Axing the Independent Living Fund without a plausible alternative will hurt vulnerable people while saving very little money
“The test of a good society,” David Cameron said before the 2010 general election, was whether “you look after the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest”.
That test, he admitted, “is even more difficult in difficult times, when difficult decisions have to be taken.”
We are certainly living in difficult times, with plenty of difficult decisions to be made about Government spending. But while many of the welfare reforms have been popular with voters on all sides of the political divide, there is now a big question whether the latest decision passes the Prime Minister’s own personal “test of a good society”.
Today sees the end of the Independent Living Fund, a little-known benefit that affects only 18,000 people across the nation and costs taxpayers £320m a year.
The fund, started 30 years ago, makes payments of, typically, £450 to £500 a week to people with severe disabilities to enable them to live more independent lives. It funds the cost of carers and personal assistants to provide daily help with their everyday needs, even allowing some recipients to go out to work.
Yet, in these “difficult times”, the ILF will cease to exist at midnight tonight. Disability campaigners, who have fought hard against its end, say this will be catastrophic for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Their worries have been brushed aside by the Government as “scaremongering”. This is, Ministers insist, a mere administrative change that won’t leave anyone out of pocket. From tomorrow all the funds will simply be transferred to local councils for them to manage.
So why is this such a test of Mr Cameron’s good society? The answer is, as always, in the small print.
Yes, the fund’s cash is being transferred to local councils from tonight but, with just hours to go, those councils have not yet been told exactly how much money they will each get.
In addition to that, the money – which will come from the Department for Communities and Local Government rather than the Department for Work and Pensions – will not be legally ringfenced for the severely disabled. Indeed, only one third of councils have so far committed to spending the money as intended rather than simply adding the cash to their general budget.
And, given that the social care for the elderly provided by many cash-strapped councils is already scandalously poor, with carers able to spend only minutes with frail and vulnerable pensioners, we can hardly hold out much hope that the care given to the severely disabled will meet anything but their most basic needs.
Finally, to add insult to injury, the central Government funding is guaranteed for only another nine months. After that, who knows? The disabled recipients and their carers will have to wait for the next spending review to find out what their future holds.
read the rest of this story here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/politics-blog/11707492/Camerons-stealth-cut-to-disability-benefits-is-obscene.html