Thousands of disabled people in Scotland are to benefit from a new Independent Living Fund (ILF), Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The Government is closing the existing ILF from June 2015, despite losing an earlier court case in November 2013 where the judges ruled that the Coalition Government’s axing of the fund breached duty to promote equality for disabled people.
Responsibility for meeting the care needs of disabled people is to be devolved to local authorities in England and administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The new Scottish system ‘will build on existing care through further investment’ in order to provide support to around 3,000 disabled people in Scotland, enabling them to ‘remain living at home and participate in work, training and education’.
Responsibility for the new system will rest with the Scottish Government who will ‘develop a national system run by the third sector’. This was only made possible after Westminster agreed to transfer management of the existing ILF to Scotland.
According to the Scottish Government the new scheme will be financed through current funding and topped up by an extra £5.5 million to ensure its future stability.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Everyone should have the same freedom, choice and dignity to live independent lives at home, at work and in the community. Today we are safe guarding that right for the people of Scotland.
“Last year we met with disability groups who asked that a Scottish Independent Living Fund be re-opened to new users, while protecting the packages of existing users.
“We were also asked that we jointly develop the scheme with disabled people on a national basis. We have listened to their views, which is why we are protecting existing users and opening the fund to new users.
“The Scottish system will be run nationally with disabled people at the heart of its decision making.
“We are not only protecting funding packages for existing users, but providing an extra £5.5 million to re-open the fund to those who have not been able to access the current care package since its closure.
“Today’s commitment from the Scottish Government will allow new applicants in the first year to benefit from the funding, giving them a quality of life that everyone should be entitled to.
“There is no doubt that people in Scotland are paying a heavy price for Westminster decisions but we will do all we can to help. However, only in an independent Scotland will we have the full powers we need to protect our most vulnerable people and help them fulfil their potential in work and life.”
Disabled people in Scotland will need to be referred to the new ILF scheme through local authority social services, before they can benefit from all the new system has to offer.