At the end of June 2015, the centrally managed Disabled Persons Independent Living Fund (ILF) was closed, and this portion of the social care package finances was transferred, and became the responsibility of the Council. This was considered by the Government as a positive move as it would allow more local control of care funding; it was met with great suspicion and concern by the recipients of the ILF as there was an expectation that it would be severely cut along with other Council support. For many, the ambiguity over the future position was the source of great anxiety.
There have been scare stories published which speculated a worst case scenario, and painted a picture of life, with some degree of certainty, of the inevitability of massive cuts in financial support for everyone. These were not substantiated by any facts, and managed to be successful in creating more apprehension within the ILF receiving population.
In order to understand the situation in Derby, I have been working alongside, and actively supporting 3 people (2 who are ex-ILF recipients, and 1 who missed out on ILF and is seeking a large increase) to get a sense of how the Council is addressing this sensitive issue, and whether the fears presented, originally, were well-founded. Although the ILF was closed, the Care Act is now on the statute book, and legislates for greater obligations on the local authority to ensure that all qualifying individuals have a care package which also supports their broader social well-being needs. It was my view that the requirements of the Care Act effectively set in law what the ILF was achieving – this assertion was detailed in my article : Independent Living Fund (ILF) is history; Now deliver the Care Act for all Disabled People.
In Derby there are 79 people who were recipients of funding from the ILF. All of these people are being re-assessed in line with the latest Derby City Council “Your Life, Your Choice” assessment document which enshrines the Care Act principles. As everyone goes through the re-assessment process their care package remains protected until the whole activity has formally concluded. The Council has confirmed that there is no arbitrary deadline for this to be completed.
Based on a Freedom of Information Request the latest statistics at 11 December were:
Of the 79 people who are ex-ILF recipients, 54 have had their initial Assessments completed ( this is the 1st stage in the process) 39 have had the whole care package finalised.
Of those 39:
10 people had their package increased
10 people’s packages remained unchanged
19 had some extent of reduction.
Of the 19 who had a reduction:
11 people had a reduction of less than 10%
3 people had a reduction of between 10 and 20%
3 people had a reduction of between 21 and 40%
1 person had a reduction of between 41 and 50%
1 person had a reduction of greater than 50%
50% of the people had the same, or better package
80% of the people had the same, better, or no worse than a 10% reduction.
12 of the 19 who had their package reduced were people with learning difficulties.
Only 10% of the people who currently had assessments were supported by independent advocates.
Reductions of less than 10% are probably not “make or break” for either party – in which case I would question why the Council has imposed a change of such a small amount. This process is not a science, so a “panel” has made a judgement call. As the amounts are small – this would not have been done for budgetary reasons.
The Council have confirmed to me directly that their top-level budgetary pressures will not be a factor in establishing individual personal budgets /packages. The evidence bears this out.
The 8 people who have seen cuts of greater than 10% are more concerning, particularly as some are greater than 40%. However, it is difficult to be conclusive as to whether this is actually disadvantageous to the individual as personal circumstances may have changed which were not reflected in the final ILF contribution. E.g. If someone was being supported by a Personal Assistant, and now has a partner who can cover much of the daily routine, then it is right that Council funding would be consequently reduced, provided that the overall outcomes remain constant.
My impression from working with Social Services, on 3 people is that the reductions will be, most likely, due to a change in personal circumstances. Although there is a risk it could be because initially low, computer-generated, indicative personal budgets have not been challenged, or NHS funding options have not been pursued.
If anyone has the facts on any of these 8 people then I would be very interested to follow this up with them, and provide direct support ( at no cost) to ensure a satisfactory outcome where the reduction is causing severe hardship.
Overall I was surprised by how many people are in a “no worse” position following the re-assessment process, bearing in mind the earlier scaremongering. My limited, but direct experience, of working on this process does indicate that the claimant ( or their advocate) must have their wits about them to ensure that they get the package that they need. This is not always possible for the most vulnerable, and they are probably the ones who are still most at risk.