-A A +A
Select color visibility that suits you Basic theme Dark theme Darker theme Text only

ILF celebrates 27 years of providing support

05 June 2015

On Wednesday people from the ILF, DWP, local authorities, ILF users, and people committed to independent living gathered to celebrate 27 years of achievement.  Sue Bott CBE spoke on her reflections on the Fund

Attached is the full document: 27 years of providing independent living support

This is a transcript of Sue’s speech.

Speech to the launch of the ILF’s 27 years of learning about providing independent living support

Thank you to the ILF for allowing me to share a few reflections on the fund before its closure at the end of this month.  I regard it as a real privilege to be afforded such an opportunity.

It is of course immeasurably sad that the fund is coming to an end but there have been plenty of words said on this already and I don't intend to repeat them here, well not all of them anyway.

Quite rightly what we are here today for is to celebrate everything that has been good about the ILF and importantly what the Fund and it's way of doing things has to offer the rest of the world which is not insignificant!  I guess it's a bit like one of those talent shows where an excellent participant inexplicably gets knocked out because of the voting of the fickle British public but before they leave you review all the best bits.

There are lots of best bits - 27 years' worth.  I'd like to highlight some of my favourites.

1. The ILF started to implement co-production with the people using the service long before the concept became fashionable.  We've had the advisory group for a number of years and I can tell you having been a member that we have seen and been able to comment on pretty much the same information as the trustees.  You know you opinion is being valued when the white envelope with the meeting papers arrives in the post with confidential emblazoned on it!

The ILF has always been committed to listening and acting on the user voice.  Some of you will know that the organisation I work for now, Disability Rights UK, is a merger and that one of those organisation was the National Centre for Independent Living of which I was chief executive.  I was approached by the ILF, John fuller who is here today, because they felt they could improve on engaging with service users.  That's the kind of commitment the ILF has always shown and that others could learn from.

2. I want to pay tribute to the standard of social work that has been part of the fund.  Sadly these days the relationship between disabled people and social workers is not a happy one because of the position social workers have to adopt in these times of austerity of having to bar the gate and tell us there is no money to enable us to fulfil our aspirations.  I think the ILF has attracted the best in social work.  ILF social workers have been welcomed and able to work constructively with disabled people.

3. My third point relates to the dreaded trust deed that has governed the ILF.  I say dreaded because by nature I'm not really a rules person and because, on occasion, the trust deed has meant some people have not been able to do what they wanted to.  On the other hand there is something valuable in having such document that underpins what your organisation does that others can learn from.  Much of the conflict and fear from disabled people about staff from local authorities is the feeling that policy is made on the hoof and it just depends who you get on the day and whether they are in a good mood as to what care package you end up with.  There is much to commend something like a trust deed that provides transparency and consistency in decision making.

4. The ILF has never been an enormous organisation which I think has been one of its strengths.  It has enabled the Fund to be contactable and responsive to local authority staff and disabled people alike.  Getting your query answered alleviates any amount of stress.  In recent years we have seen the emergence of social work practices operating outside local authorities in the community.  Personally I hope this development continues and grows.  Small really is beautiful when it comes to personal social services.  Such organisations in particular would do well to look at what has been learnt at the ILF.

So number 5., and I'd better stop after this one or we will be here all day!  The way the Fund has dealt with its closure has been exemplary.  It would have been so easy to just head for the hills or the new job.  Who could have blamed staff who stood to lose their jobs over something totally beyond their control from taking such an attitude?  But of course staff didn't do that because they are professionals and completely committed to the disabled people they work with.  Instead a full transfer programme was implemented leaving no stone unturned.  Every effort has been made to give service users and local authorities all the information they need.  What a model of good practice.  People responsible for change management take note.  At the risk of embarrassing them I'd like to pause here and for us all to give James (James Sanderson, Chief Executive ILF) and Jesse (Jess Harris, director of Social Work ILF) a round of applause . . .

So what happens now?  In many ways the ILF has been a victim of its own success.  The study published in 2007 showed that the achievements of the ILF were only available to a small number of people but quite rightly in the interests of equality this needed to broaden to include disabled people of any age.  That of course would mean additional resources, a message governments don't like to hear.  From that point on I guess the writing was on the wall for the ILF.  Yet the closure will solve nothing.  I promised not to get too political but I have to say that in the end government have to take a serious look at how people with high support needs are to be supported otherwise I fear the achievement of independent living will become a distant dream.  In considering their options they would do well not to forget the lessons of the ILF.  It's up to organisations like mine to make sure they do remember and honour the legacy of everything that has been achieved.

Thank you

Sue Bott CBE
Deputy Chief executive
Disability Rights UK