Local authorities have admitted that government plans to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2015 will probably see a cut to the support received by most of its users, with some forced to rely on relatives or charities.
Plans to close the fund, and transfer resources instead to local authorities in England and devolved governments in Scotland and Wales, have led to protests by ILF-users, who believe the plans threaten their right to independent living.
They warn that a government consultation on the plans offers no details on how cash-strapped councils will be able to meet the extra costs of disabled people who previously received support from ILF, a government-funded trust which helps about 19,700 disabled people with the highest support needs, most of whom receive both ILF and council funding.
This week, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and the Local Government Association (LGA) warned in a joint response to the consultation that ILF-users usually receive “a significantly higher level of funding” than disabled people who rely solely on a local authority support package.
They said that when ILF-users transfer into the local authority system in 2015, the pot of money they will be awarded by their council to meet their support costs will “generally be at a lower level” than the funding they received previously.
John Nawrockyi, joint chair of the ADASS physical disabilities network, said this was because councils may feel – according to the government’s Fair Access to Care Services guidelines – that they have to ensure ILF-users do not receive more generous support than other service-users with similar levels of need.
Nawrockyi, also director of adult social services for Greenwich council in London, said: “If you take this dispassionately… the ILF-holder should be treated the same as a non-ILF-holder.”
But he said it was “not impossible” that some councils could take a “more sympathetic” approach and “take account of people who have built their lives around a certain amount of ILF”.
The ADASS and LGA response says local authorities could offer “periods of protection” to ease former ILF-users towards a new smaller support package, but they warn that councils will need to balance such offers against the need for “equity in resource allocation”.
Councils are likely to offer former ILF-users “other forms of support, other community resources or more cost-effective ways of providing services”, the consultation response adds.
Nawrockyi said this could mean support from families or charities, but insisted that it should not mean ILF-users being forced into residential care.
Stuart Bracking, a DPAC member and ILF-user, was highly critical of the ADASS and LGA response.
He pointed to the admission in the response that ADASS and LGA had “made a significant contribution to shaping [the government] consultation document”, and he questioned why they had “produced a consultation response to their own document”.
He said ADASS and LGA clearly supported the closure of ILF, a process that would affect thousands of disabled people.
He said: “ADASS have a professional responsibility to protect and safeguard severely disabled people. This consultation response was exactly the opposite.
“One of the reasons why ILF had to be set up in the first place was the abject failure of local authorities to meet the needs of severely disabled people who had been institutionalised.
“It was only with the establishment of ILF that a whole generation have been able to be workers, parents, care-givers, volunteers, students, campaigners…
“If ILF is closed it will crush the lives of thousands and in effect close the door to any meaningful chance of a whole layer of disabled people to live independent lives in the future.”
11 October 2012