On Tuesday 2nd April, ILF recipients in Northern Ireland held an event in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, to share their experiences of using ILF and to discuss the future of the Fund with civil servants in the Department for Health, Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and other key stakeholders in the health and social care sector.
Currently, over 400 disabled people in Northern Ireland receive ILF funding to enable them to live independently in their homes and local communities. At the event current ILF recipients explained why it is so vital to them, and argued that it is vital that the Fund is re-opened to new applicants so that more disabled people can access this life-changing resource. (ILF was closed to new applicants by the DWP in 2010, and closed altogether in England in 2015.)
ILF Northern Ireland Stakeholder Group Chair, David McDonald, said:
“A clear call came from every speaker that the ILF does what it says in its title, providing the means to let some of the most severely disabled people in Northern Ireland live their lives independently, without fear or favour. The ILF must be made available to every other severely disabled person in Northern Ireland who needs it, and it’s reintroduction is of the utmost urgency: every day that we delay is destroying lives.
“Our Gathering was raw and real in the emotions exposed, and elicited positive and proactive commitments from other organisations in the Chamber and, especially welcome, from our Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly. Directly, as a result, we will be gathering again, very soon, and we will continue to do so until our goal of opening the Fund again to the rest of us in Northern Ireland who need it is realised.”
At the event, Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly, committed to the Department for Health in Northern Ireland undertaking preparatory work around the re-opening of ILF for disabled people in Northern Ireland, in order that a future Health Minister, once in post, is able to make an informed decision.
Doug Beattie, Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann, who hosted the Stormont event, remarked:
“I have nothing but admiration for Independent Living Fund (ILF) Scotland, who administer the Fund here in Northern Ireland. After attending their gathering in Stormont, and meeting some members of the Northern Ireland stakeholder group, I heard and saw first-hand how the ILF can change lives, and make life a life worth living. I also heard how some cannot avail of this fantastic fund, and I was moved on hearing their plight.
“The event was informative, uplifting and moving. We as a society must do more for our most severely disabled citizens in order to allow them the fundamental human right of living an independent life. In Northern Ireland our elected representatives should everything necessary to ensure the fund is reopened for new participants.”