MINISTERS are not looking at how changes they have made to a fund aimed at helping disabled people affect those it is intended to help.
I have been working with campaigners to highlight the changes to the Independent Living Fund, and raised the issue in a debate in Westminster Hall this afternoon. I told MPs that new applications to the funder were stopped in 2010 and the Government closed the fund entirely in 2015.
The Government then passed responsibility for its successor down to local authorities and devolved administrations. However, since then, Ministers have made no assessment of its impact, what kind of help disable people are receiving – or whether the decision has been a success.
The Department for Work and Pensions say blandly “there is no central record” and do not collect information on the changes.
I also raised the case of his constituent Nathan Davies, an author, journalist and campaigner who is working to raise awareness of the changes.
I told fellow MPs: “Today, and pretty typically, Nathan is on the front page of the local Leader newspaper in Wrexham campaigning against a local council proposal to charge disabled people for car parking. His resilience and determination are admirable qualities in the face of the condition he suffers from.
“As a result of the Fund, and the support that Nathan has had from the Independent Living Fund, Nathan has been able not just to live in the community as the ILF intended but he has been able to contribute in a really positive way to the community in which he lives notwithstanding the disability and the challenges he faces.
“The difficulty is doubt about the future of the Fund in Wales is causing Nathan great worry. Devolution of funding to local councils at a time when their budgets are under great pressure means that there is no guarantee that the levels of funding will be maintained, even if an individual recipient’s condition deteriorates. For example, I talked earlier about Wrexham Council’s proposal to introduce car parking charges which will be an additional expense for someone like Nathan.”
I hope that Ministers listened to the points I raised – and those raised by other MPs from Scotland, Northern Ireland and England along similar lines.
At the moment it seems the Department for Work and Pensions – whose very purpose is to help people like Nathan get support like the Independent Living Fund – have turned their back.
They have passed on the responsibility for the fund to others, and haven’t even bothered to see what impact that decision has had. Meanwhile, disabled people are left worrying about their future.