The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was set up in 1988 as a stand-alone central Government fund to which disabled people with high support needs could apply for direct payments for personal assistance (P.A.). The direct payments meant that people could afford to pay P.A.s for the assistance that they needed – round-the-clock, in some cases – to live independent lives. The Independent Living Fund always gave more than local authority support did, with options for disabled people to train and employ their own personal assistants or a team of personal assistants. The Independent Living Fund allowed independent living.
The running costs of the Independent Living Fund were calculated at 2% while those of local authorities providing maybe 2 hours per day on direct payments were 16%. ILF works to keep people out of institutions, to help them attend higher education, and to help them in employment and most importantly to make their own choices on their lives, on how and where they live. The Independent Living Fund allows disabled people to live independently, achieve their aspirations and to fulfil the calls of the disability rights activists for independent living
Under the guise of austerity the ILF was closed to new applicants in 2010. In 2012, the Government held a consultation on whether to close the ILF completely in 2015. They proposed that the ILF would close and those benefiting from the ILF would instead rely on their local authorities for any support. There was no option in the consultation to keep the Independent Living Fund open.
Responses to the consultation from disabled people, Independent Living Fund users, local authorities and disability organisations said that this move would mean disabled people going back to institutions or being institutionalised in their own homes, that disabled people would no longer be able to exercise their right to independent living, and that their support would be cut.
One day before Parliament closed for their Christmas holidays, on the 18th December 2012, the Government announced that the results of the consultation meant that that the fund would close in 2015. They hoped that the timing of the announcement would create less publicity and less media coverage.
Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) had already been working on this –and the media coverage was firmly in place for the announcement! DPAC was also spending Christmas carrying out research into the responses received to the consultation. We had already applied through ‘freedom of information’ requests for copies of all consultation responses. DPAC found that the majority of local authorities had serious issues with the transfer of funds from the Independent Living Fund to local authorities. The Government said that the majority of local authorities agreed with the transfer- DPAC discovered that local authorities did not. The Government lied.
Five Independent Living Fund users took the Government to the High Court on the 13th March 2013 supported by DPAC and Inclusion London to argue:
-The Government’s consultation process was illegal in not giving the option for the ILF to stay open
-The Equality Impact Assessment carried out by the Government did not take into account the full impacts on disabled peoples’ lives.
-Local authorities had not been given enough information on the transfer and had severe misgivings on the closure with many completely disagreeing with the proposed closure.
-The proposed closure of the ILF meant that the Government had breached article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on the right to Independent Living
-The Proposed closure meant that the Government had breached article 28 of the UNCRPD on the right to an adequate standard of living and protection
The outcome of the case is expected at the end of April. More on the Independent Living Fund, the case and what Independent Living Fund closure means for disabled people can be found on DPAC’s web site www.dpac.uk.net
The video below was filmed outside the court on the 13th March:
DPAC are calling for investment and expansion of the ILF that will provide:
- State protection for the rights of disabled people with complex and high support needs to be supported to live independent lives.
- Expert independent living support based on the genuine independence, proper participation in society, and fulfilment of aspirations of disabled people.
- A national model of support that does not vary depending on where you live.
- Support that is free at the point of need.
DPAC has created a model letter which people in the UK can use to send to their national parliamentary members, asking them to defend disabled people’s right to the Independent Living Fund, please click here to view the letter.
The template letter can also be emailed to the UK’s minister for disabled people Esther McVey at : email@example.com
and/or you can write to DPAC at: firstname.lastname@example.org with messages of support which we will pass on to ILF users fighting to keep their independence and the UK media to highlight European support.
Debbie Jolly co-founder of DPAC