Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
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Commission welcomes court decision overturning abolition of Independent Living Fund
The Court of Appeal has overturned the government's decision to close the Independent Living Fund. The court found there was insufficient evidence of compliance with the public sector equality duty.
This means that until or unless the government revisits the decision more than 19,000 of the most severely disabled people in this country will continue to receive the support they are currently entitled to. The fund helps them to live independently and participate in society as workers, in education and in pursuing their interests.
The Commission intervened in the case brought by several disabled claimants, as an expert body with a mandate from parliament to oversee the public sector equality duty. The Commission was seeking to clarify what is required for a public body decision-maker to show that proper consideration has been given to the impact of a proposal which affects people with a protected characteristic under equality law.
The reason for the court's decision is that the judges decided there was insufficient evidence that the 'very grave impact' on some of those affected was properly brought to the Minister's attention, despite officials having been clearly informed of the possible impacts not only by service users but also by local authorities.
The court reiterated the importance of record keeping in being able to demonstrate that 'due regard' to the need to advance equality of opportunity has been had, and that general regard to issues of equality is not the same as a conscious approach to the statutory criteria.
Commission Legal Director, Wendy Hewitt, said:
'The court agreed with the Commission that what was needed in this instance was consideration of the impact of the proposal on all disabled people and specifically on ILF recipients who would most obviously be adversely affected by it.'
'Where the balance is to be struck between those is for the Minister but she must fully appreciate the impact on those affected.'
The closure of the Fund, which provides money to enable disabled people to live in the community, would have meant them becoming entirely dependent on local authority services. Stuart Bracking and other claimants argued they would have lost their independence as a result, forcing many to live in residential care and give up work or study.
The Fund has been closed to new applicants since June 2010. In December 2012 the government decided it would be permanently closed to new users and funding for existing users would only be maintained until 2015. Now that that decision has been overturned, the government will have to reconsider its plans for the future of the fund.
For more press information contact the Commission's media office on 0161 829 8102, out of hours 07767 272 818.
Notes to editors
Stuart Bracking and others (Appellants) v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions (Respondent) - and - Equality and Human Rights Commission (Intervener) Court of Appeal (Civil Division), judgment 6 November 2013
Public Sector Equality Duty: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/public-sector-equality-duty/
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been ratified by the British Government. It addresses disabled people's ability to live in the community with choices equal to others, and includes a right to independent living: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/human-rights/our-human-rights-work/international-framework/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/
The case builds on previous legal work the Commission has done, in particular HA (Nigeria) v SoS for Home Dept; Bailey and others v LB Brent; and R (South West Care Homes & Ors) v Devon County Council.
The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.