HC Deb 31 January 1984 vol 53 cc122-4
2. Mr. Jack Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has any plans for the fuller implementation of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Tony Newton)

The implementation of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 is a matter for local authorities. They are in the best position to assess individuals' needs and make arrangements for them.

Mr. Thompson

What was the basis of the Minister's calculation that it would cost £30 million to amend section 1 of the Act in the way proposed in the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing)? Secondly, is it not shoddy, scandalous and disgraceful of the Government to have presided over a cut of more than 50 per cent. in the provision of telephones for disabled people under section 2 of the Act, thus causing acute problems for authorities such as the Labour-controlled Northumberland county council, which restored the provision of telephones for the disabled in 1981 following the cuts made by the Tory-controlled county council?

Mr. Newton

The answer to the first half of the hon. Gentleman's question is that the basis of the calculation was that it cost £750,000 to conduct such surveys for 1.5 million people in Northern Ireland. By a simple arithmetical process we calculated roughly what it would cost for the whole of Great Britain.

My reply to the second half of the hon. Gentleman's question is that he will be aware that there has been some contact between the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation and the Liverpool local authorities about the provision of telephones. I understand that there has been a further meeting between them this month.

Mr. Andrew Bowden

Does my hon. Friend accept that telephones are vital for elderly people living on their own? I realise that funds are short, but could he tell local authorities, at an early opportunity, to make money available for this valuable service?

Mr. Newton

I am anxious that local authorities should make appropriate provision. My hon. Friend will be aware that a number of local authorities are studying such schemes as alarm systems which contact a warden or some other person. In many cases that may be more appropriate than a telephone.

Mr. Litherland

What is the Minister doing about Tory-controlled county councils such as Kent, whose social workers appear to be going with a begging bowl to charitable organisations to provide adaptations for the disabled when that should be the local authority's responsibility.

Mr, Newton

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's language. We are strongly in favour of developing partnership and co-operation between statutory and voluntary services. That is important for disabled people, and I am pleased to say that it appears to be growing faster in Kent than elsewhere.

Mr. Galley

Does my hon. Friend agree that far more progress has been made during the past 10 years in integrating disabled and able-bodied people into the community by the dedicated hard work of a vast range of voluntary bodies than could ever be achieved by legislation or local authority activity? Does my hon. Friend accept that the right course of action is to promote and pay tribute to that work? Should not local authorities set their priorities? If they give priority to the disabled, the money is available for that.

Mr. Newton

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I hope that he will agree with me that both the statutory and voluntary sectors have an important role to play. The key is that they should work together.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Will the Minister seek to persuade the Secretary of State for the Environment to increase the grant-related expenditure targets, to enable local authorities to provide services under the Act? If the Minister does not do that, I fear that his work will be hampered and many of his words will sound hypocritical to local authorities.

Mr. Newton

I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman's words are passed on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. The hon. Gentleman will know that there has been a modest amendment to the terms and conditions of the rate support grant in connection with joint finance.

Mrs. Currie

Does my hon. Friend agree that if local authorities such as Derbyshire county council did not spend daft amounts of money on such items as a free newspaper — which is costing £100,000 a year in my local authority — and the advertising of school meals, when the take up is already 87 per cent., they would have sufficient money to implement the Act?

Mr. Newton

I am not sure that I wish to intrude too much into the domestic politics of Derbyshire. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that many local authorities could spend their money more wisely.

Mr. Alfred Morris

What is the Minister's attitude to charging severely disabled people who are on supplementary benefit for their home helps? Is it right or wrong to do so?

Mr. Newton

Both I and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health have said that we would prefer local authorities not to charge those on supplementary benefit, or on incomes below that level, for home helps.

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