The minister for care services has admitted “mis-speaking” after he appeared unaware that a fellow minister had already published the long-awaited consultation paper on the future of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, said in the consultation paper published on 12 July that she wanted to close ILF to existing users from April 2015, with funding passed instead to local authorities. The government-funded trust currently helps 19,700 disabled people to live independently.
But this week, six days later, Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat care services minister, said publicly that he was still waiting for the consultation paper to be published.
He had been asked by Sue Bott, director of development at Disability Rights UK, what discussions he had had with Miller about ILF and what thoughts he had about the long-term funding of people with high support needs.
He told the conference on social care reform – organised by the think-tank The King’s Fund – that he frequently talked to Miller and that it had been necessary to publish last week’s social care white paper before the ILF consultation paper, which he said would be published “shortly”.
Bott, who like most of the other conference delegates knew the ILF consultation paper had been published six days earlier, said afterwards that she was “surprised and disappointed” by the minister’s answer.
She said: “I am disappointed because this group of people just do not seem to figure on anyone’s horizon and I do think that is a serious matter.”
A Department of Health (DH) spokeswoman said: “What happened was that, being a question and answer session, he mis-spoke. It was just a simple error.”
She said she was “quite sure” that Burstow had been aware that the consultation paper had already been published, and added: “It was just an error in terms of the date of when the consultation was published. We have been working very closely with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).”
A DWP spokeswoman said they had been “in close contact” with DH over the ILF consultation.
But the spokeswoman has so far been unable to say if and when Miller informed Burstow about the publication of the consultation paper.
19 July 2012