The government has finally confirmed that it wants to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) entirely in 2015.
A long-awaited consultation paper on the future of ILF was published the day after the government published its care and support white paper and draft bill.
Maria Miller, the Conservative minister for disabled people, announced in December 2010 that ILF – the government-funded trust which currently helps 19,700 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.
But in this week’s consultation paper, the government makes it clear that it also wants to close the ILF to existing users from April 2015, with funding passed instead to local authorities and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The consultation document says existing ILF-users will have their eligible care and support needs met through personalised budgets and direct payments, but warns that the services available will be “in line with local priorities”.
Last December, in a letter signed by many of the country’s leading disabled activists, the grassroots campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts wrote that ILF enabled thousands of disabled people to “live independently with choice and control over their lives”.
Linda Burnip, a member of DPAC’s steering group, warned then that many ILF-users “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”.
Several months earlier, giving evidence to the parliamentary joint committee on human rights, John Evans, the veteran disabled activist and co-founder of the National Centre for Independent Living, said that if the government closed ILF completely in 2015, he would probably be forced to move into residential care.
Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, said this week: “The government believes that the care and support needs of existing ILF users can and should be met within one cohesive social care system, in a way that is consistent with our commitment to localism, with funding and services integrated around individuals’ need through personal budgets.”
The ILF consultation ends on 10 October.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com