HC Deb 23 January 1990 vol 165 cc732-4
8. Mr George Howarth

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the implementation of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986.

14. Mr. Loyden

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the implementation of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986.

Mr. Freeman

We have always made it clear that implementation of the Act depended on identifying and making available the necessary resources without damage to other priority social services. We have already implemented six sections, which include imposing duties on local authorities to assess on request the needs of disabled people, while taking into account the abilities of their carers.

Mr. Howarth

Does the Minister accept that if the consumer control provisions are to have any meaning at all, sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Act should be implemented at the same time as the National Health Service and Community Care Bill?

Mr. Freeman

It would be irresponsible to consider only the administrative costs of implementing sections 1, 2 and 3. We must also look at the underlying resource assumptions for providing the services. We shall be commencing formal consultations with local authorities on the implications of implementing sections 1, 2 and 3, and other sections not yet implemented, within the next few weeks.

Mr. Loyden

The Minister's answer falls short of giving satisfaction. Is he aware that 40 per cent. of local authorities are not making provision for wheelchair access into rooms and buildings from which disabled people can obtain information, including council agendas, so that they can be treated as citizens equal to non-disabled people? Is it not a disgrace that so long after the Act was passed, disabled people are still being treated by local authorities, encouraged by the Government, as second-class citizens?

Mr. Freeman

The sections of the Act already implemented are clear on the obligations placed on local authorities. They have to provide services within their resources. In the coming financial year, 1990–91, we will provide £31 million through the rate support grant to help local authorities to provide services under the sections of the Act that we have already implemented.

Mr. Hannam

I thank my hon. Friend for the £24 million already allocated this year for the implementation of the Act, but does he accept that if disabled people are to have a reasonable standard of care in the community they should have access to the assessment procedures and the right of appeal? Therefore, will he expedite the implementation of sections 1, 2 and 3?

Mr. Freeman

I assure my hon. Friend that we shall proceed as quickly as possible in our review of sections 1, 2 and 3. The social services inspectorate will be reporting shortly on the success so far in the implementation of the Act.

Miss Emma Nicholson

I welcome my hon. Friend's commitment to early implementation of the sections of the Act that have not yet been implemented, and I am delighted that he is already consulting local government. Does he agree that it is important to rest on a consistent national framework so that all individuals who depend on community care have the same treatment?

Mr. Freeman

I agree with that. The report of the social services inspectorate, which I hope will be published next month, will make that point and comment on the differences in the standards of treatment and, ultimately, their elimination.

Mr Tom Clarke

If the Government are genuinely committed to community care, is it not odd that they do not see this important Act as a framework for involving—[Interruption.]—disabled people, their carers and advocates in contributing to the formulation of policy which is important to them? Despite the Government's rhetoric, they have not lifted a finger to implement the remaining sections of the Act since April 1987.

Is the Minister aware that that is being seen not simply as a scandal, but as one of the Government's greatest failures and most mean-minded acts of lethargy, if that is possible, in this Parliament?

Mr. Freeman

It is not mean minded. We have implemented six sections of the Act, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and I have given a commitment about the consultation procedure on the remaining three sections. I share his view that they are important. It would be irresponsible to consider only the administrative costs of implementation and not to make sure that the underlying service provision increases. That requires real resources—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I appeal to the House to listen to both questions and answers.

Mr. Ian Bruce

My hon. Friend will know that Dorset local authorities are keen to pick up their responsibilities under the Act. Is he aware that local government councillors are unhappy about the grant given to local councils to fulfil those responsibilities? They believe that it will not be possible properly to fund implementation of the Act or the community care provisions when they come into force in 1991. Can he comment on whether funds will be transferred to the local authorities?

Mr. Freeman

As my hon. Friend the Minister for Health said, community care provision in 1991ߝ92 will be properly funded.

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