Department for Work and Pensions

Closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant: In the cause of equality of provision for disabled people? #SaveWILG

The following article was written by Ann James and Luke Clements. It appears on their superbly informative website which can be viewed here.

We would like to thank Ann and Luke for their research and work in putting together such a comprehensive report.

*** 

Local authorities in Wales are rushing to meet the new September deadline, set by the
Minister for Health, for the re-assessment of the 1,300 or more recipients of the Welsh
Independent Living Grant (WILG). In November 2016 the Welsh Government (following in the footsteps of the English Government) announced the closure of the WILG.

The transfer of care and support of all recipients to local authority provision has been
contentious and has left many recipients anxious and fearful that their right to Independent Living will be eroded by this decision. A strident campaign has been launched by recipients of the WILG (and the previous Independent Living Fund (ILF)) and their families and supporters under the campaign banner of #SWILG.

Closure of the Wales Independent Living Grant

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was established by the Department of Health and
Social Security in 1988 as an independent trust to provide a weekly payment to a
small number of severely disabled people who would have suffered very significant
financial loss as a result of the abolition of supplementary benefits ‘additional
requirements’ payments in that year.4 It is however thought that about one million
disabled people experienced considerable losses as a result of the 1988 changes.

The ILF existed in various forms until it was closed by the Department for Works and
Pensions to new applications in December 2010,  at which time it was providing support
to 46,000 people with complex needs to live in the in the community.7 At that time the UK
Government argued that it was an unsustainable cost; that it perpetuated an unfair funding of services to disabled people; that distribution of ILF was inconsistent across the four nations and within the four nations; and that the advent of direct payments and individual budgets in England obviated the need for ILF.8 The ILF closed in June 2015 and the funding was devolved to English local authorities and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments

The WILG was set up in 2015 following a consultation exercise and gave the Welsh
Government a period of moratorium to decide on how to proceed
.
The options before the Minister were:

• the extension of current arrangements;
• an arrangement with a third party to continue to provide payments to recipients in
Wales, and;
• to transfer the responsibility and funding to local authorities in Wales over a two-year
transitional period so as to eventually provide support through nIn November 2016, it was announced that the WILG would close in March 2019 and that all recipients would be assessed by their Local Authority for care and support under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act (SSWBA) 2014 by March 2018. The March deadline was extended to–September 2018 to enable local authorities to complete their assessments of WILG recipients.

The #SaveWILG campaigning group led by Nathan Davies continue to fight a vigorous campaign to persuade Welsh Government to retain the WILG and grow the provision in a similar fashion to Scotland.

The Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out in advance of the closure decision in Wales conveys a Panglossian view, that is to say an overly optimistic view of what the 2014 Act will deliver following the closure of the WILG in 2019.  It also fails to acknowledge and consider the potential adverse effect on individuals who may have significant changes to provision and how this will be addressed to ensure the recipients right to Independent Living.

The rational for the closure of the WILG is in keeping with the UK Government’s arguments for the closure of the ILF. Welsh Government argues that:

  • the continuation of the WILG will perpetuate a ‘two tier’ system of provision and that this is unfair on those who receive care and support solely through their local authority.
  • the cost of maintaining a Welsh version of the Independent Living Fund is financially unsustainable as money devolved to Wales from the UK Government’s closure does not have the capacity to respond to future need of recipients nor allow for the opening of the WILG to new applicants.
  • the SSWBA 2014 and Direct Payment provision will enable and support independent living and that the need for a discrete fund is not required.

 

Transition from the WILG to local authority provision: are there messages from England?

The analysis and studies of the impact of the closure on ILF in England are bound to give concern to WILG recipients in Wales. The Shakespeare and Porter 2016 study, which focused on the impact of the transition from ILF to local authority support, found high levels of concern and anxiety about Local Authority processes and provision during this period. The Department of Work and Pensions Post-Closure Review,found both positive and negative experiences of the transition. Those who had retained their provision or had an increase in provision or a slight reduction reported satisfaction without any loss to their independence. For those who had experienced a significant reduction there was a loss of independence, greater restrictions to their independence and an increased reliance on unpaid carers. There was also a concomitant impact on the emotional and physical health of these participants.

An emerging theme from the research and reviews is the post-code lottery faced by previous recipients of ILF. The finding in Inclusion London’s  review confirmed this factor and found in addition inconsistent practice in relation to NHS Continuing Health Care (NHS CHC) referrals for funding and failings in the implementation of the Care Act 2014 which left services users without essential provision.

Many disabled people who will be transiting from the WILG will be legally eligible for NHS CHC funding or at least NHS joint funding. In addition to the well-documented procedural hurdles they encounter in obtaining this support, in Wales a more troubling challenge exists.  The Welsh Government has made it clear that it will not permit direct payments to be made for people eligible for NHS CHC (unlike in England such payments can be made.  Many LHBs appear reluctant to facilitate direct payments via a trust arrangement (often referred to as an Independent User Trust (IUT)) even though the High Court has held this to be lawful (indeed necessary in certain situations).

Anecdotally it is also reported that LHBs are placing obstacles in direct payments being made where there is a joint funding arrangement even though the Framework guidance makes it clear that where ‘an individual has existing Direct Payment arrangements, these should continue wherever and for as long as possible within a tailored joint package of care’.

 

Concluding Comments

About 1,300 people will transfer from the WILG to local authority care and support under the SSWBA 2014 by March 2019. Many of the recipients and their carers are concerned that their right to Independent Living will be compromised as local authorities re-assess and establish their eligibility to services.

The R (CWR) v Flintshire County Council (2018) Case Note illustrates the challenges that a disabled person and his/her family can face in Wales as they seek to access care and support. This case note does however, highlight the statutory requirements for a comprehensive assessment of disabled people in need of care and support and their carers. It demonstrates too, that assessments undertaken in a cavalier manner can be challenged and local authorities held accountable for their assessment, determination of eligibility and care provision. This may provide some reassurance to WILG recipients although it is perhaps questionable how many will have the energy, knowledge and courage to pursue this option.

While the term ‘well-being’ may be used in a perfunctory manner in discussion about social care, the definition in section 2 SSWBA 2014 is comprehensive and includes control over day to day life (s.2(4) (a)) and participation in work (s.2(4)(b)).

Clements notes that section 6(3)(b) stresses ‘the importance of promoting the adult’s independence where possible’ and argues that this is amplified and bolstered by para 56 of the Part 2 Code of Practice (General Function) which states that the well-being duty ‘includes key aspects of independent living as expressed in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People in particular Article 19 which recognizes the right of disabled people to ‘full inclusion and participation in the community’; to choose where they live and with whom they live; and to have access to a range of community support services ‘to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community’. Assessment, eligibility determinations and decisions on how to meet need will need to be infused by these principles.

R (JF) v. Merton LBC highlighted the requirement for an assessment to have regard to the dimensions of well-being set out in stature.

A comprehensive overview of assessment, eligibility and meeting needs can be found at www.lukeclements.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Wales-SS-Well-being-Act-26.pdf page 9.

This ‘post’, written by Ann James and Luke Clements, appears in Rhydian: Wales Social Welfare Law on-line (2018) 23-26: to access this click here.

***

Evidence From England #SaveWILG

The following article was published in September 2016 by our friends at Inclusion London and  seeks to evidence the impact of the Independent Living Fund closure with a focus on the situation in London.

This is clearly a VERY IMPORTANT REPORT FOR ALL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS TO READ IN FULL as the Welsh Government intend to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) despite clear evidence of flaws during the transition period that the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care constantly tries to hide behind.

WHAT USE IS A TRANSITION PERIOD IF OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE AND A DEMOCRATIC VOTE IS NOT ENOUGH FOR A GOVERNMENTAL RE-THINK?

Beneath the Inclusion London article, I have added a link to a PDF report written by the DWP reporting on the effects of the closure of the ILF. This is also essential reading for all Assembly Members.

As our elected Assembly Members you have the opportunity to make a telling intervention in the lives  of disabled people with high care and support needs. You cannot let this opportunity slip through your fingers as the potential of this group of people deserves to be tapped into as we can all make a difference to the communities in which we live.

***

One year on: Evaluating the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund

This report seeks to evidence the impact of the closure with a focus on the situation in London.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was shut permanently on 30 June 2015. One week before, wheelchair users tried to storm the House of Commons chamber during Prime Minister’s Question time in a last ditch attempt to prevent closure. Disabled people receiving support through the ILF who are all too familiar with the day to day realities of the mainstream care and support system, were concerned that closing the ILF would mean a removal of essential support.

This report seeks to evidence the impact of the closure with a focus on the situation in London. It brings together statistical analysis from Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests sent to all 33 London boroughs with findings from a survey sent out to London Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) as well as qualitative evidence provided by former ILF recipients concerning their experiences of transfer to Local Authority (LA) support.

Comparison of evidence gathered through comparison of the Freedom Of Information (FOI) responses, Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPO) survey, and examples of lived experience submitted by former ILF recipients has led to a number of themes emerging:

  • Post-code lottery for former ILF recipients across Local Authorities.
  • The detrimental impacts of the ILF closure on former ILF recipients, ranging from distress and anxiety to removal of essential daily support.
  • The lack of consistent practice across different Local Authorities regarding referrals for CHC funding.
  • Limitations of the mainstream care and support system and failings in the implementation of the Care Act.
  • The value of the model of support provided by the Independent Living Fund.
  • The importance of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations for making Deaf and Disabled people aware of and supported to exercise their rights.

There is an urgent need for a radical rethink of how Disabled people are supported to live independently. Disabled people who use independent living support must be at the forefront of developing ideas and with adequate resources for meaningful engagement.

This also needs to happen quickly, before the memories of what effective independent living support looks like and how much Disabled people can contribute when our support needs are met fade into the distance.

Download the full report below including the Executive Summary and Easy Read version 

Watch the video of the meeting. 

Watch the video at: http://bambuser.com/v/6445226?v=m 

***

More essential reading from the DWP:

Report by the DWP: independent-living-fund-post-closure-review

 

 

Activist celebrates after Welsh Labour backs independent living campaign #SaveWILG

Taken from an original article by John Pring on the Disability News Service website:

30429863_2053322881607423_313045057_n

A disabled activist who has campaigned to save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) is celebrating after the Welsh Labour annual conference voted to back his campaign.

Nathan Lee Davies has led a campaign to force the Labour-run Welsh government to reverse its decision to scrap the grant, which was introduced to support disabled people with high support needs in Wales to live independently after the UK government closed the Independent Living Fund in 2015.

An estimated 1,300 people in Wales receive support through the WILG scheme.

And this week, at their annual conference, members of Welsh Labour voted in favour of a motion that called on their government to maintain WILG, at least until the next Welsh assembly elections in 2021.

Before the vote, Davies had also secured support from Labour’s UK leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who posed for a picture holding one of the campaign’s “WHERE THERE’S A W.I.L.G. THERE’S A WAY” tee-shirts.

After the vote, Davies posted a blog in which he described his “emotional day” following a victory he said was “key for disabled rights across Wales and throughout the UK”.

He added: “We should all rejoice while remembering the fight is far from over as we need to ensure Welsh Labour listen to the will of their members.”

Davies has previously described his terror at the prospect of his cash-strapped local authority taking over full responsibility for providing his care package, having been told that without WILG his own care package would be reduced from 86.5 hours to just 31 hours a week.

He has described the campaign as a “life or death” fight.

He told Disability News Service yesterday (Wednesday) that the passing of the motion was “obviously the high point of our ever-growing campaign” but that it “does not mean that we have succeeded in securing WILG”.

He said: “We must continue with our campaign and ensure the Welsh government listen and act upon the wishes of their members.

“One thing is for sure, we won’t rest until we preserve and improve the Welsh Independent Living Grant.”

He thanked the cross-party and union support for his campaign – including the “wonderfully supportive” Clwyd constituency Labour party, which proposed the motion – and the other recipients of WILG.

He particularly praised members of Welsh Labour Grassroots – which represents the Momentum movement in Wales – who he said had “worked tirelessly to ensure independent living remains an option for those with high care and support needs”.

Davies is hoping that the Welsh government – which will have a new first minister in the autumn after Carwyn Jones announced that he would be standing down – will now reverse its decision to scrap WILG.

A spokeswoman for Welsh Labour said: “As with all motions passed at conference, this will now be considered by Welsh Labour’s policy process ahead of the next assembly elections.”

The Welsh government announced in 2016 that, after a two-year transition period, it would transfer all the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales directly to councils.

It decided there would be no continuation of the interim WILG scheme it had been running as a stopgap since the Department for Work and Pensions closed ILF in June 2015, and would not set up a new Welsh ILF, even though such a scheme had been set up in Scotland.

All the £27 million-a-year funding is set to be transferred to Welsh local authorities this year, and they will be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients by 31 March 2019.

The Welsh government’s new Social Services and Wellbeing Act is supposed to provide new rights for people to access a re-assessment of their support at any time, with local authorities under new legal duties to support independent living.

It believes that this is a more progressive system than the one operating in England.

But Davies has said previously that the decision to transfer the £27 million to councils and close WILG meant the Welsh government had “sold disabled people down the river” and was “washing their hands of all responsibility for social care to former ILF recipients and transferring the pressure onto local authorities”.

Disabled activist ‘is fighting for his life’ as he hands petition to Welsh government

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE DISABILITY NEWS SERVICE WEBSITE AND WAS WRITTEN BY JOHN PRING.

A disabled activist has handed in a petition of hundreds of signatures that calls on the Welsh government to reverse its decision to close its version of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

Nathan Lee Davies (pictured) says he is fighting the decision to scrap the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) because he is terrified of the prospect of his cash-strapped local authority taking over full responsibility for providing his care package.

He has been told that without WILG his own care package would be reduced from 86.5 hours to just 31 hours a week.

He says that such a cut would put an end to all his current community activities, including his involvement with Wrexham Glyndwr University, Wrexham football club, Disabled People Against Cuts, FDF Centre for Independent Living, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.

He is also writing two books, and a blog, and is working with Disability Arts Cymru to create a performance and exhibition of his poetry.

He told Disability News Service (DNS): “I cannot cope with such a limited number of hours per week. This is why I am fighting with every fibre of my being.

“It really is a case of life or death. I have no interests in merely existing. I want to live.

“Without help and support I would be unable to do any of this work that involves me in the community.”

The Labour-run Welsh government announced last November that, after a two-year transition period, it would transfer all of the £27 million-a-year provided by the UK government to support former ILF-users in Wales directly to councils.

There will be no new Welsh ILF – even though such a scheme has been set up in Scotland – and no continuation of the interim WILG scheme the Welsh government has been running as a stopgap to “ensure continuity of payments to recipients” since the Department for Work and Pensions closed ILF in June 2015.

Funding for WILG will now transfer to local authorities during 2018-19, with all former ILF-recipients in Wales having their support needs met solely by their local authority by 31 March 2019.

Since the Welsh government’s announcement, Davies has been campaigning to persuade it to reverse the decision, including setting up the petition – which has now been signed by more than 500 people online and in person – and collecting photographs of supporters holding one of his campaign postcards.

He said: “The current system allows users the security of depending on receiving their funding from three different ‘pots’ – WILG, local authorities and our own personal contribution.

“This gives us a sense of security and ensures that we cannot be dictated to as mere passive recipients.

“Instead, all parties have to be in agreement about what will benefit the individual the most.

“This is something worth fighting for.”

But instead of this three-tier system, he said, the Welsh government had now “sold disabled people down the river.

“They are washing their hands of all responsibility for social care to former ILF recipients and transferring the pressure onto local authorities.”

A Welsh government spokeswoman told DNS in a statement: “Organisations that represent disabled people who have been recipients of the Independent Living Fund, recommended that their future support would be best provided through local authority social care provision, with consistent arrangements in place to support disabled people in Wales.”

But Disability Wales, which was part of the stakeholder advisory group the Welsh government consulted, has made it clear to DNS that it did not support passing funding to local authorities.

The Welsh government added: “We would be surprised if Disability Wales were suggesting that certain disabled people in Wales should have their support needs met in a different way to other disabled people.”

Davies said he believed the Welsh government had listened only to the local authorities on the advisory group.

He has been supported by the north-east branch of the Labour left-wing grassroots campaign Momentum and the Unite union in Wales.

But he said he was disappointed that Disability Wales – the national association of disabled people’s organisations in Wales – had not supported his campaign.

Miranda Evans, policy and programmes manager for Disability Wales (DW), said they were not able to support the petition – which is critical of the Labour party in Wales – because it was too party political.

But she stressed that DW’s preferred option was for a new Welsh independent living scheme – a Welsh version of ILF – that would protect those currently receiving WILG funding and would also be open to new members.

DNS has seen DW’s response to an early consultation on the Welsh government’s plans, and it makes it clear that none of DW’s members or the other disabled people it had consulted about the future of WILG were in favour of handing the funding directly to local authorities, and had instead “expressed strong opposition” to this.

It also stressed that such an option was “totally unacceptable to existing ILF recipients, their carers and other disabled people”.

#TrashTheTories – how you can help make sure June is the end of May

The time to act is now – that is why I will be on the streets for the next few days practising what I preach and hoping it will result in a change of Government.

This article originally appeared on Disabled People Against Cuts

It’s doubtful that anyone reading the DPAC blog will be in any doubt that Deaf and Disabled people in the UK cannot afford the Tories to get re-elected in June. Since 2010 the Tories have relentlessly attacked Disabled people, hitting the same group of people again and again with cut after cut.

While inequality and poverty increased for Disabled people and the poorest in society, the rich have got richer. Since 2010 when the Tories took power the richest 100 people in Britain have increased their wealth by £55.5 billion. Meanwhile nearly half of the poverty in the UK is now directly associated with disability.

Despite the UK becoming the first country in the world to be found guilty of grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights, the Tories are determined to push through their planned welfare savings and ideological dismantling of state support whatever the cost to us.

Already, just this year, changes to PIP brought in through emergency legislation to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny have taken essential support away from 164,000 people predominantly with mental health support needs, Employment and Support Allowance has been cut by a third for people in the Work Related Activity Group and in April the Government sneaked through three more hidden cuts affecting Disabled people.

At the same time, social care packages are being cut to the bone leaving Disabled people trapped indoors without choice, control, dignity or freedom. Over the Summer, the Department for Work and Pensions will be rolling out the new “Health and Work Conversation” to create an added barrier before Disabled claimants even reach the notorious Work Capability Assessment.

It is wrong to assume however that because the Tories have been getting away with this for so long that this is what the majority of the public wants. Most people are shocked and horrified when they find out what has taken place, incredulous that this can happen in the UK in the twenty first century and angry that anyone would and could pursue policies of, in Ken Loach’s words, such “conscious cruelty”. As I argued in a previous post, the majority of people would rather live in a fair and just society that values diversity and works for the benefit of the many rather than the few.

What we have at the moment is a system when power and wealth are in the hands of the elite and that includes control of the mainstream media and the ability to communicate misleading information and to distract from the real problems in society. Thus we find people blaming migrants and benefit scroungers instead of challenging the real enemies who are those who choose to put profit before people.

Precisely because we are the many and they are the few, the obstacles to achieving a fairer society are not insurmountable. Jeremy Corbyn’s two elections as leader of the Labour party in spite of everything the right wing of the party and the media threw at him, the second time with an increased mandate, show that united we can win.

But social justice and a fairer society are not things that will ever be handed to us on a plate, they have to be fought for.

With a General Election called and the prospect of another five years of Tory rule bringing with it insurance based systems to replace benefits and the NHS, now is one of those times when we have to step up and fight even harder because of the very real human cost that a loss will entail.

We all have a part to play in the coming weeks.

It is up to us all to do what we can to make sure the real information gets out there about what a Tory election will mean for Disabled people.

On 2nd May DPAC will be officially kicking off our election campaign to #TrashTheTories with our #NotTheFuckingTories protest: https://www.facebook.com/events/247652075641387.

We would like as many of you to join us as possible on the day but what is even more important is that members get out on the streets and your keyboards in the coming weeks to get that information out there to make anyone thinking of voting Tory or voting in a way that would help the Tories get in, think again.

The voices of Disabled people can and does make a difference. In the 2014 local elections the Disabled campaign group Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts ran street stalls to engage with the public and hand out information about how the cuts were impacting on local Disabled people and what the different local political parties were saying on disability issues. Unexpectedly, Labour unseated the Tory Council and followed through on honouring significant pledges they had made to Disabled voters before the election on issues such as abolishing home care charging.

We are asking all our members to think about what you can do and how you can help and encourage you to target marginal seats. There are some resources you may find useful at the end of this post. The media are often keen to cover stories about access to voting for Disabled people so do use this angle to get local attention.

Can you:

         Make sure your friends, neighbours and colleagues are registered to vote before the deadline on 22 May and plan to use their vote?

         Leaflet on street stalls or door to door with information about how important this election is to Deaf and Disabled people?

         Circulate information about what the different parties are saying on disability issues?

         Hold a local screening of I Daniel Blake with a Q and A after?

         Organise a local Deaf and disability hustings event?

DPAC has some funding for leaflets, stickers and posters which we can post to you if you have an event organised. Please keep us informed with how you are getting on.

Love and solidarity.

Disabled Tories launch investigation into impact of ILF closure

Below I have pasted an excellent article by John Pring of Disability News Service, which includes quotes from a certain Nathan Lee Davies 🙂

 

Disabled members of the Conservative party have launched their own investigation into the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), following widespread concerns about its impact across the country.

The Conservative Disability Group (CDG) has issued an appeal to former ILF-users and those who had friends or relatives who were recipients of ILF funding to help with the research.

Disabled campaigners have accused the government of trying to “wash its hands of all responsibility” for meeting the social care support needs of former ILF-recipients, with the transition process hit by reports of cuts to their care packages.

ILF was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and when it closed on 30 June 2015 it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.

But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.

CDG – which provides a forum for party members with an interest in disability to raise concerns and make suggestions that can be passed on to Tory MPs and councillors – plans to write a report to share with the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson.

Wayne Henderson, a member of the CDG executive, has told members the project will examine how well the transition has been managed.

He has asked for evidence of how the process has worked in different parts of the country, whether there have been any problems, and whether people’s care packages have been protected by their local councils.

He told Disability News Service that it was CDG’s “first call for evidence in recent years” and that they were “using our limited resources to investigate one of the most current areas where there are reported problems in order to find out the facts”.

But he said it was too early to say if he or other CDG members were concerned about how the transition from ILF closure had been managed.

He said: “We are doing this because we have heard that the transition varies considerably from area to area and we want to get more facts to inform our consideration and thence to pass on information and suggestions to the parliamentary group.”

A spokeswoman for Inclusion London welcomed CDG’s decision to carry out the investigation, but said it was a surprise.

She said: “People haven’t felt listened to by the Conservative party. It shows that it is such an important issue that they are choosing to research in this area. It shows an awareness that the transition has not gone smoothly.”

A Conservative party spokesman said: “The CDG are an independent organisation, so it is up to them what research they choose to undertake.”

In October, figures obtained by Inclusion London through a freedom of information request showed that in one local authority, Waltham Forest, more than a quarter of disabled people who previously received ILF support had had their social care packages cut by at least half since it closed.

Meanwhile, the  Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has finally confirmed – following weeks of requests for information from Disability News Service (DNS) – that it will provide some funding to councils to compensate them for the extra costs of providing support to former ILF-users in 2016-17.

DCLG had insisted that any grants to support councils with the costs of former ILF-users in 2016-17 would depend on the outcome of the government’s spending review, and later said it would provide details once last month’s local government finance settlement had been announced.

A DCLG spokeswoman has now finally told DNS: “Local councils are now responsible for meeting all of the eligible needs of former Independent Living Fund recipients.

“The government is committed to ensuring councils meet their duties under the Care Act 2014 to former fund recipients.

“We will be providing a grant to councils to fund former ILF recipients. Full details will be published in due course.”

Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “I would be surprised – although delighted – if there really was continuation of the separate ILF grant determination.

“The delay in releasing this information means that local authorities will continue to plan ahead on the basis there won’t be, leading to re-assessments going ahead meanwhile on the basis of a need to cut costs.”

This week, DPAC issued an appeal for donations to set up a fighting fund to help former ILF-recipients challenge cuts to their care packages.

Clifford said that cuts to the extent of those seen in Waltham Forest “mean robbing disabled people of independence, dignity and equality”.

Changes to legal aid mean some former ILF-users are no longer eligible for help with their legal bills, but cannot afford to fund court action to challenge cuts to their care packages.

Clifford said: “Legal challenges are an important way of testing out the rights of former ILF recipients under the Care Act 2014 and making examples out of local authorities that are not meeting their legal duties.

“This is why we need a fighting fund available to support legal challenges by former ILF recipients not eligible for legal aid.”

Meanwhile, the Welsh government has confirmed, in an email to a former ILF-user, that it has allocated £27 million for 2016-17 to a fund it set up as a result of ILF’s closure.

The Welsh independent living grant (WILG) funding will ensure that former ILF-users continue to receive their existing level of financial support for social care until at least March 2017.

In the email sent to campaigner and former ILF-user Nathan Lee Davies, the first minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said the Welsh Labour government’s draft budget for 2016-17 “contains £27 million to enable the WILG to continue to March 2017 as planned”.

He added: “I understand that the minister for health and social services will shortly be engaging with representatives of stakeholders to identify the best way of providing support in future.

“This will be in the light of the public consultation held earlier this year. This is to ensure that future arrangements are in place for when the current grant concludes in 2017.”

Davies said on his blog that this response was “the best Christmas gift I could have asked for as now I have it in writing that WILG will continue to March 2017 as planned”.

He added: “I must keep my eye on the ball and continue to fight to secure long-term assurances for disabled people, but I can now forge forward with hope in my heart.”

A Welsh government spokesman said: “The UK government’s decision to close the ILF caused anxiety among those who receive support, and their carers.

“The Welsh grant scheme to replace the ILF came into operation on 1 July 2015. It allows local authorities to pay existing recipients their current level of funding.

“The actions the Welsh government has taken to ensure this important source of funding continues to be delivered by our local authorities means people who currently receive ILF payments will still be able to get direct payments to sustain their levels of care and support under a new made-in-Wales process.”

The Scottish government has set up its own Independent Living Fund, for both existing and new users in Scotland.

Picture: Activists campaigning to halt the closure of the Independent Living Fund taking part in a protest in the grounds of Westminster Abbey in 2014

Government response

Dear Nathan Lee Davies,

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Assess full impact of all cuts to support & social care for disabled people”.

Government responded:

The Government is committed to a fair tax and welfare system. Every individual policy change is carefully considered, including looking at the effect on disabled people in line with legal obligations.

The Government is committed to a fair tax and welfare system where everyone contributes to reducing the deficit, and where those with the most contribute the most. Every individual policy change is carefully considered, including looking at the effect on disabled people in line with legal obligations.

However, it is not possible, using the Government’s existing analytical tools, to produce a cumulative assessment of the impact of policies on disabled people. HM Treasury has a world-leading distributional model, which it has used since 2010 to publish analysis of the impacts of policy decisions on households across the income distribution. This model uses the Living Cost and Food Survey (LCF), which does not have information on disability status. It contains expenditure information which allows analysis of the impacts of indirect taxes such as VAT and fuel duty, and underpins a unique model of public service usage; both of these enable HMT to consider the impacts of all of the Government tax and spending decisions which directly affect households.

As well as the inability to identify who has a disability in the data, most analysis of the impacts of welfare reforms tend to be limited in that they take static snapshots of benefit changes. Fundamental reforms are designed to support people in to employment and will therefore enable people to generate more income for themselves. Analysis needs to take account of behaviour change of reforms rather than the more limited approach of focusing solely on benefit changes

This analysis shows that the proportion of welfare and public service spending which benefits poorer households has not changed since 2010-11, with half of all spending on welfare and public services still going to the poorest 40% of households in 2017-18. At the same time, the richest fifth of households will pay a greater proportion of taxes than in 2010-11 as a result of government policy – and more than all other households put together.

The Government spends around £50 billion on disability benefits and services annually, and expenditure on sick and disabled people is higher than the OECD average. Welfare changes since 2010 have included protections for key vulnerable groups least able to increase their earnings, including those who need additional support as a result of disability. In the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015:

• Many disability-related elements of the benefit system are still uprated by the Consumer Price Index

• The additional component for those in the Support Group of Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit (UC) equivalents has been maintained

• Households which include a member who is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, the Support Component of Employment and Support Allowance or UC equivalents are exempt from the benefit cap.

Overall, reforms are focused on supporting people to find and keep work where appropriate. Growing evidence over the last decade shows work can keep people healthy as well as promote recovery which is why, as part of the Government’s objective to achieve full employment, it aims to halve the disability employment gap. Last year 226,000 more disabled people found work and to continue this success the Government has extended Access to Work to provide support to more disabled people in pre-employment, launched Specialist Employability Support to provide intensive, specialist support to the disabled people who need the most help and has extended Work Choice, providing tailored support to disabled people, to 2017. The Disability Confident campaign is working with employers to ensure that they understand the benefits of recruiting and retaining disabled people in work

Sickness Absence in the workplace is also a major issue, with employees off sick for four weeks or more being at greater risk of not returning to work. The Government recognises the importance of early support which is why Fit for Work has been developed; giving access to free, impartial work-related health advice to help employees on sick leave get back to work.

In terms of Social Care and NHS reforms, the Government is committed to supporting the most vulnerable. The Care Act 2014 introduces a modern system to promote and maintain the wellbeing of those with care and support needs so they can live independently. This includes introduction of a new national eligibility threshold which allows local authorities to maintain previous levels of access for service users. This threshold is set out in Eligibility Regulations, and local authorities cannot tighten eligibility beyond this threshold. The Act also provides new legislative focus on personalisation by placing personal budgets into law for the first time for people and carers, increasing opportunities for greater choice and control, so that people can choose social care best suited to meet their needs.

Department for Work and Pensions

Click this link to view the response online:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106068?reveal_response=yes

The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee

Thanks,
The Petitions team
UK Gponseovernment and Parliament