The coalition government looks set to scrap its advice body on accessible transport and the Independent Living Fund (ILF) as part of its programme of spending cuts, according to a leaked government document.
A leaked list of quangos set for abolition includes the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, the ILF and the Disability Employment Advisory Committee (DEAC), as well as the Disability Living/Attendance Allowance Advisory Board.
But the list appears to confirm that the government will not scrap Equality 2025, its advisory network of disabled people.
The leaked document, published by the BBC, suggests DEAC’s functions could be transferred to Equality 2025, while DPTAC’s role could be “mainstreamed”, with its “remaining functions” transferred to other bodies.
The ILF looks likely to have its budget – currently £359 million a year – transferred to local authorities, although this is “awaiting a final decision”.
In June, the ILF – which is funded by the government and supports disabled people with high support needs to live independently – admitted it would only be able to fund 600 of the 1,000 new awards it had intended to make this year.
The leaked document also says that the future of the Equality and Human Rights Commission is “still to be decided”, although most equality campaigners believe it will not be scrapped but will have its budget cut.
The leaked list says the future of Remploy is also under review. The organisation employs about 3,000 disabled people in 54 sheltered factories, despite closing 29 factories as part of a modernisation programme.
Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, said she feared the impact of the loss of the ILF would be “horrible”.
She said: “I am really, really concerned because we are talking about people with high support needs, and they have got to be met for you to have any chance of being able to participate in life as a citizen
“I really want to urge the government to draw breath and understand what things like the ILF do before reaching these decisions.”
Bott said indications from civil servants were that any funding saved by scrapping the ILF would only be provided by the government to local authorities for three or four years, and after that they would “just be expected to get on with it and fund people from existing resources”.
Alan Norton, a DPTAC member and chief executive of Assist UK, said it would be a “terrible mistake” if DPTAC was to be scrapped.
He said DPTAC – already set to be cut from 19 to just 10 members at the end of this year – was a “real success story” in which disabled people had “influenced change in the country”.
He added: “I really feel it is totally the wrong thing to do. It would put us backwards in many areas.”
Trevor Phillips, chair of the EHRC, told Disability News Service that he would be “a bit surprised” if the commission was scrapped, because “somebody has to do this job”.
But he added: “There is no issue about the idea that we need to do things differently. We are not afraid of change at all. [We have] no problem about somebody saying, ‘You could be better,’ because we think so.”
Marije Davidson, RADAR’s senior policy and parliamentary officer, said she had “concerns” about some of the bodies that could be scrapped, but what was important was how the government planned to replace the vital work they did.
She said there could be opportunities for third sector organisations to take on some of these roles.
And she said it was crucial that the government listened to disabled people when carrying out its equality impact assessment of its plans.
Sue Sharp, head of public policy and campaigns for Guide Dogs, said that scrapping DPTAC would be “a retrograde step”.
Sharp, who previously worked in the Department for Transport’s mobility and inclusion unit, said DPTAC provided a “unique” opportunity for both disabled people and industry to present their cases to government, and that it had a “long record of moving forward the agenda”.
She said this work would “not get done” if DPTAC was scrapped, with the responsibility for such work left to the third sector to fund itself.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The government has made it clear that it is committed to radically increasing accountability and improving efficiency.
“As part of this, work is already underway to make substantial reforms to its public bodies. This work is on-going and an announcement will be made in due course.
“We deeply regret any extra uncertainty for employees that this irresponsible leak has caused.”
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com