HC Deb 03 June 1986 vol 98 cc716-7
2. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent representations he has received about mobility allowances for blind people; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Tony Newton)

We receive a wide range of representations on mobility allowance, but l am not aware of recent representations on behalf of blind people generally.

Mr. Thurnham

In view of the confusion that has arisen from certain recent cases, will my hon. Friend undertake to review the rules for mobility allowance, especially for those who are functionally incapable of being independently mobile?

Mr. Newton

I have seen my hon. Friend's early-day motion, and I pay tribute to the way in which he has pursued the case of Daniel Heaton. However, he will understand the difficulties, in that he is asking us to widen the criteria for mobility allowance in a way that would have substantial resource implications.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is the Minister aware that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are under increasing pressure to secure the mobility allowance for blind people? Is he further aware that mentally handicapped people and those with multiple handicaps who cannot walk unaided feel that they are unjustly deprived of the allowance? Will he reconsider the whole matter and make a statement soon?

Mr. Newton

The fact that the problem goes beyond blind people to those with directional problems generally is precisely why I said what I did in my initial answer. The right hon. Gentleman, above all, knows the original purposes for which mobility allowance was introduced, and will take the point that I made in my original answer.

Mr. Hannam

Does my hon. Friend accept that although those with double sensory handicaps, such as the deaf blind, are few in number, they face grave mobility problems and need just as much help as those in wheelchairs? Does he accept that the present criteria, which involve an acceptance of danger to such people and others, certainly applies to that group?

Mr. Newton

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's efforts in this area. His mention of wheelchairs—at present there is a strong demand for the addition of outdoor, powered, occupant-controlled wheelchairs in the DHSS range—shows the problem of choosing priorities in this area.