Pressure is mounting on the Welsh Government to maintain an essential grant for disabled people after 20% of AMs backed a statement of opinion.
Plaid Cymru has tabled a Statement of Opinion in the National Assembly calling for the Welsh Independent Living Grant, which allows severely disabled people to continue to live independently, to be retained. The Welsh Government plans to scrap the grant next year, transferring the responsibilities over to Local Authorities.
Nathan Lee Davies, of Wrexham, has been campaigning to keep the grant for several years, and managed to pass a motion of support to maintain the grant at this year’s Welsh Labour Spring Conference.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood AM said:
“Those in receipt of the Welsh Independent Grant tell me how vitally important it is to them. Not only financially, but more importantly it gives them that independence to control their own lives. We all have our dignity, and having that ability to make our own decisions over our own lives is important for all of us. This is why recipients of the WILG wish to keep it, and given the chance to roll it out to other disabled people as well.
“Scotland have managed to keep their Independent Living Fund, ensuring that they have a national criteria. They’ve also invested more into it, meaning that more people can benefit from it. Evidence from London shows that former Independent Living Fund Recipients there have suffered as a consequence of the Tories cutting the grant and passporting the programme onto local authorities. Labour in Wales should follow the Scottish lead rather than the Tories in England, and ensure that our most seriously disabled people are shown respect and can live their lives as independently as possible. Recipients of WILG are seriously concerned about the future when they should be enjoying what is left of their lives.”
Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for North Wales, Llyr Gruffydd said:
“Recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant tell me that the system as it is now works well, and they fear that transferring the responsibility over to councils would compromise their independence. Maintaining their independence is paramount. Their dignity and right to independence should be respected.
“Scotland’s Government has maintained its Independent Living Grant and indeed invested in the scheme. It’s widely supported by disabled people, and it provides a national criteria instead of forcing a prescribed criteria locally that would result in a postcode lottery for the most severely disabled people. This is what will happen in Wales under the proposals.
“I’m calling for each Assembly Member to sign up to my Statement of Opinion, and urging as many people to contact their Assembly Member asking them to support it. So far 20% of Assembly Members have signed up. I would hope that Labour Assembly Members would support it, as it chimes with their own party policy that was only passed earlier this year following a strong grassroots campaign.”
Disability campaigner Nathan Lee Davies, of Wrexham, gave his backing for the Statement of Opinion:
“This is a very frightening time for disabled people with high care and support needs across Wales as they are being asked to rely solely on cash-strapped local authorities to meet their daily living requirements. The Welsh Government is quite simply washing its hands of all responsibility towards this section of society.
“Care packages were originally agreed upon by the disabled individual, local authorities and a third-party social worker who was entirely independent. Under the new system, who would disabled people be able to turn to if they did not agree with the local authority? The existing tripartite system for deciding care packages MUST be maintained.
“I should also underline the fact that I am an employer who provides work for five other people. The loss of WILG could mean that my personal assistants will be losing significant amounts of work.”
The Statement of Opinion says:
1. Notes the cuts suffered by local authorities over recent years, and the squeeze on social services budgets across Wales.
2. Further notes that article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states how people with disabilities should have “choices equal to others”.
3. Commends the Scottish Government on introducing a successful Independent Living Fund that is trusted and has a national criteria.
4. Believes that the Welsh Independent Living Grant should be retained as a national funding package with a national criteria, ensuring the recipients independence, along the lines of ILF Scotland.
Anybody wanting to urge their AM to sign the Statement of Opinion should ask them to support OPIN-2018-0094 The future of the Welsh Independent Living Grant
SOP and signatories here: http://record.assembly.wales/StatementOfOpinion/94