Labour have fought very hard to save the Independent Living Fund, which the Coalition have insisted on withdrawing, despite this being in contravention of our own laws and internationally established Human Rights. This commitment from Ed Miliband is in line with Labour’s Equality Act, 2010.
I am very pleased to see this firm commitment.
In May 2014 the Court of Appeal, in the case of StuartBracking and others v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions found that the Department of Work and Pensions’ decision to close the Fund was not lawful, overturning the previous High Court decision of April 2013. It decided that the Department had not complied with the Public Sector Equality Duties imposed by section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
Lord Justice McCombe said “there is simply not the evidence … to demonstrate to the court that a focussed regard was had to the potentially very grave impact upon individuals in this group of disabled persons, within the context of a consideration of the statutory requirements for disabled people as a whole”..
The Government initially decided to close the fund by March 2015 but this was delayed until June 2015 after five disabled people challenged the Government’s decision in the High Court.
The Court of Appeal unanimously quashed the decision to close the fund and devolve the money, on the basis that the minister had not specifically considered duties under the Equality Act, such as the need to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people and, in particular, the need to encourage their participation in public life. The court emphasised that these considerations were not optional in times of austerity.
After stating that the final legal ruling would not be challenged, on March 6, 2014, the Government announced in authoritarian style that it would go ahead with the closure of the ILF fund on 30th June 2015, saying that a new equalities analysis had been carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions. The government has shown a complete disregard for disabled people and the Court of Appeal decision. The government had failed to comply with the equality duty – and this was also a rare victory entirely due to disabled people fighting back.
It’s a relief to many of us to know that under a Labour government, those of us who need it can access the Independent Living Fund indefintely.
Thank you to all of the MPs, such as Dame Anne Begg, who have fought so hard on our behalf.
“First of all we said to the government they should not get rid of the independent living fund in the way they are doing. What they are doing is getting rid of it and passing it down to the local authorities, passing that money down to the local authorities.
So, firstly they should not be getting rid of the Independent living fund. And we’ve said that if it does go to the local authorities that budget has got to be protected.
We’ve got to find ways of protecting that money for some of the most vulnerable disabled people, some of whom I’ve met and who are saying “this is a terrible situation, what’s happening to the independent living fund”.
Secondly, we’ve got to stop the assault on disabled people in relation to the medical tests that are going on and have fair and proper medical tests when it comes to the medical system.
[Response to audience member – inaudible] Well you are right sir. We’ve got to sort out the way that these medical tests work. And we’ve said we are going to reform what is called the work capability assessment so that it gives a proper deal to disabled people”.
“And we will protect users of the Independent Living Fund, working with disabled people to develop clear guidance to Local Authorities on how the funds that will be transferred to them should be spent.”