Campaigners have attacked the government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) permanently to all new applicants.
Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, announced this week that ILF – the government-funded trust which helps 21,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently – would no longer accept new members.
It also seems set to scrap ILF completely after the next election, after Miller said that running it as an “independent discretionary trust delivering social care” was “financially unsustainable”.
The announcement came as a Commons health select committee report said “unprecedented” efficiency gains would have to be made if levels of both social care and health services were not to be cut over the next four years.
ILF’s trustees announced earlier this year that it would be closed to all new applicants for the rest of 2010-2011.
But Miller told parliament this week that the government had decided that ILF – with a budget for 2010-11 of £359m – would “remain closed permanently to new applications”. She promised to “fully protect” its budget for current recipients until 2015.
Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, said the only “tiny crumb” of good news was that there had been fears that the government would close ILF completely and transfer its funds to local authorities.
She said: “This would have been a disaster because the existing recipients would have had no guarantee whatsoever of getting anything.”
But she added: “The chances of ILF still being around after 2015 are pretty remote and that has got to be a great concern.
“There is such a lack of understanding about the support that we need if we are going to live our lives as equal citizens on a daily basis.”
Debbie Jolly, a co-founder of the new campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “The government, while undermining every right that disabled people have achieved, say they support disabled people – it is impossible to see how.”
Fellow campaigner Ian Burnip said ILF had allowed him to “develop and maintain key friendships with people from all walks of life, and live what society would deem a perfectly normal life”.
Lisa Egan, a disabled campaigner and co-founder of the Where’s the Benefit? blog, whose father receives ILF support, said: “My dad’s ILF is not only crucial to him living independently, it’s crucial to me. This decision is going to hurt a lot of people.”
The government will consult next summer – following the publication of the report of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support – on “how best to continue to support existing users of the ILF…based on the principles of personalised budgets”, while “recognising the importance of the support that ILF users have built their lives around”.
But a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman declined to comment on whether the government saw a long-term future for ILF after 2015.
16 December 2010