HC Deb 19 April 1983 vol 41 cc152-3
11. Mr. John Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent steps he has taken to promote the full implementation of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.

13. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will be taking any action to raise the general standard of provision by local authorities under section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act up to that of the existing best.

Mr. Rossi

Local authorities are aware of their duties under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, and implementation is a matter for them.

Mr. John Evans

Will the Minister confirm that although the very rich have become richer under this Government, the number of telephones available to the disabled, for example, has more than halved because of the Government's failure to implement in full the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act? Does the hon. Gentleman realise that a telephone can be a lifeline to a disabled person? What will he do about that?

Mr. Rossi

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that, contrary to his implication, expenditure on personal social services by local authorities has risen by 6 per cent. in real terms over the past three years and that they have budgeted for a further increase of about 2 per cent. this year. There has been a drop in the number of new telephone installations, but not in the total provision or in expenditure, which has, indeed, increased again.

Mr. Ioan Evans

How can the Minister tolerate the tremendous differences between the provision made by one local authority and another? Will he set minimum standards that local authorities will have to maintain and at the same time make sure that local authorities have the resources to ensure that the Act is fully implemented, as Parliament intended?

Mr. Rossi

The advice that I have received on minimum standards is that disability and the need that it occasions varies so much from individual to individual that the laying down of norms or standards of universal application would simply introduce a self-defeating inflexibility.

Mr. McCrindle

Does not the uneven progress under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act show how wrong it is for the House to pass desirable legislation, raise the expectations of the disabled and then leave it to others —principally county councils—to raise the necessary funds to implement it?

Mr. Rossi

It is not an easy Act to administer, but, overall, its effects have been beneficial. Nevertheless, it has created many problems in its implementation.

Mr. Wigley

With regard to the access provisions of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, and the need to strengthen them, what is the position on the order that the Government intend to introduce, as part of the building regulations, to improve the standards of access for disabled people into buildings?

Mr. Rossi

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is the Minister aware that one county council is threatening to take a severely disabled woman to court because she cannot pay for her home help out of her supplementary benefit and owes the council £30? What is the Minister's policy on that issue? What action is he taking over Liverpool's failure, as reported to him by RADAR last week, to honour the undertaking it gave him to provide telephones in cases where need had been accepted? Will the Minister now use his full powers in the case of Liverpool?

Mr. Rossi

With regard to the first case, if the right hon. Gentleman will send me the details I shall certainly look into the matter in the usual way. With regard to Liverpool, I have received a letter from RADAR. I am having inquiries made immediately and I am waiting for the reply. The action to be taken will depend on the reply.