One of the five disabled people taking on the government in court over the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) says he and other ILF-users have been “let down very badly” by sections of the disabled people’s movement.
Lawyers for Stuart Bracking and four fellow disabled ILF-users were at the Royal Courts of Justice this week to appeal against the high court’s decision to dismiss their legal challenge to the planned closure of ILF in 2015.
The result of their appeal is not likely to be published for at least another month, but Bracking warned that thousands of disabled people with the highest support needs could be left alone to fight to maintain their independence if they lost that court battle and the disabled people’s movement did not successfully campaign to save ILF.
Bracking said the response of the disabled people’s movement to the government’s decision to close ILF in 2015 had been “fragmented and limited”.
He said: “Once again we could be left to fight on our own rather than as a collective movement. We are being let down very badly by parts of the movement.”
Although he said that Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Inclusion London had led a campaign against ILF’s closure, they have a limited base of activists and resources.
He said: “It feels like a huge issue like this should have had a bigger response. Beyond the work DPAC and Inclusion London have done to highlight this issue and its impact, ILF-users are currently very dependent on the success or failure of the court case.”
ILF only provides support if a disabled person is living in the community, which protects ILF-users from being forced into residential care.
Bracking said: “When that disappears, we become no different to other severely disabled people, where the norm is to put them into residential care.
He said that a new £300 million government fund to boost the supported housing market could provide an alternative for some people to residential care.
But he said that some supported living schemes “have had their problems in the past where disabled people have asserted their autonomy and right to self-determination”.
Bracking also believes that changes to be introduced through the government’s care bill – currently being debated by the House of Lords – will make it even harder for ILF-users to maintain their independence when the fund closes.
All ILF-users will be reassessed in preparation for the closure of the fund in April 2015, with a guarantee that their ILF funding will not be reduced before this date.
But Bracking believes that many of their care packages will be cut after 2015, because of the bill’s emphasis on re-ablement and on councils reducing people’s need for care and support.
He also believes that only those who can persuade health bodies to fund at least some of their personal assistance needs will be able to maintain their 24-hour care packages.
Bracking said: “Every severely disabled person I know uses the words ‘struggle’ and ‘fight’ when talking about the difficulties they have faced in securing services to meet their needs. People are now really scared and fearful for the future.
“The problem is that very active disabled people who have lived independent lives for a long time probably have some capacity to defend their care packages, but that is not true for the vast majority of ILF-users and their families.
“These are the people in our society who least need this pressure and uncertainty.
“We already see many thousands of older disabled people every year compelled by their circumstances and limited state support to enter residential care. The same thing could happen to people of working age.”
He added: “I think this government is quite happy to accept that scenario.”