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

I am coming to that. I am just setting the background, after which I will talk about the action that is being taken.

The potential implications of closing the ILF were set out in the equality analysis in very clear terms, focusing on the likely impact of the proposed policy on those with a protected characteristic and concentrating on assessing the impact of closure on people with the protected characteristic of disability and, in particular, users of the ILF. The equality analysis considered a worst-case scenario, even if it was not certain that it would happen, separately under each limb of the public sector equality duty.

In addition, we have made a commitment, as part of the equality analysis, to monitor the impact of the closure of the ILF on former users. I believe that that will be welcomed by all. A sample of former ILF users have already agreed to take part, and we have started planning the research, which will be completed before the end of the 2015-16 financial year.

Before the closure of the ILF, the Government worked closely with the ILF in partnership with ILF users, local authorities in England and the devolved Administrations to ensure that they benefited from a programme of extensive transitional support. As part of that support, all former ILF users received a detailed support plan setting out the level of support and the outcomes secured under their ILF award.

The information was shared with local authorities, and the devolved Governments all had access to the data transferred to them prior to closure. In addition, the ILF engaged directly with all authorities involved in the transfer of user care and support in 2015, and it held a series of conferences in October 2014 to provide local authorities with up-to-date information. One-to-one discussions were held with all 151 local authorities at those events. Similar events were held in Wales, and the ILF has worked closely with the Scottish Government to ensure a smooth transfer for all users across Great Britain.

The Department and I have worked closely with the Department of Health, the ILF and interested parties, including a number of significant stakeholder groups, to develop additional guidance for local authorities. We did so in recognition of the fact that, as has been highlighted, not all local authorities immediately displayed full confidence in the arrangements. That included points raised in earlier debates on the subject, which is why we developed additional guidance to ensure that we were prepared for the transfer of former ILF recipients to sole local authority care, underpinned by a new chapter in the Care Act 2014 statutory guidance. That will help to inform local authorities in the transfer of former ILF users to the adult social care system in England.

I have recently written to my counterparts in the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, because I want to ensure that the needs of all former ILF users continue to be taken into account. I have received assurances from the Department of Health and DCLG that future funding for former ILF users will be considered at the next spending review. It may be helpful to highlight the positive remarks of the Chancellor during the election, which are formally on record.

In addition, DCLG has written to each local authority that has former ILF users to draw attention to the agreed code of practice, which will be supported by the new guidance. In the meetings and conversations I have had with the Departments, it has been clear that they absolutely understand that and there is collective support for it. Ongoing support from my officials and me will continue, to ensure that we monitor what is happening and keep a close eye on the situation.