Five disabled people lose challenge over scrapped scheme that gave them independence
The five are among 19,000 who receive money from the scheme, which the Government plans to scrap in 2015
Rob Hastings is Deputy News Editor at The Independent. He has served on the news desk since 2010, and also writes travel articles, music reviews and features. In 2015 he shortlisted for the Washington Post’s Laurence Stern Fellowship for a series on reportage features from Iran.
Wednesday 24 April 2013
A group of disabled people have pledged to fight on after the High Court ruled the Government's plan to close a benefit scheme allowing them to access funds to live independent lives can go ahead.
A judicial review into the replacement of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) with a scheme run by local authorities was launched after campaign groups argued that the Department for Work and Pensions had not carried out proper consultations on the matter.
The case had released internal government papers, seen by The Independent, showing that many of the 19,000 recipients would see their allowances reduced – raising the possibility some disabled people living in their own homes thanks to the ILF’s financial support may have to go into institutionalised care.
But Mr Justice Blake said that nothing had persuaded him the consultation had failed to be “candid and open”. He described the fund’s recipients as "a privileged group" as it had already been closed to new users in 2010.
The disabled claimants were refused permission to appeal, but their lawyers maintained they will nevertheless ask the Court of Appeal directly to hear the case again “on the basis that the judge’s conclusions did not reflect the evidence before the court”.
Their solicitors, Deighton Pierce Glynn and Scott-Moncrieff & Associates, said in a statement that the group “are adamant that the process was flawed and that the impact of closure will be devastating for very large numbers of severely-disabled people. They see it as vital that the decision is quashed and the matter reconsidered on a fair and lawful basis”.
They added: “The judgment fails to explain the judge’s reasons for reaching the conclusions he did or to set out the evidence he relied on to reach those conclusions. The judgment is therefore hard to follow. In relation to the consultation process, the judge specifically found that there was enough information for people to engage in the process in a meaningful way.
“He also decided that the information that had not been provided (about the costs and reasons for closing the ILF) did not make a significant enough difference to the consultation exercise to make it unlawful, though these would have been important issues for people to comment on.”
But a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "How disabled people are supported to live independent lives has changed fundamentally over the past 20 years, including through the introduction of personal budgets.
"The ILF was closed to new users in 2010 and we are now devolving funding to local authorities to ensure the remaining users have their needs met in a single cohesive system. Nearly 1.6 million disabled people across the UK already receive support through local authority and devolved administrations' social care arrangements.
"The judge agreed the consultation had been carried out correctly and has refused permission for the claimants to appeal. If the Court of Appeal give permission to appeal DWP will defend such an appeal."
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of the campaign group Inclusion London which had backed the legal action, said: “This is a disappointing decision for disabled people. We welcome the news that the five claimants will be appealing to over-turn it. The Independent Living Fund plays a central role in upholding disabled people’s fundamental right to independent living and any proposals on its future must be carried out in a fair and transparent way.”
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