Independent Living Fund Closes To New Applications
A government fund that gives money to severely disabled people to buy care and support has closed to applications less than three months into the financial year.
The Independent Living Fund (ILF), which helps more than 21,000 people, says it has run out of money for new grants for the rest of 2010-11. It is the first time the fund has had to close to applications since it was set up in 1988.
The move has shocked disability leaders and raised fears for the future of the ILF, which is a quango employing 160 staff in Nottingham and using 90 self-employed regional assessors to verify use of payments.
Phil Friend, chair of the disability charity Radar, said: “We are deeply concerned that the fund may go as part of the [government spending] cuts. It plays a vital part in ensuring that the most severely disabled people can live more independent lives.
“This is about people being able to move out of the family home or away from residential care. It enables people to think about working. Without the fund, they couldn’t do any of that.”
The ILF, which has a budget this year of £11.2m for Northern Ireland and £348m for the rest of the UK, makes payments averaging £316 a week. Its rules had already been tightened to restrict new applications to people aged 16-64 who were either self-employed or had a job for at least 16 hours a week.
In addition, applicants were required to be on higher-rate disability living allowance, hold savings of less than £23,000 and be receiving care and support worth at least a further £340 a week from their local authority.
In spite of these restrictions, the fund has exhausted its resources for 2010-11. It will honour 600 new offers of support made since the start of April, but otherwise make no further awards.
Patrick Boyle, the ILF’s chief executive, said: “Our first priority is the 21,000 disabled people we currently support to achieve high-quality, independent lives. Our trustees have acted quickly to protect this group and meet their responsibility to manage within budget.”
The fund says its budget has not been cut, though the last three-year government spending review in 2007 put the ILF allocation for England, Scotland and Wales for this year at £356m – £8m more than it has in fact received.
About 93% of the budget goes to existing recipients. The average cost of their awards has risen from £296 a week in 2008, an increase of almost 7% in two years, in response to the growing cost of care packages.
Boyle said: “We are committed to continuing and developing the excellent service we deliver to our users, allowing them greater flexibility in how they choose to manage their funding.”