FORMER recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in England will continue to get support for the next four years, following months of campaigning pressure from disabled activists like Coronation Street’s Cherylee Houston (pictured), writes JOHN PRING (Disability News Service)
When the fund was closed last June it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.
But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland, to cover the period until April 2016.
It has now agreed to extend that funding to English councils for another four years.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has now published a six-week consultation on the plans.
After providing protection against inflation, and allowing for the number of former-ILF users to fall slightly every year, DWP wants to provide funding of £177 million to local authorities in England in 2016-17, followed by £171 million in 2017-18, £166 million in 2018-19, and £161 million in 2019-20.
The document also reveals the funding it wants to pass to each local authority over the next four years.
But the consultation document warns that its funding plans could still “have an adverse equalities impact” on disabled people, because the money will not be ring-fenced, which means local authorities will not be forced to spend the money on supporting former ILF-users, or even on adult social care.
Ellen Clifford, a member of the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, who has played a major role in highlighting the impact of the closure, said the announcement was “really positive, because it shows that we can force the government into a retreat”.
She said: “It’s going to make a difference to some individuals. It will be important to every individual whose support package we can protect.”
But she warned that it would not help everyone, because of the continuing problems with the funding of adult social care, and the failure to ring-fence the new money.
She said: “There will continue to be a postcode lottery because local authorities have handled [the closure] so differently.”
A government spokesman said in a statement: “The funding given to English local authorities for former ILF-users will continue to be protected.
“Local authorities were given just over £180 million in 2015-16 and will be given £177 million in 2016-17.
“The funding will continue every year up until 2020. We are currently consulting on these proposals.”
The Scottish government has set up its own Independent Living Fund, for both existing and new users in Scotland.
The Welsh government has set up its own ring-fenced grant scheme, run by local authorities, which will enable former ILF-users to receive payments at the level they received under ILF in 2016-17, funded by a £27 million grant from the UK government.