The Court of Appeal will be asked to over-turn the decision of the High Court in the judicial review brought by five service-users of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) of the Government’s decision to close ILF in March 2015. In its judgment handed down today, the court held that the consultation process concerning the closure had been lawful and that the DWP had met the public sector equality duty when deciding to go ahead. All five claimants have begun an appeal against this ruling.
ILF provides vital support and funding to some 20,000 severely-disabled people in the UK to enable them to live independent and fulfilling lives. The closure of the Fund will threaten their right to live with dignity and in many cases, their ability to work. The Claimants, represented by Deighton Pierce Glynn and Scott-Moncrieff & Associates, fear that without ILF funding and support, they may be forced into residential care or may end up unable to leave their homes.
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.
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 therefore intend to pursue 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 very large numbers of severely-disabled people. They see it as vital that the decision is quashed and the matter reconsidered on a fair and lawful basis.
Solicitors representing the Claimants: Deighton Pierce Glynn (Louise Whitfield)
8 Union Street
London SE1 1SZ Tel: 020 7407 0007
Scott-Moncrieff & Associates (Diane Astin/Kate Whittaker) Office 7, 19 Greenwood Place
London NW5 1LB Tel: 020 7485 5588/ 07792 700825