HC Deb 10 March 1987 vol 112 cc134-6
2. Mr. Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action he has recently taken concerning the severe disability premium; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister for Social Security and the Disabled (Mr. John Major)

I had a constructive meeting with the disablement organisations on 21 January. They put to me alternative proposals for the treatment of the most severely disabled people under income support which, without commitment, we are currently considering. Officials will be carrying this discussion further later this week.

Mr. Wainwright

When the Minister considers these powerful representations, will he bear in mind that the present conditions that he has laid down are intolerably restrictive, limiting this premium to a handful of people who persist in living alone, despite requiring almost constant attendance? Does he realise that this makes a mockery of the presumptuous title "severe disability premium"?

Mr. Major

I do not accept that only a handful of people are involved. Our estimate is that about 8,000 people will receive the premium. The severe disability premium will be paid on top of the normal disability premium, and it will be a fairly substantial sum.

Mr. Hannam

When considering the problem of the severely disabled who at present receive an accumulation of additional allowances and payments that exceed the new disability premium and the other premium, has my hon. Friend considered the idea put forward by DHSS local managers for operation of the social fund in a flexible way to make sure that severely disabled people get the right amount of money that they need?

Mr. Major

I am considering a variety of alternative methods. In the case of those severely disabled people who are receiving a large number of additional requirement payments, the transitional protection will secure their cash position, but in respect of those who are receiving large amounts of domestic assistance addition, that transitional protection will itself be protected against inflation.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Minister aware that the most severely disabled people, many of whom are practically paralysed, cannot live alone because they must have someone to care for them, yet they are the very people whom the Government say cannot receive the severe disability premium, just because they are receiving an attendance allowance? That is absolute nonsense. Will the Minister therefore accept the simple and logical proposition that the most severely disabled people should receive the severe disability premium?

Mr. Major

The severe disability premium is intended for the most severely disabled. The right hon. Gentleman commented on the particular circumstances in which the premium will be payable. These matters are under discussion at present with the disability organisations.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is the Minister aware that the voluntary organisations have again expressed this week their deep and continuing concern about the most severely disabled people trying to live alone when the domestic care addition disappears? As he knows, it is new applicants who cause the greatest concern. They face loss of independence without the domestic care addition. Is there anything further that the Minister can say today about their plight?

Mr. Major

There is nothing further that I can say today, except to acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that of particular concern are the future disabled people who would have received domestic assistance allowance and the large number of additional requirements. It is precisely that rather narrow body of people whom we are most concerned to protect, and who are the subject of my present conversations with the disability allowance group and others.