ILF judicial review: ‘I’ll choose Dignitas over residential care’


theweek120by150A disabled woman has warned that the government’s decision to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will force her and others to seek an assisted suicide in Switzerland, rather than face an alternative of residential care.

The warning came as five disabled people asked the high court this week to overturn government plans to close ILF.

Judgment in the case has been reserved, but is expected within four weeks.

The five claimants fear that without ILF funding and support they will be forced into residential care or be left unable to leave their homes.

Their fears were underlined by Jackie Edwards, an ILF-user from Coventry, who told Disability News Service: “The last thing I want to do is end up in residential care. It’s not something I want to contemplate.

“My parents are both in their 70s and I have a daughter of 20 and there is no way I want either end of the scale to feel they have to look after me because of what the government is doing.”

Asked if she was serious about wanting to end her own life in a Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, rather than living in a residential home, she said: “Deadly serious, if my only other option is residential care.

“I will make the most of the next two years and then if it comes to that… I am deadly serious.”

She said that three or four of her friends, all ILF-users, had made similar statements, and added: “They are living in fear at the moment of what is going to happen.”

When asked if her friends were also serious about ending their lives in Switzerland, she said: “If things go the way people think they are going to go, with people stuffed into residential care, yes, I think they are.”

She holds out no hope that the government will listen to her and other ILF-users who have expressed their fears about what will happen when the fund is closed in 2015.

She said: “They have done this so-called consultation and they have had a great deal of response from people in my situation saying the worst thing they could do is close ILF, and they have taken no notice. The only hope is the court case.”

Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council, said her comments demonstrated “the desperate state disabled people find themselves in”.

He said: “To say that I feel angered or sickened by it would be an under-statement. This has been going on for the last 12 to 24 months.”

He said disabled people were already deciding to kill themselves because of the impact of government cuts on their lives.

He said: “Everywhere there are stories of people taking their lives because of the reduction of care packages or the threat of ending up in residential care.

“We know that that is a reality, and it is an unacceptable reality.”

Edwards has spoken to her parents about her plan to go to Switzerland if she finds herself forced into residential care after 2015.

She said: “My mum keeps saying that it won’t come to that and it’s not going to happen, but we will see.

“If I don’t get the funding I am getting at the moment, I will not be able to pay my carers to work for me.”

Edwards has previous experience of a care facility. As a teenager, she spent a couple of months in a residential home, while an accessible extension was built onto her parents’ bungalow. She said the experience was “awful”.

14 March 2013