Should the #ILF close? Yes. But… (updated)

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.

I agree.

But…

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:

  1. With people from the Department of Health working on the Care Bill and the Integration Transformation Fund
  2. With people driving the personalisation of health and social care
  3. 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.

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New consultation principles in practice (updated)

When the government’s new consultation principles were introduced last summer, it was noted that, though potentially good in principle (ironically enough), we’d have to wait for government to use them in practice to see what sorts of effect they would have.

A great post from Mike Harris on the Open Policymaking blog has summarised nicely what’s happened since.

At the time the new principles were announced, a few people called for some analysis on how long consultations lasted for under the new principles compared to the old rules. Mike’s post has an answer:

Between January and July 2012, 56.5% of the 253 government consultations held lasted more than 12 weeks, but between July and December 2012 only 26% of the 207 consultations did so.

Though a headline figure, that strikes me as worrying. It would be useful if more detailed figures were available on how long the 74% of consultations that were under 12 weeks lasted.

(Just because I’m that way inclined, I’ve submitted an FOI request to the Cabinet Office to ask them that exact question – will keep you posted with the results.)

Update: the data was actually in one of the Appendices to the Committee’s report on this topic! I should’ve read the appendices! Here’s the data, which I’ll analyse at a later date.

Proper engagement (or “no Bs to P in”)

As so often, a great post from Matthew Taylor with his key points about effective consultation, which I paraphrase as:

  1. Public opinion is inconsistent and often contradictory
  2. Debates are often dominated by special interest groups, which by definition focus on the area of public spending/cuts that affects them
  3. Consultation is very different from engagement or deliberation with the public.

Taylor then rightly notes Participatory Budgeting as a good example of policy making, where people have been brought up to speed on the numbers and the policy issues involved in a given issue and then participate in making decisions. I’ve noted something similar here before, though doubt its widespread use in the upcoming spending decisions.

Also, it’s worth noting the perspective of a senior local government type I was talking to about PB, as participatory budgeting is known:

It’s all very well, but there won’t be any Bs to P in.