Independent Living Fund closure challenged in High Court

Judicial review brought by six disabled recipients, with a decision expected within two weeks

Disability campaigners are taking their fight against the closure of the Independent Living Fund  (ILF) to the High Court.

Around 20,000 disabled people are set to be affected when the £330m a year Independent Living Fund closes in April 2015 and its budget is handed over to councils. The ILF began sending out letters advising recipients about the closure on Monday.

The High Court is this week hearing a judicial review brought by six disabled recipients of the fund, claiming that last year’s consultation into the closure was flawed.

According to campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which is supporting the judicial review, a decision is expected within the next two weeks.

DPAC is particularly concerned that money will not be ringfenced when it transfers to councils and many disabled people could be forced into residential care without it.

Ellen Clifford, spokeswoman for the group, said: “The move is not about saving money as it’s likely to be more expensive for local authorities. Instead it is to do with localism and dismantling the welfare state.”

Disability charity Scope is also concerned about the transfer of the fund to councils and warns that the move will worsen social care support for disabled people.

Scope chief executive Richard Hawkes said: “Expecting councils to pick up the tab when they are facing the biggest funding cuts in  history is an impossible ask. Disabled people will lose out as a result.

“Not getting the support to wash, dress and leave your home is unacceptable. The government needs to invest more in social care to prevent disabled people being condemned to a life without basic dignity and invisible from society.”

This week in parliament a joint hearing involving members of the local government and disability all party parliamentary groups heard evidence from disability campaigners about the effect the changes to the ILF will have on disabled people and local authority budgets.

Among those to give evidence was Jane Young, a consultant and campaigner with the We Are Spartacus grassroots network. She said: “Over the last 30 years, the adoption of the principles of self-directed support, alongside adequately funded social care services and the independent living fund, have enabled disabled people to contribute to society as independent, participating, tax-paying citizens.

“The fear now, however, is that the squeeze on local authority budgets and the closure of the Independent Living Fund could take us back to a ‘feed and clean’ culture in which disabled people are forced to lie in bed in incontinence pads and eat sandwiches.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has been contacted for comment.

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