§ 1. Mr. MacKay
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many extra people would now be in possession of invalid tricycles if previous policies had been maintained.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Alfred Morris)
No precise estimate can be made. The hon. Gentleman may, however, like to to know that under our new policy over 48,000 severely disabled people are now receiving outdoor mobility help for the first time ever.
§ Mr. MacKay
Is the Minister satisfied that many people who have become disabled since last July, when trikes were no 1354 longer given out to disabled people, are severely restricted and need assistance?
§ Mr. Morris
I shall be delighted to look into any particular case that the hon. Gentleman may wish to refer to me. Other hon. Members have taken advantage of a previous offer. The Question assumes that there was no element of choice in the previous scheme, whereas in fact more and more people were choosing a private car allowance instead of a trike under the old scheme. Between January and June 1976, when there was a choice between the trike and the mobility allowance, about 96 per cent. of disabled people chose the mobility allowance.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I appreciate the help that is being given, but is my hon. Friend aware that there are many people who have been able to spend a lifetime at work because from the word "go" they have had the ability to get to work and back? Is there not a disincentive under the present system to people starting work while disabled because of their inability to get to work and back? Could not this be taken into consideration?
§ Mr. Morris
I fully appreciate the point that my hon. Friend is making. Our phasing-out programme is very gradual. We are particularly mindful of the claims of people who will need extra help to get to and from work. We have been in close contact with the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation about a scheme which may provide for the leasing of vehicles. All that my hon. Friend has said today will be taken fully into account.
§ Mr. Hal Miller
Can the Minister tell us what progress is being made towards developing a new and more suitable vehicle than the tricycle and whether there is any hope that those at present with tricycles can look forward to receiving a replacement vehicle either by leasing or by some other means?
§ Mr. Morris
There are a number of prototypes and I have seen several of them recently. The GKN Sankey prototype is fairly well known. We have given a strong commitment to people in the existing scheme. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has given what he calls a "cast-iron assurance" to disabled drivers in the old vehicle scheme. The 1355 hon. Gentleman can be well assured that we are fully mindful of the problems of people who will still need specialised vehicles when we can no longer replace their tricycles.
§ Mr. Park
Regarding employment, is it not a fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has said that no person would be denied the opportunity of seeking and retaining employment and that he would deal with the matter? Is it not true that an evaluation of the GKN prototype vehicle is being carried out and that there are now discount schemes with the major motor manufacturers?
§ Mr. Morris
On the final point, I recently gave a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), listing all the available concessions. My hon. Friend is correct in the point that he makes about the GKN Sankey prototype. In regard to the Employment Service Agency scheme, we are in close contact with my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Employment. The very worst inheritance that I had when I became a Minister was the arrangement under category 3 of the old scheme whereby if a disabled person lost his job he also lost his vehicle. I take pride in the fact that this Government have ended that system.
§ Mrs. Chalker
We accept that a lot has been done. Does the Minister accept, however, that there is still great concern about those leaving school or who have become newly disabled and cannot go to work? Will he institute a special inquiry among the schools for the handicapped and the training centres for the newly disabled to make sure that no one is prevented from working by the lack of a vehicle?
§ Mr. Morris
I share the concern of those who have anxieties about further improving the mobility of the disabled. Getting out of hardware is not an easy task. There were many criticisms of the invalid tricycle. We must not be put in a position where we cannot do right for fear of doing wrong. I am mindful of the point made by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker). I assure her that we shall do everything possible further to improve the mobility of disabled people, not least disabled young people.