I rejoice at the recent news of 5 disabled people winning their legal challenge (under the equality act) against the government in their decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF). The ILF as the name suggests has for many years been a crucial piece of funding that has assisted disabled people to live more independently. For a number of years now we have seen constant attacks on disabled people in the form of crucial cuts to benefits and services and indeed many disabled people are described as shirkers and scroungers.
In the court of appeal hearing the five disabled people argued that the previous High Court had misinterpreted the law and additionally there had been a lack of consultation.
The 5 disabled people also argued successfully that without the ILF funding they would be forced to live in residential care.
As I stated in March when discussing the compulsory assessments of disabled people by ATOS in receipt of Disability Living Allowance ‘….. these changes have added up to people living in poverty and potentially endangering their lives. We will end up seeing less disabled people being able to access services and the social diversity that we strive for will become a thing of the past.’ Clearly if this decision had been upheld and the Equality Act had not been in place then this would have had even graver implications for disabled people than currently.
The government’s idea was to devolve responsibility for the funding to local authorities. I must say that I was never overjoyed by this idea based on my experience over many years of local authority funding for disabled people being continually and systematically cut. I am also of the strong opinion; that once the devolved process had taken place that the money would in a short time cease to be ring-fenced. I guess then we all know where this would be heading.
It is interesting to note that the decision was quashed on the basis that ‘the minister had not specifically considered duties under the Equality Act, such as the need to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people and, in particular, the need to encourage their participation in public life.’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24834558 accessed 7th Nov. In this case the Equality Act has clearly done it’s job in protecting people as is the intention.
I have already mentioned on numerous occasions that the government are going some to try and save money and in turn appear to be wasting it at every turn. In this case I’m sure the legal bill has stacked up quite nicely. I am also concerned that the government is considering appealing the ruling and wasting more money in the process. Therefore, my final appeal to them is to accept the verdict and get on with improving the life chances of disabled people.