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.
I’ve immodestly quoted from a post I wrote over 3 year ago on the Independent Living Fund, when it was announced it was closed to new applicants. 6 months later, I wrote another post after it was officially announced ILF was to close from 2015, noting responsibility was likely to fall to those well known cash-rich organisations, local councils.
Today, a court of appeal bid to overturn the abolition of the ILF has been approved. I haven’t seen the full judgment, but it seems to cite both the Equality Act (and great work from the EHRC for intervening to this effect) and that the decision to close the Fund didn’t take account of the flavour of consultation responses.
This is good news.
It doesn’t solve the problem, though, of what to do with the Independent Living Fund in the long term.
For me, the definitive report on what to do with the Independent Living Fund was written in 2006 by Melanie Henwood and Bob Hudson. It notes the peculiar history of the ILF: set up in 1988 as a transitional arrangement, a related new fund created in 1993, the original fund closed to new applications but replaced by an extension fund, all meaning there have actually been two funds operating in parallel since 1993. The report also highlights the huge number of considerations that have to be taken into account when doing anything with the ILF, not least of which is recognising the vital support it provides to 19,000 people.
And it also notes the ILF is anomalous in the long term, and that it continues to account for a large amount of social care expenditure whilst operating to different rules and remits that are incongruent to mainstream social care. It also notes ILF can result in inequity, unaccountability, duplication, arbitrary decisions and major confusion.
As such, the report concludes the ILF should close.
In closing the ILF, there are a number of points and principles which must be observed, and that at a minimum are:
- Any transition from ILF to other funded support should be slow and steady. (In the 3 years since DWP announced the closure of the ILF in 2015, I think very little activity could be detected)
- The money people received through ILF should be protected, and most definitely shouldn’t be swallowed up by local authority budgets
- The better parts of the ILF (such as a national, portable system) should influence the new location of the money, rather than these being lost.
The world since Henwood and Hudson wrote their report has changed, not least in the considerable cuts we are seeing in social care and the wider health and welfare reforms. But shifting the principles and support of the ILF into the main provision of social care is still the best thing to do, as long as the minimum points above are met.
The DWP’s original attempt at closing the ILF clearly didn’t do this; the motivation was instead to cut money, and the court of appeal has rightly picked them up on it.
Now, though, there is a chance to look again at this properly. Hopefully the DWP will do this, and do it:
- With people from the Department of Health working on the Care Bill and the Integration Transformation Fund
- With people driving the personalisation of health and social care
- Most importantly, with the people who will be affected by the change.
Update: the full court of appeal judgment is here. It indeed uses the Public Sector Equality Duty as the basis of quashing the original decision.