Disabled people with high support needs who protested outside government offices have described the “terrifying” reality they face if the coalition pushes ahead with plans to abolish the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2015.
Protesters from Disabled People Against Cuts – many of them ILF-users – gathered outside the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Caxton House building in Whitehall today (Thursday), and delivered a letter to the new Conservative minister for disabled people, Esther McVey.
The letter asks for a meeting with the minister and stresses the vital role ILF plays in the lives of those who use it, allowing them to “live in the community, to go to university and in many cases work and pay taxes”.
The DWP is consulting on the closure of ILF, which will see non-ring-fenced funding passed to local authorities and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Protesters believe the plans to close ILF – a government-funded trust which helps about 19,700 disabled people with the highest support needs – are a huge threat to their right to independent living.
They say the government’s consultation paper offers no details on how councils – already facing huge financial pressures – will be able to meet the extra support costs of disabled people who previously received ILF money.
Comedian and performer Liz Carr, an ILF-user and one of the protesters, said she will lose half of her care package when ILF closes, the equivalent of three-and-a-half days of assistance a week.
If that happens, she will have to use the remaining support for essentials such as personal care.
She said: “I am absolutely terrified about that magic number 2015 and I am equally absolutely terrified for people who don’t have a voice and don’t realise what is going to happen and don’t have somebody fighting on their behalf.”
She said she had no idea what her life would look like when ILF closed because of the many other areas where disabled people were being “squeezed” financially.
But she said: “I know the freedom and independence I have will not exist when ILF is removed. I think residential care will be the only option for many, many disabled people.
“I am going to make sure myself and my friends go down fighting.”
Sam, another protester, a wheelchair-user who is also a recovering alcoholic, said he believed he would end up back on the streets if he lost his ILF money, because he would lose his personal assistant and the rest of his support network.
He said: “If I felt isolated enough in my house, I would feel what else would I have and would go back to where I have got friends, on the road.”
Earlier, a Commons meeting organised by DPAC – and attended by Labour MPs Dame Anne Begg, John McDonnell, Dame Joan Ruddock and Katy Clark – heard that lawyers had taken the first step in a possible judicial review of the government’s failure to conduct a proper consultation on the ILF closure.
Stuart Bracking, a DPAC member and ILF-user, told the meeting that the government’s decision to set up ILF in 1988 had been a result of 20 years of campaigning by the disability movement, and had “revolutionised the social opportunities of a generation of disabled people… and that is what is at stake”.
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said local authorities were already “cutting support to the bone” and were tightening eligibility and “increasing rationing”, so would “not have the resources” to fill the gap left by the ILF closure.
She said the costs of administering ILF were far lower (at two per cent) than for the care and support provided by social services (16 per cent).
Clark, the MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, told the meeting: “It is absolutely appalling that this government has proceeded with these proposals which must be going to have an absolutely devastating effect.
“Local authorities are not going to be able to take up the slack, even if they wish to.”
13 September 2012