Response to Independent Living Fund Consultation
12 October 2012
Falkirk Council welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Consultation on the future of the Independent Living Funds
Do you agree with the Government’s proposal that the care and support needs of current ILF users should be met within the mainstream care and support system, with funding devolved to local government in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales?
This would mean the closure of ILF in 2015.
The closure of ILF to new applications in 2010 has created aninequity of access to funding to for independent living. Current users receive funding which is over and above the level of support that local authority service users can access. While the logic of aligning the Funds with local authority funding is accepted, it is difficult to give informed support to the proposal for funding to be devolved when the conditions attached to this are unclear and untested.
If funding is met within mainstream care and support systems there are several issues concerning the transfer of responsibility to local government:
- The least disruptive approach would ensure that current fund users are protected at current levels of funding.This is a difficult stance to take for the local authority as it maintains the current inequity in the system with no option for new applications for this level of funding. However the impact on current users of losing that protection will be significant.
- Local authorities need to apply current assessment processes and eligibility criteria to reviewof support for current users. This may result in significant changes to support and will need to be anticipated and managed in a sensitive and supportive way.
- There is concern around how the funds will be distributed to local authorities? If it is distributed on the basis of current level of use will funds be ring fenced and current users protected?
- The management of the transfer and individual circumstances will need to be resourced. Will local authorities receive the administration costs associated with the Fundsto cover the increased costs associated with reviewing and monitoring ILF packages, particularly in managing the transfer arrangements and potential impacts of transfer?
Alternative to transfer to local authorities:
i)That ILF is maintained with reduced functions in an amended form e.g. provision of back office administration of funds only with local authorities being responsible for monitoring and review of support. This would protect the rights of current users and allow reduction of the fund based on attrition until it is no longer required. It would prevent a potentially costly transfer to local authorities and the potential for challenge of decisions resulting from transfer.
What are the key challenges that ILF users would face in moving from joint ILF/Local Authority to sole Local Authority funding of their care and support needs? How can any impacts be mitigated?
If the Funds are transferred to local authorities and care and support needs are funded solely by local authorities there could be a range of impacts;
- Local authorities would be bound to apply currentassessment,eligibility criteria and resource allocation to review of support unless there was a built in protection on transfer. This could result in a reduction in provision for ILF users. If protection for current users is built into the transfer it puts local authorities in a difficult position around equity within assessment processes. There would need to be further discussion on how to protect current users at current levels of funding and whether this is appropriate.
- There are some supports and services which are currently funded by ILF which local authorities would not provide. If packages are reviewed using LA assessment and eligibility many individuals could lose these services. There needs to be an assessment of the impact of such changes.
- There are many support packages where ILF users are employing relatives. This could potentially cause some difficulty when these packages transfer to the local authority in relation to rules on employing relatives and the appropriateness of support.
- If packages are reduced due to the application of local authority criteria there would be a knock-on effect for employers and personal assistants as this could lead to reduction in hours. As a consequence, there is a possibility of redundancy for some people, with associated costs.
- As a result of ILF funding some service users and carers are able to maintain employment. If packages are reduced this could impact on their ability to continue in employment.
- Some providers may have recruited staff specifically for ILF packages. Consideration is needed of the impact on these arrangements?
- Benefits Appointees can’t be given cash payments by local authorities (in Scotland). For adults who lack the capacity to manage their own affairs this may result in the need for a Guardianship application to maintain the current support. It could take months to achieve this and so early preparation would be needed before 2015. Assessment of capacity needs medical input and there could be a knock on effect for health services in carrying out the assessments. Additionally families may not be willing to take on the role of legal guardianship since this places additional burden on them in terms of administration and scrutiny.
- Local authority charging policies are different from the ILF policy. This will have an impact on many users although it is difficult to anticipate what this will be. Some people may see an increase in charges and for others the chargemay reduce.
- The timescales for transfer would be critical. Current protection for service users is only guaranteed until 2015. Does this mean that there will be sudden and significant change? While ILF was set up to maintain people in the community and increase independence, people have become very dependent on the funding and what it provides. If funding is to be reduced following re-assessment, there would need to be a phased reduction to enable individuals to adjust to any changes. Otherwise there could be risks to the health and wellbeing of services users and their carers because of poorly planned changes to support.
On a more positive note:
- Only one review of care and support needs would be necessary instead of the current situation where a separate ILF review is required.
- Financial monitoring of ILF payments could be streamlined with direct payment monitoring making it easier for users to report back on only one funding stream instead of two.
- Funding surplus which occurs through attrition could be used to fund inflationary increases to current packages
On balance it would appear that maintaining ILF with reduced functions as described at Question 1 would be a less disruptive approach.
What impact would the closure of the ILF have on Local Authorities and the provision of care and support services more widely? How could any impacts be mitigated?
There are a number of potential impacts for local authorities which will mean a significant amount of work to prepare and manage any transfer of funding and provision.
- Local authorities would have to work within current legislation and statutory guidance in their application of assessment, eligibility, resource allocation etc in order to ensure an equitable approach to service provision. Unless ILF was transferred with preserved rights, the local authoritystatutory responsibilities would take precedence over any existing arrangements with ILF fund users – particularly the arrangements for Group 1 users where there has been no local authority involvement.
- Many Fund users were advised that ILF funding was an award for life (although this does not appear in written agreements). Where people have understood this to be the case and have been in receipt of ILF for a number of years they may have the right to challenge any decisions resulting in change to their support.
- Where ILF users are employing relatives there may be some issues for local authorities in the continuation of this practice using the exceptional circumstance rule allowing LA discretion.
- Many individuals were able to access funding for more substantial care packages than might have been possible without ILF funding. The application of current eligibility criteria alongside current budget cuts for local authorities means that care managers struggle to achieve previously possible levels of funding. This ultimately means that we may struggle to support some people to remain in the community and there is some concern that without preserved rights on transfer this could potentially lead to some people going into residential care.
- The impact of welfare benefit reforms and the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment is unclear. How will this impact on eligibility for ILF for existing users? The consequences for individuals and local authorities is difficult to anticipate but local authorities will be expected to guide people through the changes and ensure that support needs continue to be met.
- The local authority charging policy is different from the ILF policy on user contributions. If local authorities take over the current ILF functions a transfer to the local authority charging arrangements will need to take place. This will increase the workload for local authorities during the transition phase and is impact on ILF users. How will ILF assist with this process, particularly in preparing service users?
- If the application of local authority eligibility criteria leads to reductions in support which result in redundancy for some personal assistants employed using ILF, how will this be funded? Will resources be allocated to cover any costs associated with transition?
- There are still a number of people over 65 years in receipt of ILF in Scotland, where they are entitled to free personal care. It is unclear how this will impact on transfer funding when the user contribution no longer applies i.e. less funding being transferred than the cost of the total support.
- Local authorities will need to achieve consistency with current Self Directed Support policies, including direct payments, which may be different from the criteria applied to the use of ILF. How will the ILF assessors work with local authorities to achieve consistency within assessments to prepare ILF users for the transfer?
- Some support arrangements may sit outside of local authority framework agreements with external agencies for commissioning support.Where people lack the capacity to manage their own support and it is not possible to have a Guardian appointed there could bedifficulty in maintaining the individual’s existing arrangements, although we would strive to maintain these where change would be detrimental.
- Where people are employing personal assistants, the rate paid by ILF may be different from the local authority rate.This could result in an increase in costs over and above the level of transferred funds to bring rates into line – particularly where PAs are being funded at minimum wage by ILF. If the local authority rate is lower than the ILF rate there will be an impact on PA terms and conditions if the rate paid needs to be reduced.
What are the specific challenges in relation to Group 1 users? How can the Government ensure this group are able to access the full range of Local Authority care and support services for which they are eligible?
- Local authorities have to work within current legislation and statutory guidance in their application of assessment, eligibility, resource allocation etc in order to ensure an equitable approach to service provision. Statutory duties take precedence over any existing arrangements with ILF fund users – particularly the arrangements for Group 1 users where there has been no local authority involvement.
- Retaining an identified link person in each local authority area, who has in-depth knowledge of ILF, should make the transition easier.
- Local authorities have so far been unable to consult with some Group 1 users as they often don’t know who they are.
- There will be ‘consent to share’ issues for Group 1 users. The Independent Living Fund needs to engage early with Group 1 users to prepare for transfer, including obtaining consent to share information with the local authority. ILF needs to consider what they will do if an individual refuses consent to share information.
- Not all Group 1 users will be eligible for local authority funding for services. ILF and the individual will need to check eligibility with the local authority before decisions are made about the continuation and management of current support.
- Group 1 users, who don’t currently engage with the local authority for support, will need to be advised by ILF how they make a request for assessment. Timescales for this need to be carefully managed – it can’t be assumed that early assessment is possible for everyone. If support is already in place the individual would not be considered a high priority for assessment.
- ILF will need to check whether Group 1 users have capacity to consent or whether this has been managed by a benefits appointee. If they are employing personal assistants the transfer and management may be more complex e.g. are proper contracts, payroll procedures etc in place?
- Some providers may have recruited staff specifically for ILF packages. Has there been any consideration of the impact on these arrangements?
How can DWP, the ILF and Local Authorities best continue to work with ILF users between now and 2015? How can the ILF best work with individual local authorities, if the decision to close ILF is taken?
- If and when DWP/ILF develops an exit strategy, this must be shared at an early stage. Users, local authorities and the Scottish Government should be able to influence this.The timescales for closure must be considered in the context of the impacts for all stakeholders.
- It would be helpful if information on user views on how delivery of future finance arrangements will take account of their diverse needs, individual circumstances and current use of funds are shared with local authorities as early in the process as possible.
- Users are clearly very anxious about the uncertainty around ILF and will need reassurance and support at an early stage to prepare for changes ahead.Communication with local authorities regarding events for ILF users has been patchy. Some users may need to support to take part in the discussions and planning and this needs to be built in to the change process.
- ILF/DWP needs to involve local authorities and users in the post-consultation strategy. What will the DWP role be in relation to thisand to the changes to welfare benefits and the emergence of the Personal Independence Payment?
- It would be helpful if thereis an opportunity for ILF users in each authority to meet with someone from ILF?
- A series of events will be needed to guide users through the process of closure and to engage with users, carers and local authorities to minimise the impact of closure.
- Clarification of the role of ILF assessors is needed. What is the stated approach to ILF review currently and how is this likely to change? There is concern that ILF assessors will begin to make cuts in support before closure of the fund. If this is done too quickly it could lead to a range of problems e.g. employment responsibilities, ability to adapt to reductions in support for users and for carers. People over 65 years may be at particular risk of going into residential care if packages are altered abruptly.
- Has ILF made any attempt to engage with carer organisations to gauge the impact on unpaid carers?
- Will an accessible communication strategy be developed to ensure all users can engage in the change process? Some individuals may need advocacy to support them through the process and this will have resource implications.
- The funding of any transition from ILF to local authority provision will be an issue. This will be a time consuming and potentially costly exercise.In the current climate when local authorities are already facing significant budget cuts there is little capacity for current care managers to carry out the required reviews to enable transfer of ILF to local authorities. An Implementation Fund provided to local authorities would facilitate the engagement of social workers with an in-depth knowledge to carry out reviews and facilitate the transition.
For further information please contact:
Policy and Development Officer/ILF Contact Officer
Tel: 01324 508796