Councils are to gain control of the Independent Living Fund’s budget in England on the government social care agency’s abolition in 2015 with no guarantees that its disabled clients will have their funding maintained after this date.
The plans were set out in a government consultation today, which would see the ILF’s £330m budget transferred to councils in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who would decide on how their share was used.
The ILF provides cash payments to 19,373 disabled people to spend on a range of personal care or domestic tasks; its clients tend to have large weekly care packages and 94% are also funded by councils. A funding crisis led the ILF to close to new applications in June 2010, and, later that year, its sponsor department, the Department for Work and Pensions, announced that it would be abolished in 2015, with its funding reallocated.
The DWP has pledged to fully protect existing service users’ care packages until April 2015 but not beyond. Councils would have to reassess all ILF clients and then decide on their level of support.
“We are particularly concerned that any reallocation of ILF funding to local authorities could lead to disabled people not receiving the same level of support,” said Neil Coyle, director of policy at Disability Rights UK.
Since the closure of the fund to new applicants in 2010, people who would have received funding under its eligibility criteria have not been receiving equivalent payments from their local authority, said Coyle. “This denies independent living, choice and control to disabled people,” he said.
Coyle also raised concerns about how the ILF budget in England would be distributed to councils given that take-up is much higher in some areas than others, relative to the number of potential users, which the DWP consultation paper put down to variations in the extent to which council social workers have encouraged disabled people to apply for funding.
Justifying the abolition of the ILF, the DWP said running a parallel social care fund to local authorities, with different eligibility and charging regimes, has led to duplication of functions, unnecessary bureaucracy and a lack of integration of care around the service user.
More on the ILF
- ILF service users are divided into two groups: those who were awarded payments from 1988-1992, for whom receipt of ILF cash was not dependent on being also funded by local authorities (group one); those who were awarded funding after 1993, for whom local authority funding was a condition of eligibility (group two).
- 84% of users are in group two; their average gross care package is £904 per week: £536 from the local authority and £368 from the ILF.
- When the fund closed the eligibility criteria stated that recipients should be aged 16-65, receive the higher rate care component of disability living allowance, have at least £340 a week in funding from their local authority and less than £23,250 in savings or capital.
- ILF money can be used to purchase care from an agency or a personal assistant to cover personal care, cooking and shopping, laundry, cleaning and other household tasks.