Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services
Members will be aware from my Written Statement of 3 October 2014 that a consultation was undertaken late last year on the future care and support arrangements for recipients of Independent Living Fund (ILF). This Statement is to update members on the outcome of the consultation and how the Welsh Government will administer the funding for ILF recipients care and support in Wales from 1 July this year.
The UK Government announced to Parliament in March last year 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.
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 presently 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 30 January this year there were 1,648 ILF recipients in Wales, who received on average just over £335 a week from the ILF to meet their needs.
The consultation ran between 3 October and 23 December last year and sought views on which of four options responders preferred as the vehicle to continue to provide care and support to ILF recipients in Wales. The four options under consideration were:
- Setting up a Welsh successor body to the ILF.
- Establishing a National Independent Living Scheme.
- Transferring Responsibility and Funding to Local Authorities via their Normal Funding Mechanism; or
- Transferring Responsibility and Funding to Local Authorities via a Special Grant with conditions set by the Welsh Government.
Officials recorded receiving 279 responses at the conclusion of the consultation, giving varying levels of support for each option. My officials collated and analysed the responses and provided briefing and advice to me on the support each option received together with the advantages and disadvantages of taking each option forward.
Having carefully considered the responses and views expressed I have decided, at this point, to implement Option Four a grant scheme, administered by local authorities to pay existing ILF recipients their current level of funding. This approach reflects both the need for speed in putting in place arrangements by 30 June of this year and the short term nature of the current funding offer. The grant scheme will run from July 2015 until the end of March 2017. Funding of £20.4m has already been confirmed for the period July 2015 to end of March 2016. This is based on the number of people receiving ILF when the current scheme closes on 30 June. Funding beyond this date is subject to the next Spending Round. If, at that point, funding based on actual number of recipients is confirmed as part of the long term budget of the Welsh Government then I will reconsider the steps needed to develop a Welsh successor body to the current ILF as a longer term solution.
I am fully aware of the ongoing anxiety and concerns experienced by current ILF recipients as a result of the announcement of the closure. The grant scheme I have announced today will ensure that current levels of funding are maintained whilst keeping open the possibility of a permanent body to operate ILF in Wales, should conditions permit. In the mean time, today’s decision provides clarity to current ILF recipients in Wales that their current care and support pathways will be maintained, alleviating concerns expressed by ILF recipients and removing employment concerns raised by their carers.
Officials will now liaise with local authority representatives and their organisations and stakeholders to work through the details of the grant scheme to ensure that it is in place by the end of June.
I will of course ensure Members are kept informed of the developments of the arrangements for ILF in Wales.