The government agency that provides funds to help disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently has been heavily criticised for failing to consult over crucial changes to its rules.
The Independent Living Fund (ILF) rule changes mean disabled people with high support needs will have to work at least 16 hours a week if they want to apply for financial assistance.
The government-funded ILF, which supports more than 21 000 disabled people, blamed the decision on the rising number of new applicants and the increasing cost of care packages.
The new rules – introduced without any consultation – will take effect from 1 May.
The ILF budget will rise from £345.7million for 2009-10 to £359.2 million for 2010-11, but a “trust deed” commits the fund to giving priority to existing users, with those working at least 16 hours a week the next highest priority.
The threshold sum that local authorities will have to provide in care support to a disabled person before the ILF will accept a new application has also risen, from £320 to £340 per week. This rise will also apply to applications for increases in existing ILF care packages.
Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL), criticised the ILF’s “complete failure to consult with anybody”.
She said only a “miniscule” number of disabled people with the highest support needs would qualify by working at least 16 hours a week, so the fund was in effect now closed to new applicants.
Bott said she understood the lack of resources caused by the current financial climate, and that the ILF was “in a really difficult position”, and added: “This is just another example of how the government is not giving sufficient attention and priority to sorting out the enormous problems in social care.”
But she added: “What I find particularly sad is that organisations like NCIL can be a positive friend to the ILF and assist them in getting this situation resolved, but unfortunately they have chosen not to consult with us or to involve us in any way.”
An ILF spokesman said the decision to restrict new applications “had to be taken to manage within the funding we had available” and that the ILF would consult from May on “what other priority groups we may be able to help in the future”.
This could mean expanding support to those in work programmes such as Pathways to Work or those “aspiring to get into work” or in transition between children’s and adult services.
He said the ILF was “not shutting the door” and added: “We recognise we need to consult with our partners and key stakeholders to ask them what other groups we can help in the future.”
24 March 2010