Continuing distrust of councils’ stewardship of social care among user-led disability groups has been exposed by last week’s publication of a government-commissioned review into the Independent Living Fund.
The review called for a radical shake-up of the fund, which since 1988 has provided cash for severely disabled people to pay for care at home – a prototype of direct payments.
Among its criticisms was the duplication of functions between the ILF, which is run by two government quangos, and local government-funded social care, and the inconsistencies between the two systems on issues such as charging.
It said the ILF’s £264m ring-fenced budget should remain with the two quangos and not be transferred to local authorities in the short-term, though the two funding streams should be integrated from 2010 when individual budgets should start.
The report added: “We see no realistic alternative to placing the responsibility [for the administration and delivery of integrated personalised budgets] upon local authorities.”
NCIL chair Menghi Mulchandani said the ILF had enabled thousands of disabled people to live independently and exercise choice, adding: “This would never have been achieved had matters been left to local authorities alone. We are opposed to the transfer of the ILF to local authorities now or at any time in the future.”
A Radar spokesperson said it was concerned that if the fund was handed over to councils “this precious resource will be diluted, and lost within the general social care budgets of local authorities”.
Incoming vice-president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services John Dixon admitted there was distrust of councils among the user movement, though he said relations had recently improved.
The ILF review suggests that, in time, user-led local centres for independent living, which in some areas support disabled people to manage direct payments, could play some future role in administering individual budgets.
However, Dixon warned there would always have to be a public body accountable for spending the “limited amount of resource”.
The government has promised to consider the review’s recommendations before the summer recess.
Review of the Independent Living Funds
Contact the author