The government has given a stay of execution to the Independent Living Fund (ILF) – despite fears that it was about to be abolished – but has confirmed that it will scrap its accessible transport advice body.
The decision to abolish the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) was announced by the Cabinet Office as part of its review of quangos.
Among those bodies on which a decision has been postponed are the ILF and Remploy, which provides employment services to disabled people, including running 54 sheltered factories.
The government also confirmed that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) will be retained, although the Government Equalities Office (GEO) said part of its work could be given to other organisations, and reports suggest it will face a heavy cut in its budget.
Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL), said she had spoken to Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, about the ILF’s future the day before the announcement.
Bott said she was “very pleased” that Miller had promised a consultation on any changes.
But she said she feared the government would still scrap the fund – which supports disabled people with high support needs to live independently – and pass its £359 million-a-year budget to local authorities.
She said she also feared that this money would be allocated to councils based on their size, rather than on the number of ILF recipients in their area.
Bott added: “It is all very worrying. On the other hand, she was keen to give some reassurance to people who have got ILF currently, but I don’t really know how much reassurance she can realistically give.”
The government also confirmed that its advisory network of disabled people, Equality 2025, was safe from the axe and would instead take on new duties as a result of the quango cull – a decision Bott welcomed.
Its new duties will include the work of the Disability Employment Advisory Committee and some of the advice currently provided by the Disability Living Allowance/Attendance Allowance Advisory Board, both of which will be scrapped.
Alan Norton, a DPTAC member and chief executive of Assist UK, said before this week’s announcement that it would be a “terrible mistake” if DPTAC was scrapped.
He said DPTAC was a “real success story” in which disabled people had “influenced change in the country”.
The Department for Transport said it would “continue to ensure transport policies promote equality” but the legislation governing DPTAC was now 25 years old, and there was “scope to reform the way disability advice is delivered to increase flexibility and accountability to the taxpayer”. It will consult on how it plans to replace DPTAC’s work.
The GEO said the EHRC would be “radically reformed”, although there will be a consultation on any changes.
It said the EHRC would be “refocused on its core functions” of regulating equality and anti-discrimination law, fulfilling EU equality requirements and acting as a national human rights institution.
Some of its work could be handed to government departments, or the private or voluntary sectors, although it was not clear which areas this refers to.
The GEO also said it would “strengthen requirements around financial and management controls” at the EHRC in the light of its “history of poor financial control”.
An EHRC spokeswoman said staff were “obviously pleased that the work we do has been recognised” and that it was already undergoing a review aimed at “streamlining” its operation.
She said what happened next was “totally dependent” on next week’s spending review and “how the GEO decides to spend that money”.
And she said it was too early to say what the GEO meant by saying the EHRC’s work would be “refocused” on its regulatory functions, and added: “There are different views on what regulation is and is not. We have to wait and see what plans the GEO has for us.”
14 October 2010