A third of service users in Brent who used to receive support through the Independent Living Fund are set to have their care packages cut, under plans approved by the council’s cabinet.
The council maintained existing care packages for the 63 ILF recipients in the borough after the government closed the fund in June 2015. But the authority says this has created an “inequitable” two-tier system where former ILF recipients receive higher levels of care than other service users with similar needs.
All 63 former ILF users will be reassessed and 21 are “likely” to see their care funding reduced, according to a council report on the plans. The changes will take effect in April.
The council’s report acknowledged the authority is likely to face an “understandable degree of opposition” to funding reductions but said it was confident people’s wellbeing could be maintained. Disability campaigners warned similar cuts implemented by other local authorities following the ILF closure had a “devastating impact” on some people’s lives.
‘Right to review’
When the government closed the ILF it 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.
Brent received approximately £1m in ILF funding and decided to maintain existing care packages but withheld the right to review this in the future. The local authority has said it is moving to reduce care packages now because the ILF funding from central government will decrease year-on-year until March 2020, when it will end.
Research published by Disability charity Inclusion London last year found more than half of local authorities in the capital had cut service users’ care packages since the ILF’s closure. Seven councils committed to maintaining existing levels of support until 2020.
Ellen Clifford, the charity’s campaigns officer, said she was “extremely disappointed” Brent was opting to reduce care packages.
She said: “Cuts to support can have a devastating impact on people’s lives and where these have happened in other areas following the ILF closure, it has resulted in disabled people trapped indoors, left for hours with no access to food or drink and forced to wear incontinence pads in place of support to use the toilet.
“At the end of last year, a UN inquiry found the UK guilty of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s right and the closure of the ILF was one of the issues they considered in making that finding. Other councils have made commitments to find the funding to protect disabled people in their areas. It is a shame that Brent council don’t place the same value on the lives of their disabled residents.”
Krupesh Hirani, Brent’s cabinet member for community wellbeing, said: “The drop in funding on top of further cuts to our funding available for social care prompted the council to explore how we could support people’s needs going forward. Our way forward will mean all care recipients in Brent will be assessed and treated equally within the council’s means.
“Care needs will still be met, however the way in which they are met may change and as such, we let ILF recipients know back in 2015 that these changes were a possibility on the horizon.
“We are committed to supporting ILF recipients through this transition and have put in place additional funding to help with the change-over, as well as carrying out reviews of care needs and in providing ongoing advice and guidance.”