As the closure of the Independent Living Fund fast approaches, I remain frustrated at how those who are still campaigning for it to stay open are portraying the situation. They like to paint the image of poor and defenseless users, who were protected by the fund, now being swallowed up by the big bad councils and their social workers with pound signs in their eyes, as they come to deliberately make life difficult for their users.
The fine details of how the transfer of the funding to local authorities is very different to the wild claims being made. Under the Care Act, users will have greater rights with local authorities, then they ever had with the Independent Living Fund. This is of course no guarantee that any user will keep the same level of support in the same way, but there is a component in the negotiation that campaigners have appeared to have forgotten, and that is the active participation of users themselves in saying what they need.
Social care should not be something that is passive, and sometimes users need to remind social workers of their responsibilities, as well as leading an active discussion on what they need in a manner their council can understand. Service users can not always have the knowledge and skills for the game of chess that sometimes needs to be played to get social workers and councils to understand the importance of 'less basic' and so what they may consider 'less important' needs.
This is why advocacy is very important and why I am proud to be the project manager of ILF Assist on behalf of Ethos Disability. This is a free advice and advocacy service specifically designed to support ILF Users with the transfer of their support to local authorities. The service makes no promises but it does offers users the knowledge and skills to be active partners in the assessment process, as opposed to being passive recipients.
The service is born out of my own belief that you can not wait for others to do what you can do for yourself, and if no one else was appearing to help users on the ground, I was going to take my own advice, and do something myself, without waiting for someone to pay me, as this service remains unfunded. While many campaigners may still genuinely believe that they can successfully force the government to keep the fund open, even at this late stage, I am more interested in supporting users to navigate their way through the transfer, and it is going to be understanding how to use the small print that is likely to make the biggest difference.
There is absolutely no reason for any user of social care, whether they were an ILF user or not, to be a passive recipient. I fully understand not everyone has the determination and knowledge to 'kick ass' but it is about building a support system that empowers more people to be active participants in their assistance and support. In any form of consumerism, informed consumers can prevent organisations from taking advantage of them, by knowing more about the rules than the organisations themselves. There is therefore no reason this can not happen within social care as all users become active partners in the services they receive.