As one of the leading Disabled People’s organisations in the country, Southampton Centre for Independent Living feel compelled to respond to the blog, published in Community Care, by Melanie Henwood and Bob Hudson entitled ‘End of the Independent Living Fund is the start of a new chapter’ .
Whilst two non-disabled academics may welcome the closure of the Independent Living Fund, we can assure your readership that the vast majority of Disabled People are increasingly concerned about this development, particularly as there appears to be no strategy from the government as to how Disabled People with high support needs, will be supported to live independently in the future.
It may appear that a simple solution will be just to hand the funding to the local authorities. However with the current government’s dislike of ring fencing, Disabled People will worry that this funding will just be absorbed into an already underfunded social care system, leaving many Disabled People with high support needs high and dry.
The other difficulty, that the authors fail to understand, is whilst not perfect, the Independent Living Fund enabled Disabled People to exercise geographical mobility by facilitating ‘portability’ of care packages, something local authority social care funding has failed to achieve. We would also contend from our many years supporting Disabled People to live independently that local authorities impose much tighter restrictions over how funding is used, than the ILF do. Indeed the ILF’s light touch to regulation encourages creativity and innovation for users as opposed to the ‘get up, go to bed’ approach of many local authorities.
We are not opposed to ‘reform’ of ILF, however Disabled People demand a voice in deciding the way forward. This is the time for academics to put away their text books and journals and start listening to the people who matter most – the users themselves.