HC Deb 08 April 1968 vol 762 cc874-6
24. Mr. Astor

asked the Minister of Social Security if she will seek to make available allowances for constant attendance and other benefits, as large as those payable under the Industrial Injuries Scheme, to all disabled people who are not at present eligible to receive benefit under existing schemes.

33. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Minister of Social Security when she expects to receive a report on the Government survey on the number of disabled people; and what action she intends to take to help the disabled in the near future.

Mrs. Hart

I am anxious to find some way of helping people who are very severely disabled, irrespective of the cause of disablement, and I understand from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health that some results from the Government's survey of use to my Department can be expected in probably about 18 months. The provisions of the Industrial Injuries Scheme, however, serve special purposes and could not be extended to all disablement irrespective of its cause.

Mr. Astor

Would it be possible to extend some benefit—for example, to disabled housewives, who at present receive none—ahead of the results of the review, which may not be known for another 18 months?

Mrs. Hart

Our planning in this matter will go concurrently with the research that is being carried out. We will need the results of the research, in that they will establish the incidence of disability among groups of people like housewives, before we can completely finalise our plans.

Lord Balniel

Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that we have waited a very long time indeed for this social security review? Can she say at this stage whether she accepts as a principle that all forms of disability should be treated alike, whether caused through industrial injury, long-term chronic sickness or resulting from any other natural cause?

Mrs. Hart

It depends entirely on what the noble Lord means by "treated alike". There are very good reasons why the industrial injury which is encountered during work should receive a special kind of approach. At the same time, I believe that the real gap at the moment is in provision to meet chronic sickness or chronic handicap arising not through work, and particularly among housewives or congenitally handicapped children who grow up to be adults. Thus, in saying that I do not necessarily agree with the noble Lord that they should be treated alike, I wholly agree that we need provision to meet the other contingencies which we are so far not meeting.

Mr. Montgomery

Since the Minister accepts that we may have to wait another 18 months for this report, cannot something be done for these disabled people in the meantime, remembering that many of them have been badly hit by price increases and that the Prime Minister promised that the weakest members of the community would be helped following increases in the cost of living through devaluation and other measures?

Mrs. Hart

I wish to make it clear, since this may be a difficult point to understand, that the real gap in our knowledge—having accepted and agreed that there was a legitimate cause for concern here and since we did not have any facts—concerns the incidence of disability of differing degrees in the community outside the industrially and war injured. Before we can, for example, cost a scheme in accurate terms, we must know the incidence. However, that does not mean that nothing will be said on this issue in the White Paper which will be forthcoming before the end of the year.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is of the utmost importance and urgency that she accepts the principle of the Question, which itself would go a long way towards doing something for the group of people involved? Would she agree that if former Tory Administrations had accepted this principle, the problem would now be easier to solve?

Mrs. Hart

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the urgency of this matter. I would only disagree with him to the extent of saying that the general public expect much more of us than they do of Tory Administrations.