Many of the country’s leading disabled activists have accused the government of “a total ignorance” of how a lengthy delay in deciding the future of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) is affecting thousands of disabled people.
Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, announced 12 months ago that ILF – the government-funded trust which helps 21,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently – would remain closed permanently to new applicants, while the packages of current users would be protected until 2015.
She appeared to suggest then that she wanted to scrap ILF completely after the next election, saying that running it as an “independent discretionary trust delivering social care” was “financially unsustainable”.
Miller promised a consultation some time in 2011 on how ILF users would be supported in the future.
But a string of disabled activists have now signed a letter which describes how ILF users have been left “shocked and extremely anxious” by the delay and the lack of information from the government.
The letter, which was written by the campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts, says: “Thousands of disabled people rely on funding from the Independent Living Fund to enable them to live independently with choice and control over their lives.
“Leaving severely disabled people in such anxiety over their lives is violating our human rights to be involved in decisions that may affect us and indicates a total ignorance of how important this funding is for severely disabled people to live with some quality of life.”
The letter calls for ILF to be reopened to new applicants and for it to receive “adequate funding”.
And it includes seven powerful case studies of disabled people who say they would lose control over their lives if they lost their ILF funding.
Among the disabled activists who have signed the letter and benefit from ILF support are Kevin Caulfield, chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts, Anne Pridmore, director of Being the Boss, and two other leading campaigners, Ruth Bashall and Anne Novis.
Other disabled activists to have signed it include Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council, Mark Harrison, chief executive of Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, Kaliya Franklin, co-founder of Broken of Britain, and Kirsten Hearn, chair of Inclusion London.
Major concerns about ILF’s future had been raised at least as early as June 2010, when the fund announced it would not accept any new applications for the rest of 2010-11.
This week, Miller finally announced – in a written statement to parliament – that the consultation would now take place in the spring of 2012, alongside the publication of the government’s white paper on the future of care and support in England.
But Linda Burnip, a member of DPAC’s steering group, said Miller’s statement had “done nothing to quell the fears of disabled people reliant on this funding”.
She said: “Many fear that if ILF closes without a similarly ring-fenced budget for independent living then they will either end up in much more expensive residential care homes or without any quality of life.”
A DWP spokesman said: “The ILF consultation will take place in spring 2012, as we wanted it to run alongside the publication of the planned white paper on the future of care and support in England, so it can be viewed within the wider context of the reform of the care and support system.”
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com