PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release
Judicial review launched of repeat DWP decision to close the Independent Living Fund
The Department of Work and Pensions is facing a judicial review challenge by a group of disabled people of the decision of Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in June 2015, taken just weeks after the Court of Appeal quashed a previous, almost identical decision as being unlawful. ILF provides vital support and funding to some 18,000 severely disabled people in the UK to enable them to live independent and fulfilling lives. To be eligible people must already receive a substantial care package from local authority social services, but ILF funding provides a top-up for those with particularly high support needs. The ILF system was set up in 1988 in recognition of the fact that more severely disabled people are at high risk of social exclusion and face particular barriers to independent living and working, but their needs in this regard were not adequately addressed by council provision with its focus on meeting basic needs. The claimants, represented by Deighton Pierce Glynn and Scott-Moncrieff & Associates, fear that loss of ILF support would threaten their right to live with dignity, and they may be forced into residential care or lose their ability to participate in work and everyday activities on an equal footing with other people.
The Court of Appeal had ruled in November 2013 that the previous closure decision had breached the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act because the Minister had not been given adequate information to be able to properly assess the practical effect of closure on the particular needs of ILF users and their ability to live independently.
However following the new closure decision announced on 6th March 2014, the DWP admitted that in considering the proposal once again it had not consulted with any organisations or individuals outside of Government. It had not gathered any additional information from local authorities or other sources about what level or type of support former ILF users would receive from social services once the ILF element was removed and how many people would be likely to go into residential care or lose their ability to work or study.
The new legal challenge is on the same basis as the first that once again the Minister had not discharged the public sector equality duty because he did not have adequate information to be able to properly understand what the impact of closure would be on the particular people affected. This made it impossible to properly weigh up the pros and cons of the proposal with the necessary focus on removing disadvantages for disabled people, meeting their needs, increasing participation in public life and advancing equality that the law requires in all decisions by Government.
The Claimants are asking the court to again quash the decision to close the Fund.
- The ILF is a body of the DWP but under the management of independent trustees. Since it was created in 1988 it has helped many thousands of disabled people to live independent lives. It has targeted support at the most severely disabled people in the UK who face the greatest barriers to independent living, and has also played a key role in overseeing social services provision from local authorities for this group of people, to ensure that the combined ILF/local authority support packages meet criteria of promoting independence and inclusion and avoid unnecessary escalation of costs from people being cut off from their communities . In 2010 the Fund was closed to new applicants because the Government had reduced the amount of money it gave to the Fund. It is now proposing that the Fund close completely in 2015, leaving users to rely on local authority adult care services. This is at a time when the funding for local authorities is being dramatically reduced and many authorities are cutting services for disabled people.
- Further information, including individuals’ stories, on the campaign against the closure of ILF is available at the DPAC website: http://www.dpac.uk.net/.