The government has yet to tell English local authorities how much money they will be given to deal with the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) – just five days before it shuts for good.
The fund – which helps nearly 17 000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently – is due to close on Tuesday (30 June).
The Department for Work and Pensions has promised to transfer one year’s worth of non-ring-fenced ILF funding to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.
But the transition process has been studded by reports of delays and cuts to individual care packages, as councils prepare to take full responsibility for funding the social care needs of former ILF-recipients.
And now a local authority has told Disability News Service that all councils in England are still waiting to hear how much money it will be given by the government to pay for the extra support costs of former ILF-users.
A spokeswoman for Warwickshire County Council said: “All local authorities are awaiting notification in early July with regard to the amount of money that will be allocated.
“During the transition period we will ensure that customers’ needs continue to be met from 1 July 2015 and a letter has been sent to all ILF customers in Warwickshire informing them of the current situation.”
Linda Burnip, a member of the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – which carried out a high-profile direct action in parliament this week to protest about the closure (pictured) – said: “From contact we have with ILF recipients we know that the transfer of ILF funding to local authorities is in complete chaos and the whole process unfit for purpose, but even we are astonished to find that local authorities have still not been told how much money will be devolved to them yet, making it virtually impossible for them to plan the transition.”
Brian Hilton, an ILF-user and campaigner fighting the closure, said the situation was a “poor reflection on both central and local government”.
He said: “I would say that the current problems have been created by the government, firstly by closing the ILF and secondly by not ring-fencing the money when responsibility was transferred to local authorities.”
But he said that local authorities were “not entirely blameless”, as they had still not assessed many ILF-recipients even though they had known since last year that ILF was closing on 30 June, while guidance had been issued last November on how to ensure a smooth transfer.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services admitted to DNS last week that there were problems with the ILF transition process, but insisted that central government was to blame. It has not yet commented on Warwickshire county council’s statement.
DNS has continued to receive reports of desperate ILF-users who have yet to be told by their own local authorities how much support they will receive once the fund closes.
The Department of Health (DH) finally broke its silence on the ILF closure programme this week, after DNS passed on the Warwickshire statement.
A DH spokesman said yesterday afternoon (Thursday): “The government is committed to ensuring that ILF-users will not have their care interrupted when responsibility [for] meeting all of their care needs transfer to their local authority on 30 June.
“The Department of Health has also issued statutory guidance to support authorities in preparing for the transfer.”
He said ILF had provided each council with an up-to-date list of how much funding each ILF-user currently receives.
But he was unable to say whether local authorities had been told how much funding they would receive from the government, and referred DNS to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which will be receiving the funding from DWP.
By noon today (Friday), DCLG had not commented on the council’s claims.
Meanwhile, DPAC has published the results of freedom of information requests it sent out to 151 English local authorities about the ILF closure, with all but four responding.
Among the findings, 31 councils said they would not be ring-fencing the funding they receive from the government at all, which means that some or all of it could be spent on other areas of local authority spending instead of social care.
Only 28 local authorities said they would be ring-fencing the government funding to individual ILF-users until the end of March 2016, which should ensure that former ILF-recipients in these areas do not have their current social care packages cut until at least April 2016.
And only 15 of the 147 councils that replied said they knew exactly how much extra funding they would be given by the government as a result of the ILF closure.
The Scottish government announced last year that it was setting up its own ILF, for both existing and new users in Scotland, using the UK government’s funding and an additional £5.5 million of its own money.
The Welsh government has opted to transfer the Westminster funding to its local authorities – with conditions attached – and will protect the budgets of existing ILF-users for the first nine months, with funding after that dependant on the UK government’s next spending round.