The new minister for disabled people has suggested the government could reform the Independent Living Fund (ILF), following its decision to stop accepting any new applications for the rest of the year.
Speaking at a meeting of the all-party parliamentary disability group, Maria Miller MP suggested the government could change the way the ILF was run and said its problems could have been caused by a “failure of management”.
Last week, the ILF – which is funded by the government and supports disabled people with high support needs to live independently – admitted it would only be able to fund 600 of the 1,000 new awards it had intended to make this year.
Its announcement in March that disabled people who wanted to apply for financial assistance would now have to be working at least 16 hours a week led to a huge influx of new applications.
The ILF said this led to its decision to stop accepting any new applications for the rest of this financial year, because the new awards were at a “much higher cost” than usual. It also blamed its decision on the rising costs of support.
But responding to concerns raised at the meeting by disability equality consultant Nick Goss, Miller said she was “very disappointed” by the ILF’s decision, which “doesn’t reflect well” on the previous Labour government.
She said: “Despite the fact that budgets were increased by three per cent, I think it really isn’t the position I would like them to be in and I think it doesn’t reflect well on the way that was handled by the previous administration.
“It could be time to think again about how (the ILF) operates, particularly in the light of the management situation.”
The ILF declined to comment on the minister’s criticism.
Asked after the meeting for further details of her future plans for the ILF, Miller said: “The ILF provides additional help to some of the most disabled people in Britain and I am very disappointed that the fund has been closed to new applicants.
“This unfortunate sequence of events is a result of the previous government’s failure to properly manage this fund.
“I am working urgently to ensure more effective support for disabled people in the future and will ensure that lessons are learned from these events.”
News provided by John Pring