The ability to be able to live independently is a fundamental right for disabled people - it is enshrined in Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Over 18,000 disabled people in the UK, including over a hundred in Bristol, are only able to live independently by accessing the support they need through the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
The Coalition Government's decision to close the ILF will therefore have seriously repercussions for many of our fellow citizens, denying them the ability to live their lives in the home of their choice, and to actively contribute to their local communities.
On Wednesday, the Bristol Green Party will ask the council to vote to ring-fence all funds transferred from the ILF, and to call upon the national leaders of the main political parties to reverse the closure of the ILF. If passed, it is believed that Bristol will become the first city to take an official position against the closure of the ILF.
"We are calling for the funds that will be transferred locally to be ring-fenced but we also need any future national government to commit to providing the necessary resources to enable disabled citizens to live independently." said Tony Dyer, the Green Party candidate for Bristol South, "Welfare reform, including changes to incapacity benefit and the introduction of personal independence payments have badly affected many disabled people - they have often borne the brunt of this government's cuts.
"Changes to the ILF fund in particular are causing stress for many people who depend on this money for their support needs and who fear that it will be cut" He continued; "Disability rights groups are also concerned that some people who will have been eligible for ILF support have not been able to apply to the fund since it was closed to new applicants and thus we are also calling for the Council to ensure that these people are not forgotten."
What is the Independent Living Fund?
The ILF was originally set up in 1988 as a national resource dedicated to the financial support of disable people, enabling them to choose to live in their communities rather than being forced in to residential care.
The ILF is amongst the most efficient of all public sector organisations, with administration costs of just 2% compared to an average of 16% for local authorities. It also has a 98% satisfaction rating amongst its users. In addition, the average weekly ILF fund of £345 to allow disabled people to live at home should be compared with an average weekly cost to the taxpayer of £745 per week to provide residential care.
Despite this exemplar performance, the Coalition government announced in December 2012 it will close the scheme. This decision was subsequently overturned at the Court of Appeal where a judge found that the decision breached the public sector equality duty. However, the Coalition Government has since repeated its intention to close the fund in June 2015 and transfer its funding responsibilities to local authorities but has only committed to funding local authorities for one year. Meanwhile, in August, the UK appears to have become the first country to be the subject of an investigation by a high level United Nations commission into "grave violations" of the rights of disabled people.
“I am proud that the Green Party is raising this issue with the Council." said Rob Telford, Green Party councillor for Ashley. "The UN human rights investigation to find out if Coalition Government policies have led to ‘grave violations’ of the rights of disabled people comes in the wake of studies showing that those with disabilities have been impacted disproportionately by the cuts - almost 20 times as much. Here in Bristol we must aim to do everything we can to ensure disabled people can live independent, dignified lives and be allowed to contribute to our communities. Any effective future solution needs to directly involve disabled people themselves in the decision making process”
Many of the actions called for by the Greens are based on the concerns raised by Disability Rights UK following responses to Freedom of Information requests sent to all the relevant local authorities. Only 10 local authorities confirmed they were planning to ring-fence ILF transfer funding.