Independent Living Fund — [Mr George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 8th July 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Opposition Whip (Commons) 4:00 pm, 8th July 2015

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the effect on recipients of the transfer of the Independent Living Fund to local authorities.

For many people, the protest in Members’ Lobby during Prime Minister’s questions a few weeks ago may well have been the first time that they came across the independent living fund, but right hon. and hon. Members will be well aware of its benefits from contact with constituents who are recipients. As I said a year ago, in June 2014, when I last had an Adjournment debate on the subject, the independent living fund does what it says on the tin. It gives severely disabled people their independence and lets them make choices about how they live—about things we take for granted, such as when to get up or go to bed, and when and what to eat.

The independent living fund began in 1988 as a national resource dedicated to the financial support of severely disabled people, enabling them to choose to continue living in the community. In March 2014, the Government announced that they would close the ILF in June 2015 and that responsibility for ILF users would be passed to local authorities. That has now happened, yet a year on from my last Westminster Hall debate on the issue, ILF recipients tell me that they are no nearer to getting answers to the questions posed then. Consequently, their worries about the future continue to multiply. The promises given that the changes would be well managed and that people in receipt of ILF would be consulted and kept informed throughout the transfer process do not appear to have been effectively delivered, at least from the viewpoint of my constituents in north Lincolnshire.

Ashley was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 10 months old. This year, he will turn 31. A year ago, his mum, Jeanette, shared her concerns about the future, saying:

“The alleged ‘smooth transfer’ over to social services is already proving to be nothing of the sort. Each and every meeting we hold leave us having to justify Ashley’s needs as a disabled person. The assessments they ask us to complete are totally unsuitable for the severely disabled.”

Last week, Jeanette updated me. Sadly, her fears have not been allayed, and she is continuing to have to battle for her son. She said:

“We have only received a contract from the local council in the last week and went a year without any form of contact from adult social services. If it wasn’t for me fighting for Ashley there would be no contract and nothing would be in place for the changeover. There is no money in place for Ashley’s carer’s holiday, sickness or training pay; this cannot be claimed back from the Government. Every year Ashley’s situation will be reviewed and once again I will have to fight for my son.”

Another constituent, Jon, for whom the ILF has been a lifeline, had an accident 35 years ago that left him paralysed from the neck down. He told me last week about the contact he had had from social services this year:

“So far I have only received generic letters. I have had no contact, no visit, not even a phone call. I feel that decisions are being made about my life that I don’t know about. I have not been given any assurances about my carers and their jobs or their wages.”