§ 6. Dr. Moonie
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the first payments to he made from the Independent Living Fund; and what arrangements for interim payments he has made.
§ 11. Mr. Patchett
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the first payments to be made from the Independent Living Fund and what arrangements for interim payments he has made.
§ The Minister for Social Security and the Disabled (Mr. Nicholas Scott)
Payments from the Independent Living Fund will be made in the near future when it is legally established. Meanwhile, a number of applications have been received and decisions on interim payments are being made by officials, with professional advice. Final decisions will be taken by the trustees.
§ Dr. Moonie
Is the Minister aware of the anger and frustration of the voluntary organisations involved in the care of severely disabled people in the community? Will he give a categorical assurance now that the scheme will he fully in place within a very short time?
§ Mr. Scott
The fact that the scheme is not fully in place should not inhibit anybody from making an application. We have sent out 70 forms in response to inquiries, and 25 completed forms have been returned. Visits by social workers are beginning to take place. The fund is working. I urge anybody who feels that he might be entitled to benefit from the fund to apply as soon as possible to the Department.
§ Mr. Patchett
Is the Minister able to say why the sum of £5 million was established for the fund? Was it based on the likely number of applicants? Does the Minister have the power to increase its budget should that be necessary?
§ Mr. Scott
Bearing in mind that there is transitional protection for claimants who were receiving benefits before the change to the new system, I am confident that the £5 million is sufficient to cope with the demand this year. We have said that we will look at the budget amount for subsequent years in the light of experience gained during the first 12 months.
§ Mr. Wigley
The fund is a useful interim step towards helping disabled people to live in the community, but the real step that is now urgently needed is to implement in full the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. Given the highlighting of very difficult and heartrending cases on the Esther Rantzen programme in the last three weeks, will the Minister now give an undertaking that section 7 of the Act will be implemented as rapidly as possible to minimise the difficulties that face people who are trying to live in the community after having left long-stay institutions?
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
As the extreme hardship that this fund was supposed to prevent dates from 11 April, is it not outrageous that on 10 May the fund has still not been legally constituted? Has the Minister seen the charge made by the major voluntary organisations for the disabled, that he has seriously underestimated the number of hardship cases? How can he possibly defend a regime that leaves hundreds of thousands of disabled people worse off by reference to a scheme that will help fewer than 300 and that still has not been formally set up?
§ Mr. Scott
I think that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have listened to the reply that I gave earlier about the arrangements that had been made to ensure that nobody suffers or endures delay because trustees have not yet been appointed or the trust deed agreed. Anybody who feels that he is entitled to benefit should apply now. I am confident that the £5 million will be adequate to cope with the demand on the fund in the first 12 months.