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24 Oct 2017
Dundee Stronger Together

Two weeks ago Mike Penning announced the UK government’s decision to go ahead with the closure of the Independent Living Fund from June 2015 for users in England and Wales.  Existing funding would be transferred to local authorities and users would become dependent on local authorities assessment of their need and a subsequent allocation of resources. 

The situation in Scotland is quite DIFFERENT.  The funding for existing ILF user will be transferred to the Scottish Government with effect from June 2015 and they have made a COMMITMENT to honour all existing awards for as long as funds continue to be transferred to them.  This means that existing ILF users will be protected in the short term.    Future decisions will depend on financial settlements in the long term  and the current Scottish Government is clear that they intend to offer this protection for as long as possible. 

 No public announcement has been made by the Scottish Government to this effect as they have not yet been formally told by the DWP of the decision to close the ILF. This formal notice will include details of the proposed financial assessment and having it is essential to making sure that the Scottish Government can carry out their plans. Some scrutiny of this notice will be needed  because the change of dates for the closure of the fund will alter the details of the financial assessment.    A formal announcement will follow in due course.  The hope is this will be no longer than 2 weeks from today.

  Meanwhile the previous plans remain ready to go.  The consultation that was carried out last year on the future management of the ILF resources in Scotland is still live and once the financial information has been received then the Minister will consider the analysis of the consultation and the financial information and decide how to go forward.  We can hope to see the consultation responses and the analysis of these first published on the Scottish Government website and hopefully shortly after the Scottish Government’s plans for using any spare ILF money as it becomes available.

  We would reiterate that for the short term ILF users in Scotland will have their existing support packages maintained.  

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) is to close from 30 June 2015, with local authorities taking responsibility for delivering support through the mainstream adult social care system.

Minister for disabled people, Mike Penning, confirmed the new arrangements for the fund, which helps disabled people to live independent lives. The 18,000 current users of the fund in England will now transfer from ILF to the social care system.

Mr Penning said: ‘Our understanding of disabled people has changed over the past 20 years, and along with it there have been significant developments in how we provide social care to disabled people so they can live independent lives.

‘We continue to spend £50bn a year on disabled people and the services provided to them, and as part of the government’s long-term economic plan, we want to make sure that disabled people are given the support that allows them to fulfil their potential.’

He said the Department for Work and Pensions had addressed the Appeal Court’s concerns through a new equalities analysis adding that opportunities for disabled people were now being provided through social care services.  

It all sounds a bit dodgy to us!

The government in Scotland has yet to announce how ILF users in their areas will be supported but has indicated that they intend to honour existing committments to ILF users for as long as funds are provided.

People who receive Severe Disability Allowance (SDA) are now being transferred to the Employment Support Allowance.  Some people may have to go for a Work Capability Assessment. 

You may find the following information helpful. 

Our Easy Read Guide to the ESA Work Capability Assessment guide.

Our ten top tips for managing the process.

The task, descriptors and points in the WCA test.   

The ESA 50 form

In the first 6 months since Personal Independence Payment has seen almost 200,000 new claims being made but the system is so slow that only 30,000 claims have been dealt with.  

So far about half of those have been approved for a PIP award - 15,000.  The DWP say they have had very few appeals or reconsiderations and put this down to the way that they have explained the process and made sure people understand how decisions are made.  

There have been significant holdups in the process.   The original estimate was that it would be a 12 to 15-week timeline in terms of getting through the process, right through from application and initial phone call to the decision.  The process is taking longer than that in most cases, and there are probably three main reasons for that.  The first reason is that in terms of the initial phone call, we have got more people not getting through the security questions than we expected.  More people are falling out of the security questions.

 That builds in a few days’ delay while the claimants are contacted to try to establish that the DWP are confident about their identity, and they can get through the security process. 

The second reason is that claimants are taking longer to return the claim forms.  Once they have made the initial registration over the phone, which is capturing basic information, then they are sent a claim form that is “How your disability affects you”, and a lot of that focuses on making sure they have a mix of tick-box areas and free-text areas.  There is strong encouragement for the claimant at that point to provide any medical evidence they have available to them, and claimants are taking longer.  There is four weeks to return that form; most are taking longer than four weeks to return that form, on average, so that is building in time delay. So far the DWP is allowing such claims to be valid

The last reason is that it is taking longer for the assessment providers to undertake the assessment, book the appointment, go through the assessment process, have that through their audit process, and then back to the DWP decision-makers to make the final decision.

In a good bit of news anyone who has been a tenant of the same house and getting Housing Benefit since 1996 may now be exempt from the Bedroom Tax.  This means you can get any arrears paid off, get back any extra rent you have paid and may be eligible for compensation if you have been forced to move.   However this may be shortlived as the government are planning to legislate to close this loophole in the law.  

1.   The basic 2 conditions

If you have (a) lived in the same property since 1 January 1996 or before AND (b) have been in receipt of housing benefit (full or just 1p per week) then meeting these two conditions means you are exempt from the bedroom tax being applied.

This is due to the Consequential Provision Regulations 2006 (CPR2006) which also holds a few variations on the above basic 2 conditions.