HC Deb 14 March 1955 vol 538 cc927-8
13. Mr. Oliver

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware of the hardship caused to parents, particularly widowed mothers, who have a mentally defective child, allowances for whom cease on the child attaining the age of 15 and where no other financial assistance is available until the child is 16 years of age; and if he will take steps to remedy this anomaly.

Mr. Peake

I have already undertaken to deal with the difficulty under the family allowances scheme when opportunity occurs. This would only deal with a small part of the problem, and I would point out that many of these children are fully maintained in hospitals or institutions and also that in some cases aid is available under the Mental Deficiency Acts or by way of National Assistance.

Mr. Oliver

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the cases to which I refer, where the mentally defective child is the child of a widow who is receiving her pension, and where sometimes the child belongs to parents of low income groups? In those cases the children are not covered at all either by institutional treatment or by the Mental Deficiency Acts.

Mr. Peake

The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that I have good intentions in this matter, because in July, 1953,I introduced regulations which enable family allowances to be paid where children of this character are undergoing instruction in their homes. That does not deal with the whole problem, and I look forward to being able to bring in a Bill which will deal with the matter before very long.

14. Mr. Fenner Brockway

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will consider extending the payment of children's allowances to approved institutions which have the responsibility of caring for children in lieu of parents.

Mr. Peake

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to allowances under the Family Allowances Act. These allowances are for families and not institutions, but I have undertaken to receive a deputation to discuss difficulties that have arisen in certain classes of cases.

Mr. Brockway

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for agreeing to meet a deputation, may I ask him whether the principle endorsed by this House was that these allowances were for the children rather than for the parents; and when either approved organisations or local authorities are looking after the children should not they have the advantage of this contribution to the children's welfare?

Mr. Peake

No, Sir. I think that the hon. Gentleman has a faulty conception of the purpose of the Act, which is to assist the family as a whole. I would point out that under the Children Act local authorities can assist any institution which is providing for children.