Wrexham AFC

Making a Stand

Twelve months ago, Ian Parry and myself – both life-long supporters of Wrexham AFC – wrote the following resolution to be put to the Wrexham Supporters Trust AGM:

It has come to our attention that Wrexham AFC, whether through a lack of finance, vision or compassion, have let the proposed building of further wheelchair viewing platforms become an infuriatingly long drawn out and laborious, unfinished, process.

Since the opening of the inaugural platform  in 2015 by Lord Faulkner of Worcester, Wrexham AFC has had an abundance of positive nationwide publicity regarding this new facility for disabled fans. However, instead of striding forward and consolidating this with additional facilities, the club has rested on its laurels and appears content to sit back and accept the plaudits for achieving the implementation of a single solitary wheelchair viewing platform.

We believe that rather than this be the minimum requirement it should have indeed been a catalyst for further development and an opportunity to show many other clubs how to accommodate and welcome disabled supporters.

The official capacity of My Racecourse is quoted as 10,500 and according to the recently published “Green Guide” it states that “there should be 100 wheelchair spaces in a venue of 10,000 or more seats” At the moment My Racecourse has 6 designated wheelchair spaces on the wheelchair viewing platform, whilst the other “designated” wheelchair spaces are in fact seats designed for able bodied supporters where wheelchair users are expected to comfortably position themselves; more often with a carer squeezing in alongside.

Many disabled Wrexham fans attend matches in all weather conditions and deserve at least the basic right of shelter. Additional and improved disabled viewing facilities would show that the club does indeed care, recognises and appreciates their dedicated support.

We note that the club originally applied for funding for 3 platforms at £18,000 each in 2014/15.

Our Resolution is this:-

That WST agree:

  1. To have designated wheelchair and carer bays at the front of the Hays Travel stand.
  2. That the club take action as soon as possible on further platforms as soon as funding is in place, and the plans have been passed by Wrexham Council and by the Safety Officer.
  3. That these new facilities are not tied in to, or dependent upon, any other stadium redevelopments.
  4. That the club meets minimum standards of accessibility at the earliest possible opportunity.

 

It is time for the 2019 AGM, which takes place on 27th June. You would have expected much progress to have been made to enable wheelchair spectators such as myself and Ian, to enjoy an afternoon at the Racecourse with fellow fans. Unfortunately, next to no progress has been made and we are still watching 80% of games at pitch-level at the front of the stand. This section does not provide adequate cover, so we are often at the mercy of the elements. This pitch-side area has not even been specifically designated as we called for last year.

I can’t speak for Ian, but I have had enough of being treated like a second-class citizen. It is no fun watching a poor standard of football from pitch-level, with the threat of getting soaked from threatening rain clouds that seem to gather all too frequently.

Every so often, we may be lucky enough to get a space on the platform. This is rightly run on a rota basis, to ensure that everyone gets a chance to use this excellent facility. The platform gives wheelchair users an excellent overview of the action, while surrounded by their fellow supporters. It is this inclusion, that makes going to games enjoyable – even if it is a goalless encounter with Borehamwood.

The football club have proposed the building of a second platform, but it should be noted that many DSA members are not particularly enthused with the solution that the club have put forward. This is due to the fact that the intended platform will be situated in no-man’s land, between vocal home and away fans. This is clearly not the safest place to spend 90 minutes. The DSA had originally proposed the removal of a couple of rows of seats in a specific part of the ground, but such proposals – there were two of them – were scrapped as it seems potential profit from maximum capacity, is more important than providing equal access to all. This is very disappointing from a former community club.

A focus-group was set up to consider the building of a second platform. This was made up of representatives of the club board, DSA committee members and the DLO. The last meeting of this focus-group was nine months ago, which shows how highly it is being prioritised by those hell-bent on a return to the Football League – never mind the cost.

As a result, I will not be renewing my season ticket and will only be going to games at the Racecourse when it is my turn on the rota for the platform. Instead, I will be watching football matches at various different grounds, with one ear on the Wrexham score. I will always love and support the club, but I cannot be disregarded and humiliated any further. By writing posts like these, I hope to tap in to some common decency that will help the club find the motivation to work on the resolution,that was passed overwhelmingly by club owners, twelve months ago…

COYR.

Since writing this, it has come to my attention that the issue of a second disabled platform is back on the club’s agenda. I am not holding my breath for any improvement in the near future, but I would love to be proved wrong. It is about time the club concentrated on becoming a true community club where everyone is welcomed and included.

 

Great Tastes of America: The Mississippi Stack

DISCLAIMER: The following blog is written totally independently from McDonald’s CorporationGreat Tastes of America is a registered trademark and I am not associated with the product line in any way. I am not seeking to promote or disparage the American fast food giant in any way, shape or form. All opinions expressed below are personal to me and my Socialist background. I should add that anything written on these blogs should be taken with a pinch of salt – sachets available from McDonald’s counters. 

In the second of a new series, I will be eating and reviewing the Great Tastes of America range of burgers from popular fast food chain, McDonald’s.

I am unhappy about this for a number of reasons – from calories to Capitalism – but it is a good writing mechanism for me to hang my anger at modern society upon. I will be forcing fast food meals down my fat face for the next 12 weeks (one every fortnight) while discussing everything that I find unappetising about the modern world we live in.

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The Mississippi Stack is made up of two 100% British and Irish beef burgers with bacon, mild cheddar, tomato and onion relish, rich and sticky BBQ sauce, red onion and lettuce in a toasted ciabatta.

Mississipi Stack

I demolished the Mississippi Stack in the car at the side of the road on my way to the pub to watch Newport County v Tranmere Rovers in the League Two Play-off Final. This was a contest between two teams that most Wrexham fans – myself included – have reason to dislike. Both teams have recently won promotion from the National League while Wrexham have proved hapless also-rans who seem destined to a future of non-league football.

With feelings of justified bitterness and a hint of jealousy, I tucked in to my fortnightly taste of America that did little to lift my spirits. It was devoid of the sharp pickle that had made the New York Stack so enjoyable. Instead, there was a minimal layer of  onion relish and a BBQ sauce that proved slightly spicy, but ultimately underwhelming. There was just not enough of the BBQ sauce and the outer edges of the slimline burgers were dry, uninspiring and tasteless.

If I had been in a better mood before indulging in this burger, my review may have been more positive but I was gripped  with envy – something that was not helped by former Wrexham forward, Connor Jennings, scoring the winning goal for Tranmere Rovers deep into extra-time. If only he had stayed loyal to the Red Dragons and not been tempted to our Scouse rivals by the smell of filthy lucre.

The hunger pains are still biting as I type whilst generally irritated and dismayed at all around me. Satisfaction will never be found in the selfish modern world that we are stuck in…

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This long bank holiday weekend is one to forget. The results of the EU Elections have been pouring in and suggest worrying times ahead with the rise of right-wing ignorance across the continent.

No where was this more obvious than in the UK with the supposed rise of the Brexit Party and typically biased reporting by the BBC who merely paint a picture to support the prevailing status quo. This was summed up in the following tweet by Timothy Garton Ash (@fromTGA):

I am also sharing a Facebook post from my friend and comrade Adam Samuels, who has sensibly reflected on the election results and made the following observations:

Re the Euro elections from a Labour POV… So far, what this says to me is that people are even more entrenched in their views. The country is even more split if that were possible. People are pig-headed and not willing to compromise. It’s f**k the other side. There is no good solution. We should also remember this is not a General Election. It was also PR and not FPTP. I am saying of course we should listen and respect the comments and votes, but we must get all the information in first and then digest everything. No knee jerk reactions. No bold statements of “If Labour don’t do XYZ I am leaving, not campaigning, not voting etc”.

We take stock and reason things out. There are no easy answers, no matter what extreme Leavers and Remainers will tell us. The two things we must never forget, and we must remind emotional, passionate, good comrades is that we need our Manifesto put into practice. But, and we must never underestimate this, we need someone strong enough to take the crap and attacks to allow those policies to get through. Of course, that is Jeremy Corbyn. 

This story will continue to develop and expand as the hours pass. This is a truly explosive time to be involved in politics and it is taking all of our energy and resources to continue the good fight. However, no one should be in any doubt that we will all continue pushing for justice for the many, not the few while ensuring everyone is protected in a fair and equal society.

The fight goes on…

Neil Dobie RIP: Tribute Planned

I was recently sad to learn of the tragic passing of Neil Dobie who was a valued and committed member of the Wrexham AFC Disabled Supporters Association.

It is only because of the DSA that I continue to attend the Racecourse on a regular basis and Neil was a committee member who always had time for those he encountered on a match day.

He actually worked as a Personal Assistant when he was in the country – he had a house in France where he would spend part of the year – and I was always eager to secure his services. Unfortunately, this never happened for a number of reasons, but the fact that I would have welcomed him onto my small team of staff shows how highly I thought of him.

This morning, the DSA  published a small note about the sad news and are proposing a minutes round of applause after 49 minutes of Saturday’s home game against Braintree.

I hope everyone will join in this tribute and show that Wrexham is a community club to be proud of – no matter what happens on the pitch.

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Following the loss of our dear friend, committee member, and match day volunteer Neil Dobie at the young age of 49 recently.

With the families blessing, we at Wrexham DSA would be extremely grateful if all Wrexham fans attending this Saturday’s home game v Braintree 6th April, would join us for a minutes applause starting on 49 minutes played shortly after the second half is underway in his loving memory.

For those who may not recognise the name, you may know the face. Neil is pictured here on car park duty (back left in the bobble hat) in what may have been the last time he was with us before heading back to his home in France.

We are still coming to terms with the tragic news and this would mean so much to us all.

Thank you x

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Countdown to 2019

During the festive period I have been rather short staffed, which is always detrimental to my ability to type freely. It is difficult to explain the frustration of a writer who cannot actually write due to his deteriorating body and poor dexterity.

Subsequently, I have decided to set up this blog post which I will write in times of despair and creativity. It will be totally unstructured, contain random words relating to my mood, YouTube links, Tweets and ideas for future projects that I would like to work on after I have saved the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

So if you are sitting comfortably, I will begin:

This period will be updated at random intervals as we head towards 2019. Please note that there will almost certainly be lots of foul language used in this post as we focus on the frustration over life in a 21st Century Britain for a disabled person. 

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THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2019:

On 30th May 2019 I have tickets to see John Cooper Clarke at Venue Cymru, Llandudno as part of his The Luckiest Guy Alive Tour.  His book, of the same name, was published in November 2018 and I have just downloaded a copy to my Kindle.

John Cooper Clarke_900x505

Following my poetic publications during 2017, it would be great to have the opportunity to meet this Poet; Movie Star: Rock Star; TV & Radio Presenter; Comedian; Social & Cultural Commentator.  I have just lost one hero, in the form of Pete Shelley, so it would be fitting to meet another.  I will look into ways of contacting JCC in the hope that he might offer me some tips advice and inspiration for my future poetic projects.

Here is the blurb for The Luckiest Guy Alive, which is available on Amazon or other outlets who actually pay their taxes.

The godfather of British performance poetry – Daily Telegraph

The Luckiest Guy Alive is the first new book of poetry from Dr John Cooper Clarke for several decades – and a brilliant, scabrous, hilarious collection from one of our most beloved and influential writers and performers. From the ‘Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman’ to a hymn to the seductive properties of the pie – by way of hand-grenade haikus, machine-gun ballads and a meditation on the loss of Bono’s leather pants – The Luckiest Guy Alive collects stunning set pieces, tried-and-tested audience favourites and brand new poems to show Cooper Clarke still effortlessly at the top of his game.

Cooper Clarke’s status as the ‘Emperor of Punk Poetry’ is certainly confirmed here, but so is his reputation as a brilliant versifier, a poet of vicious wit and a razor-sharp social satirist. Effortlessly immediate and contemporary, full of hard-won wisdom and expert blindsidings, it’s easy to see why the good Doctor has continued to inspire several new generations of performers from Alex Turner to Plan B: The Luckiest Guy Alive shows one of the most compelling poets of the age on truly exceptional form.

‘John Cooper Clarke is one of Britain’s outstanding poets. His anarchic punk poetry has thrilled people for decades … long may his slender frame and spiky top produce words and deeds that keep us on our toes and alive to the wonders of the world.’ Sir Paul McCartney

OBJECTIVE: Contact John Cooper Clarke through his agent and try to arrange to meet him in Llandudno.

http://johncooperclarke.com/contact

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It is hard to look forward to anything while I am still in the middle of my reassessment by WCBC for Independent Living.  A Panel of Council representatives will apparently decide how many hours of support I deserve per week.  I am prepared for negative news as I am sure the hours I am offered will not match the hours I require to fulfil my ambitions and subsequently protect my mental well-being.

It is annoying to be left in a state of indecision over the festive period.  I am unable to make any long-term plans aside from my determination to take this decision over my future out of the hands of cash strapped local authorities and make sure that the Welsh Independent Living Grant is reinstated.  There are already some key dates in my diary for 2019 and believe you me, the fight to #SaveWILG is far from over.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46615328

 

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SQUARE PEG, ROUND HOLE

THIS IS WHAT I AM NOT

THE PERFECT TIME TO DIE

FOOLS DON’T TRUST WHAT THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND

DANCING ON THIN ICE

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I am really wanting to finish my book on Wrexham AFC. I plan on restarting my Memory Match column in the New Year. All proceeds from the volume will go to the Wrexham DSA. It will be easier to get things such as this done once I have completed the reassessment programme that Wrexham Council started but failed to finish before this annoying period between Xmas and New Year when no one is working and everyone pretends that family is the most important thing in the world. It is like being trapped in an Eastenders Omnibus.

I wish I could get a good nights sleep. It is impossible to do this when I am sleeping alone in my bungalow and I wake up at least twice a night to struggle with one of a number of things. Whether it is trying to grab hold of my urinal, straighten my fingers out of the clenched fist that they naturally curl into or attempting to straighten my leg after it bends at the knee and my foot ends up in my groin.

The simple solution to these problems would be to have a PA available overnight. This is not really what I want, but it is what I NEED. I haven’t had a proper nights sleep for many years and it definitely affects my mental health and well-being. I should be wearing hand-splints at night as well as using a T-bar underneath my knees to keep my legs straight. I can’t do either of these things without the support I need.

Whether or not Wrexham Council help me to find an agreeable solution to these problems remains to be seen, but I am not holding my breath and continuing my efforts to #SaveWILG.

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OK, so I’m tired of sleeping in a half-empty bed, but a conventional relationship is the last thing I want. At £80 for a six-month subscription, is it really worth the hassle?

Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be this time around? Do I really need an outside distraction with the #SaveWILG Campaign is at a crucial juncture? Maybe I should be careful what I wish for after getting my hands burnt in the past?

According to Wikipedia, Mysinglefriend.com[1] is a UK online dating site which claimed, in July 2013, to have over 200,000 users.[2] One of the original founders is Sarah Beeny, a TV presenter on Channel 4.

The site describes itself as having “a no-nonsense approach to dating”,[3] as all of the dating profiles on the site are written by friends of single people, instead of the single person themselves. The single person can approve what has been written before it goes live, and their friend can also get involved by recommending other users on MySingleFriend to them.

The site aims to match make singles through their friend’s descriptions of them, building an online community and taking away the hassle and stigma of writing your own dating profile.

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RIP Micky Metcalf.  The following article has been taken from the official Wrexham AFC website and was written by Peter Jones/Geraint Parry

It was with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of former Wrexham striker Mickey Metcalf, who spent almost six years at the Racecourse with a remarkable goalscoring average of a goal every other game, having scored 73 goals in 145 league and cup appearances for the then ‘Robins’.

Liverpool born (24 May 1939), upon leaving school Mickey joined Everton as a junior, and it was following Wrexham manager Cliff Lloyd’s visit to watch the Everton Youth side that he enquired about the possibility of signing Mike, and to his surprise Everton agreed to release him.

That was in May 1956, and Mike went on to make steady progress with the Wrexham reserve side in the competitive Cheshire County League.

He was eventually given his first team opportunity in October 1957, when he made his Football League debut at home to Hartlepool United in a 3-1 win and remained in the side the following match at Bradford, which Wrexham lost 2-0.

However, he then had to wait almost two years before appearing in the senior side again. His chance came in a 3-2 home defeat by Chesterfield in October 1959, and he made his mark by scoring both Wrexham goals. Mike played in the next three matches before being replaced.

Mickey Metcalf

It was the 1960/61 season that saw Mike make the inside-left position his own, as he helped Wrexham to reach the Quarter-Finals of the newly-formed Football League Cup competition, scoring a hat-trick against First Division Blackburn Rovers on the way.

His goals helped the ‘Robins’ to gain promotion in the following season, though he missed out on a Welsh Cup winners’ medal as Wrexham crashed to Bangor City in the Final. ‘A Clever ball player’, Mike’s impressive record for Wrexham averaged a goal every other game, but he was surprisingly allowed to leave the Racecourse in December 1963 to join rivals Chester.

At Sealand Road, Mike went on to make over 250 appearances for the ‘Cestrians’, scoring 86 goals in League and Cup competitions, collecting another Welsh Cup runners’-up medal in 1966, whilst forming part of Chester’s ‘Famous Five’ strike force in the mid-1960s.

That also included Gary Talbot, Jimmy Humes, Hugh Ryden and another former Wrexham player Elfed Morris, who all netted at least 20 goals each in the 1964/65 season, which included playing at Old Trafford in a FA Cup Third Round match that saw Chester come close to a shock in their 2-1 defeat.

It was following the signing of Derek Draper, that Mike decided to leave Sealand Road having scored 68 goals in 221 league appearances. In December 1968 he joined Cheshire County League side Altrincham, where he remained until the end of the season.

He then signed for Bangor City, where he spent a little under two years before being appointed player/manager of his local side, Connah’s Quay Nomads, in March 1971. However, he was on the move again at the end of the season, when he joined Welsh League side, Bethesda Athletic.

Mike took up another managerial appointment in 1972, as player/manager of Cheshire County League side Witton Albion. However, by October 1972 he had joined Hawarden, which was followed by playing for a number of local sides in the Chester district until well into his fifties.

After retiring from professional football Mike became a qualified chemist, later running his own highly successful laboratory supplies firm based on Deeside, where he was to live in retirement until passing away on Boxing Day aged 79.

He is survived by his widow Denise and sons Ian, Barry and David. A grandfather of seven, he died following a long illness.

Everyone at Wrexham Football Club would like to pass on their condolences to Mickey’s family.
 

Mickey’s impressive Wrexham record:

Season       League      FA Cup    Welsh Cup   League Cup   Total

                  apps gls      apps gls      apps gls      apps gls     apps  gls

1957/58       2    0             –   –              –   –                –   –              2    0

1959/60       4    2            1   0             –   –                –   –              5    2

1960/61      40   16         1   0           3   0              5   6            49   22

1961/62      28   17         3   3           1   0              1   0            33   20

1962/63      29   13         –   –             1   0              1   0            31   13

1963/64      18   10         3   2            –   –               4   4            25   16

                    121   58         8   5           5   0          11   10         145   73

 

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Taken from the Disabled People Against Cuts website with thanks:

Sick of rising rail fares and chaotic commuting?Tired of the endless tinkering with our broken privatised railway system?

It’s time for a #RailRevolution.

Bring Back British Rail

Join our New Year Protests

On Wednesday 2 January 2019, as our rail fares rise again by 3.1%, we’re joining forces with our friends at We Own It, the Association of British Commutersand NOR4NOR to organise the Rail Revolution: National Day of Action calling for radical reform.

Coinciding with the public consultation for the government’s new ‘root and branch’ review of our railways: the Williams Rail Review, we’re calling on passengers all over the country to respond in favour of a re-unified national rail network run for people not profit.

On Wednesday 2 January 2019, protests will take place at stations across the country (see list below), with a central one at London King’s Cross from 7:30-9:00am. See the Facebook event page for details, print a Bring Back British Rail placard and come join us!

Then on Friday 18 January 2019, to mark the deadline of the Williams Rail Review public consultation, we’ll be delivering our Care2 Petition to Re-nationalise our Railways signed by 118,039 people to the Department for Transport to demonstrate the sheer weight of public support for public ownership. Make sure you add your name before then: www.bringbackbritishrail.org/care2

Join Protests at Stations across the Country

Wednesday 2 January 2019:

06:45-09:00 Kings Lynn Station

07:00-10:00 Levenshulme Railway Station

07:30-09:30 London King’s Cross Station

07:30-09:00 Cardiff Central Station

07:30-09:00 Liverpool Lime Street

07:30-09:00 Birmingham New Street

07:30-09:00 Manchester Piccadilly

07:30-09:00 Lewisham Railway Station

07:30-09:30 Whitehaven Railway Station

07:30-09:00 Warrington Central Station

08:00-09:00 Bristol Temple Meads

08:00-10:00 Leeds Railway Station

08:00-09:00 Watford Junction

08:00-10:00 Doncaster Railway Station

08:00-09:00 Newcastle Central Station

09:30-11:30 Sheffield Meadowhall Interchange

10:00-12:00 Norwich Railway Station

10:00-12:00 Stratford Railway Station

16:00-18:00 Millom Railway Station

16:00-18:00 Birmingham Snow Hill

16:30-18:30 Hastings Railway Station

16:30-18:00 Clapham Junction

Thursday 3 January 2019:

09:00-11:00 Edinburgh Waverley (Market Street)

Disability News Service: Welsh government’s ‘ludicrous’ failure on independent living framework

The following article was taken from the excellent Disability News Service website, written by John Pring.  This blogger takes no credit for the article below:

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The Welsh government has been criticised for a “ludicrous” and “insulting” failure to address the adult social care funding crisis in a new draft framework on independent living.

Action on Disability, its new draft framework and action plan, was put out to consultation this week, and aims to “develop and improve access to help, advice and services for disabled people in Wales”.

The plan will eventually replace the Welsh government’s 2013 framework for action on independent living and follows a series of meetings and engagement events with disabled people, disability organisations and other stakeholders.

The report says that this public engagement process saw concerns raised about “cuts to social care provision” which had led to “lower allocations” of direct payments, leaving disabled people “increasingly isolated, and the impacts to their wellbeing compromised”.

But despite these concerns, the action plan refers only to previous strategies on services for visually-impaired people, Deaf and autistic people and those with learning difficulties, and fails to include any measures to address the cuts to support and the social care funding crisis.

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

Of 44 actions supposedly aimed at improving the right to independent living in the new action plan, not one of them explicitly addresses the need to improve the overall access to care and support, although it does promise a review of the aids and adaptations system that supports disabled and older people to live independently in their own homes.

Instead, the action plan covers areas including disability employment, higher education – including a planned review of policy on disabled students’ allowance – public appointments, and access to public transport.

There is also no mention of social care in the section describing the Welsh government’s “commitments” on independent living, even though it promises to “work for continuous improvement” on how it fulfils its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The failure of the action plan to suggest any measures to address the funding crisis and cuts to support suggests the Welsh government is in breach of the convention’s article 19, which says that governments signed up to UNCRPD should take “effective and appropriate measures” to enable disabled people to live in the community with “full inclusion and participation”.

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

Because of the WILG closure, Welsh local authorities will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients by 31 March 2019.

Nathan Lee Davies (pictured), who is leading the campaign to persuade the Welsh government to overturn its decision to scrap WILG, said the failure to address social care in the action plan was “ludicrous” and “insulting”.

He said: “They seem like a load of ostriches burying their heads in the sand. It’s just really worrying.

“I am disillusioned but far from surprised. It just seems like they are copying what the Tories have done in Westminster, with the same devaluing of disabled people.”

He suggested that the Welsh Labour government had simply published a “flimsy” framework document in order to “placate the UN, and to be able to say, ‘look, we are doing something to support disabled people’”.

He said that ministers – by closing the WILG – were “washing their hands” of responsibility for social care and handing it to local councils, which could not afford to meet their responsibilities promised under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, which Davies said should be renamed the Pie in the Sky Act.

Responding to criticisms of the document, a Welsh government official said: “Our ‘Action on Disability: the Right to Independent Living’ framework is a high-level plan covering a wide range of issues in line with our national strategy, Prosperity for All.

“A number of the actions in this draft action plan relate to social care; nevertheless we are open to suggestions on how the plan could be strengthened.

“We encourage everyone to contribute to the consultation – which we launched this week – to influence our future work to support disabled people as best we can.”

Davies has contrasted the actions of the Welsh Labour government with those of the UK Labour party, whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has publicly supported his campaign to save the WILG, as did members of Welsh Labour at their annual conference earlier this year.

Davies is determined to persuade the Welsh government to keep the current system, which allows former ILF-recipients some security by receiving funding from three different “pots”: WILG, local authorities and their own personal contributions.

He said that this “tripartite” system had provided the support he needed that led to him being recognised with an honorary degree by Wrexham Glyndwr University for his services to disability rights.

He has also been involved with Wrexham football club, Disabled People Against Cuts, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, as well as writing a new book, and running his campaign and a blog.

He also worked with Disability Arts Cymru on a #SaveWILG exhibition of visual art and poetry earlier this year.

Davies is now waiting to hear what will happen to his support package when WILG closes.

Ombudsman Report Highlights Post-ILF Struggle for Justice #SaveWILG

The following text can be found on the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman website and was sent to me by one of my comrades who will be contextualising the article for WILG recipients in Wales. As soon as she does I will share this with you but I thought it may be of interest for people to read the whole, harrowing story.

This is a case of a former ILF recipient who had to jump through hoops to force his Council (London Borough of Waltham Forest) to give him the care and support that he obviously needed. Although this former ILF recipient is based in England and therefore under a different legal jurisdiction, there are many similarities in our cases and determination to ensure justice is being served.

Hopefully, things won’t come to this for myself, but if they do I will be showing the same spirit to fight to the end. This has been a really good weekend with Wrexham AFC winning convincingly at the Racecourse and Welsh Labour falling into line with the rest of the Labour Party and agreeing to elect their next leader using OMOV (One Member One Vote).

The tide is turning and although we still have an uphill struggle on our hands I will move into the latter stages of the #SaveWILG campaign with renewed belief and energy.

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The Ombudsman’s final decision:

Summary: The Council was at fault in its reassessments of the complainant, after his Independent Living Fund had been withdrawn. The Council agreed to appoint an independent social worker to review the complainant’s needs and this has resulted in the Council significantly increasing the complainant’s care hours. The Ombudsman is satisfied that this resolves the complaint.

The complaint

  1. The complaint is made on behalf of the complainant by a Legal Rights Officer. I will call the complainant Mr X and the Legal Rights Officer as Mr Y.
  2. Mr X complained that the Council failed to assess him properly following the ending of the Independent Living Fund in 2015. Mr X says the Council cut his support considerably. As a result, Mr X has not had all his assessed needs properly met by the Council.
  3. In particular Mr Y was concerned that the Council was using the old, pre Care Act 2014 banding system regarding eligibility, that the Council failed to involve Mr X in the care and support planning process, that the Council failed to adequately account for the reduction in Mr X’s budget and that there were arbitrary caps to the level and care available.

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)

   How I considered this complaint

  1. I have obtained written information from Mr Y and from the Council. I have also spoken to Mr Y on the telephone and more recently to Mr X. The Council has also provided written comments and regular updates.

What I found

  1. The Care Act 2014 came into effect in April 2015. It replaced the previous Fair Access to Care Services (FACS). The Care Act 2014 aimed to create parity between local authorities in how need and support was assessed.
  2. Section 1 of the Care Act creates a new statutory principle to promote the adult’s well being. Section 13 requires a council to determine whether a person has eligible needs after they have carried out a needs assessment or a carer’s assessment.

   Care Act 2014 assessments

  1. Sections 9 and 10 of the Care Act 2014 require local authorities to carry out an assessment of any adult who appears to need care and support. They must provide an assessment to all people regardless of their finances or whether the local authority thinks an individual has eligible needs. The assessment must be of the adult’s needs and how they impact on their wellbeing and the results they want to achieve. It must also involve the individual in the assessment and, where suitable, their carer or any other person they might want involved.
  2. The Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2014 set out the eligibility threshold for adults with care and support needs. The threshold is based on identifying how a person’s needs affect their ability to achieve relevant outcomes, and how this impacts on their wellbeing. To have needs, which are eligible for support, the following must apply:
    • the needs must arise from or be related to a physical or mental impairment or illness; and
    • because of these needs, the adult must be unable to achieve two or more of the following outcomes:
  • managing and maintaining nutrition;
  • maintaining personal hygiene;
  • managing toilet needs;
  • being appropriately clothed;
  • being able to make use of the adult’s home safely;
  • maintaining a habitable home environment;
  • developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships;
  • accessing and engaging in work, training, education or volunteering;
  • making use of necessary facilities or services in the local community including public transport, and recreational facilities or services; and
  • carrying out any caring responsibilities the adult has for a child.
  1. To be eligible for support, not achieving those outcomes must be likely to have a significant impact on the adult’s well-being.
  2. Where the Council decides a person has eligible needs, it must meet these needs. When the Council decides a person is or is not eligible for support it must provide the person with a copy of its decision.
  3. The Council must provide a care and support plan which considers:
    • What the person has
    • What they want to achieve
    • What they can do by themselves or with existing support
    • What care and support may be available in the local area.
  4. The support plan includes a personal budget which is the money the Council has worked out it will cost to arrange the necessary care and support for that person. The personal budget gives the person clear information about the money allocated to meet the needs identified in the assessment and recorded in the plan. The detail of how the person will use their personal budget will be in the care and support plan.
  5. The personal budget must always be an amount enough to meet the person’s eligible care and support needs. It can be administered by the Council, by a third party, or as a direct payment. Direct payments enable people to commission their own care and support to meet their eligible needs. The Council must consider requests for direct payments made at any time and have clear and swift procedures in place to respond to them.
  6. Eligibility determination must be made after the needs assessment. Councils still have the power to meet needs that are not considered eligible in order to help maintain wellbeing and independence. Councils should consider risk factors which can include physical safety.

Reviews

  1. The Council should consider reviewing the care and support plan six to eight weeks after agreeing it, and then review it at least every 12 months. The Council must also conduct a review if the adult or a person acting on the adult’s behalf asks for one. (Care Act 2014, section 27)
  2. Councils must keep care plans under review to make sure they do not get out of date. Reviews must involve the cared for person and check if their circumstances or needs have changed.
  3. Reviews should cover important issues. Those particularly relevant to this complaint include:
    • If someone’s needs or circumstances have changed.
    • What is working and what might need to change in the person’s care.
  4. Reviews must not be used to arbitrarily reduce someone’s care and support package. And, where a council decides to significantly reduce the level of services, it must provide cogent reasons.
  5. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 explains that mental capacity assessments should always be about someone’s capacity to make a particular decision at a specific time. Councils should assume every adult has capacity to make decisions unless an assessment proves otherwise.

The Council’s procedures

  1. The Council’s Quality Assurance Meeting Panel (the Panel) considers funding for care packages. It has guidance about how it calculates a personal budget and it says that different weightings are given to different answers in the assessment.
  2. The Council uses a Resource Allocation System to determine funding of eligible needs.
  3. The Council has provided guidance to its social workers and occupational therapists about the new requirements of the Care Act 2014.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF)

  1. The ILF provided funding to eligible disabled residents. This was a Government based discretionary scheme to help people who had day and night care needs.
  2. The ILF had its own funding criteria. From July 2015 councils became responsible for all care provision rather than the ILF. The Department of Health stated that funding in respect of former ILF users would be distributed to councils on the basis of local patterns of expenditure. The Government provided nine months of funding (July 2015 to April 2016). But there was no requirement for councils to ring fence this money.

Key facts

  1. Mr X is elderly, is registered blind, is doubly incontinent, suffers from severe arthritis throughout his body and from anxiety and from diabetes. He is also obese and is prone to falling. He has significantly reduced mobility. Mr X requires personal assistance in all areas of daily living.
  2. Mr X has been a service user since 2003. In addition to receiving funding from the Council, Mr X was in receipt of support from the ILF. Mr X was receiving a care package, consisting of £418.14 per week from the Council and £792.96 from the ILF. His package included night as well as day time support.
  3. When the ILF closed, the Council became fully responsible for meeting Mr X’s needs. Mr X says he did not have a carer with him or an advocate during the 2015 assessment and he had a number of complaints about the behaviour of the assessor. The assessment recorded that Mr X had high support needs in most activities.
  4. After this assessment, the Council reduced Mr X’s care package as the Panel agreed to provide 23.5 hours per week. Mr Y says this reduced Mr X’s care package by as much as by 75%. But the Council failed to provide reasons to explain this significant reduction. Mr X appealed this decision and asked the Council to reconsider. However, the Council’s decision remained the same.
  5. In December 2015 Mr X’s solicitors sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Council, threatening legal proceedings and stating that the Council had failed to carry out a lawful assessment or provide a lawful care and support package. The Council stated that it had carried out its assessment in conjunction with specialists from the National Health Service (NHS). The Council decided that Mr X did not require night time support because he was able to transfer out of bed using his zimmer frame.
  6. Mr X was unable to proceed with his proposed legal action because he was not eligible for legal aid. Mr X says that, as a result of the Council’s cut to his budget, he had to give notice to a number of his carers. Since the reduction in Mr X’s care package, Mr Y says he has struggled to maintain his independence safely and his well being.
  7. In October 2016, the Council agreed to deal with Mr X’s concerns as a formal complaint. As a result of a Freedom Information Request, Mr Y learnt that a number of the Council’s service users had had their care budgets cut.
  8. In July 2016, the Council carried out a reassessment of Mr X’s care package. Mr Y attended the reassessment which was undertaken by a social worker and an occupational therapist. Mr Y considered that the officers were mindful of what the Funding Panel would approve rather than what Mr X required. Further, the completed assessment and the care and support plan did not mention the outcomes of the Care Act eligibility criteria. So, as a result, Mr X’s needs in relation to particular outcomes were not given sufficient consideration.
  9. After the 2016 reassessment, the Council agreed 25.15 hours per week of support. This consists of 19.15 hours of support for personal care, 3 hours for socialising, 2 hours per week for counselling and 1 hour for support with paperwork and appointments. Mr Y maintained that this was not sufficient to meet Mr X’s eligible needs.
  10. The Council agreed to carry out a further assessment as a result of Mr X’s continued concerns. The Council also sought information from Mr X’s General Practitioner (GP). Mr X also applied for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) so that he could install a level access shower.
  11. The Council provided some additional equipment to Mr X as assessed as necessary by the Council’s occupational therapist. This equipment was primarily to assist Mr X with his mobility, prevent falls and to provide safety.

Mr Y’s concerns

  1. Mr Y is critical that both the 2015 and 2016 assessments failed to properly identify Mr X’s eligible needs in the light of the requirements of the Care Act 2014.
  2. In particular, the Council had not sufficiently considered the impact of Mr X being doubly incontinent and that he could not manage his toilet needs without assistance. This was particularly relevant at night time. So, often Mr X had soiled himself and he had to wait until the arrival of the morning carer to wash him. This affected Mr X’s sense of independence and harmed his dignity and well being. It also meant that the morning carer’s time was spent washing and clearing up. Moreover, Mr X was vulnerable to falls at night times, when attempting to get to the toilet, resulting in him hurting himself.
  3. Mr Y was also concerned that there has been a lack of transparency in respect of the calculation of funding. The Council’s Resource Allocation System (RAS) is a software programme that calculates the indicative budget using the information in relation to service users’ needs assessments. Mr Y says that it is not clear whether the software is sufficiently sensitive to identifying all eligible needs. Further the guidance states that complex RAS models of allocation may not work for all client groups where people have complex needs.
  4. Mr Y considers that the RAS may place a cap on provision. He also raised a concern that the Council had not ring fenced the funding provided by Government to either former ILF clients or adult social care more generally.
  5. Mr Y says that the Council has not, over the past two years, provided cogent reasons for the significant reduction in Mr X’s care package, that the care and support plan did not show how eligible needs would be met by the personal budget, that reference was being made by officers to setting levels of care that the Panel would agree and that the Council may have reduced the care package for a number of clients who previously received ILF funding.
  6. In conclusion Mr Y states “The Council’s failure to provide a detailed breakdown in relation to all tasks required to meet Mr X’s needs and reference eligibility outcomes throughout both the needs assessment and care planning process has resulted in an arbitrary package that does not genuinely involve the individual’s view on what is needed and is a far cry from the person centred model that is required by the Care Act. That would not be as much of an issue for our client if his needs were being met by an adequate care package but because he has had a 75% reduction in support, this one size fits all approach is compromising our client’s physical and mental wellbeing”.

The Council’s response

  1. The Council says that, in line with many other local authorities, it did not ring fence the additional funding from the Government. It had the discretion to do this. It is also satisfied that each person has been robustly reassessed and, while some people have had their budget reduced, others have had an increase.
  2. The Council had arranged for Mr X to have four visits per day, three hours socialising per week, two hours counselling and one hour of support with appointments and correspondence. The Council says Mr X had chosen to take his care hours as a block each day, between 9am and midday, which it did not consider was helpful to him. But the Council recognised that this was Mr X’s preference because he finds it difficult to cope with a variety of carers arriving at different times of the day.
  3. At the time of the events of this complaint, the Council says it was using an old version of the care and support plan recording form which had the previous ratings under FACS. But the system has now been updated.
  4. The RAS produces an indicative budget but a final budget is determined after consideration of the client’s care and support plan.
  5. The Council says that, at the time of the assessments, Mr X was not bed bound and that he was able to get out of bed at night and either use his commode or downstairs toilet. The Council says Mr X demonstrated how he was able to mobilise independently by using his walking frame.
  6. In June 2015, the Funding Panel agreed 23.5 hours per week and in August 2016 this was increased to 25 hours and 15 minutes per week.

Analysis

  1. The Care Act 2014 brought in significant changes to the assessment of need and provision of care. Its aim was to eliminate the previous post code lottery of provision through the introduction of national eligibility criteria and to ensure a person-centred approach to meet desired outcomes.
  2. The Council had failed to demonstrate what needed to be done at each care visit and no allocation was given to the substantial time required for Mr X’s toilet needs to be met. Moreover, Mr X was becoming reluctant to try to attempt to get out of bed at night time because he was prone to fall. This was also causing a decline in his wellbeing. It is also difficult to understand the Panel’s rationale for reducing Mr X’s care package in the way it has done.
  3. It is important that, in the spirit of the Care Act, the Council ensures that Mr X’s needs are properly recorded and provided for and that sufficient attention is given to the desired outcomes to prevent unnecessary decline in his wellbeing.
  4. Overall, I considered that there is evidence of fault by the Council in that I cannot be satisfied that the assessments of 2015 and 2016, and subsequent support plans, properly identified Mr X’s eligible needs because:
      1. The impact of being doubly incontinent was not properly assessed. The adaptations or equipment referred to by the Council did not appear to manage this difficulty bearing in mind the need to retain Mr X’s dignity. The Care Act outcome on managing toilet needs was therefore too restrictive;
      2. The impact of Mr X’s visual impairment and its effects on him in achieving the range of required outcomes was not fully recognized;
      3. Mr X required assistance to achieve all but one of the outcomes listed at paragraph 9. It was not clear how the care package was able to achieve this or the reasons for the significant cut in his care package since 2015;
      4. While the RAS is commercially sensitive, it was not clear how the Council allocated hours to need.
  5. Mr Y and Mr X had lost confidence in the Council’s ability and willingness to assess him in line with the Care Act. They feared that resources may be determining his level of need and subsequent care package.
  6. The most appropriate way to resolve this complaint was for there to be an independent assessment of Mr X’s needs and care package, carried out by an assessor who has some experience of working with visually impaired clients. Particular attention needed to be paid to Mr X’s toileting needs and consideration given to how he managed at night time and the implications this has had on the care hours he might require.
  7. We recommended that the Council carried out an independent assessment. The Council agreed and this assessment took place during the course of the Ombudsman’s investigation.

Independent assessment of September 2017

  1. Mr Y sent to the independent assessor the Council’s earlier assessments and support plans. The independent assessor recommended 93.25 care hours which was a significant difference between the Council’s previously recommended 25.5 hours.
  2. The Council’s Panel had to consider this assessment. However, during the course of this investigation, Mr X suffered a serious fall and was in hospital. This fall resulted in Mr X ‘s mobility being seriously affected and he is now in a wheelchair.
  3. In December 2017, the Council agreed a care package of 66.25 hours per week broken down to also ensure Mr X’s safe discharge from hospital. The Council also agreed to review the care package in January 2018 and the Team Manager visited Mr X at his home.
  4. Since then, there have been discussions between the Council, Mr Y and Mr X about night time support and other aspects of the care package. This has resulted in the Council agreeing to two carers arriving at 11.30pm for 30 minutes to help with Mr X’s toileting and to repositioning him in bed. The Council has also allocated one hour to help Mr X with shopping and it has provided Mr X with details of the wheelchair taxi service, although to date he has not been able to use this service.
  5. Mr X has indicated that the Council is now providing an acceptable care package and support plan and it is an improvement on what the Council had previously been willing to provide. Mr Y hopes that the lessons learnt from his complaint will have implications for the way the Council now undertakes all care assessments and support plans in future.

Agreed action

  1. The Council agreed the independent assessment of Mr X’s care needs and this has resulted in a significant increase in his care hours. I am satisfied that the Council has been at fault in its earlier assessments of Mr X for the reasons set out and for the reasons referred to by Mr Y. The remedy for this was for the Council to commission an independent assessment and to reconsider Mr X’s care package. The Council also agreed to pay £250 for Mr X’s time and trouble in making his complaints.
  2. However, Mr X’s health does seem to be deteriorating so it is important for the Council to keep a close watch on this and carry out regular reviews of the support package.
  3. The Council has followed the Ombudsman’s recommendations. However, subsequent to the independent assessment, Mr Y requested a substantial compensation payment to Mr X for his lost care hours and for the monies he spent on meeting his needs. However, this is not a matter which I investigated as part of this complaint.
  4. I therefore consider it is appropriate to end this complaint investigation given the independent assessment and the resulting new support plan has resolved most of Mr X and Mr Y’s original complaint.
  5. However, it is open to Mr Y or Mr X to make a further complaint to the Council first and then, if dissatisfied, to the Ombudsman, on the issue of his losses. It would also be possible for Mr X to consider making a legal claim against the Council.

Final decision

  1. There is evidence of fault by the Council causing an injustice to Mr X. The Council has provided the recommended remedy. I have therefore completed this investigation and I am closing the complaint.

Mind Games

My mind is cluttered up at the moment as the need to Save WILG increases and my disability continues to progress. Throughout all this I am surrounded by some amazing friends and comrades who really keep me going, yet still I remain intrinsically lonely.

This is not meant to be a self centred, depressing blog. I am just stating my feelings on a sleepy Sunday morning. Hopefully others will be able to relate to my story and it is in this spirit that I am writing.

After enjoying an evening watching the superb Joe Solo at The Sun Inn, Llangollen. This award-winning musician, writer, poet, activist, broadcaster and washing machine engineer hails from Scarborough. His musical odyssey began in 1987 fronting a bash-em-out band at school, and has seen him play seven countries either as lynchpin of pop-punk upstarts Lithium Joe or hammering out his unique brand of Folk, Punk and Blues in his own right.

He put on a wonderful sincere show that obviously came straight from the heart and he managed to spread his passion for politics throughout the packed pub.  As he was performing I couldn’t help but wish I had remembered to bring a #SaveWILG postcard for him to pose with. I had to compromise and took a photo of Joe and I after the gig so that I could show that he was a supporter of the campaign.

Then I saw the photo…

At the beginning of the evening I chose to wear my new New York City t-shirt in homage to John Lennon. Unfortunately, I do not resemble the former Beatle in any way whatsoever so could only be disappointed with a photograph of a chunky bloke slouching in a wheelchair with a recognisable t-shirt hiding his flab. I was disappointed with the picture. Joe looked great and we captured the busy pub behind us, but the shot was ruined by me. I guess this is what happens when you are a perfectionist trapped in a imperfect body.

john_600x

I think the problem is not that I am especially overweight. I recently got weighed and was pleased to find that I was only 13st. This is about average for someone of my age and height. The main issue that I have is my posture in my wheelchair as due to Friedreichs Ataxia my hips tend to roll forward causing me to slouch down to a uncomfortable position. My spine is of no use at all as I am suffering from Scoliosis which means my spine has a sideways curve.

I guess this is one of the hard things of living with Friedreichs Ataxia – it is constantly changing due to its progressive nature and I am always having to come to terms with accepting changes to my body. At a time when I am fighting the Welsh Government, Wrexham Council and Wrexham AFC this is particularly hard to cope with.

However, I am a fighter and I will continue to fight while trying to learn to ignore media perceptions of what is beautiful and accepting that I should really love myself.

I really should spend longer writing this blog, but I just do not have the time to explore my feelings in a deeper way. Tomorrow afternoon I have a meeting with Wrexham Council that I need to prepare for plus countless emails I need to write without any comfort eating…

The fight continues.

***

After watching Joe Solo, my own creativity was sparked into life again and when I got home I wrote the following Tanka while lying in bed.

Sepia stained youth

 Running free through fields of gold

Stranded in the past

As your whole body erodes

Revealed in digital form