitled to a independent social worker to help decide on their care package, there remains much uncertainty and confusion about the next steps. At the moment, WILG recipients – including myself – are stuck in limbo land between clueless local authorities and a Welsh Government that has to focus on Brexit.
In the meantime, 1,300 or so disabled people with high care and support needs are suffering. We have every reason to be proud of what we have achieved, but there cannot be any celebration until each one of us are living the lives we deserve to be.
In the days since Deputy Health Minister Julie Morgan announced her new and exciting plans I have received many emails from confused recipients who want to know what happens now. People have been going through stress and worry about the loss of WILG since November 2016 and the confusion remains.
We need a clear timetable from the Welsh Government of when we can expect our reassessments to take place as people are continuing to struggle without adequate support. A timetable would allow people to plan their lives and provide them with tangible hope for the future.
Mark Drakeford’s new Welsh Labour brand, should be proud of listening to the concerns of disabled people and their families and acting accordingly, but they need to act urgently to put their promises into action and provide us all with answers to our questions. We are doing our best to understand that the wheels of politics do not tend to run quickly, but unfortunately patience is not a virtue that WILG recipients can afford.
We have written to the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services and await her response with anticipation.
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.”