Five claimants are to go to the Court of Appeal in an attempt to overturn the recent ruling of the High Court to uphold the Government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
The High Court’s decision in the judicial review brought by five service users of the ILF, held that the consultation process concerning the closure had been lawful and that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had met the public sector equality duty when deciding to go ahead with it.
ILF provides support and funding to some 20,000 severely disabled people in the UK to enable them to live independent and fulfilling lives. The claimants, represented by law firms Deighton Pierce Glynn and Scott-Moncrieff and Associates, fear that without ILF funding and support, they may be forced into residential care or end up housebound.
The claimants’ concerns over the consultation process relate to the failure by the DWP to explain the proposals properly: there was insufficient information to enable consultees to respond in a meaningful way. In addition, further information came to light as a result of the claim which revealed the DWP had not been open and candid in its approach to the consultation exercise. The judge dismissed these points as having no impact on the lawfulness of the consultation exercise.
Additionally, the public sector equality duty required the Minister for Disabled People to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity for disabled people but there was no evidence that she had specifically considered these issues when deciding to close the ILF and the impact this would have on disabled people. In its ruling, the court did not explain how it reached the conclusion that the Minister had met the statutory duty in the specific way required.
The claimants intend to base their appeal on the basis that the judge’s conclusions did not reflect the evidence before the court and that the reasons for ruling that the process was lawful were not properly set out. All five are adamant that the process was flawed and that the impact of closure will be devastating for large numbers of people with severe disabilities. They see it as vital that the decision is quashed and the matter reconsidered on a fair and lawful basis.