Care assessment second opinions introduced for Independent Living Grant claimants

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Calls on the Welsh Government to retain the Welsh Independent Living Grant in full.

Unnecessary anxiety and stress

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) told the chamber that when powers over the independent living grant were devolved, the Welsh Government had a choice either to hand responsibility to local councils (as in England) or to manage it directly (as in Scotland and Northern Ireland). Labour adopted the English option, so why was anyone expecting a different outcome to Tory policy?

“….(the disabled) knew that they faced assessments from staff working in an institutionally ableist public sector, assessments from organisations under massive financial pressure, and assessments with little protection against poor judgment. Yet, your Government still forced over 1,000 people to go through this and spent years resisting those campaigners and your own party activists, until the new Minister effectively overruled previous decisions.”
– Leanne Wood AM

Leanne Wood welcomed the shift in government policy announced earlier in the week, but the decision caused unnecessary stress to some of Wales’ most vulnerable people.

Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) – whose statement was written before the Welsh Government’s announcement – said changes to the grant were a betrayal of the rights of disabled people to live independently.

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) accused him of hypocrisy:

“I have to say that I have got, as we all have, deep concerns about the way the Labour Government has handled this here, but I am not going to take…..any lessons from any Conservative when it comes to the administration of benefits to disabled people. My colleague Leanne Wood has just rightly described it as an absolute scandal, and I frankly – though I have every respect for Mark Isherwood as an individual – find it very, very difficult to take those messages from him.”
– Helen Mary Jones AM

She added that the Welsh Government will need to carefully consider what went wrong and how it was allowed to happen on Labour’s watch. Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) repeated the fears of many recipients of the grant that local authority control would be more prescriptive because of the need to prove value for money – hindering their ability to live independently.

“I welcome the Minister’s acceptance that the underpinning principle in undertaking independent assessment is that the result should be consistent with people’s agreed well-being outcomes. As there is no financial barrier, no-one needs to have less favourable care and support than they currently have, and ‘currently’ means whatever they had before the changes were introduced by local authorities.”
– Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)

Deputy Minister: “We listened”

The full statement on the Welsh Government’s decision is available here, but on Wednesday, the Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan (Lab, Cardiff North), outlined that for around 150 people their care package was smaller than it would’ve been under the old system.

The transition to local authority control has been paused immediately. The details on the new arrangements still need to be worked through, but the headline change is that grant recipients will be able to get an independent social work assessment (“a second opinion”) if they’re unhappy with the local authority assessment.

Additional money will be provided by the Welsh Government to cover the cost of independent social workers and any additional care hours that result from a second opinion.

“These arrangements acknowledge the historical entitlement of former recipients. It is a significant change of approach that ensures that the needs of former recipients will be fully met and that resources are no barrier to a full package of care and support. In fact, I believe that these new arrangements are much stronger than the Welsh independent living grant, and that is why we are seeking to amend the motion before us today.”
– Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan

…..but they never got to make that amendment.

Vote

The motion was approved unanimously.

Deputy Minister without portfolio, Jane Hutt (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan), raised a point of order saying she raised an objection, which the Llywydd said herself and the clerks didn’t hear. As the vote had already been taken it couldn’t be undone.

The Llywydd said there were lessons for both of them – hear more carefully and raise objections more loudly.

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