The government has refused to say whether the care services minister was told in advance by his ministerial work and pensions colleagues about the publication of the vital Independent Living Fund (ILF) consultation.
Questions about how closely the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was working with the Department of Health (DH) were raised after Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat care services minister, appeared unaware at a conference last week that the ILF consultation paper had already been published.
Burstow later admitted “mis-speaking” when he told the conference that he was still waiting for the paper, six days after it was published by Maria Miller, the Conservative minister for disabled people.
This week, both DWP and DH have refused to say when Burstow was told by Miller that the consultation paper had been published.
Miller said in the consultation paper that she wanted to close ILF completely from April 2015, with funding passed instead to local authorities. The government-funded trust currently helps 19,700 disabled people with high support needs to live independently.
Any arrangements for replacing ILF will have a huge impact on DH plans for social care reform, particularly the funding of people with high support needs.
One of the pioneers of the independent living movement, John Evans, told Disability News Service last week that the government’s decision to shut ILF in 2015 could force thousands of disabled people out of their homes and into residential care.
When asked at what point Burstow – the minister responsible for social care reform – was told about the ILF consultation paper, a DH spokeswoman said: “We don’t give out that sort of detail.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We informed DH about the consultation. This is usual practice. I believe DH have provided you with comment too which would answer the question of whether the minister was aware of the consultation or not. We have no further comment to make.”
She refused to say when Burstow was told about the consultation paper.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com