Disabled People: Independent Living — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:58 pm on 17th November 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Crossbench 2:58 pm, 17th November 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are monitoring how local authorities disburse money previously disbursed from the Independent Living Fund to enable disabled people to live as independently as they were before the closure of that fund.

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My Lords, the Government are conducting research on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund based on interviews with a sample of former users. They are also conducting research on the implementation of the Care Act 2014, which made the Independent Living Fund’s main features—personalisation, choice and control—part of the mainstream social care system.

Photo of Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Crossbench

I thank the Minister for her reply. Is she aware that two independent research reports, carried out by In Control and Scope, have been published in the past month? Both found that more than half of disabled people using social care can no longer get the support they need to live independently? Now that the Independent Living Fund has been transferred to the wider social care system, will the Government commit, in the spending review, to invest in social care that will directly ensure that disabled people’s independent living support continues in the future? It would be a travesty if it returns to 1980s provision.

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The Government are committed to ensuring that people who require care and support have choice and control over their lives, and they are aware that independent living is often vital to the well-being of those we are trying to assist. That is why the Government added the extra chapter to the Care Act guidance before closing the Independent Living Fund. We will be monitoring the situation, and local authorities now have a statutory duty to ensure minimum standards.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

My Lords, many disabled people view local authorities as uncommitted to independent living. They say they face a different social worker each time, a lack of understanding of their needs and very bureaucratic assessment processes, leading to further stress for them. Can the Minister reassure your Lordships’ House that the Government have a plan in place to monitor council spending on independent living and to ensure that those in need can access the benefits to which they are entitled?

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My Lords, the Government are committed to this matter and are following it up with research into both the general implementation of the Care Act and the specific impact on former users of the Independent Living Fund. We do not currently have any evidence that those affected by the closure of the Independent Living Fund, 94% of whom were already receiving local authority support, have been unable to maintain the standard of care they require.

Photo of Baroness Hollins Baroness Hollins Crossbench

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the recent survey by In Control, referred to by my noble friend, found a significant reduction in well-being among those receiving social support? Will not those transferring from the Independent Living Fund also be affected, and how will the Government prevent the situation getting worse for all those receiving care?

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My Lords, the Government are committed to spending on care and support for those who are disabled and vulnerable. Indeed, every year between now and 2020, spending will increase beyond the 2010 level. Local authorities supported the changes to the Independent Living Fund, and people will now be dealing with only one system, whereas previously they dealt with two. The ILF was a discretionary trust; now, there is a statutory underpinning to protect users to the minimum required standard.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, when will the Government take steps to make it the norm that people dependent on local authority support have a nominated member of the support team as their principal carer so that they establish a continuous relationship with somebody in the outside world?

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My Lords, the Government believe that local authorities are best placed to decide what intervention and support disabled people require. I should add that all Independent Living Fund users had one-to-one visits, and reports were sent to local authorities before the scheme was closed.

Photo of Baroness Sherlock Baroness Sherlock Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Opposition Senior Whip (Lords)

My Lords, I can see that the Minister has a brief that requires her to tell us how committed the Government are, but I wonder whether she can listen to some of the stories she has heard today. From the comments made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Campbell, Lady Hollins and Lady Brinton, and from the two reports that have been mentioned, it is quite clear that there is very serious disquiet that people who used to get help from the ILF are not now getting it. Therefore, I ask her again: what plans do the Government have specifically to ensure that disabled people are able to get the care that they used to get and can expect to get in the future?

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My Lords, as I have said, we are monitoring the impact of the Independent Living Fund: 94% of users were already receiving local authority support. Local authorities have an obligation under the Care Act to meet the minimum standards required for all those who need care and support, including taking account of their requirement to live independently. I assure the House that the Government are committed to supporting those who need care and support. As I said, the spending will be higher each year between now and 2020 than it was in 2010. This will rely on local authorities carrying out their duties, which we will monitor.