The government will decide whether the Independent Living Fund has a future later this year after lambasting its Labour predecessor’s handling of the UK-wide care funding agency.
The comprehensive spending review, which reports on 20 October, will settle the long-term future of the ILF, including whether it remains as a separate government agency or whether local authorities take on responsibility for administering its care payments for disabled people as part of personal budgets.
The latter route was recommended by an official review in 2007 but this was not acted on by the Labour government, a decision attacked today by minister for disabled people Maria Miller in a parliamentary statement.
She said Labour failed to “take a principled and strategic decision about the future role of the fund”, despite a “comprehensive and independent review” by consultants Melanie Henwood and Bob Hudson.
Miller said Labour was also at fault for the funding problems the ILF faced earlier this year that led to it restricting future eligibility for its payments to people in work and then barring new applicants from claiming them for the rest of 2010-11.
It said the previous government made a “short-notice £11m reduction” in the ILF’s 2010-11 budget which, combined with uncertainty over the ILF’s financial forecasting, led to the decision to restrict eligibility criteria. However, the Labour government failed to approve the restriction until March, just before the start of the financial year.
Miller said: “The confusion and uncertainty caused by this chain of events is unacceptable.”
She said the ILF had now put in place “a more robust methodology for forecasting future expenditure” and that she had asked the fund and the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure lessons are learned and appropriate procedures are put in place to ensure the ILF’s budget remains on track.
The ILF’s chair of trustees, Stephen Jack, said: “The ILF trustees welcome the opportunity to work closely with the minister, and look forward to contributing their ideas to best assist the coalition in considering and settling a future direction for the ILF.”