For the last 27 years, the ILF, or Independent Living Fund, has supported some of the most vulnerable people in our society. But, on 1 July 2015 it was abolished in England. At that time there were approximately 18,000 people reliant on its financial support, on an average of £300 a week, but all that has now changed.
The fund supported those with severe learning difficulties, cerebral palsy, and a variety of other conditions. And the monies they received were mostly used to help them to live in the community, in their own homes, paying for carers to look after them so they did not have to move into residential care homes.
Care home places are in short supply and many people, disabled or not, when they find themselves in a situation, whether though age or condition, when they are unable to look after themselves as well as they used to, would prefer to be cared for at home. Home care means staying close to friends and family, retaining a home full of memories and keeping your freedom. And that’s why more and more Britons are choosing this option today.
So why would the government remove such necessary funding? Well, the answer as always these days is ‘austerity’. In a move to improve efficiency they are creating a ‘unified system’ of benefits through local authorities.
While some local authorities say that the monies these vulnerable individuals will receive won’t change, most cannot be that optimistic. To start off with, the funds the government is making available to local authorities for these purposes is down to £262m from the ILF’s former £300m budget, and as the money is not to be ring-fenced, theoretically not all of this reduced sum has to be handed to the disabled people it was supposed to assist.
While costs need to be cut to fit with the government’s plans for the country, it is a shame that even the smaller sum set aside for those previously on the ILF cannot be guaranteed to reach them. If we want to keep more people cared for in the community to minimise the already immense strain on care services and the NHS we need more home care, not less.