From the TUC

Abolishing the Independent Living Fund

06 Mar 2014, by in Society & Welfare

Today, Mike Penning, the minister “for” disabled people (their description, not mine) announced that the government is going ahead with the closure of the Independent Living Fund. You may remember that, in November, the Court of Appeal quashed their first attempt at this.

Remarkably, the government is basing this decision on an equality analysis that admits that “a large number of users will experience some reductions to the current funding they receive.” The government is going ahead with this cut, despite being forced to admit that thousands of disabled people with severe impairments face “the loss of a carer or personal assistant as currently funded by their ILF award.”

(Warning: long post.)

The Independent Living Fund helps disabled people with severe impairments to live independently, usually by paying the wages of a carer or personal assistant; thousands of disabled people have got or kept jobs because of their ILF support. The New Statesman website has an excellent article that shows why so many disabled people care about what happens to the Fund.

The ILF was created by the last Conservative government – like Disability Living Allowance which is also being abolished and replaced by something worse (Campaigners should remember that, when it comes to disability benefits, the Cameron government is harsher than Mrs Thatcher’s). Originally, it was run as a charitable trust and claimants didn’t have to get any co-funding to qualify for support. That Fund was closed to new entrants in 1993, when it was replaced by a non-departmental public body, also called the Independent Living Fund, which only supported people who got co-funding from their local authority. The two Funds were then merged in 2007, but a gradually shrinking group of claimants continues to be supported under the pre-1993 rules.

The government closed the ILF to new claims in 2010 as part of the first round of cuts, but it was left with a Fund still supporting 19,000 people at a cost then of £330 million a year. No-one was surprised when, at the end of 2012, the government announced plans to close down the Fund altogether, despite the fact that a consultation on the proposal had shown that recipients were strongly opposed:

A significant majority of individual responses were opposed to the proposal. There was widespread concern amongst users about the potential impacts of the transfer on their current care and support arrangements. Users said they had mixed experiences of the local authority care and support system and felt that local authorities were not always able to provide the services they felt they needed.

But then, at the end of last year, the government was stopped in its tracks by the Court of Appeal. In a unanimous judgement, the Court found that the Minister (then Esther McVey) hadn’t paid proper attention her duty under the Equality Act 2010 to look into the likely impact on disabled people. Lord Justice Elias gave voice to the concerns many of us have when we read equality impact assessments from this government:

I suspect also that part of the problem may be that these documents are for public consumption and give the impression that they have been drafted with at least half an eye to sending an up-beat message about the merits of the policy. This necessarily involves downplaying the adverse effects of the decision and exaggerating its benefits. As understandable as that may be from a political perspective, forensically it inevitably creates doubt whether the true impact of the decision has been properly appreciated. The Minister cannot then complain if the documents are taken at face value.

This judgement’s terms were important, because the Court ruled that one of the reasons for their decision was that the Minister hadn’t realised the “potentially very grave impact” of closure on users and that “independent living might well be put seriously in period for a large number of people”.

That is why today we have a decision based on a new equality analysis, which is unusually clear about the likely brutal impact of a government cut. The Court of Appeal quashed the 2012 closure decision, forcing the government back to square one, but Mike Penning said today that the ILF will close from 30 June 2015. People currently supported by the ILF will, from 2015, be supported through local authority social care provision, with £262m funding (announced in the Spending Review last year) transferred to local authorities in England and the devolved administrations elsewhere; there will be no ring-fencing to make sure they spend it on current recipients.

How is this decision being justified? Part of the government’s case is that it would be more efficient for all social care resources to go through a single channel. There may be something to that, but really, it is a very small part of the argument. The Court of Appeal’s judgement meant that the government still had the option of going ahead with their plans, but they would probably lose if they failed to acknowledge that the impact of the 2012 proposals would be harsh for ILF beneficiaries. This meant that the government’s options were:

  • Give up on the cuts (no chance).
  • Increase the funding for local authorities, so they could provide ILF-level support for everyone in a similar position (even less).
  • Admit that ILF beneficiaries are probably going to have a tough time (what the hell).

In his statement today, Penning argued that keeping the ILF open would be a two-tier system that only benefitted a “relatively small proportion of disabled people”. This is less true than it seems to be – most of the people who rely on the ILF have very severe impairments and the main reason why there are people with a similar level of need who don’t get this level of support is that the government has decided to take it away from them.

And so we come to the admissions of brutality – you have look through the new assessment to find them, but not as carefully as you might imagine, or the government could have found itself back in front of the Court again.

The assessment says that the govt “fully recognises the importance of considering the impact of closure upon existing ILF users” but “also have a responsibility to consider the wider picture for all disabled people.” This semi- acknowledgement that existing ILF users are going to lose out is reinforced by the following paragraph:

It is increasingly difficult to justify operating a separate source of funding for one group of disabled people. Closing the ILF and transferring the funding to local authorities in England and to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales would enable them to use all the funding available for adult social care to support disabled people in a more consistent, effective and equitable way, within a cohesive mainstream system.

Later on, the analysis explicitly says that as a result of transferring funding to local authorities without a ring-fence

it is probable that the majority of users will face some changes in the way their support is delivered and that a large number of users will experience some reductions to the current funding they receive.

For those who have been supported by the ILF since before claimants had to be co-funded by their local authority, the analysis confesses ignorance, but those who don’t meet their local authority’s funding criteria, “this could mean the loss of a carer or personal assistant as currently funded by their ILF award”.

Think about what these sentences mean (I’ve added the emphasis in both cases).

I’m grateful to the Court of Appeal. In the end, it looks as though they haven’t stopped the abolition of the ILF. But they have forced the government to be explicit about the impact of one of their cuts, and that is so rare that I’m inclined to take that as a tiny victory we can keep after this defeat.

ILF users, unfortunately, will have worse things on their minds.

6 Responses to Abolishing the Independent Living Fund

  1. Seán McGovern
    Mar 6th 2014, 5:32 pm

    Excellent analysis of ILF fate, Richard. The war of attrition continues.

  2. Bob Williams-Findlay
    Mar 6th 2014, 6:05 pm

    I would agree with Seán, Richard has brought this decision into sharp focus and in so doing, exposed the callous nature of this government treatment of disabled people.

    My personal fear is that the general public, including trade unionists, will not fully comprehend the savage social consequences that will flow from this decision. It is vital that we make this a ‘live’ issues, irrespective of the numbers involved.

  3. John Kelly
    Mar 7th 2014, 12:41 pm

    I’m an ILF user & am currently on tour with the Threepenny Opera. I can work because the ILF gives me the control to manage my personal care in order to work. This move takes the disability movement and its people back 30 years. Today I sit writing this not knowing what will happen to my independence and my brilliant PAs. Penning has demonstrated that he too is Minister Against, Not For, Disabled People, this is a humans right issue and an unbelievable use of negative freedoms, freedoms that should be extended not taken away. I’m tired of fighting to live a regular working happy life, but it seems this makes me stronger, i will fight all the way, not just for myself but for all & for our future generations. We have argued far from closing the ILF, it should be extended to more disabled people. Your support as Allies is now really needed, disabled peoples voice is not heard, we are seen as a passive burden, well the ilf enables me to be a contributing participant of society, this issue really does affect everyone because its about what kind of society we want to live and bring our future generations into. Thank you for writing this article.

  4. Valerie Day
    Mar 15th 2014, 4:29 pm

    I truly believe that the media needs to up its game in letting the public see how those receiving ILF will suffer, maybe anyone knowing a producer on Channel 4 who could, say interview Mary Laver or anyone elso willing to share their fears of how it is going to be for them. My daughter was in residential care before she came home with me, and now receives ILF, this all happened because a careworker in the residential home physically harmed her. Her fear of ever going back to anywhere like that would cause her to… well, say no more.

  5. J Harrison
    Mar 16th 2014, 11:36 pm

    I am a long term user of the ILF. being an Extension Fund user( pre 1983) when you were assessed by need and had no Social Service financial input. Until the ILF was closed to new applicants in 2010 my need for increased funding as my condition deteriorated was met by the ILF after assessment. Being unable to get any further help after 2010 meant I had to contact Social Services. Let me say that Social Services not only suffers from chronic underfunding but chronic understaffing (I have seen it from both sides). After hearing nothing after applying to them I contacted my local MP, who got a reply from the Director of Soc Services for my area saying I had been mistakenly mis-filed as non urgent as I already had a carer I employed. My need for more hours was the issue as I was at risk. It took a year. Enough said. I got the hours after a stressful and long drawn out procedure (something I never encountered with the ILF). I also had the joint assessment with my Social Worker and the ILF just prior to the Court quashing the Governments decision. Upsetting and very stressful to hear from my then Social Worker that there was “no chance of getting anything like the money I got from the ILF when the ILF closed” I am 63 and will never voluntarily go into any kind of care home (my mother was in them and the lack of care caused her death). In my area there is only one Care Agency that covers it and they do not provide me with the care I need. I have employed a weekday care assistant with the help of the ILF- Soc Serv were unable to find anyone to look after my needs at the weekend and suggested a local care home for those with dementia as my only option. I have since found self employed carers to cover the weekends, but had to ask for financial help from Soc Services, and a different Social Worker who better understood my needs. During this long and protracted process I discovered my area only has ONE trained Social Worker (others are off long term with stress related illnesses), and the computer process used to determine how much money you receive from them after your assessment points are added up is only supposed to be a GUIDE, not written in stone. Like so many others I DREAD the ILF closing, we have a Government who do not care about disabled people (if they did surely they would have a Minister for the Disabled who is DISABLED.) I do not wish my disability on anyone – but MP’s should try it for a week, it might open their eyes to our problems. It is not the well run, caring ILF that needs closing, it is the Social Services that need re structuring , re training and funded properly to be able to understand INDIVIDUALS needs (we do not need to be allocated points and rely on a computer programme to define our lives). The so called 2 tiered unfair system is the governments bugbear at the heart of their proposed changes – do YOU know what levels of disability your local Social Services fund? Oh yes there are LEVELS (nay TIERS) in a postcode lottery. My S S only fund highest level disabled – so tough if your needs are less in their eyes, you will get nothing. The ILF fund only the highest level of disablilty – for the majority who already have Soc Services funding at its limit the ILF top it up. What does that tell you? Soc Serv funding is INSUFFICIENT NOW – what are our chances after the ILF close? The ILF fund the majority of my care needs, only a small part is now from SS. We MUST contact our MP’s and get our point across and can we MARCH ON DOWNING STREET and get some media coverage? please lets not give up on our living independent lives.

  6. Disabled people and the cuts | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC
    Apr 1st 2014, 6:14 pm

    […] for all disabled people – have a look at today’s excellent article by Jane Campbell about the abolition of the Independent Living […]