The Independent Living Fund is considering whether to make people who have been in long-stay hospitals eligible for funding.
This week, the Department of Work and Pensions confirmed that discussions had taken place with the Department of Health and the ILF, and said it was now “a matter for the ILF trustees” to make a decision.
If the ILF make people who have been in long-stay hospitals eligible for funds, it will reverse a policy that has long been considered discriminatory by campaigners.
Peter Kinsella, chief executive of learning difficulties consultancy Paradigm, said “thousands” of people could get support if the ILF decided to consider their applications.
“We have long argued that it is unjust to exclude people with severe and complex needs who have been in NHS residential care from the ILF. It would make a big difference,” he said.
The ILF, which began in 1988, reviewed its policy of declining applications from people in long-stay hospitals in 2001, and concluded that accepting cases would have “significant financial implications” for the fund.
It said health authorities and local authorities should have responsibility for care costs.
The fund currently supports over 16,000 severely disabled people at a cost of £231 million a year.
This week, Kinsella said a U-turn was being considered because long-stay hospitals and NHS campuses had been “struggling” to close without additional funding to move people into the community.
At the request of the Department of Health, Paradigm is currently compiling a body of evidence on cases of people who have been refused ILF because they were previously in long-stay hospitals.
David Congdon, head of policy and campaigns at learning difficulties charity Mencap, said a move to make people who have lived in long-stay hospitals eligible for ILF would be welcomed “in principle”.
But he added that it would place added financial demands on the ILF, and suggested that more money should be made available.
Congdon said the government needed to have a “radical look” at organising the funding streams available to people who wanted to live independently if independent budgets were to be a success.