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CARE for disabled people who live on their own was jeopardised by the Tories in 2015 when they scrapped the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
The scheme helped people who had both day and night care needs and who were getting the high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance.
In England, the funds were given directly to local authorities, but in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the money was transferred to the devolved governments.
Scotland and Northern Ireland set up their own ILF systems and Wales created the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) as an interim measure while a consultation took place.
In November 2016, the Welsh government announced that it would be closing WILG and giving the money directly to local authorities through the Revenue Support Grant.
Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant’s (SaveWILG) Nathan Lee Davies says it means the money will not be “ring-fenced” and is concerned that councils can spend the money “in whatever way they choose,” meaning disabled people’s needs could be overlooked.
“As a recipient, I do not believe that all the options were seriously considered,” he says.
“Disabled people and their families have been let down by the Welsh government who cannot be allowed to wash their hands of their responsibility to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“WILG is a grant that needs improvement, but we are hoping to save it in order to preserve the remnants of the ILF.”
The campaign group, as titled, aims to save the WILG and allow disabled people with high care and support needs to live the lives that they choose with adequate support.
Davies says: “It is important that we keep hold of the triangular system that was so successful during the ILF years when packages of care were designed in between recipients, local authorities and independent organisations.
“The final care package could be only be agreed and finalised when all three parties were in agreement.
“Disabled people cannot afford to depend on cash-cutting local authorities. Once we have ensured the future of WILG our next steps would be to improve it.”
SaveWILG began with a petition and by handing out postcards to members of the public to pose with.
“We managed to get a postcard photo with Ken Loach and comedian Mark Thomas,” says Davies.
“I have been writing letters to the petitions committee at the Welsh Assembly and we recently won a motion at the Welsh Labour conference in Llandudno to save WILG.
Unfortunately, AM Huw Irranca-Davies announced that the Welsh government would not be changing its policy following the conference, which Davies says “ignores the will” of members and unions.
The original motion started off at the Wrexham branch of Unite and soon SaveWILG also won the support of Unison.
“The fact that we won the vote so convincingly suggests that other unions also supported us, despite the Welsh executive committee asking Clwyd South to retract the motion,” Davies says.
Davies is working closely with Welsh Labour Grassroots and receives support from the People’s Assembly and Left Unity.
“It was a great day, but we must guard against complacency and finish the job we have started,” he adds.
“The fact that we managed to meet Jeremy Corbyn at conference and get a photograph of him holding a ‘Where there’s a WILG, there’s a way T-shirt’ was also a highlight.”
The campaign is still ongoing and Davies says that he has learnt that “people power” can really make a difference.
He says: “We have a wealth of future events planned, such as protests and marches, and on June 5 we are going to the Senedd to give evidence to the petitions committee.
“We will continue to put pressure on the Welsh government until there is independent living and disability rights.”
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