Some of the coalition’s plans to cut the national budget deficit are beginning to take shape and we are beginning to see where the ‘pain’ will be felt. As I have previously remarked, the atmosphere within the service where I work anyway, has most definitely been one of austerity in the face of further reconfiguration mainly seen through a recruitment freeze and the dismissal of all agency staff.

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On a broader scale though, there were a couple of announcements made yesterday that caught my attention. The one that will have the most significant implications on adult social care funding in the short term was the news via Community Care, that the ILF (Independent Living Fund) is closing to all new applicants for this year and bearing in mind the financial year starts in April and we’ve only made it to June..

In my current job I don’t work much with the ILF as it is another service that is restricted to working age adults, assuming that those who are over 65 no longer have the same desires and aspirations towards ‘independent living’ but that’s probably another story for another day, in a previous job working with adults with physical disabilities I did a lot of work with the ILF.

It is a centrally funded scheme aimed at those who have the highest level needs. It provided a lot of the groundwork for Direct Payments historically as the money was awarded to adults with disabilities to buy their own care directly and employ PAs (Personal Assistants) and become a front-runner for the services and ways that direct payments and now personal budgets have been managed. To summarise what is a fairly complicated system, the local authorities have to provide a certain level of assistance for the individual to be eligible and then the ILF matches the funds that the local authority provides.

The implications of the withdrawal of support from the ILF are that the greater burden of funding the highest level care packages will fall directly on the local authorities and there may be a restriction in the funding that might be reserved for less critical needs such as social stimulation and accessing community facilities.

The intention of the ILF is to enable more people to stay out of residential care. Of course as a result fo the changing social structure and services, the amounts of residential care homes do not exist (quite rightly) at the same levels but a need is a need and if central government won’t fund it, it looks like an increasingly stretched local government will have to, probably at a lower level.

Of the other cuts that have been announced, the one that saddens me personally is the cut to access to free swimming for under 16s and over 60s because this is something I see with my own eyes. We go swimming every week with my foster child and while paying would be fine for us, we can easily afford it, some of her friends can’t and their parents are only able to allow them to join us because it is free but when they swim together, the barriers come down a little.

I have mentioned it before and again that I live in one of the poorest areas of the city, just this week, a 15 year old  kid was stabbed not 200 yards from our front door.

It may well be the case that a lot of the people benefiting would be able to pay anyway but I wish there would be a consideration of some kinds of means-testing, perhaps accessing free school meals as a pre-condition or highlighting some swimming pools in particular ‘deprived areas’, I don’t know but I see with my eyes a lot of the good that the policy has achieved and am saddened by it’s demise.

The local sports centre is a stone’s throw away and on Saturdays and Sundays it is full of kids of all ages enjoying the pool. I have a horrible feeling that this will change a lot after the withdrawal of this funding and there will be a lot less wholesome places for the kids to go to enjoy themselves.

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6 thoughts on “Cuts

  1. That ILF cut seems counterproductive in the long run I’d think. Won’t this mean more people will need to be in expensive residential care? We also had cuts to support in 2009, and indeed they cut the budget for social stimulation, community participation etc. In my case since I have behavior problems I was in fact eligible for more support rather than less, but of course they are the people who might develop behavior problems if not provided with adequate support who will lose.

  2. This is the whole issue with cuts. They are virtually impossible to make so what actually happens is just a shifting around. The example of ILF is perfect, the bottom line is that there are real needs which need to be met. Reducing central govt funding will mean increasing local govt funding and as you point out the net result of this shift will no doubt be a poorer outcome and/or a more expensive one as the capacity for res. care(where no doubt local authorities will turn) have been whittled down with many state run homes closed.

    Central government do however, benefit from handing responsibility for cuts to local government. With a council tax freeze on the cards this is where the cuts will really bite.

  3. The ILF is based in Nottingham and administers throughout the UK. ILF claims are reviewed every two years, whereas claims for direct payments, manged by Local Authorities are reviewed every year.
    My partner used to work in Direct Payments and he says that the lack of match between the two payment processes was a nightmare to manage and administer as both forms of benefit were means tested but were not managed by one body.
    If the monies for ILF could be adminstered by Local Authorities with Direct Payments as there is now an infrastructure and the development of an awareness of the importance of a social enterprise network around the provision of services and support to people who need help and support throughout their lives, then that would be great.
    If the freezing of this money means it disappears into a Bermuda Triangle of ‘Benefit Scrounging’ ideology, then we would really need a campaign!

  4. Thanks for the responses.
    Astrid – I completed agree! The government are VERY poor at preventative measures.
    Neil – Yes, that is my fear as well as council tax now being frozen, there is going to be a lot less money in the local govt coffers.
    Paula – I believe Direct Payments came after ILF and took up a lot of the work done. It could be a nightmare to work with the two but often when I was working with DPs for people who had ILF packages a lot of the ground-work had already been done. There is a better infrastructure now as DP and Individual Budgets are rolling out and becoming mandatory nationally but initially that wasn’t the case.

    • I expect it also depends on which part of the country you live in and how important this groundwork was seen to be? I do worry that the admin support to frontline services is really important and it might just be seen as unimportant. Nottingham’s going to lose 4,500 public service workers. It’s really true that Public services (ie the middle class) are going to pay for the mistakes of the Financial Institutions and those that gambled to win on costly debt not being repaid. The alliance already looks split along greed and care fault lines!

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