HC Deb 03 July 1989 vol 156 cc1-3
2. Mr. Hannam

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if, in the light of the Social Security Advisory Committee's report, "Benefits for Disabled People: A Strategy for Change" he has any plans to increase spending on disability benefits.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Nicholas Scott)

We have already provided for an increase in spending on the sick and disabled in real terms of £1.9 billion by 1991–92. This is a real increase in expenditure of nearly 25 per cent. When we assess the implications of the outcome of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys' surveys of disability we shall give careful consideration to the report of the Social Security Advisory Committee and other representations. However, it is too soon to say how this will affect existing expenditure plans.

Mr. Hannam

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he accept that most disabled people fall into the lowest income groups and that the sharply increased spending which he quoted is largely due to the increased numbers drawing benefit? Will he take into account in the proposed review of the benefits system the extra costs that the disabled face in their normal day-to-day living and ensure that increased resources are made available?

Mr. Scott

My hon. Friend and the entire House will be glad that there is increased take-up, especially of the best-targeted benefits for the disabled. When we have all the results of the OPCS surveys, and when various organisations have had a chance to comment on them, we shall want to examine all the evidence, including the general situation of disabled people and the extra costs that they bear, to ascertain whether the benefit system deals with those needs as effectively as possible.

Mr. Corbyn

In his review of these matters will the Minister let the House know when he expects to be able to announce that he will make attendance allowance available to the parents of children under the age of two who are severely disabled? Those parents clearly suffer badly because of the need for extra care for their children. No extra benefit is currently available to them under the social security system. The Minister promised when the recent Social Security Bill was being examined in Committee that with the outcome of the OPCS report he would make a statement about future benefits.

Mr. Scott

The hon. Gentleman has raised one of a small number of subjects to which we are giving urgent attention. We must await the arrival of the last of the OPCS reports before we can come to a conclusion on the priority to be accorded to various matters. I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that we are considering the matter with urgency and sympathy.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is the Minister not ashamed of his recent complaint that, under supplementary benefit, people with AIDS received some double provision for diet since, as he must know, doctors are recommending diets costing over £30 a week for which many now receive no extra help at all? Will he accept that his inaction is life threatening? At the very least, will he make the disability premium available without the six-month delay? Finally, what is his response to the Disablement Income Group's current finding that about 50 per cent. of attendance allowance claimants find objection to some aspect of the medical examination?

Mr. Scott

What I said was true. Within the basic system of supplementary benefit and income support there is provision for a normal diet, and there are enhanced dietary payments. By the time that we got rid of additional requirements we introduced the disability premium at a level of £13.40 a week, if I recall correctly, and that will cover the majority of extra diets. All these matters, including the right hon. Gentleman's second point, will be appropriate to to be considered when we examine the findings of the OPCS reports.

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