HC Deb 03 February 1981 vol 998 cc130-2
3. Miss Richardson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will list the events which he intends to attend in connection with the International Year of Disabled People.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Hugh Rossi)

Invitations are now being received, and I intend to accept as many as possible around the country which are connected with the International Year of Disabled People.

Miss Richardson

I hope that when the Minister goes to the functions to which he has been invited, the people who are there will make it clear to him how disappointed they are at the measures for disabled people which the Government have announced. On one of these occasions, as he has not been able to do so in the House, will he give his Department's views on NIAC's proposals for the non-contributory household duties test?

Mr. Rossi

I am aware of the difficulties that the previous Administration ran into on this matter. I am also aware that the council asked for a review to be carried out on the alternative test that might be applicable. That review is being carried out at the moment. As the committee suggested, we are also considering what is being done in other countries. As soon as the review has been completed, we shall bring the matter before the House.

Mr. Paul Dean

Will my hon. Friend do what he can to ensure that the International Year of Disabled People is marked by a new initiative on the part of the Government—albeit modest in expenditure—to make certain that progress in this important area is maintained?

Mr. Rossi

We are anxious to do whatever we can to help the disabled, but we must have regard to the current economic situation. It is difficult to find resources that we can apply to new types of assistance. We place great emphasis on the importance of trying to draw the attention of the public to the disabled and to seek to change general attitudes.

Mr. Ashley

Would it be a constructive contribution to the International Year of Disabled People if the Minister could arrange a special conference between the directors of social services and the managers of social security offices, to discuss the impact on disabled people of cuts in social services, a new scheme for supplementary benefit and their views on the need for a statutory additional cost allowance?

Mr. Rossi

That is an interesting suggestion. I shall consider the matter to see whether it is possible to call a conference to discuss ways in which it is possible, within the present economic restraints, to give help to the disabled.

Mr. Chapman

Will my hon. Friend be a little more forthcoming and give a pledge to meet the representatives of parents of severely mentally handicapped children who look after those children at home, and confirm that, no matter how limited the resources of the Government, these parents should be given the help they need and deserve, perhaps above many other causes?

Mr. Rossi

I am aware of that problem because within my constituency I have been interested in the work of a voluntary organisation concerned with mentally and physically handicapped children. I shall always keep my door open to representations and do the best I possibly can to help, within the restraints of the economy.

Mr. Alton

In this International Year of Disabled People, will the Minister give the House an undertaking to have discussions with some of his ministerial colleagues, including Ministers from the Department of Trade, and some of the major insurance companies about the problems mentally handicapped children have in obtaining insurance? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a number of my constituents have made representations to me on that matter? I should be grateful if the Minister would make a statement.

Mr. Rossi

I shall look into that matter if the hon. Member will send me the details.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The Minister will have seen from the many recent press reports that the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation is considering, with other major voluntary organisations, whether legal action should be taken against local authorities which are failing to discharge their duties under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. What action does the Minister propose to take against defaulting authorities? May we take it that he will work in the closest possible rapport with the voluntary sector in insisting on the full and humane implementation of that Act?

Mr. Rossi

Under the Act, there is a statutory obligation on local authorities. The sanctions exist under the Act. Court proceedings are contemplated. We shall see what the results of those proceedings is. There is always a reserve power in the hands of my right hon. Friend. When matters are appropriate, the use of those powers will be considered.

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