The Independent Living Fund

Labour strongly agrees that independent living is crucial to ensuring that disabled people have the same rights, choices and chances as any other citizen. Indeed, we tabled an amendment during the Committee Stage of the Care Bill which would have enshrined in law the right of disabled people to live independently. It was disappointing that the government chose to vote against and defeat this amendment. As Ed Miliband said the other day, Labour also opposed the government’s plans for closure of the Independent Living Fund in the absence of a comprehensive strategy for a system of social care that protects people’s ability to live independently.

As you know, a legal challenge was mounted against the government’s plans to close the Fund, and judgment was handed down before Christmas. This however confirmed that ministers have acted lawfully, and it now seems certain that the Fund will close as the government planned in June 2015. Indeed, I understand the Fund is already being wound down, and staff numbers are already reducing.

Following closure, our understanding is that the funding will be transferred to local authorities, and it will be for the individual authorities to make decisions about how their resources are applied. Ed Miliband in his remarks about the plans was absolutely clear that Labour is determined to work with local authorities to protect disabled people’s ability to live independently. As Ed said, “We’ve got to find ways of protecting that money for some of the most vulnerable disabled people” if the budget transfers to local authorities. A Labour government will therefore work with disabled people, including existing ILF users, and with local authorities, to design and put in place guidance to local authorities to help protect the thousands of disabled people affected by the decision.

I can also assure you that the right to live independently lies at the heart of our vision for “whole person care”, to be delivered through the integration of our health and social care systems. We are absolutely committed to working with disabled people, DPLOs, local authorities, families and carers to ensure we design the best model of support, which enables people to live the independent lives they want. Although we do not believe that simply reinstating the Fund, which had inconsistencies in delivery, would be the right way to achieve that goal, ensuring that those currently supported by the Independent Living Fund can realise that right will be central to that strategy.