A government decision to close a fund which would allow disabled people to live and work independently has been ruled lawful by a High Court. The decision to shut down the Independent Living Fund (ILF) by 30 June 2015 was made by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in March this year. The High Court was asked whether Duncan Smith had unlawfully failed to discharge his public sector equality duty (PSED) under the 2010 Equality Act by closing the fund.
The £320m ILF fund currently provides support to allow 18,000 disabled people to live and work in their community rather than residential care. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) previously warned that closure of the fund “will result in loss of dignity and independence for many ILF recipients”.
Judge Justice Andrews, sitting in the High Court, has ruled that the closure was lawful following an appeal, but added she knew the decision would be of “great disappointment” to some. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said following the decision the care system in the UK is now “on its knees.” He said: “Scope is very concerned about the closure of the Independent Living Fund, because it’s likely to lead to fewer disabled people being able to live independently. “Funding will be transferred to councils, but there will be no guarantee that the money will be used to support disabled people to live independently, or that former ILF users will receive the same levels of support, given the pressures on local authority finances. “The care system is on its knees. Chronic under-funding and year-on-year rationing mean that too many people that need help to get up, get dressed, get washed and live independently face a daily struggle for support.” “With its recent care reforms, the government has set out an ambitious vision for the future of social care. But if this vision is to become a reality, social care needs sustainable funding”.
The Department for Work and Pensions said: “This government is absolutely committed to supporting disabled people and we continue to spend around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services.”
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