The closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) was ruled lawful in the High Court yesterday following the dismissal of an application for a judicial review. It leaves up to 18,000 disabled people facing a reduction to their care funding.
Plans to close the fund have been challenged before, and its closure was ruled unlawful under the 2010 Equality Act in November 2013. But the government’s most recent plan to close the ILF, based on a fresh analysis of the data, has been found not to breach the public sector equality duty laid out by the act.
John Nawrockyi, chair of the disability network for the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), said the minimum entitlement to support would now be less generous than under the ILF.
The UK-wide fund was designed to support disabled people to live and work independently in the community by providing cash payments to top-up their funding from councils..
“The ILF is really highly valued by the people who receive it, but it has led to a degree of inequity across the system,” Nawrockyi said. “The new care package might be slightly less rather than slightly more for ILF recipients.”
After it closes in June 2015, the fund will be absorbed into individual councils’ mainstream budgets in England. Decisions around how much support each individual will receive beyond the national minimum eligibility threshold, introduced under the Care Act, will be for each council to make.
The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations will receive devolved control over their ILF budgets. In Scotland, the government will employ the same funding criteria as does the ILF and open its new fund to new applicants, benefiting an additional 600 people and meaning existing users do not lose out. The Northern Irish government has just finished consulting on possible options and the Welsh government is in the middle of doing the same.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said the closure meant fewer disabled people would be able to live independently.
“The care system is on its knees. Chronic under-funding and year-on-year rationing mean that too many people that need help to get up, get dressed, get washed and live independently face a daily struggle for support.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission had previously warned that closure of the fund would result in a loss of dignity and independence for ILF recipients.
However, following the High Court appeal, a commission spokesman said the government had made their reasoning clear in accordance with the Equality Act.
“A factor in this case was that secretary of state for work and pension’s consideration of equality matters was well evidenced.This is in contrast with the previous decision to close the Independent Living Fund.”
Minister for disabled people, Mark Harper said he welcomed the judgment.
“We were always fully committed to supporting Independent Living Fund users. Local authorities and devolved administrations will be fully funded to ensure that this happens.
During the course of the judicial review of the government’s decision, Adass has been working in partnership with the ILF to plan for its closure.
Nawrockyi said Adass has finished reviewing all the remaining ILF recipients in the system, and the majority now know where they stand in terms of future support available to them.