The Independent Living Fund (ILF) – which provides financial support to disabled people with high support needs to support the cost of their personal assistance, and is separate to social care funding – is essentially closed for business. It’s shut.
Due to budget restrictions, the ILF first said that it would only support ILF applications from disabled people working over 16 hours a week. Before this decision, there was no such requirement, which in itself is self-evidently nonsense given some 50% of disabled people are not in work.
Second, and far more damagingly, the ILF has now said that it will not be accepting any new applications for the rest of this financial year, i.e. until at least April 2011. Furthermore, it will only fund those people who it has already made offers to this year, suggesting that anyone currently in the process of applying for ILF will not be able to receive it.
The potential problems these decisions give rise to are significant. As the ILF’s own equality impact assessment of the decisions notes:
Giving priority to people who are in paid employment of at least 16 hours a week has the potential to adversely affect people in terms of race, gender and age. Disabled people who are from ethnic minority communities, women and young are less likely to be in paid employment. People with learning disabilities are also less likely to be in paid employment.
By giving priority to people who are in paid employment ILF will no longer normally accept applications from people in receipt of Income Support and similar benefits. Therefore the change is also likely to adversely affect people who are at a socio-economic disadvantage.
The costs of meeting the social care needs of disabled people who previously could have applied for the ILF will instead fall to those well-known cash-rich organisations, local authorities.
Overall, these decisions are very far from good news for disabled people.
I happen to know some of the Trustees of the Independent Living Fund, and I understand the huge difficulty they have faced. Unfortunately, their overriding responsibility is to not commit more public money than the Fund has available.
Thus, when the axe swings via the coalition government’s Budget on Tuesday, just remember that this is the sort of thing it results in.
It’s not efficiencies. It’s not bloated public spending. It’s disabled people not being supported to meet the most basic elements of day-to-day life – getting out of bed, making a cup of tea, or going to the supermarket.