HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc197-8
15. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will give the latest figures for the number of applications for attendance allowance which have been accepted and rejected, respectively, since June 1971; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Alfred Morris

From June 1971 to March this year 334,000 claims for attendance allowance were dealt with, resulting in 227,000 awards.

Mr. Hannam

That information is vital if we are to judge the success of this important allowance, but is the Minister aware of the widespread disquiet over the large number of initial applications refused and then reversed also after involved appeals? I gather that the proportion is over 50 per cent. Can he take proceedings to improve the intial application procedures and also introduce a general disability allowance as soon as possible?

Mr. Morris

On the first point, about 80 per cent. of claimants qualify at either the higher or the lower rate. Whether an individual satisfies the statutory medical requirements is a matter for the Attendance Allowance Board. I am seized of the importance of the argument adduced by the hon. Member with regard to the review required by Section 36 of the Social Security Act 1973. We are proceeding with this and, of course, disabled people who are not entitled to the attendance allowance may well benefit from our conclusions following the review.

Mr. Greville Janner

In view of the number of families of severely disabled people who have been refused allowances, will the Minister say whether he has received a reply from the Chairman of the Attendance Allowance Board in answer to his request that the board should review its procedures? If so, what reply did he receive?

Mr. Morris

I have not so far received a substantive reply from Lord Amulree. My hon. Friend is aware of the text of my letter to the noble Lord, and I shall be informing my hon. Friend of developments at the earliest possible date.

Dr. Winstanley

Is the hon. Gentleman considering any possible extensions to the categories of persons qualifying for the allowance? Will he bear in mind the plight of those suffering from terminal illnesses, who do not qualify for the allowance until their disability has lasted for six months, and many of whom die just before they qualify for a form of help of which they are in desperate need?

Mr. Morris

This is a matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised with me before. I am aware of the difficulties of the people he mentioned. I shall have the matter in mind in the course of our review of social security provision for the chronically sick and disabled.