The Independent Living Fund looks set to close and have its £360m care budget for disabled people reallocated through councils, as part of government plans to slash spending.
Officials at the Department for Work and Pensions, which is responsible for the UK-wide ILF, have discussed the move with Pam Duncan, policy officer at the Independent Living in Scotland Project (ILiS), a Scottish government-funded scheme to promote independent living.
She said she was given the impression that closing the fund was a “fait accompli”, as part of the DWP’s submission to the Treasury’s spending review, which will set public spending limits from 2011 to 2015.
Under the plans, the government would freeze the fund and bar new applicants. It is expected that responsibility for the ILF’s 21,000 clients, who are all severely disabled, will transfer to councils, with resources allocated through the devolved governments rather than through a UK-wide agency.
Although funding for existing clients is likely to be ring-fenced for three or four years, the pot will be reduced as clients died or withdrew from support.
Duncan added that the DWP planned to consult on how the ILF would be replaced but not on whether it should be scrapped.
The DWP confirmed that it would “settle the long-term future of the ILF” as part of the spending review but would not comment on the outcome.
Disability lobbyists are concerned at the effect the abolition of the ILF would have.
“It will be a false economy, it will increase the pressure on other budgets and undermine the ability of disabled people to take part in society as full and equal citizens,” said Jim Elder Woodward, who is disabled and convenor of the ILiS steering group.
“Given the financial pressures on councils, most will be unable to expect more than basic personal care. Without the money, people will be left with ‘life and limb support’ because local authorities simply cannot meet the demand it would create.”
The ILF stopped taking applications from new clients in June for the rest of 2010-11 to combat budget pressures. A spokesperson said: “No decision has been made on the future of the ILF. The first priority of the ILF continues to be to support its 21,000 existing users to live independently in their communities.”
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly e-mails