Welsh Labour

Emergency on Planet Earth #28

I WILL WRITE A NUMBER OF EMERGENCY ON PLANET EARTH BLOGS THROUGHOUT THE TORY SPONSORED CORONAVIRUS CRISIS.

 What follows is a random collection of thoughts from a human being trapped in 21st Century British society. 

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Below, I have copied a letter from the DPAC Steering Group to Jonathan Reynolds MP – the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. It refers to comments from Reynolds relating to welfare payments. 

It is deeply troubling that so early in to the Keir Starmer regime, our social democratic party seems to be reversing at full pelt back to the dark days of Blair.

I am still a member of the Labour Party because of the work being done by Mark Drakeford in Wales, and it is sad to see the party in Westminster drifting back towards the centre-right. The fact that this is happening at a time when the Conservative Party are making such a hash of the Coronavirus crisis, is agonising.

It will be extremely interesting to see how Jonathan Reynolds replies to the letter below. Only a complete backtrack will suffice in this case, or my membership of the party will be in serious doubt.

I wish I could only be a member of Welsh Labour. I will remain a member of the party while Mark Drakeford is First Minister. He has earned my loyalty. It will be interesting to see which way Starmer steers his ship in the next few weeks and months.

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Dear Mr Reynolds

 

Regarding your statement that “Welfare should reflect ‘what you put in’ to tackle public mistrust”

In a comment to the Morning Star, our spokesperson described your comments as “Toxic idiocy”.

Toxic, because, as (too few) wise and responsible senior politicians are well aware, we live in a dangerously fractured, highly unequal society.

They are aware that making statements that will only increase those fault lines and set social group against social group (“them and us”) is highly irresponsible, can only lead to further social division and stoke hate, which at worst can lead to hate crime against “them”, and that includes disabled people.

As you have seem so keen to demonstrate, you are neither a wise nor responsible politician

Idiotic, because you only need to spend a moment considering the implications of your statement to see that it is palpably idiotic.

If you take your statement to its conclusions in terms of policy, these are the outcomes that you get:

1) Higher Rate Taxpayers should have higher benefit entitlements

2) Women, who, as is well established, not only earn less (“the Gender Pay Gap”), but through their caring responsibilities both for children and family members save the government many millions of pounds. In simplistic terms therefore they pay less tax, so should have lower benefit entitlements.

3) BAME people, who earn less (“the BAME Pay Gap”), and therefore pay less tax, should have lower benefit entitlements

4) Young adults who have had less time to accrue tax payments, and therefore should have even lower benefit entitlements than they do already

5) Disabled people who face huge barriers in terms of discrimination and lack of access, who have great difficulty in accessing any work at all (“the Disability Employment Gap”) , and therefore pay much less tax, should receive much lower benefit entitlements

6) Disabled People who, due to their impairments, do not have the capacity for paid work ( however much they want to work, they simply can’t), and who pay very little tax should receive no benefit entitlements

Please would you confirm that the 6 statements above are the logical results of your statement to the  House of Commons, and could you  please let us know if you intend them to become Labour Policy

If you do not intend for these to be Labour’s benefit policies, could you please tell us, why you made that statement, and please tell us, precisely what your policies will be in the light of your comments

We have long been used to toxic and dangerously idiotic statements from the Tory Party, and have lowered our expectations accordingly. Now it seems we need to lower our expectations of Labour.

You should be under no illusion that this will also lower our intentions to engage positively with the  Labour Party, and will certainly lower disabled peoples’ motivation to vote for Labour at election time.

As is our normal practice, we are publishing our letter to you on our website, and will publish your response to us (or state that there has been no response on our site) in order to give you a public right of reply.

We are sure that DPAC’s supporters will await your response with great interest

Yours

The DPAC Steering Group

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Wales needs a bold, left-wing response to rally the nation in these dark times

 

With more than 300 Covid-19 related deaths in Wales and a sharp rise forecast, time is not on our side.

The Welsh Labour Grassroots Steering Committee wrote to First Minister Mark Drakeford this week saying that, “whilst we applaud the efforts of our Welsh Labour Government in tackling this crisis, much tougher action is urgently needed. We implore you and your Government to do all within your powers to safeguard the lives of all people living in Wales.”

In his response, Mark agreed that “it is very important we have our own, distinctive approach to dealing with Coronavirus in Wales” and cites a number of examples to demonstrate that “we do not hesitate to act in ways, which reflect Welsh needs and the values of a Labour Government” – but we are calling on Welsh ministers to go still further.

We know where the largest share of responsibility lies for the severity of this crisis. The policies of successive Tory governments, driven by neoliberal dogma,have undermined vital public services like the NHS through underfunding and privatisation. The current Tory administration’s failure to provide sufficient PPE, undertake widespread testing or mobilise our manufacturing base to these ends is costing lives, as is the failure to close non-essential workplaces.

While devolution has enabled Wales to pursue a different path, our continued dependence on Westminster for funding and access to resources pooled between the UK’s four component parts has exposed people in Wales to the consequences of Tory mismanagement and irresponsibility.

But the crisis demands urgent and decisive action. With so many lives at stake,and with a Tory government that has put the market before people and continues to founder, Wales cannot simply proceed in lock-step with the UK Government. Collaboration is no bad thing, especially in times of crisis, however,for a proud, socialist nation our response should instinctively be different from the one defined by Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.

As Welsh Labour members we appeal to Mark Drakeford and our Welsh Labour Government to redouble their efforts and to push the limits of devolved powers to their utmost in order to reduce deaths from this pandemic and help rally the nation.

We believe there are a number of measures where we could go above and beyond to protect people here in Wales. These are set out in our letter to the First Minister, which is available below, along with his response.

Contact: secretary@welshlabourgrassroots.org.uk

Taking Wales to the World

I have received the following email concerning the future of Wales beyond Brexit, from First Minister Mark Drakeford. It is really encouraging to know that we have a Welsh Labour Government working for those of us in Wales to make the most of the opportunities that we have to take to protect the future of our proud nation.

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Last week, the UK left the European Union but this doesn’t mean that we have left Europe. Wales remains a European nation, open for business and eager to trade internationally.

As we move beyond Brexit – as international relationships are reshaped and trade deals are negotiated – it will become even more important that Wales remains open and outward facing.

Our future success will be rooted in our engagement with both Europe and the wider world. We are strengthening international relationships and economic partnerships – attracting inward investment, and helping Welsh businesses stand out across the globe.

This is why the Welsh Government has – for the first time – appointed a Minister with portfolio responsibility for International Relations, Eluned Morgan, and why we’ve published our first International Strategy, setting out how we’ll be promoting Wales around the world, strengthening existing relationships with international partners and making new ones and supporting businesses in Wales to grow their businesses overseas.

We have a series of high-profile trade and overseas visits arranged for the coming weeks ahead, which are an important part of this work and will build on the success of our trade mission to Japan last autumn during the Rugby World Cup.

We’ll be in Ireland to promote Wales and in a number of other European countries, with an event in Berlin at the beginning of March. Our first mission of 2020 to Arab Health recently returned from Dubai. Wales Week in London will be part of our St David’s Day celebrations and Eluned will be visiting Canada and the west coast of the United States.

We do all this while continuing with the work of making a real difference to the lives of people in Wales – investing in our town centres and local communities; building more affordable homes; improving health services; speeding up access to new medicines and bringing new job opportunities to Wales.

We are embarking on a new phase of our history, which doesn’t include EU membership. As the world changes, Wales will change with it, but Welsh Labour and your Welsh Labour Government will always stand up for Wales.

Yours in solidarity,
Mark Drakeford AM
Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

Vote Welsh Labour on December 12th

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There are so many reasons why we all need to pull together to ensure that we elect a Labour Government next week.

Welsh Labour is Standing Up for Wales:

  • £3.4bn extra, each year to invest in schools, the NHS and local government.

  • A green industrial revolution, creating thousands of new green jobs.

  • A £10 living wage, for all workers aged 16 and over.

  • A final say on Brexit, where Welsh Labour will campaign unequivocally to remain.

  • A ban on zero hours contracts, giving people the security they need at work.

  • Fairer taxation, with the top 5% of earners and corporations paying their fair share, whilst cracking down on tax avoidance and tax evasion.

  • Extend free social care, supporting more people when it really matters.

  • Strengthened parental rights, by extending statutory maternity leave to 12 months and doubling paternity leave.

  • Scrap tuition fees, building on the best student support package in the UK.

  • An end to the Tories’ disastrous Universal Credit, no ifs, no buts.

  • Four new bank holidays, including a public holiday for St. David’s Day.

The Welsh Labour manifesto can be viewed by clicking here. 

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Below, I have included a tweet from Welsh Labour as I believe the video shows that the First Minister Mark Drakeford has the passion that Wales needs to build a brighter tomorrow.

 

#GE2019: Standing Up for Wales

The following email is from Mark Drakeford to Welsh Labour members.  I wanted to share it here to show why I believe in this Party and have faith in them to deliver a brighter tomorrow for everyone in Wales.  They will also be in a stronger position to do this if they are able to work with a Labour Party in Westminster.

#VoteLabour2019 #JC4PM2019 #ChangeIsComing

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On Monday I unveiled our Welsh Labour manifesto. It is a bold plan for how the Welsh Labour Government will work side-by-side with a UK Labour Government, led by Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a plan that will deliver for each and every community across Wales. But we need your help on the doorstep to make sure we can deliver it.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve shown what our people-powered campaign can do. Thousands of Welsh Labour members have been pounding the streets of towns, villages and cities spreading our positive vision for Wales’ prosperous future under a UK Labour Government.

Unlike the Tories who rely on their big donors, our campaign is funded by the generosity of hundreds of thousands of individual people who want to bring about real change.

Our Welsh Labour manifesto works hand in hand with the UK Manifesto in helping us deliver for Wales like never before, including:

  • £3.4bn extra, each year to invest in schools, the NHS and local government.
  • A green industrial revolution, creating thousands of new green jobs.
  • A £10 living wage, for all workers aged 16 and over.
  • A final say on Brexit, where Welsh Labour will campaign unequivocally to remain.
  • A ban on zero hours contracts, giving people the security they need at work.
  • Extend free social care, supporting more people when it really matters.
  • Strengthened parental rights, by extending statutory maternity leave to 12 months and doubling paternity leave.
  • Scrap tuition fees, building on the best student support package in the UK.
  • An end to the Tories’ disastrous Universal Credit, no ifs, no buts.
  • Four new bank holidays, including a public holiday for St. David’s Day.

    I hope you’ll agree that this plan is a blueprint for the Wales that we all want to see.

    And with your help over these crucial final few weeks of the campaign, that’s the future we can have.

    Welsh Labour is the only party that is standing up for Wales.

    Let’s get out there and spread the word – see you on the Labour Doorstep!

    I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail!

    Best wishes,
    Mark Drakeford AM
    Welsh Labour Leader & First Minister of Wales

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.

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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.”

Welsh Labour Will Campaign to Remain

This morning I received an email from Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, outlining his party’s approach to the Brexit shenanigans. I thought I would share this below.

I have lots going on at the moment, as I am still waiting on my WILG assessment and am in the midst of a staffing crisis. My stress levels are through the roof, and I have decided not to attend the first session of the counselling course that I was due to begin tonight. However, I do not live in a bubble and I realise that this Brexit palaver needs to be put to bed as soon as possible, so that politicians can get to work on the multiple problems that have been ignored in the face of all this Euro nonsense.

I am not sure what exactly is my position on the Brexit debate. I just want to see the back to it all, but believe in Mark Drakeford and  his political acumen. Therefore, I am sharing his opinions.

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Dear Nathan,

Given the dramatic and worrying events in Westminster recently, I thought this would be a good time to write to you personally to set out the Welsh Labour Party’s position on Brexit.

Welsh Labour believes that Wales’ best interests will only be served by remaining in the European Union.

We campaigned for a remain vote in the 2016 referendum and nothing we have seen or learned in the three years’ since has changed our minds.

Any type of Brexit – even the softest possible – will cause potentially irreparable damage to Wales and its economy. This is because Wales is heavily dependent on manufacturing and agri-food and 60% of our exports go straight to the EU.

We will support all the efforts our colleagues in Westminster are taking to prevent the no deal Brexit, which the Prime Minister and the Tory government is hell-bent on pursuing.

Labour has made an unequivocal commitment to put the Brexit decision back to the people.

In that referendum, we, as Welsh Labour, must and will campaign to remain in the EU.

Yours in solidarity,
Mark Drakeford AM
Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister

The People Must Make the Final Decision on Brexit

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.

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Dear Nathan,

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

Raffle

It wasn’t planned or anything. Promise.

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.

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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.

BBC Report: Wales disability support cuts: Care to be re-assessed in July #SaveWILG

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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.

Julie Morgan

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.”

‘Irresponsible’

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