England

Concerns over Cumbria County Council care funding cuts

Disabled protester at Westminster
Image caption Disabled protesters took their campaign to save the Independent Living Fund to Westminster last year

More than 100 disabled people in Cumbria have had their care funding cut after responsibility was passed from the government to the county council.

A Freedom of Information request found that out of 202 people who received help from the Independent Living Fund (ILF), 107 have had their packages reduced since last year.

Of those, 16 had it cut by half.

The council said it was still spending all £2.8m of the funding passed to it by government on disabled people.

The ILF was closed down in June last year and the government did not tell councils to ring-fence this year's money for people who had received support from it.

Rachel Lockhart, from Kirkby Stephen, who has learning difficulties, has had her caring hours cut from 35 per week to 22.5, according to her mother, Laura.

"To be quite honest I thought it was all about saving money rather than looking at what Rachel's needs were," Ms Lockhart said.

Image caption Laura Lockhart has raised fears over her daughter's care package

"My concern is that as the county council budget tightens, then this money will be reduced. If it is reduced anymore, it will have a real impact on her well-being. I feel very angry."

Labour county councillor Beth Furneaux said it was not the case that the authority was trying to push down people's care packages.

She said recipients had been assessed by social workers once the council took responsibility for the funding.

She said: "I'm operating in a council which is having to make £238m of cuts. The money is still being spent on people with disabilities. We're operating in the context of trying to ensure we can protect the most vulnerable."

She said that 38 people had had their care funding increased since the ILF closed.

The government said local communities were better placed to make decisions around providing funding at a local level, and was committing the devolved money until at least 2020. The ILF provided support for 18,000 people nationally and was worth £320m.

If you are in north Cumbria you can see the full report on BBC One's Sunday Politics programme at 11:00 BST on Sunday 17 April, or catch up on the iPlayer.

Analysis:

The Independent Living Fund was set up to do what it says on the tin - to allow people with disabilities to live independently.

It went through various changes in its history, and eligibility criteria was tightened as it became more popular.

Eventually it stopped taking new applicants in 2010 and despite protests and legal challenges, it was closed even for existing users last year.

The money has now been devolved to councils, but this is expected to dwindle over the years.

This is because the cost of supporting former ILF users is expected to fall, because ILF stopped accepting new recipients in 2010 - but people with the same level of need will have to be supported by councils from now on.

Robert Cooper, political reporter, BBC North East and Cumbria

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites