Why the Independent Living Fund battle really matters
On 22 October, just after the TUC’s Britain Needs A Pay Rise demo on 18 October, disabled people and their allies will hold a vigil outside the High Court in London. Inside, a judge will rule on whether the government should be stopped from closing the Independent Living Fund.
The decision directly affects just 18,000 of the eleven million disabled people in Britain, but its significance is wider because it is at the core of this government’s callous attack on disabled people everywhere.
As the above film ‘We’re All in It Together’ – from False Economy and the Daily Mirror – shows, the Independent Living Fund provides money that allows disabled people who would otherwise be unable to live in their own homes or to get out and about – in many cases, to work – to control their own lives. This right, so elementary that most people wouldn’t think twice about it, received international backing when the United Nations adopted its Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities – ironically, the British government was one of the first to ratify it.
This is the second time that the Coalition government has tried to close down the ILF. The first time, it was stopped by a judicial review because ministers had failed to carry out an impact assessment, as they are obliged to do by the Equality Act. So they did an impact assessment, then re-announced their original closure decision. This was a perversion of the purpose of impact assessments: having found that closing ILF would have serious consequences for the disabled people who received it, the government was meant to take this into account, not ignore it.
Ministers say this is no problem, because the future of these 18,000 people will be handed to their local authority. Just as George Osborne announces five more years of cuts and austerity, local authorities – where funding has been slashed year on year since 2010 – are expected to take on 18,000 people, and the ILF money is not even ring fenced.
The closure is economically illiterate: without ILF, thousands of severely disabled people will be forced into residential care, where it costs nearly twice as much to care for them. Local authorities which have already squeezed their social care budgets will now have to squeeze them even more, so not only ex-ILF users, but many other elderly and disabled people will suffer. You should press your council to ring fence ILF money in the meantime.
This brutal government doesn’t give a damn about disabled people. Earlier progress in reducing unemployment and promoting independence has been thrown into reverse over the last four years, and disabled people who need support are demonised as scroungers and subjected to lies, abuse and contempt, spouted by tabloid newspapers, but originating in government offices.
An ILF recipient delivered an inspirational address to the TUC’s Disabled Workers’ Conference in May. On 22 October, he and others will challenge this latest government obscenity.
Whether or not the campaigners win in court, the best support that trade unionists can deliver is to be out on the streets on the TUC march on 18 October, and on the streets alongside disabled people to defend disabled peoples’ right to independence, and campaign now for a different approach by a different government next year.
Note: Check out the TUC’s briefing on the issue and what trade unions and their members can do to help defend the Fund.