This month David Cameron will scrap The Independent Living Fund (ILF) as part of the emergency budget. This sentence in itself is unremarkable and cannot do justice to the tremors that this will send through the lives of our most vulnerable citizens; ripping their last remnants of their fiercely fought for independence to shreds. The Independent Living Fund is a vital financial pipeline for people with complex disability issues who wish to live in their communities rather than in residential care. Working with around 200 local authorities, the ILF ensures direct cash payments to disabled people so that they might purchase care that is suited to them; either through an agency or through a private care provider. The ILF also provides ongoing, round the clock support and work related guidance for service users so that they can be active members of society.
The effects of destroying the ILF would be catastrophic and this cut has already been severely delayed due to a court case pushed by five disabled people that found that the government was neglecting its duty of care and pushing through with a decision that hadn’t been clearly thought through in terms of its consequences. Despite this, the government have now pushed on apparently undeterred by the court’s decision. According to Disability Campaigner Jane Campbell: “Around 18,000 ILF claimants will be at the mercy of hard-pressed local authorities, who have said that they’ll not be able to provide the same level of support that people have had under the ILF”. By shifting the responsibility to other lesser equipped, overburdened services, the government are simply piling extra pressure on struggling local authorities. This will have long term detrimental effects.
It is bizarre and downright cruel that the Conservative government are continuing to cut corners in regards to the welfare of disabled people. It is atrocious that this is explained away rationally as tightening the country’s purse strings as if this is the national equivalent of making the switch to Tesco value ready meals. Without this fund, disabled individuals will be further restricted and will struggle to pursue full and active lives outside their homes. Many will have to give up work. Furthermore, many struggling families will be forced to put disabled family members into supported care when they would much rather keep them at home.
It was only in 2010 that Cameron stated in an interview with BBC Journalist Andrew Marr that “the test of a good society is you look after the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society”. However, this now feels like a very long time ago indeed. David Cameron should understand the difficulties of being a disabled person. His own late son Ivan was severely disabled and Cameron has spoken bravely and candidly about the impossible strain that this placed on his family life. The Cameron family benefited from government support such as the Disabled Living Allowance during Ivan’s tragically short lifetime. Why then is this same dignity and care not afforded as an absolute priority to other struggling families?