HC Deb 22 June 1971 vol 819 cc1187-9
Q1. Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made in his consideration of instituting automatic liaison between Departments in cases affecting the most severely disabled people who can be helped by means of technology to earn a living but who have yet to overcome the obstacle of being severely disabled.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

There is already close liaison between the Departments concerned, but if the hon. Gentleman likes to let me have details of any apparent failure of co-ordination, I should be glad to have them examined.

Mr. Carter-Jones

I thank the Prime Minister for his answer. I believe I can provide him with cases in which there have been excessive delays. Would he not agree that for people who are severely physically disabled, the psychological impact of having to wait can be disastrous? Therefore, would he make sure that those severely disabled people who might be able to work are, in fact, helped and, at the time of assessment, are visited by hospital authorities, by local welfare officers, by officers from the Department of Employment and, in the case of the young, by education authorities? Finally, would he do something about the "egg and chicken" argument involved in the fact that a disabled worker needs a vehicle to get a job but has to have a job before he can get a vehicle? This problem has existed for a long time. Would he investigate it again?

The Prime Minister

I am quite prepared to arrange for any of these problems to be looked at. The hon. Gentleman in his supplementary question covered a very wide range of aids for the disabled. I agree that one of our prime purposes must be to give those who are able to work the assistance in this technical form which they need. That is why the Department of Employment is involved in these matters. On the other hand, the Department of Health and Social Security gives any help it can to those disabled who require assistance of various other kinds to overcome their disability. Local authorities, too, have power and resources to help, and it is natural that homes should be visited by their representatives.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of devices are being developed which can give great assistance to disabled people in living and working normally but that it seems to be the responsibility of no particular Department to secure that they are put into production? Would he therefore consider putting responsibility generally for the disabled on one Minister, rather in the same way that the Secretary of State for Social Services has overall responsibility for war pensioners?

The Prime Minister

A remarkable series of such devices has been produced, largely invented in this country, although we have also taken advantage of those produced in Europe and North America. I assume that many hon. Members have seen the exhibition at the Disabled Living Foundation in Kensington which shows these devices very clearly. I will certainly do as my right hon. Friend asks and see whether the whole of this matter should be placed under one Department. But it has been accepted in the past that the Department of Employment has great experience in the provision of these employment devices and is very sympathetic towards those who want to use them to earn their living. I will look at the whole problem again.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Could we be assured by the Prime Minister that the important matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) will be fully dealt with in the report from the Government under Section 22 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970? Could the Prime Minister say when we are to expect that report?

The Prime Minister

I cannot answer that question without notice, but I will endeavour to see that in the report the fullest information is given to the House.