More than half of local authorities in London have cut service users’ care packages following the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), according to a report by Inclusion London.
Four councils have reduced support for more than half of former ILF recipients, a finding the charity described as “suggestive of a systematic approach to ‘levelling down’ packages”.
The findings come from a Freedom of Information request, which received responses from all 33 councils in London. The charity said the cuts affected 185 former ILF recipients across the capital – around one in six.
The government closed the ILF in June 2015 and transferred responsibility for meeting ILF care and support needs to councils. Ministers said they would give local authorities funding to cover ILF needs until 2020 but did not require councils to ring-fence the money.
The FOI found only seven of the 33 local authorities had committed to maintaining existing levels of support for ILF users over the next four years, while 18 had ring-fenced the money to their adult social care budget. Five said there would be no ring-fence in operation.
Service users receiving support from Waltham Forest and Hounslow councils were hit hardest, with 68% and 59% of care packages cut respectively. These were also two of the five local authorities that said they had no plans to ring-fence support for former ILF recipients.
Kamaljit Kaur, cabinet member for adult social care and health services at Hounslow council, said: “We assessed all ILF care packages and agreed new support plans for residents. All those who receive care packages are monitored and reviewed.
“If the care needs of our residents change as a result of a review or reassessment, then we will adjust their support plan accordingly.”
Waltham Forest council was approached for comment.
The FOI also found many local authorities had referred former ILF recipients for Continuing Healthcare (CHC) funding as part of the reassessment process, but in some boroughs there was a high number of ineligible referrals. For example, in Newham, only two of the 19 ILF users referred for CHC were found to be eligible and in Brent only three out of 12.
Inclusion London said that disabled people in London were now subject to a “dramatic postcode lottery”, because some individuals’ support packages remain unchanged, while others with similar needs have experienced major cuts.
Some councils have made “substantial cuts suggestive of a systematic approach of ‘levelling down’ packages,” the report said, which is “inconsistent with local authority responsibilities as set out in the Care Act to take a personalised approach where the needs and wishes of the disabled person should be at the centre of any assessment”.
The report also included findings from a survey sent out to local deaf and disabled people’s organisations, which asked for the experiences of their members.
This found that decisions on funding for support packages were not needs-led and instead tied to budget policy: whether or not to ring-fence the ILF grant monies, but also the amount of savings allocated by local authorities to their adult social care budgets.
Many individuals also reported that the transfer of ILF funds to councils had been “distressing”.
“This was for a number of reasons including poor communication from the local authority, lengthy and frustrating assessment processes and the very real experience of having cuts made to essential day to day support,” the report said.
The report recommended the establishment of a national, needs-led system to administer independent living support, which is free at the point of delivery and independent of councils.
“This system should build on the learning from the Independent Living Fund and be a key strategic mechanism for ensuring disabled people’s rights under the UN convention are fully and consistently realised across the country,” the report said.
Ellen Clifford, campaigns and communications officer at Inclusion London, said: “The report shows that, in some areas, worst fears have been realised and disabled people have been subjected to dramatic and devastating cuts to essential support.
“One of the justifications for the closure of the ILF was the variation in take up across different local authority areas. However, what has emerged since is a far greater postcode lottery.”
She added: “The findings also expose the failings of our current social care system, which increasingly extends no further than a clean and feed model, denying disabled people dignity and equality. We are therefore calling for a national social care system that is independent of local authorities and will be looking to work with all political parties to adopt this as policy.”
Ray Puddifoot, London councils’ executive member for adult social care, said: “Local government in London is facing a funding gap in adult social care of between £630 million to £817 million by 2020. Despite this, local authorities recognise the importance of continuing to support service users – including previous recipients of the ILF – to live independently.
“Councils are already experienced at working with service users and are doing their best to drive forwards the personalisation agenda; supporting and giving people more choice and control of the care they need and in the provision of services that will help to keep service users living independent lives for as long as possible.”