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Independent Living Fund

Volume 753: debated on Monday 12 May 2014

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the assessment guidance to local authorities under the Care Bill will address the particular needs of people transferring from the Independent Living Fund.

My Lords, one of the key principles of the Care Bill is that people who require care and support should have choice and control over their lives. The Bill requires that all assessments will consider the person’s needs, well-being and desired outcomes. The requirements of the Bill, and of guidance supporting implementation, will apply equally to all adults having an assessment, including those who are transferring from the Independent Living Fund.

I thank the Minister for his considered reply but, given the Government’s emphasis on people who have direct experience of using care and support services being centrally involved in their design and delivery, will the Minister please explain why his Government think it unnecessary to set up a reference group, including disabled people, the Independent Living Fund, local authorities and civil servants, to oversee this very important ILF transition?

My Lords, the noble Baroness will know that she and I had a very useful meeting last week and I, with my honourable colleague Norman Lamb, undertook to her that we would give that proposal serious consideration, which we will certainly do. I will be in touch with her in the coming weeks to arrange a further discussion about this. We are absolutely committed to co-production in this and to involving stakeholders wherever possible.

My Lords, given that the Government have set the national eligibility criteria at a level that will not provide sufficient support for independent living, will the Minister say whether and how the Government will monitor the level of unmet need of the transferred ILF clients if elements of their package are not eligible for local authority funding?

My Lords, 94% of ILF users receive support from both the ILF and the local authority. Local authorities will assess those who are transferring from the ILF. If a person is assessed as not having eligible needs, the Care Bill provides authorities with a power to meet those needs, and they do so. Authorities should also advise on what preventive services, information or advice, or other support may be available in the wider community to help them achieve their particular outcomes.

My Lords, while the Government’s policy of localism is to be generally welcomed, does my noble friend not agree that there should be some exceptions? If, as a result of devolving the Independent Living Fund, some severely disabled people can no longer afford to live wholly independent and fulfilling lives, how is this in the best interests of those disabled people? Will he explain, bearing in mind the high cost of social care and residential care, how that will be in the best interests of the taxpayer?

My Lords, the provisions in the Care Bill will apply equally to everyone with care and support needs, including those who are currently receiving support from the ILF. The aim of the ILF is to support independent living for disabled people. The overarching aim of the Care Bill is to give people with care and support needs more choice and control over their lives. It focuses specifically on their well-being and the outcomes that they want to achieve, and puts them at the heart of the system. That would be my reply. There is no question of forcing people into residential care. The starting point is: what are the needs and wishes of the individuals involved, and how can care be built around those?

My Lords, can the noble Earl guarantee that no current recipient of the fund will lose out when money is transferred and it is the responsibility of local government? Will he tell the House why this money is not being ring-fenced? Will he acknowledge that in two recent examples of money being transferred by his department to local government—the Healthwatch budget and the public health budget—local authorities have not passed on the full amount? How will he ensure that local authorities spend that money on independent living?

As the noble Lord knows, local government social care funding is not ring-fenced. We believe that allowing local authorities the flexibility to manage their budgets locally means that they can respond to local needs and priorities better. The Care Bill, as I have just said, will require local authorities to involve the person in the development of their care and support plan and, as far as possible, agree that with them. The person’s care and support plan may be different from their current package, but the central point is that they will be at the heart of the process to ensure that the package provides them with choice and control over their lives.

My Lords, the Government’s recently published strategy, Think Autism, vowed to help people with autism spectrum disorder to live independent lives. However, the abolition of the Independent Living Fund withdraws the very scheme that was set up precisely to help those vulnerable people to live in the community. How many people with autism spectrum disorder currently receive support under the Independent Living Fund and will therefore be affected by this closure?

My Lords, I do not have that figure in my brief but the number of people receiving payments from the Independent Living Fund is relatively few in comparison to the total number of people receiving adult social care and support. If I have any further figures that I can supply to the noble Baroness, I shall be happy to write to her.

Will the noble Earl share with the House the objections to ring-fencing this fund during the initial period to make sure that we have certainty that the money will be used for the purpose for which it is intended?

My Lords, the issue is that we essentially have a two-tier system. That is at the heart of why the ILF is being disbanded over the next year or so. As a result of that, we know that there is some cross-subsidisation, with local authorities using ILF money to off-set the cost of social care. We are rechannelling that money to local authorities in the expectation that they will use it for adult social care, as I have said. It is not, however, ring-fenced.