The aftermath of the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) has descended further into confusion after several local authorities disputed the government’s funding claims.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has repeatedly insisted that it told every local authority in the country on 1 July exactly how much money they would be given to support former ILF-users after the fund closed.
But a series of freedom of information responses from local authorities to campaigning journalist Kate Belgrave, who has played a major role in the campaign to reverse the fund’s closure, show some councils claiming they were not told how much money they would be given until days after the ILF had closed.
The ILF – which was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and helped nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently – closed on 30 June.
Ministers promised that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced ILF funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.
But the transition process has been littered with reports of delays in reassessments for former ILF-users and cuts to their individual care packages, compounded by many local authorities failing to plan ahead for the closure.
DCLG insists that every local authority in England was told on 1 July exactly how much funding they would be given.
But responses from local authorities to Belgrave’s freedom of information requests tell a different story.
Cheshire West and Chester council told her on 8 July that it was still waiting to be told by DCLG how much funding it would be given. Lewisham council gave a similar response on 7 July.
Rochdale council originally said this week that it was still waiting to be told about its funding, but changed its mind after talking to civil servants at DCLG, and issued a fresh response to Belgrave which stated that it had actually been told on 7 July.
Stoke council said in its freedom of information response that it was not told until 20 July how much it would be receiving from DCLG.
When questioned by Disability News Service (DNS), Rochdale said it was only “given an indication” of its funding on 1 July, and the final amount was not confirmed until 7 July.
Lewisham council told DNS it was given an “indicative” amount in mid-June, but failed to clarify by 11am today (Friday) whether it has now been told the precise amount of funding it will receive.
Cheshire West and Cheshire council said it did receive notification of the funding it would receive on 1 July, but the freedom of information response had been prepared a few days earlier and was not sent to Belgrave until 8 July.
Stoke council said it was told on 2 July by DCLG how much funding it would receive, but this information was not passed to its assistant director for social care until 20 July.
A Stoke council spokesman said: “Somewhere along the line that message had not worked its way up the chain.”
Despite the claims of local authorities, a DCLG spokeswoman insisted that every council was sent an email on 1 July stating exactly how much they would receive for the remaining nine months of the year.
She said: “We are telling you the truth to the best of our knowledge. We don’t understand why the FOIs are coming back differently. We can’t say why councils are saying something different.”
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “The difference in responses between local authorities and DCLG only helps to illustrate the complete mess that has been allowed to happen during the ILF transfer process, with DWP typically washing their hands of any responsibility.
“It is totally unacceptable that disabled people are the ones left in the middle of such a chaotic situation, many still having no idea what funding they will get.”
Belgrave said: “I find it utterly bizarre that I’ve been sent FOI responses from councils that clash with the official line to this extent.
“This whole experience just adds to the general conviction that the ILF transfer to local authorities is a complete shambles that nobody is properly in charge of.”
Burnip added: “Since DCLG insist that every local authority had details of how much money would be devolved sent to them by 1 July whereas several local authorities have said they did not receive the information until after 7 July, we can only assume that pigeon post was used rather than some more modern form of electronic communication.”
Last week, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) insisted in a statement to DNS that councils were all told on 1 July via an email from DCLG how much they would receive, “based upon the number of confirmed ILF individuals within their council boundary and at the ILF rate received by those individuals”.
But after some of Belgrave’s freedom of information responses were passed to ADASS this week, a spokesman was unable to say how widespread the delays were and whether they had caused any problems to local authorities in planning the ILF transition process.
The ADASS spokesman said: “The decision to make this transfer was not one which was willed by ADASS or local government as a whole, and we simply do not know the answers to these questions in detail. The situation will differ as between authorities.
“We do, however, urge our members and their authorities to deal with this transfer as a priority.
“We are aware of its importance to many people with disabilities and we urge members to do all they can to avoid needless anxieties which might arise through the process.”