Ed Miliband’s recent description of the Tory-led coalition as a “make-it-up-as-you-go-along, back-of-the-envelope, miserable shower”, rings depressingly true given the slap-dash and incompetent nature of many of their polices.
Yesterday the government announced the closure of the Independent Living Fund, a body that helps people with severe disabilities live in their own home and gives them the independence to work and study. Like many cuts this government has made, it is not only a cruel move that will lead to unnecessary suffering, but also flies in the face of the government’s policy priorities and will cost more money than it saves.
In the run up to Christmas the government has gone into news-burying overdrive and amongst the 22 written ministerial statements released this Tuesday, was one announcing the closure of the Independent Living Fund. The ILF has over 20 years experience in helping support those with the highest levels of disability live in their own homes, which would be impossible for many without this help.
The statement itself recognises that there is a palpable sense of fear amongst the clients of the fund, who are currently able to be part of society and contribute in a number of ways, from running businesses to attending university. With the closure of the ILF, they could end up being moved to institutions where they will be unable to leave or move around freely as they have previously. This latest move has been coming since the government stopped the fund from taking on new cases in 2010.
This plan is for the function of the ILF to be moved to local authorities, in spite of the ILF being both more efficient, with only 2% of spending going on overheads compared to 10-24% in Local Authority’s care grants, and also more experienced when it comes to helping the most vulnerable. The average local authority currently has only a handful of clients with the highest needs, whilst the ILF supports around 20,000 people.
The government are failing the test that any compassionate society should be measured by: how they support those who are most at risk. They are failing their own policy objective of encouraging more independent living for disabled people. And ludicrously, they are even failing to cut the deficit – a priority that so much is measured against.
In terms of cash spent and saved, this policy will not work because it is more expensive to keep people in care homes than in their own homes. Indeed, the difference between the cost of the average ILF award and keeping someone in a home is £37,000 per person per year.
Given that, a significant number of the 20,000 who currently receive ILF (and those who would be entitled had new cases been allowed after 2010) will no longer be able to afford the care they need to live in their own homes. Thousands of disabled people will have to fall back on care homes and institutions provided by already overstretched local authorities.
By cutting the Independent Living Fund, the government will succeed in growing the deficit and making people miserable.
This case is stark but by no means unique. If the public won’t kick the Coalition out over their attacks on the NHS, the poor, the elderly, the disabled, women, unions, teachers and children, perhaps they can be convinced to sack them for bad management.