Independent Living Fund users in Wales will get nine month’s protection from cuts when the ILF is closed on 30 June this year, the Welsh Government has announced.
The government in Cardiff will provide local authorities with a special grant to provide ILF recipients with the same level of funding that they are currently receiving until March 2016. When the fund closes in June, its budget in Britain will be devolved to the Scottish and Welsh governments and to local authorities in England up to March 2016, based on what the ILF had been expected to spend during that time. The ILF budget in Northern Ireland is already controlled by the country’s executive.
While the Welsh Government has pledged to continue with the special grant in 2016-17, it cannot confirm the level of funding and whether it can protect users’ awards for that year. This is because it is dependent on whether the UK government continues to provide dedicated funding for the ILF across the four nations in the spending review that will follow May’s general election.
Wales’s health and social services minister Mark Drakeford said the UK government’s decision to close the ILF had “caused anxiety among those who receive support”.
“I hope the actions the Welsh Government is taking will alleviate some of the concerns expressed by ILF recipients and that they will be able to maintain their current care and support packages under a new process and remove employment concerns raised by their carers.”
The approach is in contrast with that taken by the UK government for England and by the Scottish Government. In England, local authorities will not be required to maintain ILF users’ levels of funding. They will be free to decide how the resource so long as they meet their duty to meet the unmet, eligible needs of adults entitled to local authority financial support for their care, under section 18 of the Care Act 2014.
People’s level of funding is generally expected to decrease as they are assessed against the Care Act eligibility threshold, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has predicted.
In Scotland, the government will create a new Scottish Independent Living Fund that will provide users with the same level of funding they currently get in 2015-16, based on the current system of eligibility for the ILF. However, it will also inject an extra £5m open the fund to new users, based on the same criteria.