There’s a post on Community Care’s ‘The Big Picture’ blog which explains some of the reasons behind the decision to scrap the ILF (Independent Living Fund). It is written by Melanie Henwood and Professor Bob Hudson who were commissioned (they say) by the DWP to undertake an independent review of the ILF over four years ago.
This decision, they state proudly, is a result of their analysis and ‘review’.
‘More than four years ago we were commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions to undertake an independent review of the ILF. Our core conclusion was that it is highly anomalous for significant amounts of public money to be placed in the hands of a cash-limited, discretionary fund administered by a board of trustees, resulting in inequity, lack of accountability, overlap and duplication of functions, arbitrary decisions and major confusion for disabled people seeking support for independent living.
This is an anachronistic and paternalistic model that should have no place in a 21st century system of care and support. We recommended therefore that the ILF should be fully integrated with personal budgets rather than existing as a parallel system of social care funding.
Despite welcoming our report, the previous administration failed to act on it, and the coalition government should be congratulated for these first steps towards a principled and strategic decision about the future of the fund.’
Far be it for me to comment. I’m not an ‘independent consultant’ and I’m not a professor of anything. I just worked on the basis of using monies from the ILF and accessing support for service users I worked with.
I am confused by the lack of accountability charge in that the money was accounted for as far as I had always been aware and didn’t seem to be necessarily arbitrary in its allocation but that’s just my limited experience. I’ll concur to the obvious experts on that.
Yes, integrating the system with personal budgets of course makes perfect sense. The problem is that it is highly unlikely that any additional funding will be made available. As we see from the settlements the local authorities received this week, money is going to be beyond stretched.
I, by no means, think the ILF needs to be retained in its current form but it has been a representative acknowledgement of the needs for additional funding over and above what local authorities can provide for. By letting the funding stream slip entirely into the hands of local authorities it risks and will be subsumed by the many different calls for financing by more ‘life and death’ needs.
For me, the purpose of the ILF was to remove some of the budget from the local authorities – it provided a nationally imposed system of allocation which was the same in Belfast and Birmingham – in Hackney and Chelsea – the arbitrary nature was about when the money ran out rather than a so-called ‘postcode lottery’. Neither is fair but one is, perhaps, easier to comprehend.
It’s an interesting piece for Community Care that sure, raises some of the need for change in the way the ILF works. The problem is that for all the earnest explanations of Henwood and Hudson, there has been nothing from the government about any kind of replacement which hardly builds any kind of confidence that that money will be protected.
I don’t want to be blind to the failings of the ILF. I didn’t do any in-depth analysis of its workings to be honest – I just saw the way it works and the way it has helped people directly.
I can only look back at an article that appeared in Comment is Free on the Guardian website back in October. A panellist, SheenaMacInnes states that
My fear, should the ILF cease to exist, is that these funds will slowly disappear in the future, and that the choice afforded me by my self-directed budget will mean less and less support, let alone choice as the total budget reduces over time. This is not how I want to live my life. Having two funding sources means I have greater security regarding assistance in the long term, and greater flexibility. Less personal assistance will make it harder to contribute to society as well as to access community services such as health. The end of the ILF has the potential to be a disaster for me.
The problem with Henwood and Hudson’s post is that it is all very well calling for the need to change and criticising clear failures in the ILF which has, after all, been their job as consultants – but it’s hard to understand their glorious proclamation of a ‘new chapter’ for the fund-previously-known-as-the-ILF when nothing at all has been announced as its replacement. I have to wonder how much service-user consultation took place before this decision was made. Unfortunately the post sounds like an apologists’ dream for the new government.
Hollow promises and empty purses make for poorer service delivery. Services need to be fair and transparent, of course they do, but they need to exist and have the money to back them up as well. If the fund needs to change, so be it. I’m no expert in its mechanics, but this feels too much like just another cut than a considered statement on better supporting disabled adults at home and providing the funding necessary to provide good quality care.
- The Death of the Independent Living Fund (fightingmonsters.wordpress.com)