This morning disabled people and their supporters learned that the high court has found against the latest legal challenge against the government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
Despite today’s decision disabled campaigners vowed to continue fighting to save the ILF from closure “in every way we can”.
The campaign to save the Independent Living Fund has been one of the most high-profile among the many battles disabled people are currently fighting, say campaigners.
Campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) say current government policy is detrimentally impacting on disabled people. Disabled activists ‘occupied’ Westminster Abbey gardens over the summer in a bid to highlight the immediate plight faced by ILF users.
In November last year the Court of Appeal quashed the government’s decision to close the ILF, with appeal court judges unanimous in their verdict that the closure of the fund would have an “inevitable and considerable adverse effect” upon disabled people and their “ability to live independently”.
In October a second legal challenge was heard in the high court brought by disabled claimants, claiming the Minister for Disabled People had not considered any new information to properly assess the practical effect of closure on the particular needs of ILF users.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) mounted a defence based on their assertion that the Minister had adequate information to realise that the independent living of the majority of ILF users will be significantly impacted by the closure of the fund.
Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London said: “The closure of the ILF effectively signals the end of the right to independent living for disabled people in the UK.
“Whilst never perfect, the ILF represents a model of support that has enabled thousands of disabled people to enjoy meaningfully lives and to contribute to society as equal citizens.
“Since the closure of the Fund to new applicants in December 2010 we have seen disabled people left with their most basic needs unmet and unable to seek employment, to volunteer or go into education or simply even to leave the house.”
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, added: “Regardless of this ruling, disabled people will not be pushed back into the margins of society, we will not go back into the institutions, our place is in the community alongside our family and friends and neighbours and we are fighting to stay”.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka described today’s ruling as “a crushing blow for disabled people who rely on ILF support to maintain the kind of independence the rest of us take for granted.”
He added: “We will fight on and continue to support the campaign to keep this lifeline open.”
Sue Bott, Director of Policy and Development for Disability Rights UK said the decision was “very disappointing”.
“ILF recipients face an uncertain future of not knowing whether they will be able to continue to live independently”, she said.
Responsibility for supporting disabled people to live as independently as reasonably possible is to be devolved to local authorities.
However, Sue Bott said councils have been making “all sorts of excuses” as to “why they cannot involve disabled people and let us know what is happening”.
She added: “But local authorities do know how much money will be transferred to them, they do know who are the ILF recipients in their area, and they now have guidance, contained in the Care Act guidance, about how the transition should be managed.”
The DWP had not released a statement in response to the ruling by the time of this publication.