The minister for disabled people has hinted that the government could be set to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) as part of its spending review.
In a ministerial statement this week, Maria Miller MP attacked the previous government for failing to “take a principled and strategic decision” on the fund’s future.
Miller said an independent review of the fund in 2007 suggested the government should make a decision on its future in 2009-10, “based on the presumption” that ILF support would be merged with local authority funding for personal budgets.
Miller also criticised the Labour government for taking a last-minute decision to cut the ILF budget for 2010-11 by £11 million to £348 million in March this year.
Miller said this move – as well as the “uncertainty and sensitivity” of methods of forecasting spending on the fund – led to the ILF’s decision to restrict new applicants to those in paid work of 16 hours or more, and then later to close the fund to all new applicants for the rest of 2010-2011.
Miller added: “The confusion and uncertainty caused by this chain of events is unacceptable.”
She said the ILF had now put in place a “more robust methodology” for forecasting its spending and had “safeguarded the support allocated to the 21,000 existing recipients of the fund”.
She said: “I have asked the [Department for Work and Pensions] and the ILF to ensure that all the lessons are learned from this situation and that appropriate procedures are put in place to ensure that the fund’s budget remains on track.”
She added: “The coalition government are committed to ensuring severely disabled people receive the support they need and, working closely with the trustees, we will consider and settle the long-term future of the ILF as part of the forthcoming spending review.”
When asked whether Miller’s statement implied that the government was planning to scrap the ILF, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The future of the ILF is going to be reviewed in the autumn. Watch this space. I cannot speculate.”
28 July 2010