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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:12 pm on 8th July 2015.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Disabled People) 4:12 pm, 8th July 2015

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I thank Nic Dakin for calling this debate. It is of great interest to a number of people.

I recognise the valuable role that the independent living fund has played in enabling severely disabled people to live independently over the last 27 years. The ILF was created in 1988 as a transitional arrangement to mitigate the impact of the end of domestic assistance allowances when supplementary benefit was replaced with income support. The fund was established for a maximum of five years as a charitable trust to make payments to people on low incomes who had to pay for personal care. It was expected to support about 300 people. At that time, there was no clear legal provision for local authorities to make such payments.

The original ILF charitable trust ran until 1992, when it was closed to new applications. A new extension fund was created in 1993 to receive new applicants, and the two funds ran in parallel until 2007, when they were amalgamated. Following a trustee decision temporarily to cease taking new applications, the fund was closed to new users permanently in December 2010.

The decision to close the ILF completely, which was announced in a written ministerial statement on 6 March 2014, followed careful consideration of the implications of a Court of Appeal judgment handed down in November 2013. The decision was based on new evidence and a new equality analysis, and reflected those changes.

I understand and acknowledge the depth of the concern shared by many former ILF users about its closure and the impact of that. It was incredibly important to the users. Human nature does not like change, but when it is something so important to someone’s independence, I absolutely get the strength of feeling. However, it was no longer appropriate to continue to fund care and support needs through a discretionary trust operating outside the mainstream system. The mainstream adult social care system has undergone radical changes since the ILF was established. The introduction of the Care Act 2014 in England means that the key features of ILF support, which contributed to its success—personalisation, inclusion, choice and control—are now part of the mainstream adult social care system. Broadly similar legislation has already been introduced in Scotland and will come into force in Wales during 2015-16.

Local authorities themselves have a statutory duty to assess and fund the eligible care needs of disabled people, and 94% of all former ILF users already received a local authority contribution to their care and support. Transferring full responsibility for adult care and support to local authorities ensures that the needs of all disabled people will be met within a single care and support system, thereby simplifying arrangements.