That is very much part of the issue at the moment, and I congratulate my hon. Friend’s council on being one of those that are making the right stand.
Disabled People Against Cuts, which organised the demonstration last week, has argued:
“At the very minimum the ILF funding should be ring-fenced for the continuing care and support of existing ILF recipients when funding is transferred to Local Authorities and devolved administrations”.
That is not being done and, in an age of austerity and deepening cuts to local authorities, the funds will get lost in the wider budget. That is the key and crucial fear.
DPAC sent freedom of information requests to 151 different local authorities, asking how many are ring- fencing the funding. The response showed that only 21.43% were doing what the council in my hon. Friend’s constituency is doing, whereas 50% said they were not doing that. At the time they were asked, 28.57% still had to decide what they were going to do.
What will further budget cuts bring? As of now, Ashley is allowed to keep his carers, but in a year’s time, will that change? Will his family have to deal with a succession of strangers who do not have time to get to know them and understand their needs?
Leonard Cheshire Disability published a report in 2013 stating that in England, 60% of councils use 15-minute visits, which are not long enough to provide adequate care, with disabled people having to choose whether to have a drink or go to the toilet. Hopefully, things have improved since then, but it is understandable that such reports fuel ILF recipients’ concerns. Those fears are backed up by Disability Rights UK, which made the following observations last week on the eve of the fund’s abolition:
“The monies being transferred from the ILF to local authorities will not, in most areas, be ring fenced meaning that the money can be spent according to local decision rather than necessarily on those in receipt of ILF funding.
There is currently no indication of whether funding for ILF recipients will continue to be transferred from national to local government beyond 2015/16.
The level of social care funding in real terms has, and is likely to continue to be, cut overall outweighing many times the additional funds being transferred from the ILF.
The consequences are that some disabled people in receipt of ILF funding will no longer receive any support at all; and others will find their support package reduced.
We want to see equity of support that achieves independent living across all impairments and age groups—closure of the ILF in current conditions will not achieve this.”
That summarises the strong concerns out there in the community. Scope, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the Spinal Injuries Association and various trade unions are among many other organisations that share those concerns.