Two severely disabled men who use a fund for people with disabilities to live and work in the community have lost in their attempt to overturn the government’s decision to close it next June.
The high court ruled that Mike Penning, former minister for disabled people, had not breached equality laws in . The two men had been granted permission for a judicial review of the process leading to his decision, taken weeks after the court of appeal quashed a previous, almost identical, decision as being unlawful. The Equality and Human Rights Commission warned that the closure “will result in loss of dignity and independence for many ILF recipients”.
Mrs Justice Andrews, sitting in London, ruled that the decision was reached lawfully. As she announced her ruling, she offered her sympathy to those she said she knew would find it a great disappointment.
As in the earlier successful challenge, the claimants argued that the minister had not been given adequate information to be able to properly assess the practical effect of closure on the particular needs of ILF users and their ability to live independently, or to consider alternatives.
In handing down judgment Andrews emphasised that her decision was not about the rights or wrongs of closure, just whether the minister knew enough about the likely impact to meet the requirements of a lawful decision-making process.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said: “Funding will be transferred to councils, but there will be no guarantee that the money will be used to support disabled people to live independently, or that former ILF users will receive the same levels of support, given the pressures on local authority finances. The care system is on its knees. Chronic underfunding and year-on-year rationing mean that too many people that need help to get up, get dressed, get washed and live independently face a daily struggle for support.”
ILF provides support and funding to in the UK to enable them to live independent lives. To be eligible, people must already receive a substantial care package from local authority social services, but ILF funding provides a top-up for those with the highest support needs.
The ILF system was set up in 1988 to tackle the barriers to independent living and working faced by the most severely disabled people, which were not adequately addressed by council provision with its focus on meeting basic needs.