As the Royal Court of Justice hears a legal challenge against the planned closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), the TUC warns that “scrapping the fund will mean turning the clock back to the dark ages for disabled people”.
At the end of 2013, the Court of Appeal overturned an earlier government decision to close the ILF. The government responded by conducting a new equalities analysis and re-announcing the decision to close the Fund at a later date than originally planned.
However, the new decision was made without any further consultation of organisations and individuals. Solicitors for the disabled claimants this week will argue that the government’s failure to consider any new information external to government has meant Ministers did not discharge their equality duties under the Equality Act 2010.
Disabled people face being “excluded from our society” if government plans to scrap the fund go ahead, resulting in thousands being excluded from work, further education and general participation in society.
The ILF was established in 1998 and provides crucial care and support for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, enabling them to live as independently as reasonably possible. The fund supports around 18,000 of the most severely disabled people to pay for the extra care they need to work, study and live independent lives.
In the new short film, co-produced by the TUC supported False Economy campaign, disabled people explain why the ILF is so crucial. The disabled people featured in the film include Nadia Clarke and Mark Williams.
Nadia, 22, has cerebral palsy and a hearing impairment. She said: “In the future I want to travel the world, study at university, become a working advisor for disability rights and have a relationship and children. Without the ILF, my parents will end up looking after me and may even have to give up their paid work.”
Mark, 49, is a school governor and former social worker. He said: “The ILF means I can be an active school governor. With all the other cuts in benefits, if the ILF closes, I’m worried that I’ll only have my basic needs met. David Cameron has no idea. He hasn’t a clue because he doesn’t have to worry about money.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Fund has had a transformational effect on the lives of thousands of people. It’s allowed them to be a full part of the community, with an active social life, and the chance to have a career and contribute to the economy.
“Scrapping the Fund will mean turning the clock back to the dark ages of disabled people being excluded from our society. Local authorities will struggle to step into the void with their budgets being so heavily slashed by central government.”
The film’s co-producer, False Economy’s Kate Belgrave, said:
“The film shows disabled people going about their daily lives and talking about the fight they’ve put up to save the Independent Living Fund. Disabled people must be supported in their fight for the independent life that everyone has an absolute right to expect.”
A spokesperson for Disabled People Against Cuts, which was involved in the production of the film, said: “Whatever the outcome of the court case, the fight to save the Fund is far from over and disabled people refuse to allow themselves to be railroaded into care homes or worse.”