HC Deb 29 April 1986 vol 96 cc773-4
9. Mrs. Ann Clwyd

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many representations he has received in support of the Government's proposals for a general disability premium.

Mr. Newton

Responses are not generally in a form that can sensibly be used to provide a simple breakdown of views. But the proposed simpler structure, with the associated aim of improved regular weekly income support for less well-off sick and disabled people as a whole, is welcome. However, there are reservations about some aspects and we are giving continued consideration to how they may be overcome.

Mrs. Clwyd

Does the Minister agree that several thousand of our most severely disabled people will suffer a cut of about 60 per cent. in their standard of living because of the proposals in the Social Security Bill? All the disability organisations have expressed concern. How does the hon. Gentleman square that with the Government's claim to be targeting those in greatest need of help?

Mr. Newton

I very much doubt the figures that the hon. Lady has given, although I know that they have been put forward. According to our latest information, about 2,500 claimants were receiving quite significant domestic assistance payments, but only to an average of £3.60, which does not correspond with the hon. Lady's information. I recognise the anxiety that exists, but we are trying to overcome it.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Will the Minister accept that the Government's proposals could inflict gratuitous extra hardship on some of the most severely disabled people in this country, and could force them into the sort of subhuman existence that Granada's "World in Action" documentary so strikingly exposed last night? Is he prepared to consider an as-of-right community care addition to meet the additional requirements of disabled people? Would it not be self-defeating as well as inhumane not to do so?

Mr. Newton

The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that that sort of community care consideration is very much in our minds in relation to the social fund. I am reasonably confident that we can find a way of meeting the right hon. Gentleman's objectives and mine.