§ Mr. Hutton
I beg to move amendment No. 40, in page 3, line 40, after "as", insert—', subject to subsections (5) and (6),'.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 23, in page 4, line 10, at end insert—'( ) The Secretary of State may issue guidance to local authorities as to the exercise of their discretion under subsection (1).'.No. 42, in page 4, line 11, after "(5)", insert—'Except as mentioned in subsection (6) of this section,'.453 No. 43, in page 4, line 21, at end insert—'(6) Section 1(2) of the Community Care (Direct Payments) Act 1996 does not apply in relation to payments under subsection (1) to—
and in those cases the amount of any payment under subsection (1) is to be at a rate equal to the local authority's estimate of the reasonable cost of securing the provision of the service concerned.'.
- (a) a person with parental responsibility for a disabled child, other than a parent of such a child under the age of sixteen, in respect of a service which would otherwise have been provided for the child; or
- (b) any person who is in receipt of income support, working families' tax credit or disabled person's tax credit under Part VII of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 or of an income—based jobseeker's allowance,
§ Mr. Hutton
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) would have liked to move the amendment—or at least I think he would—if his voice had been strong enough to allow him, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are happy to support it.
New section 17A(5) would apply section 1(2) of the Community Care (Direct Payments) Act 1996 to direct payments made under the Children Act 1989. Under the 1996 Act, a local authority can have regard to an individual's financial circumstances when determining the amount of a direct payment. However, an individual cannot be required to contribute more than they can afford. Amendments Nos. 40, 42 and 43 minor the charging arrangements in section 29 of the Children Act 1989, so that the position will be the same for all service users, whether they opt to receive services, direct payments or the new vouchers. We have always made it clear that there should be no financial incentive—or disincentive—to choose one option over another. Our aim has been to create a level playing field.
Amendment No. 43 is the substantial amendment in the group. Section 29 of the Children Act 1989 sets out the recoupment provisions in respect of services. It allows for the recovery of charges from parents and not others with parental responsibility. It also exempts certain low-income families from paying parental contributions. Subsection (6)(a), which would be inserted by amendment No. 43, minors for direct payments the charging regime in section 29 of the Children Act 1989. Subsection (6)(b) would exempt those who receive income support, working families tax credit, disabled persons tax credit or an income-based jobseeker's allowance. The subsection would ensure that direct payments made by families covered in those two paragraphs were at a rate equal to the local authority's estimate of the cost of securing the provision of those services.
I strongly believe that it is right that low-income groups should be exempted. We recognise that families with disabled children face increased costs in bringing up those children and that it is harder for parents with disabled children to play their full part in the world of work. It is important that those families under stress who come to social services seeking relief from that stress are not faced with extra expenses that they would struggle to meet.
I should like to add that, at the moment, the amounts collected for children's services by local authorities through parental contributions are small. In the majority 454 of cases, local authorities make a nil assessment. In others, the cost of collecting a small parental contribution is more than its financial value.
In community care, recouping costs through charging service users does not constitute a significant proportion of the revenue available for children's services. The arrangements that the amendments propose will have a neutral effect on local authority finances. I therefore commend the amendments as sensible, fair to service users and entirely consistent with existing arrangements under the Children Act 1989.
Amendment No. 23, which has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Foster), is unnecessary because section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 provides for local authorities to act under the Secretary of State's general guidance. As I said in Committee, guidance will be issued to local authorities to help them to undertake the new responsibilities that the Bill imposes on them. I have given a commitment to work closely with carers groups and voluntary organisations in preparing the guidance.
I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that there is no difference between us on the need for guidance and for consultation on it. His intentions will be realised without amendment No. 23.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 41, in page 3, line 44, leave out "parent of" and insert—
'person with parental responsibility for'.
No. 42, in page 4, line 11, after "(5)", insert—
'Except as mentioned in subsection (6) of this section,'.
No. 43, in page 4, line 21, at end insert—
'(6) Section 1(2) of the Community Care (Direct Payments) Act 1996 does not apply in relation to payments under subsection (1) to—
No. 44, in page 4, line 24, leave out "parent of' and insert—
'person with parental responsibility for'.
§ No. 45, in page 4, line 26, leave out "parent" and insert "person with parental responsibility".
§ No. 46, in page 4, line 27, leave out first "parent" and insert "person with parental responsibility".
§ No. 47, in page 4, line 27, leave out "the parent may" and insert "that person may".—[Mr. Hutton.]