This concept of Independent Living Schemes was first pioneered in the UK by Community Service Volunteers, who developed the model of full-time volunteers enabling disabled people to live at home rather than in institutions. Croydon Social Services Department set up Croydon Independent Living Scheme in 1987. At its peak, the scheme provided separate accommodation and paid living expenses for forty volunteers to enable fifteen local disabled people to live independently in the community. The scheme operated very successfully for many years but closed when the Social Services Department stopped recruiting volunteers.

Independent Living Alternatives (ILA) supported service users to start the ILS again. Service users are now encouraged to take on a more active role in the running of their schemes. Users employ their Personal Assistants, provide PAs with their own separate accommodation, pay all the bills and pay lucrative salaries instead of volunteers’ expenses.


A fully furnished two-bedroom flat, to be shared with the other PA assisting the same ILS user, is provided near to the service user’s home. The Personal Assistants now live in good quality well-appointed flats in Purley, a leafy town in South London (CR8). The Personal Assistants each have their own separate bedroom and bathroom and there is a shared kitchen and lounge. The flats are within walking distance of Purley town centre and the railway station which has excellent links to central London (with trains to Victoria and London Bridge only taking 20 minutes).

We pay for the rent, electricity, water, Council Tax and television license. You are only expected to provide your own bed linen, towels etc. The budget for the accommodation provided is presently £200 per week per Personal Assistant. An additional weekly salary of between £500 and £700 (or between £2,167 and £3,033 per month) is paid to assist with your living expenses. This means that each Personal Assistant now receives gross benefits worth between £700 and £900 per week (or the equivalent of between £3,033 and £3,900 per month, or £36,400 and £46,800 per annum) and the PAs don’t have to find their own accommodation, which in London can be costly and time consuming.