Rebecca Evans Minister for Social Services and Public Health
On 5 February this year the former Minister for Health and Social Services issued a Statement setting out that longer-term arrangements to support former Independent Living Fund (ILF) recipients in Wales were being considered. My announcement today sets out what those arrangements are and how they will operate from April 1 next year.
Following the closure of the ILF by the UK Government on 30 June last year, Ministers ensured continuity of support in the short-term for former recipients through our Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) with local authorities. Through this we have been able to help disabled people meet the additional costs of living independently in the community, in the same manner and level they received from the ILF.
We have received a recurrent transfer of £27 million a year from UK Government to meet the cost of providing support to former ILF recipients. However the level of this leaves no scope to fund a change in people’s needs, for any changes in the cost of support they require or for operating any scheme to support them. Such costs would need to be top-sliced from this funding at the expense of care for all. My officials have, therefore, worked with stakeholder representatives to develop options for long-term support which take account of this. These were:
- the extension of current arrangements;
- an arrangement with a third party to continue to provide payments to recipients in Wales, and;
- to transfer the responsibility and funding to local authorities in Wales over a two-year transitional period so as to eventually provide support through normal social care provision.
I have now fully considered the merits of each option. In doing this it has become clear any future option for support which sits outside of normal social care provision has two major downsides. First, it continues the inequity of some disabled people receiving their support from their local authority, while others receive specific payments to help meet the cost of living independently in addition to the support they receive from their local authority. This would continue to provide support to former ILF recipients in a different way to which care and support would be provided to other disabled people in Wales. Second, any option outside of normal provision has the potential to become unsustainable in the longer-term as numbers in what was a closed ILF scheme reduce over time, or the value of payments which can be afforded from the fixed transfer from the UK Government mean these become increasing ineffective in being able to meet recipients’ support needs.
As a result I have concluded future support to former ILF recipients through normal social care provision from local authorities would be the most effective approach. It addresses the issue of equality while making the best use of finite resources, ensuring it is used to provide support to recipients rather than used disproportionately towards start-up or operating costs of any separate arrangements.
Funding for the WILG will continue in its current format in 2017-18 to enable local authorities to continue payments to recipients but will transfer to local authorities from 2018-19 onwards. During this time local authorities would meet with recipients, and their representatives, to identify the outcomes they are seeking to achieve and agree a package of support to meet these. This is with a view by 31 March 2019 to all recipients having their support needs met through a package provided by their local authority.
I recognise some recipients would have preferred a different decision. I also recognise this approach means existing arrangements will continue for a slightly longer period. This managed transition will, however, enable the approach to social care under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 to be embedded within its provision by local authorities. The vast majority of recipients already receive a level of care and support from their local authority. The new arrangements will allow local authorities and recipients time to plan and agree support packages which adequately reflect the outcomes recipients are seeking to achieve and which put in arrangements to deliver these.
This approach to introduce future support will allow recipients time over the transition period to agree and make suitable adjustments to prepare for them. They will only move into the new arrangements when the support they require is available. This could occur during the first year of transition, or in the second. Until then recipients will carry on receiving payments from their local authority until such time as their support package is available.
Officials will notify recipients and local authorities of my decision and will work with stakeholder representatives on the detail of how the transition from the WILG to local authority support over this two-year period should occur. This will ensure that the new arrangements are in place for 1 April 2017.
I will keep Members informed of progress.