Independent Living Fund clients will not have their care packages protected when the agency is abolished and its budget transferred to councils in 2015, despite strong support for this approach from service users.
The Department for Work and Pensions said today it would press ahead with plans to scrap the ILF – which provides £330m a year in cash payments for personal care or domestic help to almost 20,000 disabled people across the UK – despite overwhelming opposition from fund users.
A “significant majority” of individuals who responded to the DWP consultation on the plan opposed it, with service users saying they feared local authorities would cut their ILF packages when they reassessed them. Those service users and carers who said they would support transferring the budget to councils said this would have to be on the condition that care packages remained unaltered.
No protection for care packages
However, in its response to the consultation, the DWP rejected ring-fencing the budget transferred to councils in England, on the basis that this would prevent councils using their resources flexibly to meet local needs and ensuring all disabled service users were supported consistently. Councils strongly opposed ring-fencing in their responses to the consultation.
“We understand that when assessed ILF users may have current care packages reduced,” said the DWP. “Local authorities may choose to manage any changes to care packages in different ways, providing some transitional protection where required, but this needs to be considered on a case by case basis after a detailed assessment of user needs.”
Under the plans, the ILF’s budget in England will be transferred to councils, and its funding in the rest of the UK will be delegated to the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to use as they see fit. Funding will be allocated to councils and governments in line with existing ILF expenditure in different parts of the country to ensure as much continuity of resourcing as possible.
Currently, ILF users have their care needs reviewed every two years. From spring 2013, these will be conducted as “transfer reviews” to assess how clients’ needs will be met by the relevant local authority from April 2015 onwards, though their ILF funding will be unchanged until that date. Such reviews will be carried out by local authority social care staff and ILF assessors, who work on a freelance basis.
ILF users will be affected in different ways by the transition. About 84% of users – those who became eligible after 1993 (group two users) – already receive local authority funding as a condition of their ILF payments, already have their needs jointly reviewed and would most likely be eligible for council funding for their whole care package.
However, of the 3,000 ILF users who became eligible between 1988 and 1992 (group one users), when council funding was not a condition of support, almost half are not recorded as receiving a local authority contribution to their care package.
The DWP said this group would find the transition to council funding “particularly challenging” as they did not have a relationship with their local authority and some would not meet eligibility thresholds, thereby losing their ILF support. It said that for this group, the transition review would be particularly important.
Many councils reported that the transition would require increased resources to carry out the reviews, particularly for group one service users, and said this should be appropriately funded by the DWP.
The DWP said it would be producing a code of practice, in partnership with social care leaders, to guide councils on how they should support ILF clients during the transition process.