HC Deb 21 June 1977 vol 933 cc1087-8
11. Mr. Budgen

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the implementation and continued operation of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.

Mr. Ennals

I am satisfied that a very large number of disabled people have benefited in real and practical ways from the provision of the Act, ranging from the specific services under Section 2 to the extensive provisions under Sections 4 to 7, concerning access. The Act has been of help to millions of handicapped people. In the case of Section 2 alone, 300,000 households with disabled people were helped in the year 1975–76 with appliances, telephones and adaptations to property, and 101,000 people with holidays. Expenditure on aids, adaptations to homes and telephones rose from about £2.8 million in 1972–73 to about £8.8 million in 1975–76. It is difficult even to estimate the large numbers of people who have been helped by improved access facilities under the provisions of Sections 4 to 8 of the Act. They would possibly have to be numbered in millions.

Mr. Budgen

Does the Secretary of State agree that the lesson to be drawn for the future is that legislation of this sort should not be enacted unless the necessary funds are available to implement it? Does he further agree that this Act has caused a great deal of overwork in social services departments, and has also caused much misery through unfulfilled expectations among a wide section of the population?

Mr. Ennals

My main conclusion is entirely different. It is that the Act has revolutionised the attitude of the public towards disabled people in this country. It has led to local authorities throughout the country providing assistance to the disabled that was never provided before.

Mr. George Rodgers

Does the Secretary of State agree that the weakness in the Act is that it does not define sufficiently what is meant by "need" for the disabled? This has resulted in a situation in which enlightened authorities are making much greater provision than others. In fact, some authorities have diminished the definition of need and are providing less than they were a year ago, because of the public expenditure cuts. Is this not a breach of the Act?

Mr. Ennals

It would be extremely difficult to define need by legislation. Obviously, this is a matter of subjective judgment by doctors and social workers.

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