HC Deb 14 June 1988 vol 135 cc162-3
16. Dr. Twinn

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services by how much spending on benefits for disabled people has changed since 1979.

Mr. Scott

Spending on benefits for long-term sick and disabled people has increased by £3 billion in real terms since 1978–79. This is a real increase of over 80 per cent.

Dr. Twinn

I thank my hon. Friend for that significant contribution. Will he confirm that the Independent Living Fund will not be confined to those on income support?

Mr. Scott

Yes, I can confirm that. Independent Living Fund assistance will go to those above income support level who need help, because they are severely disabled, to maintain their place in the community or to avoid institutionalisation.

Ms. Primarolo

Will the Minister please explain how a single parent with a 20-year-old mentally handicapped son has lost £3 per week because of the flat-rate surcharge that the Government have introduced? How can he square that with saying that the Government are targeting assistance on those who are most vulnerable and most in need in our society when that single parent family is £3 per week worse off because of the Government's target? I suggest that that is not good aim.

Mr. Scott

If I recognise the case to which the hon. Lady has referred, it involves the impact of non-dependent deductions. The House will recognise that as a principle is right that such deductions should take place, but because of the special circumstances affecting the lady in that case the non-dependent deductions are set at a lower level.

Mr. Rowe

The Government are to be congratulated on the considerable improvement in the standards of living of disabled people, but does my hon. Friend agree that a further improvement in their standard of living could be achieved if builders were more ready to build houses which, from the beginning, could be lived in easily by disabled people, rather than expecting disabled people, at the height of their disability, to incur enormous expenditure in adapting a house?

Mr. Scott

Yes, except that I believe that disabled people should have as much freedom of choice in the location in which they live as other citizens, as far as that is possible. Therefore, it is right that either they or the local social services department, where appropriate, should move swiftly to provide the adaptions that are necessary for them.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Can the Minister tell the House when the Government expect to achieve the objective of the Disability Income Group, which aims to persuade the Government that people should receive benefit regardless of how their disability arose, whether from birth or through an accident at work or at home? In short, when will the Government end discrimination against people with disability?

Mr. Scott

The hon. Gentleman, if he listened to my original answer, will realise that, far from being discriminated against, disabled people have been treated particularly favourably throughout the lifetime of this Government. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the OPCS findings will be coming out in the course of the next few months, and we shall then be looking at the whole range of disability benefits in the light of its findings.