Campaigners fight to save fund for disabled

 

Six disabled people are taking ministers to the High Court over a decision to scrap a scheme enabling them to stay in their homes.

Cash from the Independent Living Fund (ILF) allows claimants to buy extra care and get help with tasks such as laundry and shopping. The fund is being wound up and the money diverted to local councils to put towards their social care budgets.

The six challengers, led by 73-year-old Anne Pridmore, who has cerebral palsy, will argue that the Government did not consult adequately over the moves or make the case for the changes.

Opponents say claimants are likely to have their benefits cut because of the cash squeeze on councils, forcing them to rely on relatives or charity to live independently, or to go into care homes. Nearly 20,000 ILF claimants are receiving letters alerting them to the changes. Disabilities rights campaigners will stage a vigil outside the Royal Courts of Justice to back the legal challenge, which is expected to last two days.

Richard Hawkes, head of the charity Scope, said 20,000 people would lose help with the “basics in life”. He said: “Not getting the support to wash, dress and leave your home is unacceptable.”

Kate Whittaker, a solicitor advising the challengers, said: “[This could] have a massive impact on people… The Government has to be very careful with the decision-making and they just have not got it right.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said it would “robustly” defend the decision to shut the fund. A spokesman said: “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.”

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