Independent Living Fund Here to Stay
Five people have succeeded in a legal challenge to the government’s decision to abolish the Independent Living Fund.
The £359 million Independent Living Fund (ILF) provides support for nearly 19,000 disabled people in the UK, allowing them to live independent lives within their communities. On December 18 2012, ministers decided to close the fund, which High Court judge Justice Blake rules as lawful in April of this year.
Five people challenged the court, saying that there hadn’t been enough consultation over changes being made to ILF. Anne Pridmore, Gabriel Pepper, John Aspinall, Paris L’amour and Stuart Bracking are all users of the fund, and said that, without it, they wouldn’t be able to live their lives in the manner they are used to, being able to take part in work and other activities in the same was as an able-bodied person.
Court of Appeal judges Lord Justice Elias, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice McCombe allowed the challenge to the High Court’s earlier judgement, overruling the earlier decision. Unanimously, the appeal judges found that the government had ignored its duty to assess just how closure of the fund would affect disabled people as required under the Equality Act 2010.
During the hearing, Lord Justice McCombe said he thought that the minister in the previous case hadn’t had enough information to make a proper decision on how the fund helps some people not to be “seriously in peril”.
“Any government, particularly in a time of austerity,” explained Lord Justice Elias, “is obliged to take invidious decisions, which may exceptionally bear harshly on some of the most disadvantaged in society.”
ILF’s average payout a week is £300, and the government has said that councils will now take over funding it. The money means that some of the fund users are able to hire personal assistants to help them with their personal needs, and to go out and have a full life.
Mike Penning, Minister for Disabled People, said: “We are very pleased the Court of Appeal upheld how we undertook our consultation on the future of the fund, and they accepted that it had been carried out properly and fairly.” The decision is thought to be of major importance for all disabled people, and not just the claimants in the case.
The law firms representing the claimants, Deighton Pierce-Glynn and Scott-Moncrieff & Associates, welcome the new ruling, saying their clients had “feared that the loss of their ILF support would threaten their right to live with dignity,” but that isn’t something they have to worry about now.
One follower of the case, 41-year-old Jenny Hurst from London, had waited outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the rain in her wheelchair, waiting to hear the outcome of the appeal. “I am absolutely delighted,” she said. “I was sick with worry waiting for the result… There is more to go, but we have gotten over this first hurdle, which is fantastic.”