The next phase in the government's assault on services for the disabled is the withdrawal of the Independent Living Fund. This needs to be at the centre of campaigning around dignity for people with disability, argues Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against Cuts. Part of our series of short contributions from prominent writers and activists looking to the year ahead.
On top of policies which are already causing the through Work Capability Assessments carried out by the discredited private firm ATOS – the Condems plan yet further major attacks against disabled people and their lives. Disability Living Allowance, a benefit which allows many disabled people to be able to work, is to be stripped from over 600,000 people starting in 2013, and the government’s ill-thought through plans to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) from 2015 will not only wreck disabled people’s lives but potentially push them into residential institutions rather than being able to exercise their rights to live, work and study in the community. This is in spite of the UK having ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which guarantees these rights.
The planned changes will cost taxpayers millions of pounds every year by forcing disabled people back into institutions, and by creating greater ill-health leading to a greater drain on the NHS all at public cost. The average cost of a place at Winterbourne View – where disabled people were systematically abused – was £3,500 per week compared to the average ILF award per week of £360.
The ILF supports independent living for some 20,000 disabled people with the highest support needs across the UK, enabling real choice and control over how they live their lives and creating employment. It contributes to UK tax gains and public savings.
A campaign to save the ILF, to have it re-opened to new applicants and to ensure the right to live independently led by Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) was launched last February when Jamie Bolling, Executive Director of European Network for Independent Living (ENIL), flew in from Sweden to support UK campaigners. Jamie said “Cuts across Europe must stop! They are breaches of human rights and are taking the lives of disabled people. Without the ILF there will be no choice for disabled people and choice is a right.” Now that the permanent closure of the ILF has been announced, sneakily just before Christmas, this campaign will be ramped up further.
Anne Novis, who was awarded an MBE for her work on disability hate crimes, summarises the gravity of the situation: “As an ILF user I have been in fear and anxiety for over a year wondering how I will manage to have any life after the ILF closes down. With all the other threats and cuts in care support and welfare, those most in need, as we are defined by this government, have absolutely no reassurance that our needs will be met because we see and hear each day of another disabled person kill themselves, be penalised, demonized and impoverished simply for being disabled.”
Together with our sister campaign Black Triangle, DPAC will lead the fight in 2013 against these vicious attacks against disabled people’s independence and rights.
For more on the Independent Living Fund see here
1. See especially Article 28, ‘Adequate standard of living and social protection’ and Article 19, ‘Living independently and being included in the community’