Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services
Earlier this year the UK Government announced to Parliament that it was to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on 30 June 2015. This decision was taken without any prior reference to the devolved administrations. At this point responsibility for meeting the support needs of the ILF recipients in Wales will pass to the Welsh Government. This is to inform Members of the commencement of a public consultation seeking views on the principle of implementing a range of potential options to deliver that support for when the ILF has closed.
The ILF was set up in 1988 as an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body of the Department for Work and Pensions. It provides financial support to disabled people throughout the UK who require a high level of support to live independently. It is funded by the UK Government and operated by the ILF.
The ILF makes direct cash payments to disabled people with very significant care needs so they can meet the cost of the care and support they require, or to employ their own personal assistant. Payments can be used for a range of things such as: assistance with eating and drinking; cooking and preparing food and drink; assistance with dressing; cleaning, laundry and other domestic duties. As of 31 July this year there were 1,686 ILF recipients in Wales, who overall received on average just over £335 a week from the ILF to meet their needs.
The UK Government’s announcement earlier this year confirmed that:
- the ILF would close in the UK on 30 June next year
- in relation to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, their respective devolved administrations would become responsible from that date for meeting the support needs of the current ILF recipients in their countries. It would be a matter for those administrations to determine how best to do this. (For England the UK Government has already decided that responsibility should be passed to local authorities);
- funding would be transferred to the devolved administrations at that time to meet the cost of this support. For 2015-16. the Welsh Government is to receive £20.4 million for this purpose. This funding transfer does not include a separate element for administration of the fund; and,
- until the date of closure, the ILF would continue to support ILF recipients as now.
Given the unilateral decision of the UK Government there is a need to agree and put in place future arrangements in Wales to support current recipients to continue to live independently. Welsh Ministers have indicated previously that to inform our decision on the most appropriate way to provide that support we wish to be appraised of stakeholders’ views on how that support should be provided. As a result my officials have worked with representatives of stakeholders to identify the options to provide this support. These range from passing responsibility and funding to local authorities to meet needs, to establishing a Welsh ILF. I would like to thank the stakeholder representatives who have worked with my officials to do this.
As a result a public consultation is commencing to seek views on the principle of implementing one of four options to provide that future support. This sets out the background to the ILF and its purpose, to the UK Government’s decision and to the options which have been identified. In describing these it also sets out what we consider to be the main advantages and challenges associated with each option. A copy of the consultation can be viewed online.
While the consultation is taking place my officials will engage with organisations that might provide any of the four future support arrangements set out in this consultation. This would include, for example, representatives of local authorities and interested third sector organisations. This is to ensure that whatever option we decide to implement, its introduction is not delayed while discussions over the practicalities of this take place.
I know the UK Government’s announcement has caused anxiety among ILF recipients over how their future support will be provided. I want to reassure them that we are committed to ensuring that appropriate arrangements are in place in good time to meet their support needs for when the ILF closes next year. I will be encouraging all those with an interest to respond to this consultation to ensure that I am fully aware of stakeholders’ views when I come to determine early in the new year the most appropriate way to meet recipients’ needs in future.
I will of course ensure Members are kept informed of the outcome of the consultation.