A disabled campaigner is encouraging hundreds of recipients of support through the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme to consider taking up the government’s offer of an independent re-assessment of their care package.
The Welsh government announced in February that it was pausing the closure of the WILG scheme – and its replacement with a system of council-funded support – following a campaign by disabled activists and allies.
Julie Morgan, the Welsh government’s deputy minister for health and social services, then wrote last month to all WILG recipients to tell them they could ask for a reassessment of their care package if they were unhappy with the outcome of their local authority’s assessment of their post-WILG needs or if that assessment had not yet taken place.
And she assured them that the Welsh government would pay for the independent assessment and any extra care and support they might need as a result.
Morgan has now written to Nathan Lee Davies, the WILG recipient who led the campaign to halt the closure of the scheme, updating him on the government’s progress.
She told him that only 26 WILG recipients had so far requested a re-assessment, across 10 local authorities.
Morgan said in her letter: “It is important that those people who wish to have an independent assessment are able to access it, but this is also in the context of the large number of people who we know are content with their new arrangements.”
Davies believes about 1,300 disabled people are eligible for a re-assessment, and fears that many WILG recipients are being held back from requesting a re-assessment.
He is now calling on all those WILG recipients who are not happy with their care and support package to ask for an independent assessment.
Davies, who has himself requested an independent assessment, said: “I started this campaign four years ago, after a social worker warned me that without the WILG my hours of support would be reduced from 86.5 hours a week to just 31 hours per week.
“I would be unable to maintain any quality of life without a substantial increase in my support and any reduction would leave me struggling to exist rather than living the life that I choose.
“The use of an independent social worker allows me to be assessed purely on my physical and mental needs.
“I feel that social workers from local authorities are under pressure from their managers to reduce costs, whatever the consequences.
“Assessments are therefore skewed from the outset and I fear that a number of WILG recipients are not receiving the support they deserve.
“Let’s not forget that all WILG recipients are disabled people with high support needs.
“This means that many need a strong network of people around them to give them the confidence to press for improvements.
“The fact that only 26 people have asked for a reassessment suggests that many WILG recipients are being held back by a combination of inertia, lack of support and advice and a sense of ‘better the devil you know’.
“I feel that an independent service will provide people with disabilities with greater security for the future.”
He added: “The government have listened to campaigners, reviewed the evidence and acted accordingly to ensure people get the support they deserve to live independently within their local communities.
“WILG recipients and their families need to investigate the opportunity that is in front of them to help ensure they have piece of mind for the long term future.”
WILG was set up – with UK government funding – as an interim scheme following the UK government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in June 2015.
The Welsh government is now closing WILG for good and transferring the funding to local councils, and by April the 22 local authorities were due to be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.
But Morgan announced the “change in direction” in February because a government review had shown a significant variation in how support packages were being cut by different councils.