Devon County Council responses to closure of Independent Living Fund

Scene and Heard on closure of ILF

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was originally set up in 1988 as a national resource dedicated to the financial support of disabled people, enabling them to choose to continue living in the community rather than move into residential care. During its existence, the ILF has undergone a number of changes, but essentially it operates as a discretionary source of funding for people with disabilities. [For more detail, DOWNLOAD Commons Library Standard Note SN/SP/5633 Independent Living Fund]

In December 2010, the Minister for Disabled People announced that the ILF is permanently closed to new applications and the Fund announced its priority remains to deliver an excellent service to our users.

In 2012, Maria Miller MP – as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People – launched a public consultation document with a forward that said:
The Government believes that the care and support needs of existing ILF users can and should met within one cohesive social care system, in a way that is consistent with our commitment to localism, with funding and services integrated around individuals’ need through personal budgets. Our preferred approach is that from 2015 ILF funding is devolved to local government in England and to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

By December 2012, the Government published their response to Consultation on the future of the Independent Living Fund. At the same time, all the consultation responses were published, along with a Impact Assessment and an Equality Impact Assessment.

In March 2014 the Minister for Disabled People announced that the ILF will be closing on 30 June 2015 and from 1 July 2015, the funding and responsibility of ILF care and support needs ouldl transfer to local authorities in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. [DWP Press Release: Future of the Independent Living Fund 06 March 2014].

At that time, the ILF issue an Information sheet on the planned closure

This decision was challenged legally and became the basis of many protests and demonstrations.

On 08 December 2014, the High Court has announced its decision on the judicial review case between 2 Independent Living Fund [ILF] users and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The court dismissed the claimants’ application for judicial review and upheld the government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund on 30 June 2015. [Disabled men lose high court bid to stop Independent Living Fund closure Guardian 08 December 2014].

In March 2014 Devon County Council updated their Impact Assessment on Cessation of the national Independent Living Fund and transfer of funding to Devon County Council, originally published in January 2014.

The Impact Assessment points out that in Devon there are 177 people received ILF funding, 75% of whom have a learning disability as their primary need and 25% of whom have a physical or sensory disability as their primary need (some of these people will have a combination of both learning and physical or sensory disabilities but one type of disability has to be identified as their primary need).

Of the 177 ILF recipients, 156 are already known to Devon County Council, and 21 are not known to the local authority.

Then in November 2014, DCC published a position statement on the ILF closure.

At the Devon County Council meeting held on 19 February 2015, Cllr Rob Hannaford [LAB, Exwick/St Thomas] asked a question of Cabinet member, Stuart Hughes [CON, Sidford/Sidmouth], on the the future of the Independent Living Fund within Devon.

On 15 April 2015 campaigning group Disabled People Against the Cuts sent out Freedom of Information requests 151 English Local Authorities – responses were received from 147 councils and a summary was published on 25 June 2015.
Here’s what Devon County Council had to say in their FoI response:
DPAC Q1: Will you be ring fencing the ILF money passed to you to:
A) Individual ILF users
B) Adult Social Care
C) No ring-fence at all
DCC: it is up to the government to ring fence the funding in relation to ILF if it so chooses. If it does not do so, we will not set a ring fence; however we are budgeting to spend our estimate of the funding entirely to replace the Independent Living Fund. 
DPAC Q2: Have you received the details of how much money you are being allocated and if so how much is that?
DCC: The Department for Communities and Local Government is yet to state the allocation that local authorities will receive. 
DPAC Q3: When will you be starting reassessments of ILF users and when do you anticipate completing those assessments?

DCC: All recipients of ILF in Devon have recently received a letter from DCC communicating that they will be offered an assessment of their needs.  The assessment process will start after the Easter period. 

DPAC Q4: What arrangements are you putting in place for those ILF users  you have not reassessed by 30th June to continue funding their current ILF care packages until an assessment has been carried out?
DCC: We will ensure that all recipients of ILF are reassessed by 30th June. 

DPAC Q5: Do you have contingency plans in case a change in Government at the forthcoming election alters the ILF funding situation?
DCC: No, we are planning to implement current guidance unless directed otherwise whether that be by the existing or a future government. 

Looking closely at the response to Q1, Devon County Council seem to be saying that because the Government isn’t setting a ring-fence, we won’t be setting one either. But in committing budget to spend our estimate of the funding entirely to replace the Independent Living Fund is an effective ring-fence. Curious!

Scene and Heard on closure of ILF
Scene and Heard on closure of ILF

Further reading:
31/03/13 | #SaveTheILF 

06/03/14 | #DWP to close #ILF

18/06/14 | Adjournment Debate – Future support for people currently in receipt of the #ILF

04/07/14 | #SaveILF #ILJuly4

22/10/14 | #saveILF vigil

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A response to my plea to #saveILF from @RachelReevesMP

Back in January, I e-mailed Ed Milliband with a plea to #SaveILF – this open letter was copied to Kate Green and Rachel Reeves.

Almost by return, I received a response from Kate

I received a reply from Ed in March.

I’ve now heard from Rachel’s team…

Dear Mr Bull,

Thank you for your email  to Rachel Reeves regarding the Independent Living Fund. She has asked me to respond on her behalf.

Labour strongly agrees that independent living is crucial to ensuring that disabled people have the same rights, choices and chances as any other citizen. Labour opposed the Government’s plans for closure of the Independent Living Fund. However, as you know, judgment was handed down recently in respect of the recent legal challenge against the government’s closure plans. The case made by the campaigners was rejected by the judge, and it now seems certain that the Fund will close, as the Government planned, in June 2015.

Following closure of the Fund, individual local authorities will make decisions about how resources are applied. Ed Miliband has been clear that Labour is determined to work with local authorities to protect disabled people’s ability to live independently. Labour will work with disabled people, including existing ILF users, and councils to design and implement guidance for local authorities to help protect the thousands of disabled people affected by the decision.

The right to live independently is fundamental to the vision for “whole person care”, to be delivered through the integration of our health and social care systems. While we’re aware of plans in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to continue funding, reinstating the Independent Living Fund in England would have limited reach and fail to answer the long-term care and support needs of disabled people. Labour is committed to working with disabled people, DPLOs, local authorities, families and carers to ensure we design the best model of support, building a new framework which provides all disabled people the chance to live independently.

Please find ]a link to] Labour’s plans for a Better Future for Disabled People, which may also be of interest.

This election is a choice between a failing plan and a better plan for working families. The Tories’ plan is failing working families because they choose to prioritise helping a few at the top. Labour’s plan is based on a simple truth: that Britain only succeeds when working families succeed. That’s why Labour’s plan offers a better future: for living standards, for the next generation, and for the NHS.

You can read more about Labour’s better plan at www.labour.org.uk/manifesto

Thank you again for getting in touch.

With kind regards,

Patrick Dougherty
Policy Communications Co-ordinator
The Labour Party

#SaveILF | Some musings on the Independent Living Fund

I’ve long supported the aims of Disabled People Against the Cuts [DPAC] and I am proud that now I been accepted as a Full Member.

Last week, I joined their Day of Action in London when they were protesting against Maximus taking over the contract for the notorious Work Capability Assessment.

And I’ve campaigned with them the save the Independent Living Fund.

I contacted key people within the Labour Party to ensure that in the short term, the 17,000 in the ILF user group continue to be supported.

I believe this means that when funding is transferred to top-tier local authorities at the end of June 2015, they are ring-fenced to continue to support the current user group.

I hope and believe that an incoming Labour Government would deliver guidance on this matter as a matter of urgency asap after 7 May.

In the medium term, there needs to be protection for existing ILF users and care packages need to be monitored to ensure the needs of current ILF users are continued to be met by local authorities.

But I have a long-term goal – that Independent Living is mainstreamed within the plans for broader integration of health and social care.

Independent Living needs to be on the agenda across all Government departments

It is self-evident that in recent years, other areas of  support for Independent Living  have been under consistent attack by the coalition including
– employment (closing Remploy, undermining Access to Work and the Work Programme’s poor success rate at securing disabled people work at just 7%);
– education (planning to abolish Disabled Student Allowances, hiking fees, increasing the number of unqualified education staff when TAs often support disabled pupils);
– welfare (changes to cut DLA budget by 20% and 440,000 hit with bedroom tax);
– health (esp mental health service cuts); and
– local govt (leaving some councils cutting care services)

As a grassroots Labour Party activist, I am optimistic that as we approach the General Election more will be heard on many, if not all, these points.

#SaveILF | Question about future of ILF asked at DCC

At the Full Council meeting of Devon County Council on 19/02/15, the following question was asked:

4. QUESTION FROM COUNCILLOR HANNAFORD

Re: Independent Living Fund

How many people in the Devon County Council area are currently in receipt of financial assistance from the Independent Living Fund and what is the financial value of this funding?

Can the Cabinet member confirm the changes that have already been made nationally to the eligibility criteria for the fund?

Does the Cabinet member agree that many people that need help to get up, get dressed, get washed and live independently face a daily struggle for support, and that these cuts and changes will reduce their health and wellbeing ?

With the closure of the Independent Living Fund in June 2015, and funding being transferred to Councils, will there be a guarantee that the money will be used to support disabled people to live independently, or that former ILF users will receive the same levels of support, given the financial pressures that the council is facing because of the current Governments austerity policies?

Can the Cabinet member explain to council how the new system will be operated by the county council?

Does the Cabinet member expect these changes will adversely affect the lives of people with learning disabilities in Devon, and their ability to live independently to a greater extent than other groups, because of the changes in the eligibility criteria?

In terms of personal care will there be year-on-year rationing?

With its recent care reforms, the Government has set out an ambitious vision for the future of social care. But if this vision is to become a reality, does the Cabinet member agree that social care needs sustainable funding? To facilitate this, what representations have been made to Government Ministers and others?

REPLY BY COUNCILLOR BARKER

There are 174 people in the Devon County Council area currently in receipt of financial assistance from the Independent Living Fund and the value of this funding is 3.2million per annum.

The ILF was closed to new applications in 2010.

I do not agree that there have been, or will be as a result of today’s budget proposals, any cuts to the funding of assessed eligible needs for vulnerable people whether they be current ILF users or not. We do not differentiate between people when considering their eligible social care needs which lead to each individual having a personal care plan. This is the process currently applied to all Devon residents which is fair and equitable. As we currently meet assessed eligible social care needs this is not a new system to us and arrangements are in hand to ensure the 174 people currently receiving ILF assistance will all have a full assessment or reassessment of their personal needs before the end of ILF in June.

We do not, have not and will not be rationing support, assessed eligible needs are fully met year on year so the member is wrong to suggest those who receive support will not receive that support in the future. The current system identifies individual needs and if there is an eligible need assessment which includes help to get up, be washed and dressed then that need will be met. The Council already supports significant numbers of people with learning disabilities to live independently and most ILF recipients will already be receiving support from DCC.

The Leader and cabinet members ensure representations are regularly made to ministers and LGA representatives about funding and the need for equity. New funding streams via NHS sources add complexity. Ministers and shadow ministers have similar messages about future funding which will necessitate continual attention to reducing costs and finding efficient ways of working.

 

A response to my plea to #saveILF from @KateGreenSU

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your email. I met with some of the campaigners at the lobby yesterday, including the mother of someone receiving ILF support and will be meeting with a further group of ILF recipients to hear their concerns, later this month.

The Government’s handling of the ILF has been disastrous and has landed DWP in court multiple times but the most recent judgement means the Government will close the Fund. By the time Labour re-enters office, if we win in May, the ILF staff will have been handed redundancy notices.

I have been working with the shadow local government, health and social teams on our plans. We will ensure guidance is quickly provided to councils to help identify ILF users and that transitional funding reaches the right people. The guidance should help protect ILF users from cuts to their support.

One of the aims of longer term Labour plans for integrating health and social care services should also be to help support ILF users. Much of the debate about care reform is focused on older people, but working age disabled people will also benefit from proposals being drawn up by Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall. This will include ILF users.

Thanks again for getting in touch.

Best wishes,

Kate Green MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Stretford and Urmston

Shadow Minister for Disabled People

A plea to @Ed_Milband to #SaveILF

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I’ve been meaning to write this letter for a long while, but prompted by yesterday’s #SaveILF demonstration at Parliament and the subsequent package on Chanel 4 News it went this morning.

Dear Ed

I write to you as a Labour member, a Labour activist, a Labour councillor campaigning for social justice.

I have been very vocal in causes surrounding benefit cuts.

Even so I was ignorant of the wholesale abolition of the Independent Living Fund until I sat in on an open surgery with my local MP, Ben Bradshaw.

One of Ben’s constituents relies on the ILF, the payments help him live an independent life. An independent life that saves us money. Hearing his story wanted me to campaign to save the ILF.

I was not there yesterday

But you cannot have failed to have seen the protest outside Parliament to save the ILF.
You cannot have failed to hear the protest outside Parliament to save the ILF.

Yet I don’t hear Labour’s response to the coalition’s dreadful plans to abolish the ILF.

Are we planning to reverse the cuts?
Can we look at opening up the ILF to nee applicants?
At the very least can we commit to ringfencing the funds transferred to local authroities when the scheme closes later in the year?

On Monday, you launched the General Elections with a pledge to have 4m chats between now and then. Let’s have with those affected by the abolition of the ILF. Let’s have that conversation.

The voices of disable people will become louder as we approach the General Election – let’s listen to them whilst we can still have a conversation. When they really start shouting, it will be too late.

I will conclude by detailing the open letter from Disabled People against the Cuts. I am sure that you have already seen it.

Please Help Us. Save Our Independent Living Fund

We, disabled people, family, friends, supporters and allies, are asking for your help.

We are asking you to pledge to keep the Independent Living Fund open to existing applicants, pending a review of Independent Living for all disabled people.

As you may know, on the 8th of December at the High Court, a ruling was given against our challenge to the closure of the ILF [1], and we were not given leave to appeal.

The closure of the ILF effectively signals the end of the right to independent living for disabled people in the UK. Whilst never perfect the ILF represents a model of support that has enabled thousands of disabled people to enjoy meaningfully lives and to contribute to society as equal citizens. 

Since the closure of the Fund to new applicants in December 2010 we have seen disabled people left with their most basic needs unmet and unable to seek employment, to volunteer or go into education or simply even to leave the house.

But we have vowed to fight on against the ILF closure,  disabled people will not be pushed back into the margins of society, we will not go back into the institutions, our place is in the community alongside our family and friends and neighbours and we are fighting to stay.

We ask you to imagine what it will be like, for people who have been enabled  to live a full life, be with friends and family, go out, work, study and enjoy recreation, to have all that taken away, and find themselves trapped inside, all day, every day, with choices over what they do, when and how, removed.

To severely disabled people the Independent Living Fund represents the difference between having an existence, and having a life.

Please Ed, keep our Independent Living Fund open. Keep Our Lives Open. It means the world to us.
References


Many thanks for listening to me, now let’s listen to them

Onwards to the General Election

* Copies of this plea were also sent to:

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People