Save the Independent Living Fund

Stuart Bracking

On 10 June, disabled people who use the Independent Living Fund (ILF) and their supporters are holding a ‘party’ in central London to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ILF and publicise the campaign led by Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London to save it.

This follows April’s disappointing judgement in a high court challenge to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) 2012 consultation on the Fund’s future, and the Tory/Liberal coalition’s final decision to close the ILF by April 2015 which found them to be lawful.

The ILF was set-up at a time under the Thatcher government when politicians of all shades accepted the continued institutionalisation of severely disabled people was wrong.

An extra level of support was clearly needed on top of existing benefits and local social services to facilitate independent living through professional care workers and personal assistants.

DWP propaganda says the Fund was only ever expected to support 300 people. But before the ILF was set up, the then Minister for Disabled People Nicholas Scott admitted the Disablement Income Group (DIG) expected thousands to apply. By the end of 1992, 22,000 had done so successfully.

In the same way that Disability Rights UK have colluded with the Con-Dems on the disgraceful closure of Remploy factories, DIG worked with Scott to establish the ILF as a discretionary trust in opposition to the disabled people’s movement.

It later supported excluding older disabled people and disabled children from applying to the Fund.

Despite changes to community care laws in the early 1990s, the ILF was kept, as local authorities have never been willing to exclusively fund the costly care packages needed by those with the most complex conditions.

The difference now is the ILF does not fit with the ‘personalisation’ policy and the introduction of new resource-led assessment processes at a local level which have little time for the individual assessment of need by social workers.

The ILF’s closure is part of the transition from a taxation funded welfare state to a more limited one based on private insurance using the Care and Support Bill as a legislative juggernaut.

The Bill’s cumulative impact over a generation will be greater than even last year’s Welfare Reform Act. It must be fought.

For the ‘birthday celebration’ on 10 June meet between 1.30 pm and 2pm at Deans Yard, SW1P 3PA, which is at the back of Westminster Abbey