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Court Steps in to Save Independent Living Fund

In a landmark decision, the Court of Appeal has quashed the Government’s decision to close down the £359 million Independent Living Fund which provides vital support to thousands of severely disabled people with the aim of combatting their social exclusion.

In ruling that the decision breached the public sector equality duty enshrined within section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, the Court found that the Minister for Disabled People did not have sufficient information before her in order to properly assess the practical impact of the fund’s closure on the particular needs of more than19,000 people who rely upon it.

Despite Government pleas that the Minister was well aware of the consequences of her decision, it was simply not possible to infer that she had considered the matter with a proper focus on the need to advance equality of opportunity, to minimise the disadvantages which users of the fund endured and to encourage disabled people to live independently and participate in public life.

The Court emphasised that the Minister’s decision was not being overturned on grounds of irrationality and acknowledged that, on reconsidering the issue, she may still decide that closure of the fund is the better way of advancing statutory objectives and ensuring that all disabled people are treated equally.