HC Deb 04 November 1975 vol 899 cc211-2
12. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will now take steps to amend the regulations so that the Attendance Allowance Board may pay attendance allowance to foster parents of handicapped children who satisfy the criteria.

The Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Mr. Brian O'Malley)

Payment of attendance allowance has not been considered appropriate where a local authority has assumed responsibility for the care of a severely disabled child, whether in one of its own homes or by boarding out.

Mr. Hannam

Is the Minister aware that a recent survey shows that the local authorities' allowances do not reach the level of the attendance allowance? Does he agree that everything possible should be done to help the handicapped children concerned—only 300 or so—to be taken into private homes and families by foster parents? Will he consider applying the same principle as is being applied to the mobility allowance?

Mr. O'Malley

I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the position. If the attendance allowance became payable for the small number of children that he describes in his Question, many of the foster parents concerned would be no better off, because the local authorities would clearly reflect the receipt of that allowance in the payment made to the foster parents.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the problem is very serious, and that his Department has not treated it with as much care as it should? Genuine hardship is caused for severely handicapped children going into foster care, because insufficient money is made available to them. The remedy proposed in the Question would help relieve the financial hardship. Will my right hon. Friend please consider it again?

Mr. O'Malley

The attendance allowance is seen primarily as a way to help families who, out of their own resources, look after a severely disabled child of their own in their own home, or where private arrangements are made for the child to be cared for by someone else. It is inappropriate for my hon. Friend to criticise my Department on this matter. The costs of bringing up a foster child by foster parents or local authorities is properly a charge on the local authorities concerned.