More than two thirds of English councils have cut vital care packages for disabled people since the government scrapped the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in favour of paying local authorities directly, freedom of information (FOI) requests reveal.
The ILF, which helped those with disabilities live in the community rather than in residential care, was axed in June last year with the funds being redirected to local authorities for dispersal.
Channel 4 News sent FOI requests to the 150 councils in England responsible for social care, of which 90 percent responded.
The requests revealed that 80 percent of respondents had cut the amount of funding ILF recipients previously received, while 67 percent of respondents do not ring fence the money provided from central government to care for those with disabilities.
While the government has stipulated that local authorities cannot spend the money they receive on unrelated areas, such as parks or housing, they are free to use the funds on social care unrelated to disabled people.
Chair of Unite’s national disabilities committee Sean McGovern said the cuts, which are primarily against services which enable disabled people to leave their homes, are a form of “social exclusion”.
“People are bathed, fed, dressed and then left sitting inside their home unable to go out. In the past people were using the money for social or health elements, like visiting family or going swimming or to the gym, but now they won’t fund the support needed to do those things,” said McGovern, who works as an advisor for disabled people in London.
“People are becoming socially isolated. We hear extreme cases where a personal assistant will come in the morning for 45 minutes, do what they need to do, leave three or four glasses of water beside the service user and say ‘that will do you ‘til lunch or dinner time.’ People cannot be expected to exist like that.”
McGovern pointed out that ultimately preventing disabled people from living normal lives will cause more problems that in it solves.
“If a person is deprived of social contact and unable to engage in activity their mental health and wellbeing will suffer. Inevitably, that’s going to create an impact on other services,” he said.
Unite national officer for local authorities Fiona Farmer said that while councils were suffering severe shortfalls in funding, they could not ignore their duty of care to disabled people.
“Local councils are facing unprecedented budget cuts that are seriously damaging their ability to provide vital public services to communities.
“The responsibility for this lies with the Tories, who for years have doggedly pursued a blinkered and ideological path of austerity that has damaged living standards, destroyed services and hobbled the economy,” Farmer said.
She added, “Despite the difficulties local authorities are facing, however, they cannot forget their duty to some of the most vulnerable in their care. Unite calls upon the Tory government to reverse the cuts to local government and implement a fair funding strategy to fill the black hole.”