HC Deb 22 May 1989 vol 153 cc668-9
11. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will take steps to improve social security benefits for children of disabled parents.

Mr. Scott

As my hon. Friend knows we have increased real spending on the long-term sick and disabled by 90 per cent. to £7.3 billion since 1978–79. He will also know that, when we have all six reports from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, we will be better placed to judge whether this help is well directed.

Mr. Bowis

My hon. Friend gives an excellent report in terms of what we have been able to achieve so far. We are talking about a particularly brave group of children and parents. Will he consider two aspects of their lives closely? First, when a child's education is continually disrupted by being called out of school to look after a sick and disabled parent, perhaps some form of additional care and respite could alleviate that.

Secondly, when two disabled parents manage to cope in the home but have difficulty getting their able-bodied child to school, a discretionary payment can be made by the education authority, but when no payment is made, as has recently been the case with the Inner London education authority, such families receive no help.

Mr. Scott

I note what my hon. Friend says. It is clear that, in the circumstances which he described, the Child Care Act 1980 lays a responsibility on local authority social services departments to promote the welfare of such children. Normally, when such a case is brought to the attention of the social services department, it liaises with health authorities and voluntary agencies and is able to provide a wide range of domiciliary services, including respite care, which are in the interests of the child.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is the Minister aware that children of disabled parents whose incomes were cut in last year's social security changes also became poorer at a time of rapidly rising prices and when child benefit has been losing its value? Has this not piled handicap on handicap for these families? In advance of the review of disablement benefits, not to ignore what the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) said, will the Minister introduce a special allowance for families in which children do so much for their parents to enable them to stay at home?

Mr. Scott

Apart from reiterating my opening reply, I remind the House that when we introduced income support, the income support disability premium gave £60 million extra to 270,000 people—an important enhancement of support for disabled people. I am not dismissing the problems of child carers, but I reiterate that they have to be addressed by a partnership between central Government, local authorities and local health authorities in the provision that they can make for individual cases.