I lived at home until I was 20 years old. Keen to go to university, leave home, do all the things every young person wants to do, I applied to the then relatively new ILF. To my joy, I received a top-rate award. This enabled me to leave my home in Sunderland and go to university with the confidence that I had the support I needed to live. At first, I used an agency to support me, then hired my own Personal Assistants. I never looked back. With the support of my Personal Assistants, I lived a very normal student life. Clubs, parties, late nights, festivals, you name it. I was able to live alongside my fellow students, away from institutionalised housing. After graduating in Economics, I qualified as a teacher and, slowly, improved my career by taking every bit of part-time work I could. I was able to do that because having my own Personal Assistants who were with me, not for bits and pieces of time, but long periods, meant I could accept work at short-notice.
Eventually, I made a breakthrough and landed a permanent job at a very good school. I moved again to be near it. Again, the support of my Personal Assistants was invaluable. I didn’t have to rely on colleagues for anything, I was competitive in the workplace. After a few years, like many working people, I needed a break. I moved again, to Coventry, to do an MA in Education. Again, my Personal Assistants supported me and were invaluable. I met people who could help me with my career, I was able to “network”, but none of this happens without a proper level of support that means you can genuinely live independently, on the hoof sometimes.
Following my MA course I landed a job as a Head of Department. Again, I moved. I’m still there now, hoping, at some point, to progress to a Deputy Headship either there, or somewhere else. I’m flexible, and adaptable as to where I can live, and my travel, because I have a proper level of support. I have my own friends, I see them when I like, because having my Personal Assistants enables me to do so. I can live in my own house, purchased in 2010, with full independence and dignity. I can travel when I want, I can live. I am a success story, I think, of the ILF. It has enabled me to live way beyond a structured, clean and feed existence. As a result, I’ve got my own career, life, and I contribute to society. I am a higher rate taxpayer.
Effect of ILF closure, on me
If the ILF is closed, well, this fills me with dread. The risk is that a cash-strapped local authority will look, ever so slightly, to cut the hours of funded support I’d get. Hours here and there, not the near constant support I enjoy at present. I’d live, barely, but my freedom would be lost. My competitiveness would be lost. My ability to implement my own life decisions would be lost, at the whim of whichever local authority I end up living in. Retention of my Personal Assistants if my funding is cut? No chance, as the hours wouldn’t be worth it. There’s then a risk of being at the mercy of an agency and I know those risks, I suffered them back in 1991 – but then I had the option, financially realistic, of hiring my own staff. Unlikely to be the case in the way I need it to work under a reduced local authority package. My independence would be lost and life, as worth living, would be over.