Independent Living Fund: campaigners’ celebrate successful legal challenge

Following the court of appeal’s quashing of government plans to close the Independent Living Fund in 2015, one campaigner has said that the judgement shows that the Government will not break Britain.

Following legal action brought by five disabled people, the high court ruled in April that the government’s decision to close the ILF and devolve the responsibility to provide funding for people with high support needs to local authorities was lawful.

But in a unanimous judgement, the court of appeal ruled that there was no evidence that the Minister for Disabled People had taken account of the requirements set out in the public sector equality duties to eliminate discrimination and advance equality.

Speaking to Disability Now after the judgement, Gabriel Pepper, one of the five disabled people behind the court action, said that there was still ‘a long way to go’ but said that the court judgement was a ‘vindication for the struggle for disability rights’.

He said: “The importance of this decision is that it is a matter of human rights. This government believe they are above the law. They believe they can break Britain – and disabled people will show them that they are wrong, that they are the cancer of society and that they will face justice one day for their crimes against humanity.”

Anne Pridmore, another of the disabled people behind the legal action, told Disability Now after the high court ruling in April that she was scared of ending up in an old people’s home in 2015. But speaking to Disability Now after the latest judgement, she said that she felt ‘very excited’ after the judgement.

She said: “This is not the end. We now have to convince local authorities to get on our side in order for them to convince the government that they’ve not got enough money to cover the deficit. We’ll have to work hard to do that but this is a major achievement.”

John Evans, a pioneer of the independent living movement, described the judgement as ‘tremendous’. He paid tribute to the disabled people who brought the court case.

“I was surprised by the judgement because I was expecting the worst. We’ve had such a drastic and terrible five or six years. I’d painted a really black picture so this has made it even better for me. I’ve got nothing but admiration for those five people who put their lives and bodies on the line, who took the government to court, damaged them and won.”

He urged disabled people to carry on fighting government cuts and said that he was optimistic that the judgement, coming as it does after a succession of government U-turns in social security policies, would convince the government to ‘take a different course with disabled people’.

The disabled researcher Jenny Morris, who advised the government on the development of the Independent Living Strategy, agreed that the judgement could be significant for disabled people who do not use the ILF.

“It’s brilliant, both for people currently getting support from ILF and as a significant signal to the government that they need to think again about the damage they are doing to disabled people’s lives.”

Jenny Hurst, another user of the ILF, which enables her to employ the support she needs to work, said that she felt ‘absolutely delighted’.

She added: “It’s part of the weight off my shoulders. You just have to be thankful to those people who brought the court case. But until we have a clear commitment either to continue the ILF or something else that is going to enable disabled people with high support needs to participate fully, I’m not going to be able to feel completely at ease.”

Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive of Inclusion London, which has campaigned vociferously to save the ILF, said that the judgment confirmed that the decision to close the ILF had been a cut masquerading as a reform.

She added: “It is now clear that the likelihood of the Government funding ILF support after 2016 was very small. It is equally clear that the mainstream social care system operated by Local Authorities, that the Government said would be able to take over meeting the needs of ILF users, can do no such thing. This is a service in crisis that is failing to provide even the most basic of personal care to increasing numbers of people.”

Responding to the judgement, Mike Penning, the Minister for Disabled People, said that he was ‘very pleased’ that the court of appeal upheld the manner in which the government undertook the consultation on the future of the fund, and they accepted that it had been carried out properly and fairly.

He added: “We are disappointed with certain aspects of today’s decision, and we will be examining the judgment very carefully and considering the implications before deciding on the most appropriate way forward, which includes seeking leave to appeal.”

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