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Government set back over Independent Living Fund
I was part of a successful legal challenge to the Tory-Lib Dem government decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) by April 2015. With four other users of the ILF, we brought the challenge to the Appeal Court in London.
The ILF has existed since 1988. Through a central government grant it provides significant financial support towards the care packages of about 18,000 disabled people with either a significant physical impairment or learning disability.
A unanimous ruling by three senior judges has quashed the decision made by disabled people's minister Esther McVey in December 2012. Her replacement Mike Penning will now have to reconsider the government's approach to this issue.
The Appeal Court concluded the Public Sector Equality Duty was breached because McVey did not properly consider the impact that closure would have on ILF users.
Last week the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced the government will not challenge this ruling in the Supreme Court.
Whatever decision Penning makes, he will have to demonstrate the government understands both the nature of its duties under the Equality Act 2010 and the impact any decision now made will have.
TUC demo in Manchester: 50,000 march against Tories demanding action on NHS, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
But the Appeal Court rejected the challenge to the consultation process which preceded the final decision to close the fund. Therefore Penning and the DWP could move quickly to reaffirm the original decision to close the ILF.
For those ILF users and their families committed to opposing the closure of the fund, and the carers and disabled people's organisations who have publicly opposed closure, it is vital that the small window of opportunity now available is exploited to the full.
A clear demand is needed for the government to not only stop the closure of the fund, but re-open it to new applicants. It must have adequate funding to meet disabled people's full personal assistance requirements based on an individual assessment of need.
Both Penning and Labour's shadow disabled people's minister Kate Green will be attending a Just Fair Consortium event in Parliament on 26 November which will focus on independent living rights.
This will be an opportunity to demand that both Penning and Green commit their parties to support a long-term future for the fund and stop its current run-down in preparation for the implementation of the far-reaching Care Bill when it becomes law.
Given that both parties are committed to austerity measures, it is vital that plans are laid now for a UK-wide campaign which encourages disability organisations and ILF users and their families to set-up local campaign groups that can use protests, lobbying and other campaigning tactics to oppose closure.
Linking up with PCS and other trade unions will be crucial.
Any campaign needs to recognise that online petitions, letter-writing and calls for equality or cumulative impact assessments alone will be blunt tools if the government reaffirms its support for the fund's closure.
Closure will mean some current ILF users having to oppose any move by their local council and Clinical Commissioning Group to move them into a nursing home from 2016.
In The Socialist 13 November 2013:
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