Ruling will halt thousands of applications involving those with learning disabilities who need treatment involving loss of liberty.
Responsibility for attendance allowance could be transferred to local authorities, but critics say it is disguised cost-cutting.
The minister for social care has asked officials in his department to monitor “closely” the impact of the decision to scrap the Independent Living Fund, he has told Disability News Service (DNS).
Last week, both the Department of Health (DH) and the Department for Communities and Local Government refused to say whether they were monitoring the impact of the fund’s closure on disabled people.
But after being questioned by DNS during a Conservative party conference fringe meeting, Alistair Burt, a former minister for disabled people in the 1990s, said: “I have indeed asked for exactly what you have said, to ask what the impact has been.”
He told this week’s meeting, hosted by the Care and Support Alliance: “It is too early for us. Local authorities have now to arrange their own packages and make their own assessments.
“We put the money into local authorities but they have to make their own judgements and assessments about what is right.
“I am waiting to see what those assessments will be, because it is right we try and find out what is happening, and we are waiting to see what that will be.”
Afterwards, he told DNS: “I am very interested in how this transfer to local authorities works in practice.
“I have asked officials to monitor it closely and I am awaiting to hear what the exact impact is. It matters to the Department of Health, as I am sure it does to local authorities. But we need some information to work on.”
DNS had told the minister of the evidence of “shocking” cuts to the support packages of many former ILF-users, including in Waltham Forest, where 16 of 60 former ILF-users face cuts of more than half to their support packages.
ILF was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and when it closed on 30 June it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.
But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.
Burt admitted to the meeting that social care faced “extraordinary challenges”, but he said he was “very limited” in what he could say about its future funding because of the government’s spending review, due to report later this autumn.
He said: “The spending review is going on, there is nothing I can say before that that can have any bearing on the issue.”
But he said he was “more than aware of the financial pressures”, including the impact of the chancellor’s new “living wage”, on local authorities trying to fund social care.
He said: “I am very conscious of that; so is the secretary of state [Jeremy Hunt]; so I am sure is the spending review.”
And he said there was a “commitment in government to recognise the challenges in social care”.
He added: “If it has been a Cinderella service in the past, it is not now. It has got a very high priority in the NHS.”
Vicky McDermott, chair of the Care and Support Alliance and chief executive of Papworth Trust, and herself a disabled person, told the meeting that she believed that it was now time to call the situation facing social care “a crisis”, with the system “already on its knees” and “at breaking point”.
She said there was a “real risk” of the coalition’s Care Act “becoming an embarrassment rather than the beacon it ought to be”.
She said: “I absolutely applaud the Care Act, the best piece of social care legislation that has happened, probably ever.
“Ultimately, as a party you should be able to shout about that, you should be really proud, but right now it is not delivering on the promises it has made.”
And Izzi Seccombe, the Conservative leader of Warwickshire county council and chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, told the meeting that the situation facing adult social care was “stark”, with a funding gap set to grow by more than £700 million a year.
She said local authorities continued to support the reforms brought in by the Care Act, but did not want to see them implemented unless they were “affordable”.
She said: “If the government cannot fund both the system and the reforms then the absolute priority must go to maintaining the stability of the system itself.”
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com
‘…………By Neil Taggart, director of operations, FitzRoy
The closure of the Independent Living Fund means disability organisations are needed now more than ever to ensure decades of progress are not lost, writes FitzRoy’s Neil Taggart
It didn’t matter that it was a dark attic flat with peeling walls, tatty carpets and resident mice; collecting my first set of keys forty years ago was liberating. Independence at last.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll probably remember a similar moment and like me you probably hope that as many people as possible get to experience it. But as things stand for people with disabilities, opportunities of this kind are seriously under threat.
The Independent Living Fund, set up over 30 years ago with the clear intention of helping people with disabilities lead as independent lives as possible in their own homes, closed on 30 June 2015.
While the government might claim this is not a cut because the money is being transferred to councils, many are anxious that their independence is under threat because the funding hasn’t been ring-fenced. There is no obligation for local authorities to spend the money on the people it was originally intended for.
Out of 106 local authorities who responded to a freedom of information request by Disability Rights UK, only 24 said they would definitely ring-fence the funding for existing recipients. As councils face deep cuts to their budgets, there’s a real possibility they will be forced to spread the money too thinly, while attempting to cover rising costs in other areas.
These funds were a lifeline for many. For a person with a disability, living your own life in your own home rather than in a care home is always more expensive than for people without a disability. Whether you have additional costs because you are less mobile or transport costs because public transport doesn’t accommodate your wheelchair, your needs don’t reduce because funding does.
According to research by disability charity SCOPE, those additional costs can add up to £550 per month. The demise of the ILF could mean choosing between having a carer to help them use the toilet and having the heating on in winter to keep warm. Choices that that no one should have to make.
We know that the cost of ‘just enough’ care in your own home is cheaper for local authorities to provide than the cost of a standard care package in traditional forms of care and accommodation like registered care. The savings made in the short term will simply force people to rely on more costly forms of care and support to survive.
The Independent Living Fund was good at targeting resources to where it really mattered and where every penny made a real, positive, measurable benefit, we are now risking going backwards to a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
We need to protect these hard-won rights to independence and it is incumbent on disability organisations to protect these funds.
If we don’t, we risk casting thousands back into institutional care, reducing their ability to contribute to their communities and effectively throwing away the keys to their independence and the decades of progress we’ve made.
Tuesday was the last day of the Independent Living Fund. But what is it and who will be affected?
Started in 1988, the Independent Living Fund (ILF) has provided financial support to people with disabilities across the UK.
From Wednesday, 1 July, it will no longer exist in England, while Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have made different plans for the fund.
ILF users in England have been protesting since the closure was announced in 2010.
A headline-grabbing protest by disabled campaigners and ILF users at Parliament last week could be read as a last-minute attempt to make the government change its mind, but from Wednesday the fund will no longer exist.
For what has it been used?
The £320m Independent Living Fund currently pays out an average of £300 a week to approximately 18,000 disabled people.
The largest group of recipients – about a third – have severe learning disabilities, and the second largest group have cerebral palsy, but it is given to people with many different disabilities.
The recipients of ILF are often said to be some of the most severely disabled people in the UK.
Predominantly, it has been used to help people pay for carers and personal assistants, and its aim was to ensure that these disabled people could live in their communities, rather than in residential care homes.
It has been seen, in the most part, as a top-up fund, giving extra money to disabled people in addition to the benefits they receive from local authorities, to ensure they can afford care.
Why is it closing?
The government says the needs of recipients could be met more effectively by money coming from one, unified system.
This is because 94% of the current users already receive benefits from their local authorities, so, according to the government, it makes sense and stops unnecessary bureaucracy, if all funding comes from the same place.
The government also says that for some time it has been clear that developments in the delivery of care and support – specifically, that people now receive personal budgets from local authorities – have meant the objective of the ILF could now be better met by local authorities.
The ILF has for many years been seen as an anomaly, always operating outside of local authority budgeting.
In 1988, when the ILF was set up, it was illegal for local authorities to give money to people directly.
But because that has not been the case since 1996, and because local authorities already spend £1.2bn a year to support disabled people of all ages, the government argues it no longer makes sense.
What will change?
Simply put, from Wednesday, people who currently receive support from the local council and the ILF will instead receive all of their support from the local council.
The amount of money set aside by the government is also changing.
It has said that £262m will be transferred to local authorities, a noticeable reduction from the current £300m.
And the money does not have to be ring-fenced, so it could technically be spent by local authorities on other things, and is subject to normal budget cuts.
A third of councils responding to Freedom of Information requests from the BBC and the charity Disability Rights UK have said they will ring-fence the money.
The government’s response to calls to ring-fence the money has been clear: that doing so would prevent local authorities from servicing local needs in a flexible and responsive way.
But some people have said this could be a smokescreen for further cuts.
Why are disabled campaigners unhappy about the decision?
While in theory it may sound as though the lives of the 18,000 disabled people will be unaffected, disabled campaigners say that in practice the picture looks different.
They argue that social care budgets are being squeezed more than ever, and that the decision is just a way for the government to make further cuts.
Some say they have been told by their local authorities to expect cuts in what they receive.
They are worried local authorities may make decisions based on costs.
Twenty-four-hour care in the home for an individual is estimated to cost £1,700 a week, whereas the comparative cost of a local authority care home for an adult with a disability is about £850 a week.
Everybody was supposed to have received assessments before the handover, but some disabled people say they are still waiting for theirs, causing uncertainty and anxiety.
Protesters say this is a backward step because it took a lot of campaigning from disabled people to create the fund in the first place.
What is happening outside of England?
In Scotland a new, national ILF has been created that will protect users’ current awards, as long as they remain eligible.
And in May, it was announced that payments to the approximately 600 ILF recipients in Northern Ireland would also be administered through ILF Scotland.
The Welsh government has decided to transfer responsibility and funding to local authorities in Wales but has put in place conditions for the money.
It has secured money for the 1,648 people receiving ILF in Wales, to keep the same support until March 2016, and then funding is subject to the next Spending Round.
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford, has said that if funding is secured again, then he will reconsider the steps needed to develop a new Welsh ILF body as a longer-term solution.
How has it reached this stage?
There has been an ongoing legal battle between disabled people and the government over the ILF, which was only resolved in December 2014.
Five disabled ILF users brought a case against the government’s plans to scrap the fund, in 2013, questioning the legality of the decision on the basis that the consultation into how it would work had been inadequate and had failed to fulfil its public-sector equality duty.
The High Court found that the closure was lawful, but this decision was later overturned by the Court of Appeal. The government then decided it would not appeal and ministers began to reconsider the future of ILF.
But the Department for Work and Pensions conducted fresh equalities analysis following the Court of Appeal’s decision, which resulted in the government announcing once more, in March 2014, that the ILF would close.
A fresh legal challenge from ILF users was brought against the decision but was ultimately unsuccessful, and in December 2014, the High Court ruled it was lawful once again, and plans for the closure went ahead.
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Fresh evidence has emerged of delays and cuts to care packages as local authorities prepare for the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has admitted to Disability News Service (DNS) that there are problems with the transition process – ahead of the fund’s closure at the end of this month – but insists that central government is to blame.
Last week, despite many ILF-users telling DNS that they had yet to be informed by their own local authorities how much support they would receive once the fund closed, both the Department of Health (DH) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refused to comment on the apparent confusion and delays.
Now both DWP and DH have been accused of “washing their hands” of the problems caused by the decision to close ILF, and the failure to plan for its closure.
Faced with reports of problems across England, ADASS today (Thursday) apologised for the problems ILF-users were facing.
Ray James, president of ADASS, said: “We are concerned by any evidence that people who use our services are not satisfied with them and we recommend strongly that individual councils should engage with local recipients of the Independent Living Fund as soon as possible.”
But he said the closure was “very much at the behest of central government, and comes at a time when local authorities are reeling from a £4.6 billion reduction in their budgets in the past five years”.
James said directors were doing all they could “in an extraordinarily difficult financial environment”, and had already been hit by the need to carry out extra assessments of disabled people following last year’s Supreme Court rulings on deprivation of liberty safeguards.
He admitted that there “will be some difficulties for which I am sorry”, but that most authorities would be “pressing ahead” in line with guidance published last November by ADASS, ILF and the Local Government Association.
James said the problems with transition “should have been envisaged by central government”.
He said: “Where there are difficulties I urge colleagues to resolve them as swiftly as possible.
“They would have been caused by a lack of money: not a lack of concern.”
ILF is a government-resourced trust which helps about 16,500 people with the highest support needs to live independently, but the coalition government decided that it should close on 30 June, with one year’s worth of non-ring-fenced funding transferred to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.
The Scottish government announced last year that it was setting up its own ILF, for both existing and new users in Scotland, using the UK government’s funding and an additional £5.5 million of its own money.
The Welsh government has opted to transfer the Westminster funding to its local authorities – with conditions attached – and will protect the budgets of existing ILF-users for the first nine months, with funding after that dependant on the UK government’s next spending round.
Sue Bott, former director of the National Centre for Independent Living and now deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK), said: “There is a lot of concern and confusion out there.”
She has spoken to four ILF-users in three local authorities whose councils have indicated that their care packages will be cut, following reassessments. All four are appealing against those decisions, a step she said DR UK would always recommend in such circumstances.
She said both DWP and DH appeared to be “washing their hands” of the consequences of ILF closure, while the Department for Communities and Local Government could also not escape blame.
She said: “It is not a good example of good government and joined-up government. It just seems that the two departments [DWP and DH] never talk to each other, which is extraordinary.
“It is people trying to get on with their everyday lives who suffer the consequences.
“Good joined-up government is what a minister for disabled people is supposed to ensure. It clearly hasn’t happened in this case.”
Bott said that the transition work of ILF itself had been “exemplary, and they have done absolutely everything that they can”.
But she said: “ILF-users have been caused an awful lot of anxiety. It is really not acceptable because this is not anxiety about some little matter that may not happen.
“This is about people’s basic quality of life and what happens to them on a day-to-day basis.
“We are talking about people with the highest social care needs. I think a lot more could have been done to resolve people’s anxiety.”
Some ILF-users are receiving better treatment from their local authorities.
Consultant and campaigner Miro Griffiths has been told by his local authority – Wirral council – that his overall package will stay the same for the rest of the year after ILF closes.
He said: “They were fairly empathic to the situation but were unable to explain what happens after the first year.”
Meanwhile, solicitor Kate Whittaker, from lawyers Scott-Moncrieff, working with ILF-users, Inclusion London and Disability Sheffield Centre for Independent Living, has produced a new guide for ILF-recipients and other people with high support needs.
The guide aims to help ILF-users “understand legal and practical issues about community care assessments and support and how it will apply to them” following the ILF closure.
Disabled People Against Cuts is organising a lobby of parliament on Wednesday (24 June) in a final bid to persuade MPs to reverse the closure, and is asking as many ILF-users and supporters as possible to attend.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com
The implementation of the first phase of the 2014 Care Act by the Department of Health (DH) has gone well, but its cost estimates and funding mechanisms have put local authorities at increased financial risk due to uncertain levels of demand for social care, a report has found.
The National Audit Office (NAO) report found that 99% of local authorities were confident that they would able to carry out the Act reforms from April 2015.
But the NAO also warned that local authorities may not have enough resources to respond if demand for care exceeds expectations. The Care Act, which aims to reduce reliance on formal care, promote people’s independence and wellbeing and give people more control of their own care and support, will increase demand for assessments and services at a time when local authority provision has been falling and the number of people in need is rising. The NAO estimates that phase 1 of the Act will cost £2.5 billion to carry out from 2013-14 to 2019-20, more than half of which is for carers’ assessments and services – a new entitlement and the largest single cost.
The NAO says DH may have underestimated the demand for assessments and services for carers. DH based its estimate of take-up on the number receiving Carer’s Allowance, which it compared with other sources. The NAO repeated DH’s calculation concluding that it was as reasonable to assume that those carers who have applied for Carer’s Allowance and are eligible, but do not receive it because they receive other allowances, are as likely to seek an assessment. This equates to a risk of £27 million (26%) in extra assessments and services if these people also come forward.
“The first phase of the Department of Health’s new approach to adult social care has been implemented well,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO. “But this places new responsibilities on local authorities whose core funding is being significantly reduced. They may not have enough resources to respond if, as could be the case, demand for care exceeds expectation. This could result in their having to delay or reduce services in the short-term. This risk to value for money needs to be managed. The Department for Communities and Local Government has taken steps since November 2014 to improve its understanding of new burdens on local authorities. But it needs to use intelligence from the new burdens regime to improve its understanding of the pressures affecting authorities’ financial sustainability.”
More money for social care
In response, calls have been made for more money to be put into social care. Sarah Lambert, head of policy at the National Autistic Society (NAS), said: “While [the] NAO report says that the first phase of the Act’s implementation has gone well, it also highlights serious concerns about local authorities’ ability to meet demand at a time of tightening resources. The NAS believes that this could lead to delays in people accessing vital support and raises the prospect of the reforms failing to live up to their potential.
“All too often adults with autism miss out on vital support. NAS research indicates that 7 in 10 adults with autism aren’t getting the help they need from social services and that 1 in 3 develop severe and often avoidable mental health problems due to insufficient support.
“George Osborne has a chance to address these issues before it’s too late, as he prepares next month’s Emergency Budget. He must ensure that the DH has got its sums right and make the necessary investments so that people with autism get the care and support they need.
“Supporting the most vulnerable members of society by investing in social care isn’t just the right thing to do; evidence shows that it also saves local councils and the NHS money by giving people the care and support they need before they fall into crisis and need expensive specialist care.”
Sue Brown, vice chair of the Care & Support Alliance, also voiced concern over funding: “The Care & Support Alliance has previously warned that the Care Act reforms will prove to be ‘built on sand’ unless more funding is put into the social care system.
“Chronic underfunding of adult social care has seen dramatic year-on-year rationing of support, excluding hundreds of thousands of older and disabled people from the care they desperately need to get up, get dressed and get out of the house. This is also putting unbearable pressure on family carers. The scale of the crisis in social care funding is clear – the [Local Government Association] and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services estimate a £4.3 billion funding gap by 2020.
“The Care Act is a bold reform of the system, but the Government needs to provide adequate funding so that local authorities can actually implement the reforms. Last year, 9 out of 10 councils signalled concern that lack of funding could jeopardise vital reforms to the care system with the implementation of the Care Act 2014. Last week, ADASS found 83% of directors report there will be an impact on services over the next two years due to funding cuts.
“The Government needs to urgently address the crisis in care funding to prevent the care system from total collapse in the next decade. Anything else is a false economy.” ………’
Local authorities could soon be forced to merge their adoption services, under government powers set to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech today.
The new law, contained in the proposed schools and adoption bill, will oblige councils to combine their services to increase and speed up adoption rates.
Councils will have two years to join together services under their own steam, after which ministers will have the power to force ‘failing’ authorities to take action.
Too small and localised
Although no barriers prevent councils from working together, ministers believe adoption is currently happening, “at too small and localised a scale”, with evidence showing councils tend to concentrate their efforts locally when looking for adopters.
By working together, ministers hope the choice of potential matches for a child will increase significantly and permanent families will be found sooner.
Children’s minister Edward Timpson said: “By coming together and joining forces, councils can make sure more children are matched with families far quicker – regardless of where they live.”
‘Greatest step change in a generation’
Local authorities will be encouraged to identify their own regional approach that would see them merge their adoption services under one system, or outsource delivery of their adoption functions into a single regional agency.
The Department for Education (DfE) confirmed the government will provide financial and practical support for local authorities and adoption agencies to help them bring their services together regionally.
Doing so would implement the, “greatest step change in the way children are matched for adoption in a generation”, the DfE stated.
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Local authorities have set up online e-markets to meet key duties under the Care Act but their potential to deliver choice to care users could be undermined by risk aversion from frontline staff and management, according to a report.
Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank found that around a quarter of councils now allow self-funding adult social care users and personal budget holders to search for and purchase care services via ‘Amazon-style’ e-markets. Many had set up the sites to meet their responsibility to provide universal information and guidance under the Care Act 2014, the IPPR said.
Benefits of e-markets
The IPPR identified three main benefits to the e-market systems: they improved access to the market for new and small providers, provided more opportunities for user-commissioning by allowing people to describe the service they want and providers to respond with a tailored service and price, and helped integrate networks of formal and informal care.
However, the report also identified a number of issues with implementation of the platforms. Too many local authorities viewed them as cost-saving tools rather than a chance to transform care. A culture of risk aversion among local authorities and frontline staff often stifled new providers from entering the markets and led to professionals and brokers directing people to services they had always used.
“Action is required in a number of areas if the genuine choice that e-marketplaces promise is to be delivered. First, those who help users to select products and services need to become confident in helping those users find the services that are right for them, rather than simply directing those users to the services that the broker or social worker has always used,” the report said.
“Many of the most innovative providers are non-traditional, and substantial offline work and cultural change among staff may be required to ensure a diverse supply rather than a replication of the existing market. Carers, paid brokers, frontline social workers and charities with advisory functions all assist users in making choices, and they are key to this process.”
The culture of excessive caution must be tackled by ensuring that risk is shared appropriately and frontline staff are given the attention and permission they need to focus on outcomes rather than being “cowed by concerns about compliance and liability”, the report said.
The report pointed to Worcestershire county council as a good example of a local authority supporting its social workers to utilise the new system. The council held networking events for social workers to meet local care providers and discuss the e-marketplace.
Wider potential of technology
The e-marketplace model is just one example of how local authorities are looking to use technology to meet their Care Act duties. The most recent Care Act stocktake by the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) found that 147 of 152 local authorities planned to introduce an element of online self-service for care ranging from e-marketplaces to web-based assessments.
Richard Pantlin, the Adass technology and informatics lead, said directors were keen to promote online options for individuals and carers who were “happy and capable to use it”.
“Hard-pressed people in their 40′s, 50′s and 60′s who are the main informal carers for their elderly parents will find such resources particularly helpful. Many more are likely to be contacting councils as a result of the cap on care costs being introduced from next April,” he said.
“During this year, Adass is organising workshops in each of the regions to encourage more co-operation across councils and to share best practice for engaging citizens online for the Care Act. Many councils have already implemented good Information & Advice portals that direct users according to their needs.
“Some, such as Oxfordshire, have enabled carers to complete their own assessments online. Others are planning online financial self-assessment. There are also an increasing number of apps independently available to people in need of support and their carers to assist them.”
Adass is holding a ‘Care apps showcase’ on 19 October in Leeds.
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