Six disabled people have launched a legal action over the government’s decision to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
They will ask the courts to declare that the coalition’s public consultation on the proposed closure – which ended last week – was unlawful, and that any decision based on the consultation would also be unlawful.
The case follows a series of high-profile judicial reviews of other such decisions by government departments and other public bodies to slash services and spending due to the coalition’s deficit reduction plan.
The proposed closure of the ILF will see funding passed to local authorities and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But last week, councils admitted that when ILF-users transfer into the local authority system in 2015, the pot of money they are awarded by their council to meet their support costs will probably be lower than they currently receive, with some forced to rely on relatives or charities.
Anne Pridmore, a leading disabled activist and one of the six ILF-users taking the legal case, said: “I didn’t expect to be doing this in my 73rd year.
“Sometimes I think to myself ‘why am I doing this?’ because I probably only have two years left in my own home. They will put me in residential care because there is no way the council will pay the other half of my care package [the half currently covered by ILF].
“I just feel if I didn’t do it I would be letting people down and letting myself down. I am getting to the end part of my life but there are a lot of younger disabled people who should be able to apply for the ILF and they have not been able to and will not in the future if something is not done to stop it closing.”
Activists say the plans to close the ILF – a government-funded trust which helps about 19,700 disabled people with the highest support needs – are a huge threat to disabled people’s right to independent living.
They say the money will not be ring-fenced when it is passed to local authorities, while the government’s consultation paper offered no details on how councils would be able to meet the extra costs of disabled people with high support needs who previously received ILF money.
Lawyers for the six ILF-users taking the case will argue that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had failed to explain why the only option it offered in its consultation was to close the fund.
And they will say that the consultation document did not provide enough information about the difference between the ILF – which enables people to be independent, work and be full citizens – and local authority assessment and provision, which focuses on basic needs.
They will also argue that the government breached the Equality Act by failing to assess the impact of the closure on disabled people.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We acknowledge the action being taken in relation to the recent consultation on the future of the Independent Living Fund by some of its users. The department will follow the correct procedure and respond in due course.”
18 October 2012