HC Deb 17 April 1989 vol 151 cc10-1
13. Mr. Alfred Morris

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if his Department has drawn up proposals for the review of disability benefits; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Scott

The right hon. Gentleman may have heard my exchange with the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) in our debate last week. We have made it clear that we welcome comments and discussion on each of the reports of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys disability surveys, when they are published and in the subsequent period. When we have all the reports, which will be in July, we hope to announce a timetable for further action.

Mr. Morris

In advance of that review, is it not both shocking and utterly wrong that tens of thousands of severely disabled people should have had not an extra penny from this month's uprating to protect them against an inflation rate that is nudging 8 per cent? Is the Minister aware that, for them, so-called transitional protection is fancy ministerial language for cutting their benefits last year and freezing them this year? Why should any severely disabled person have to sit up and beg for charity to protect already low living standards?

Mr. Scott

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has made it clear, in his answers to a number of questions, that the essence of transitional protection is that it is eroded over time. Otherwise, we should extend indefinitely the inequalities between claimants in similar circumstances. We should look at the question against the background of a 90 per cent. increase in real terms in expenditure on the disabled and the long-term sick under this Government. Our record compares favourably with that of the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member.

Mr. Hannam

In looking at the basic financial costs faced by disabled people, will my hon. Friend ignore the ridiculously low figure of some £6 a week in the OPCS report which was based on far too wide an average of disabled people? Will he consider the costs of £40 or £50 a week to disabled people in trying to live normal lives? That estimate was worked out by the disability organisations including the Disablement Income Group and the Disability Alliance?

Mr. Scott

Of course I shall not ignore anything in the OPCS reports as the Government commissioned them and they provide a tremendous source of information on a scale that never existed before. But I recognise my hon. Friend's point. I shall be meeting a deputation, including DIG, in the not-too-distant future, and no doubt that will be one of the matters to be discussed.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that one of the ways in which we can help the severely disabled is massively to increase the amount of money paid in constant attendance allowance, which is currently at just over £34, to those who look after disabled people? When compared with the amount of money that the state pays to private registered nursing homes which cost way over £200 a week for one individual, does it not make sense to give more money to those being paid constant attendance allowance so that more people can look after their friends, relatives and others?

Mr. Scott

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point as we consider the balance between the need for institutional care and care in the community. He will know that Sir Roy Griffiths produced an important report on the subject and the Government are considering their response to it. One of the most important matters that will have to be considered in the light of that report is the balance between domiciliary care and care in institutions.

Forward to