London

Independent Living Fund protest takes place at Westminster Abbey

Campaigners from the group Disabled People Against Cuts are protesting outside Westminster Abbey Image copyright PA
Image caption The protesters gathered outside Westminster Abbey earlier on Saturday

Campaigners from the group Disabled People Against Cuts have held a protest outside London's Westminster Abbey.

They were demonstrating against the government's closure of the Independent Living Fund, which provides support for some 18,000 severely disabled people.

About 100 protesters set up tents at 16:00 BST, the group said. The protest, which included about 40 people in wheelchairs, ended just before 21:00.

The government said local authorities will be given the ILF budget.

Ellen Clifford, a spokeswoman for Disabled People Against Cuts, said the scheme's closure signalled a "return to institutions" for severely disabled people who receive support through the fund.

"Disabled people would rather be dead than go back to nursing homes - that's why they took this action today."

She earlier said the group had asked the Dean of Westminster Dr John Hall for permission to camp on the land "for the next few weeks", but this had been refused.

Image caption The group said there was a heavy police presence outside the central London abbey

The group said police had advised them to leave or face arrest for trespass. Scotland Yard said one man had been arrested after allegedly assaulting a police officer.

Some protesters from anti-tax avoidance group UK Uncut also joined the demonstration following their own protest outside Boots stores.

They accuse the High Street store of avoiding £1bn in tax, a claim it denies.

The Independent Living Fund is set to close next June after the government said analysis showed there had been significant developments in how it provides social care.

In 2012, the government decided to close the Independent Living Fund and devolve the funding, which would no longer be ring-fenced, to local authorities.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We are world leaders in support for disabled people, spending around a fifth more on disability benefits than the EU average.

"However changes to social care have called into question having a separate funding stream through the ILF, especially since the vast majority of disabled people with care needs are already looked after through the adult social care system.

"That is why we are transferring more than £260m of the ILF's budget to local authorities - and the devolved administrations - to ensure disabled people get the targeted support they need to lead independent lives."

More on this story