At the beginning of this month £70m was transferred to local authorities from the Independent Living Fund (ILF), an organisation delivering financial support to more than 17,000 disabled people so that, in its own words, “they can choose to live in their communities rather than in residential care.”
The ILF is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). It is important to stress that this transfer of responsibility and cash to local authorities was at the behest of central government, and comes at a time when social care departments are reeling from the effects of a £4.6bn reduction in adult social care budgets in the past five years. The most recent Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) survey of social care budgets discloses the true depth of the impact of those cuts, and the serious anxieties arising as directors prepare for the next two years.
Adass has been concerned about the transition process towards closure of the ILF. Directors will be doing all they can in an extraordinarily difficult financial environment to make this transition as smooth as possible, but remember we have already been taking on extra assessment responsibilities following the deprivation of liberty judgement, and we simply cannot move faster than our finances allow.
There have been and will be some difficulties and we regret that but the majority of authorities will be pressing ahead in line with the joint Adass and Local Government Association (LGA) advice we published last November on managing the transition. However, there have been difficulties which should have been envisaged by central government when deciding whether to take this course of action.
Where there are difficulties I have urged colleagues to resolve them as swiftly as possible. There has been some evidence that some disabled people who use our services are not satisfied and we recommend strongly that individual councils engage with local recipients of the ILF as soon as possible. Failures to have done so will have been caused by a lack of money, not a lack of concern.
We also urge the government to look carefully at the £12bn cuts to welfare announced in the Budget. Taking such a large sum from one bill is never without consequences elsewhere. It could never be about welfare alone and it is bound to cause ripples across the wider economy, particularly in the health and social care sector. It is up to everyone to warn of the possible unintended consequences of those decisions and to point out that where the social fabric is being damaged social care, in one or another of its many iterations, has to be there to take the strain.
Ray James, director of health, housing and adult social care, Enfield LBC, and president, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services