New evidence has cast further doubt on how both central government and local authorities have planned the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has repeatedly insisted that every local authority in England was told by email the day after the fund closed exactly how much extra funding it would be given to support former ILF-users.
But campaigners have discovered – via freedom of information requests – that some local authorities were not told the exact amount they would receive until days after the fund closed on 30 June.
Now campaigning journalist Kate Belgrave, who has played a major role in fighting to oppose the fund’s closure, has received fresh information that shows some councils claim they have still not been told exactly how much money they will be given, nearly six weeks later.
In response to a freedom of information request she sent on 14 July – two weeks after the fund had already closed – Dudley council said this week that it was still “awaiting notification of the exact amount to be provided”.
And Sheffield council said that it had “no record of any communication confirming the final amount that will be passed to the local authority for the period 1st July 2015 to 31st March 2016”.
ILF was run by the Department for Work and Pensions and helped nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.
But the coalition government decided that it should close – despite a high-profile campaign to keep it open – promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.
The transition process has been littered with reports of delays in reassessments for former ILF-users and cuts to their care packages, compounded by many local authorities failing to plan ahead for the closure.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said the transition process was a “shambles”.
And she questioned why local authorities did not appear to have pushed DCLG to confirm their funding.
She said: “Have the councils tried to chase this up, I wonder, or do they just sit there hoping they’ve not been forgotten about? What a shambles this is.”
Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK), said she found the responses coming from local authorities to be “unbelievable”.
She stressed that councils had been given a rough idea of how much they would receive “months and months” before the closure.
And she said she feared that local authorities were using the uncertainty over the funding they were receiving from central government as an excuse to cut back on the care packages of former ILF-users.
She said: “Councils cannot use that excuse of not having all the information, not being told, not knowing how much they have got, they can’t use that to cut back on people’s care packages, nor not put systems in place for people who were in receipt of the ILF.”
She said DR UK had already heard from one disabled person who had been told by their local authority that it was cutting their care package because the government had not transferred the ILF money to them.
By 11.30am today (Friday), DCLG had not commented on the latest concerns, while Sheffield council had also failed to comment.
But a spokesman for the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said: “Where there is uncertainty of any kind, we strongly recommend our members to seek urgent clarification from the Department for Communities and Local Government.”
A spokesman for Dudley council has been unable to confirm that DCLG has failed to notify the council of the exact amount of funding it will receive, but he said it had “not had any confirmation of how this money or future money will be transferred to the local authority”, or when the transfer would take place.
He added: “This delay will not impact on the care and support to individuals, as an adult social care assessment will be undertaken with each individual and assessed needs will be determined by the outcome of these assessments.
“Individual ILF recipients have had a letter to advise of the process that Dudley [council] is to follow in relation to the transfer of the ILF funds.
“This includes confirmation that ILF recipients will continue to receive the level of funding determined by the ILF review, pending a full adult social care assessment.”