HC Deb 09 February 1988 vol 127 cc179-80
8. Mr. Allen McKay

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what protection he intends to give disabled claimants who will have a reduced entitlement in April.

Mr. Scott

Existing disabled claimants will not have a reduced entitlement, because they will receive transitional protection at the point of change. As I have already announced to the House, for new claimants we intend setting up a special fund in co-operation with the Disablement Income Group.

Mr. McKay

In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) the Minister said that he had received advice from the Disablement Income Group, and he spoke of hundreds of recipients and beneficiaries. Does the Minister realise that the Disablement Income Group is talking, not about hundreds, but about thousands? Will that fund be sufficient for those thousands of people? Will he consult the Disablement Income Group again? What is he doing to monitor the situation to make sure that those people are fully reimbursed?

Mr. Scott

I believe that the hon. Gentleman is confusing the Disablement Income Group and the Disability Alliance. That is the group that made the statement about thousands being affected. I do not know how that group got that figure. Certainly, given the representations that I have received since we announced the system for income support and the identification of the needs of disabled claimants across the board, we have been talking about hundreds rather than thousands.

Mr. Rowe

I am sure my hon. Friend is aware that there are anxieties among the professionals at anything that starts to rebuild demarcation lines between people who are regarded as severely disabled and those who are regarded as disabled. Can he give us an assurance that, in considering the ways in which the various schemes work, he will take such anxieties into account?

Mr. Scott

I ask my hon. Friend to await the reports from the OPCS and Sir Roy Griffiths and our subsequent conclusions from the results of those surveys. I certainly believe that demarcation disputes do not always serve a suitable purpose, but we shall be subsuming all that in our considerations of the overall needs of disabled people.

Mr. Wareing

If the Minister does not know how the Disablement Income Group and the Disability Alliance came to work out that thousands of people were likely to suffer as a result of the Government's policy from 1 April, why does he not ask them, in view of the fact that he is asking them to administer the fund? Can he not tell the House how much in pounds and pence he will make available to the groups to administer?

Mr. Scott

As I have said to the House, I am confident that sufficient funds will be available to cover the needs of the group. There is a distinction between absolutely every disabled person who received any sort of additional requirement under supplementary benefit and the group which has been identified, which is those severely disabled people who need help to maintain their independence in the community and not have to go into institutional care. That is the group which I believe amounts to hundreds, rather than thousands.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Why do the Government not amend the Social Security Bill, which is now in another place, as proposed by the Disablement Income Group, in the terms of the amendment it has drafted to the Bill, to deal statutorily with this very pressing and deeply serious problem for severely disabled people?

Mr. Scott

Because the whole purpose of moving to income support—that is, allowances and premiums—to meet needs was to simplify the system and get away from the very complicated system of additional requirements which flowed from the supplementary benefits system. We want to move away from that, but we recognise that there is a short-term gap, which is being met flexibly with the help of the Disablement Income Group.