Government could face court action over ILF closure


The government looks set to face legal action from disabled people over its decision to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

The case would be the latest in a series of high-profile judicial reviews of decisions by government departments and other public bodies to slash services and spending due to the coalition’s deficit reduction plan.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is consulting on the proposed closure of the ILF, which will see funding passed to local authorities and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But 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, with the government’s consultation paper offering no details on how councils will be able to meet the extra costs of disabled people with high support needs who previously received ILF money.

Inclusion London now wants to hear from ILF-users who are eligible for legal aid and are interested in challenging the government’s plans and its consultation process through the courts.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said the closure of the ILF was “a massive threat” to disabled people’s right to independent living.

She said the cost of running the fund was far lower than the comparative cost of arranging support through councils, while the need to give disabled people “choice and control” over their support was “still not embedded” within local authorities’ policies.

Lazard warned that the closure of the ILF would probably force cash-strapped local authorities to tighten their own criteria for care and support to “critical”, the highest of the four eligibility bands, in order to find money to fund former ILF-users.

She added: “There will be a lot of unmet needs, with people being forced back into residential accommodation.”

Inclusion London is working with solicitor Louise Whitfield, a judicial review expert with the legal firm Deighton Pierce Glynn, who has been involved in several cases that have challenged funding cuts by public bodies.

Any ILF-users who are eligible for legal aid and would like to seek legal advice can contact either Louise Whitfield or Tracey Lazard.

23 August 2012