LOCAL POLITICIANS BACK ‘GRAVE CONCERNS’ OVER INDEPENDENT LIVING FUND CHANGES
Local politicians have echoed Scottish Government Public Health Minister Shona Robison’s “grave concern” about the future of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which assists people with severe disabilities to access essential support.
Changes to the ILF eligibility criteria proposed by Labour at Westminster will massively reduce the numbers of people able to apply for assistance from 1 May this year, with Scotland being disproportionately affected. The Association of Directors of Social Work (ADSW) has calculated that, under the new criteria, only four new Scots applicants will be eligible for ILF this year, compared to 3,645 who currently benefit.
Ms Robison has written to UK Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper to urgently raise her concerns and Ms Annabelle Ewing, SNP General Election candidate for Ochil and South Pertshire, has strongly endorsed Ms Robison’s action, saying:
“It is outrageous that in the dying days of their discredited government, Labour are sneaking through changes that will cut off essential financial support for potentially thousands of vulnerable people.
“Across Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire, eighty five disabled people rely on ILF to help them live as independently as they can. Labour are choking off a source of lifeline support that affords severely disabled people a measure of dignity and self-sufficiency.
“Throughout their time in office, Labour have financially discriminated against disabled people, hacking away at disability benefits time and again and even threatening to abolish them altogether. They have been shameless in their repeated attacks on the welfare of vulnerable people.
“With their talk of ‘savage’ cuts, going even ‘deeper and tougher’ than those implemented by Margaret Thatcher, not one of the London parties can be trusted to protect those in our society who need it most. Their cuts consensus would hit our most vulnerable citizens hardest.
“I am appalled that Labour has effectively abolished ILF without a single word of discussion or consultation with the Scottish Government. It is a sign of the contempt in which they hold Scotland and Scottish interests.”
Ms Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Perth constituency, added:
“This is the sort of devastating decision that we can expect to see much more of in the future if the three London-based parties are allowed to pursue their cuts agenda.
“We need people in parliament who will say that this is not the way forward. Communities across Scotland desperately need strong local champions prepared to speak up for those in need. As part of an increased SNP and Plaid Cymru bloc of MPs in a balanced parliament, Annabelle will be able to do that. More Nats will mean less cuts.”
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- The Independent Living Fund was set up as a UK-wide resource which offers additional financial assistance to disabled people already in receipt of support from social services to provide them with sufficient funds to access essential support. In Scotland, due to proactive Scottish local authority activity, ILF income is £61 million, 17 per cent of the ILF UK budget.
- From 1 May 2010 ILF has now tightened its financial eligibility and is only accepting applications from people in paid employment of 16 or more hours per week. In effect this will mean that the ILF will be entirely closed to new applicants throughout the UK, apart from those very few in paid employment.
- Based on UK statistics, ADSW (Association of Directors of Social Work) suggest that no more than four new Scottish applications will be processed in 2010/11.
- Approximately 3,645 people in Scotland, including 60 in Perth and Kinross and 25 in Clackmannanshire, currently benefit from the ILF.