The government has admitted that it has given local authorities only a “rough” idea how much money it will hand them to cope with the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), even though the scheme shut for good this week.
One council told Disability News Service (DNS) last week that councils had still to be told how much money they would be given to support former ILF-users, who will now rely totally on their local authorities for their support packages.
And this week, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which is responsible for passing on this funding to local authorities, confirmed that councils had not yet been told how much they would be given, or when.
A DCLG spokeswoman told DNS on Monday (29 June): “We have obviously told the local authorities roughly how much they will get and roughly when they are going to get it.”
When DNS pointed out that the fund was closing the next day, she said: “We are on track. As far as we are concerned, it is all in hand.”
The fund – which helped nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently – closed on Tuesday (30 June).
The Department for Work and Pensions promised that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced ILF funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But the transition process has been littered with reports of delays in reassessments and cuts to individual care packages, as councils prepare to take full responsibility for funding the social care needs of former ILF-recipients.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has so far been unable to comment on the government’s failure to hand over the money yet, or to say when or how much it will pass on to local authorities.
Sue Bott (pictured), deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, warned that councils should not be able to “hide behind” the excuse that they do not know exactly how much they will be given by central government, because they should have a “pretty clear idea”.
Thanks to guidance inserted in the Care Act – following pressure from campaigners such as the disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell – councils are not able to cut the amount of funding a former ILF-user receives until they have reassessed them.
Bott said: “The worst thing that can happen is that people end up getting isolated and having to fight a battle with the local authority on their own or not know what is happening to them at all and having all this anxiety, so I think if local authorities have not contacted ILF recipients yet then it is an absolute priority that they do so.”
Bott said local authorities had known “for months” that they would be taking on responsibility for all of the care needs of former ILF-recipients.
A DCLG spokeswoman said in a statement: “We are bringing support for Independent Living Fund clients into a single care support system managed by local authorities.
“This will allow decisions to be made locally by democratically-elected councillors, enabling a more efficient, integrated and personalised service for everyone needing support.
“Prior to closure, the Independent Living Fund trust has provided each local authority in England with up-to-date, detailed schedules showing the allocated funding for each individual, so that they have accurate information about the level of support provided to each user.
“We will confirm Independent Living Fund allocations shortly.”