HL Deb 16 February 1977 vol 379 cc1567-605

3.52 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I should like to echo the sentiments of the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for initiating this debate this afternoon. I should also like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, in congratulating the noble Earl and all the members of the Working Party who produced the Snowdon Report. I am also happy that the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, is to answer for the Government because I am sure that she will do a very good job.

The Snowdon Report reflects the greatest possible credit on everybody connected with it. It describes the steps which the Working Party thinks should be taken on behalf of the disabled in all fields and the ways in which we ourselves can and must enrich the lives of all those who suffer many and varied disabilities, whether through physical or mental illness. Nobody who knows the magnitude of the problem can be anything but impressed by the thoroughness of the report. As a result, some of the things I may say this afternoon are not in any way a criticism of the report, though they may not be too pleasing to some of your Lordships.

I obtained great benefit from reading the report because I am only a comparative newcomer to this field. It is only through the report that I have become aware of many of the problems which the disabled face. In view of the time element, I shall speak about employment, but the entire spectrum of the disabled problem in this country must be kept alive in your Lordships' Chamber until we are satisfied that our society can do no more for these unfortunate people. May that day be not too far distant.

If we really want to help the disabled we must try to balance the report, which states what should be done, against what, in some instances, the Government say is to be done. The then Under-Secretary of State for Employment, the right honourable Harold Walker, stated this policy on 10th December, 1975. No doubt your Lordships will remember that the previous Administration began a survey of the problems of the disabled in 1973 which continued through 1974 and 1975. So the survey was roughly simultaneous with the Snowdon Report.

We in the United Kingdom are short of money, short of modern machinery and short of jobs. The one thing we must not be short of is honesty when considering the hardest hit sector of the community. The Minister stated that in spite of the three-year review it was clear that there was no form of unification that could command sufficiently widespread support. So the Government decided to retain the present statutory responsibilities, but felt that their policy would best be served by the Manpower Services Commission taking on the responsibility for the disabled from the Department of Employment. I do not want to dwell on this matter, but I wonder how much the transfer, which took place on 1st July last year, cost.

The Government wish to retain the quota scheme. This is still operating as originally set out in the Disabled Employment Act 1944. It was gone into in great detail in the Snowdon Report and the nub of the matter is that all employers with more than 20 staff should employ at least 3 per cent, disabled. This is laid down as law for both public and private sectors, but it does not work. It appears to be one law which is on the Statute Book but which can be ignored by Government Departments and almost in the same degree by the majority of employers. There have been only seven prosecutions in the past 34 years. In fact, the employer with more than 20 staff who is legally obliged to employ 3 per cent. disabled is not breaking the law if he fails to comply with this regulation. This is due to the innumerable difficulties in trying to enforce it. It is rather like squatters: one can squat if one does not make a forcible entry.

Last year, 26 Government Departments out of 29 were below their quota and still are. The Government may well say that the Civil Service is above the law for the Crown cannot sue the Crown. However, there is a small ray of sunshine as successive Ministers have publicly declared that there is a moral responsibility, if not a legal one, for the Civil Service Departments to set an example. This has, however, not caused the Civil Service any inhibitions. In October, 1975, six towns were invaded with additional inspectors at an unknown cost to discover that two small companies—a baker in Middles-brough and a furnishing company in St. Helens—had not abided by the law. The result of the enormous cost of legal fees, travelling expenses and hotels, was two fines of £200 and £50. I am not saying this because it was wrong to prosecute those companies but to underline the fact that during that same period 26 out of 29 Government Departments were morally if not legally ignoring their own responsibilities to the disabled.

The figures for the 19 nationalised industries are all under the 3 per cent. quota and I am afriad that it is the same sad story where local authorities are concerned. Out of 34 councils in the Greater London area, only one—Newham—exceeds the quota. I would suggest that we should try to put our own house in order first. I am given to understand that the Palace of Westminster is sadly below the 3 per cent. I have the figures here. Across the river at the GLC, we have an even worse example to the country, for their figure is 1 per cent. So, taking the country as a whole, it is not surprising that out of 53 county councils in the British Isles only one—Gwent—is above 3 per cent., and that will not be so after devolution.

If I appear to be belabouring this point it is only because the mainspring of the Government's policy is the quota system and it is to that system rather than to the constructive suggestions in the Snowdon Report that the disabled will have to look for their salvation. It is a strange state of affairs when a Government cannot enforce a lawful Act which is ignored at every level. But there is a hidden danger in enforcement, because many disabled people with minor disablements seek to conceal their affliction as they feel that possession of a green card may make it harder rather than easier to obtain employment. What must be avoided is employers ferreting out these people and persuading them to register, so that the employer's 3 per cent. quota will be largely taken up by his existing staff. This was mentioned in another place and the Minister agreed that it would be unhelpful.

However, in view of this statement, perhaps the reality of the situation is not quite as beneficial as the intent. I quote from a general notice from the civil servants dealing with the employment of registered disabled people, which was issued on 15th April 1976: Encouraging unregistered disabled people to apply for registration, since only registered disabled people count towards the quota: some of the advantages of registration—eg parking concessions—might be brought to their notice. Here, we have the true state of affairs. First, in December 1975, Her Majesty's Government state that the quota system, with all its failings, will continue. Secondly, at considerable expense a new Department is created to enforce the scheme which for the last 34 years has been largely unworkable. Thirdly, an expensive and expansive distribution of documents called A Guide to Employers will be sent to a vast number of people throughout the country in the next month or so, with the hope that the situation will improve. But, my Lords, if a law has been ignored for 34 years, I fail to understand how a guide will be able to implement it. Yet, at the same time, with the quota system, we have behind the scenes some civil servants in some instances doing their utmost to sabotage the possibility of their Departments recruiting any disabled or handicapped people within their own ranks.

I feel strongly that the Government must stamp at once on this unacceptable face of employment, which implies that 350,000 to 400,000 disabled people are second-class citizens. Why do I say 350,000 to 400,000 people? The last monthly unemployment figure for the whole country was just under 1,400,000. The last yearly disabled figure, which was issued last September, was only 77,000 unemployed. But that figure represents the voluntary registrations who have a green card. If the quota system worked, all disabled people would register, but at the moment, so far as one can find out, only about 40 per cent. do. The Civil Service admits to the figure being about 50 per cent., and charitable disabled organisations, such as Outset and Carr's Rehabilitation Agency, say that 60 per cent. do not register.

So by my simple arithmetic, the minimum figure is 150,000 unemployed who are disabled, the majority of whom are physically disabled. There are no figures for the mentally sick. The last figure that I can find in hospital medical records is for 1972 which showed, taking those in hospital and out-patients, a total of half a million mentally sick people. Those are the most up-to-date figures. If we divide that figure by two, or just over two, we find that there are nearly 200,000 people out of work through mental illness. If these figures are totalled, then my figure of 350,000 to 400,000 cannot be very far wrong. If this is so, I hate to think what it is costing the country to keep this vast number of disabled unemployed.

Furthermore, if it is true—and I regret to say that I think it must be—it means that in our country today we are nearing a total of almost 2 million unemployed. I repeat how grateful I am for the report, because I feel that through it we can make a start towards giving an equality of opportunity in the field of employment for the disabled and handicapped, and in that way stop perpetuating the unhappiness of these people.

Finally, may I say that I do not want all the hard work that has gone into the Snowdon Report to end up on a dusty shelf. We have the quota system for the moment, but perhaps with foresight and forethought it might be radically revised. The responsibility of the disabled does not rest on our two Houses; it rests with every adult in our country, and for this reason I put forward an idea that 1978—or, if it could not be done then, 1979—should be made the year for the integration of the disabled. This would mean that trade unions, employers from the CBI, and Churches of all denominations could play their full part in giving their support, because I see this as a social problem and not one of economic challenge. By this method the media—radio, TV, and the newspapers—would be brought in, which in turn would involve every adult in our country.


My Lords, I should like briefly to remind noble Lords that this is a short debate, and with all respect I wish to suggest that the remaining speakers should perhaps try to limit their speeches to eight minutes.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, I will certainly do my best to comply with the noble Lord's request. The Snowdon Report has been widely and rightly welcomed. I found it thorough, comprehensive and constructive; and I can say the same, as we all can, about the noble Earl's speech today. In his Foreword to the report he referred to, …a demand, in the name of humanity, for the better and wider understanding at all levels in our society of the emotional and material needs of disabled people. I thought that that was very well put. As this is no time at which to ask for increased Government expenditure— rather the opposite—it is fortunate that many of the Snowdon recommendations are about attitudes of mind, and many others will pay for themselves in the long run, both in material terms and of course in social terms, as well as in terms of human happiness.

In my experience most disabled people are completely realistic. They do not want undue discrimination in their favour, any more than they want it against them. In the short time available I should like to touch very briefly on two points: getting our priorities right, and getting the right aid to the right people at the right time; and then say something rather more fully about the great need to put some real teeth into Section 4 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.

First, with regard to priorities, I see a distinct danger that with the best of intentions we may divert resources in pursuit of the unnecessary or unobtainable and so lose sight of the basic needs and of the soluble problems. Surely our over-riding aim should be as much independence as possible, in the home, at school, at work, or on holiday. The one inalienable right is self-respect. As well as a degree of independence and an opportunity to work, which far too many able-bodied as well as disabled people are deprived of at present, what we refer to as a normal life surely presupposes some outlets that refresh and rejuvenate the spirit. But disabled people are no different from the rest of us in being limited in their choice of recreations, and I respectfully question the wisdom of referring in the report to what are really privileges, as rights. I am looking at page 7. That is perhaps a minor point, but it is one about which I feel strongly. Shortage of money, responsibilities at home or at work, geographical distances, and many other factors determine the scope of all our activities, whether we are fit and well or suffer from some disability. So much for my first point.

Secondly, and equally briefly, with regard to aids, a tremendous amount of research has gone into new materials and techniques. How much of the result of this research actually reaches the patients? I think that the answer is, far too little. Too few doctors and other medical and social workers have enough knowledge of what is or could be made available, or how to set about finding it. As the report emphasises, there are appalling gaps between urgent need and the provision of equipment. I will much appreciate it if the noble Baroness, when she replies, gives us some idea as to how this gap can be filled.

My third and last point is about access to and within premises open to the public, a matter to which the noble Baroness who opened the debate so efficiently and charmingly has often referred, though I regret that she has not had very much change on this point. This is an extremely unsatisfactory situation, crying out for determined Government action. Attention is drawn to it forcefully in paragraph 57 of Chapter II, and in paragraph 13 of Chapter VI, of the report. Sections 4 and 8 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 simply must be made mandatory; and the sooner, the better.

The Department of the Environment, when they wrote to me recently about this question, drew my attention to the fact that the planning system is concerned solely with the use of the land and any buildings on it, and not with who uses those buildings. My Lords, I do not need little lectures like that. What are the buildings for if not for the people who use them? The British Standard Code of Practice, as it is called, produced in 1967, is, I am glad to say, being revised—I do not think the revision has yet been completed—but it still will be only a guide to good practice. I think it should be more than that. When the enabling powers of the Health and Safety at Work Act, passed in 1974, are brought into force there is no reason, as I understand it, why the building regulations, which at present cover such things as the safety of materials and structure, fire hazards, hygiene and so on, should not also cover access for disabled people to and within buildings which are public premises. I shall be very grateful indeed if the noble Baroness, when she replies, will confirm that that is the case because, if it is, it is going to be very helpful indeed.

I do not think that to include this question of access for disabled people to buildings would add significantly to building costs. It is, after all, far more costly to adapt or modify buildings if one has failed to get it right in the first place. Nor do I think it is true to say, as has been said, that it will add extra burdens to the work of local authorities. I see no reason why it should do this, either. My noble friend Lord Sandys drew attention, as the report does, to the need to amend the Town and Country Planning Act—that is in paragraph 26 of Chapter VI of the Snowdon Report—and I think that this, too, ties in with the point I am making. I suspect—this is controversial, and I have no wish to be controversial—that a major obstacle in the way of doing what I am now suggesting and what has been so often suggested before is a lack of cooperation, even some jealousy, between the Departments of the Environment and Health where this question is concerned. I regret to have to say that. If it is true—and I believe it to be true—it is deplorable. There is so much to be done, my Lords. There are even cases—and I could provide the Government with details of them—of new or modernised hospitals (yes, hospitals, my Lords!) where no proper provision is made for disabled patients or disabled visitors to park their cars; and this really is ridiculous.

Everything I have said has been said much better in the Snowdon Report. I hope that this report will not suffer the fate of many other admirable reports which have been praised on all sides and then shelved by successive Governments. We can ensure that this report does not suffer that fate by debating it at regular intervals, as the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, suggested; and I hope that, in reply, the Government will take the opportunity, not only to give their reactions to the main recommendations but to say with which they agree, on which they are going to act, on which they intend to act, which they are still considering and which they have rejected. The very best token of the Government's good faith would be to publish a Green Paper on integrating the disabled, so that this whole great question can be the subject of widespread, informed debate, resulting in pressures that no Government could resist. In that way, through action, will come genuine advances in our approach to this deeply human question which successive Governments have never tackled energetically enough

4.14 p.m.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, first may I apologise to your Lordships for putting down my name to speak in three debates this afternoon. I would not have done so unless I had thought that these subjects are of the greatest importance. The first two debates complement each other. If we had a better child health service we should not have so many disabled people in our society, and there would not be such a pressing need to continue to educate society to the needs of the disabled today. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for introducing this debate, which is well-timed. Because we are faced with cutbacks in expenditure, there is time to think. It does not mean that there is any time for complacency. British people seem to rally at a time of crisis, and I hope that this report will be well read and studied and will help many people to plan for the future.

I have been disabled for 19 years, and I know that, to integrate into society successfully, the greatest needs are to have the correct aid if it is necessary, such as a wheelchair, callipers, dog, spectacles or whatever; to be able to get in and out of one's house, which should be suitable; to be able to get in and out of public buildings, and to be able to use the lavatory; to have transport to leave one's house once one is out of it, and to have enough money to live on. Most important of all is for disabled people themselves to have the will to be part of society. To have this incentive one; must accept the disability and look forward to the things one can do, and not to harp on those things which are not possible. It is attitudes that I should like to speak on today, relating to Chapter IV of the report.

I find there is great interest in this subject. I was asked to speak last night, at the London Medical Group, on the subject "Physical disablement in the community—Do doctors care?" Last week I spoke to a church group in London; next week I am to speak at Southampton University on the subject "Living with the incurable"; in the next few weeks I am due to speak to teachers in Northampton; and so it goes on. There are many people who fear the unknown and who want to understand the problems, and I find this growing concern most encouraging. In the Summary on page 44 of the report, in paragraph 71, it is stressed that the Working Party were deeply impressed by the recurrent plea for someone to be identified as the person from whom information could be obtained, who could refer the disabled person to the expert or experts qualified to deal with specific problems… The evidence given by disabled people about professionals was summed up in the words: They get this training but they don't really know how you feel. The report goes on to say that it gives priority to its recommendation that the health visitor be given training to fulfil this role, and that she should function from a resource centre. My Lords, I am rather disappointed in this recommendation. I do not think a health visitor is any more likely to know how it feels to be disabled than any other able-bodied person in the rehabilitation team.

The Spinal Injuries Association, in co-operation with the staff at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, have started a scheme for well-rehabilitated ex-spinal patients, who have themselves worked through their difficulties and succeeded in living in the community, to come in and advise, and to answer questions of new patients. We feel this is a vital link with the community and a great aid to integration back into the community from hospital. Other specialist associations, such as the Mastectomy Association, the Illiostomy Association and the Psoriasis Association, do likewise. I feel there is a need to train some of these fellow sufferers to be trained counsellors and to be part of the rehabilitation team. It is far easier for one to accept a situation if it is explained by someone who has gone through the same experiences. How can they help but know how it feels? If there is to be true integration, the professionals must integrate, too.

Where this is definitely applicable is in dealing with children who suffer from dyslexia. If the medical and teaching professionals, along with the psychologists and parents, do not work closely together the problems will not be overcome. The condition needs to be diagnosed and recognised and remedial teaching needs to be available. I know there have been drastic cutbacks in education recently, but perhaps there could be an appeal for volunteer teachers. Otherwise, we shall have more frustrated, maladjusted young people to deal with who are not well integrated in our schools. I am a member of a Working Party at the King's Fund Centre on patient-staff relationships. The members consist of representatives of some patient organisations, doctors, nurses and some of the staff from the King's Fund. This group is most compatible, and we hope the conclusions of this Working Party will be helpful to further integration and understanding.

I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation of the report that both the undergraduate and the post-graduate education of general practitioners should include more instruction on the problems of long-term chronic disability. I have been a patient in two London teaching hospitals and both times met junior doctors who had never come into contact with a paralysed person and had never touched a wheelchair. Some disabled persons cannot live in the community without a good deal of help. I should like to recommend to your Lordships the Crossroads Care Attendance Scheme which is quoted on page 40 of the report. It provides relief and regular support, and has prevented families from breaking up through the strain of coping with a severely disabled person. This scheme operates in the Rugby area. Also patients from Phipps Ward, St. Thomas's Hospital, who because of their severe conditions would otherwise have to exist in hospital, are being given a chance to live in the community with care attendants who are not clinically trained but instructed how to cope. The nursing officer works part-time in hospital and part-time in the community. Such schemes, I hope, will become available nationally, with shared responsibility between the health authorities and the social services Departments.

My Lords, I am very worried about the attitude of some local authorities, who give disabled people who have to live in residential care no choice other than the institution within the authority's boundaries of their home area. This bureaucratic, unflexible attitude seems to be growing and reminds me of the Berlin Wall. I hope that the Minister can do something about it. One other worry that I have is that the head teacher of the school can be the one and only factor in deciding whether a disabled child can attend an ordinary school, without even letting the child try. I have been involved in such a case recently.

I am a member of the corporations of two new towns, Peterlee and Newton Aycliffe. The report mentions new towns. At Newton Aycliffe, there is a list at present of tenants who for medical reasons have applied for priority transfer to disabled or non-pensioner bungalows. There are 31 applications, and 18 different disabilities are involved. There is a need for a Government circular to go to new towns and local authorities advising them (as it entails joint involvement) on how to do more for these unfortunate families. I should be most grateful if the Minister who is to answer this debate would give a hopeful reply to this request. There is need for direction in this matter.

My Lords, time does not allow me to say more. I have seen some wonderful improvements in many parts of the country. A few months ago I had the pleasure to open a splendid recreation and leisure centre at Rushcliffe. Here, the disabled had been involved at all stages and full intergration was encouraged. I am sure that, if there is the will, the way to integrate the disabled will be found. It is sad to see so many young, disabled people leaving school or training centres unable to obtain employment. I hope that this debate today will alert more people to the many needs of the disabled.

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to congratulate my noble friend Lady Phillips for having introduced this debate. I think that the debate itself is of extreme importance in that it will help considerably towards bringing this matter to the notice not only of the Government but of the community. I have a word or two to say about what the Government have done. I believe that they have done some excellent things in relation to dealing with the situation although, obviously, they have not covered all the points raised today and in the report itself. The community as a whole have once again to be alerted to the fact that disabled persons are human beings who have to be treated in a manner which does not give them any discomfort so far as their status is concerned or so far as their life among their fellow men is concerned.

I said a moment ago that I believed the Government have already taken very many steps—and my noble friend Lady Phillips stated that in the course of her speech—in order to deal with this very important matter. I recall my noble friend Lady Phillips working many years ago in the East End of London where matters of this description were dealt with. There were many organisations there—and if I may say so, one of them was a very important Jewish organisation, the Jewish Board of Guardians (now known as the Jewish Welfare Board)—dealing with problems of this kind in an effective manner. Generally speaking, however, I do not think that people are as fully aware of the human problem involved in respect of disabled persons as they should be, and I would congratulate the noble Earl and his Committee for the splendid manner in which they have produced this report, and would also congratulate him personally on his speech today. But I think that we must really try to appreciate the work of those in the Government who are dealing with this matter at present. I have had the privilege of knowing the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for the disabled very intimately for many years. No one in this House or in the other Chamber will deny the fact that he has been very deeply interested in this problem, year in, year out, for quite a considerable time. What I can be certain of is that points which are brought up today will be carefully considered by him and that he will do whatever he possibly can in order to meet the suggestions put forward.

Let me point out that in answer to the question put to him to which my noble friend Lady Phillips referred, he mentioned 86 measures of a very important nature which have been taken since 1974. I commend to your Lordships the reading of this answer which is contained in the Official Report of the Commons of January 24th this year. These 86 very important steps were taken under the aegis of a very human person, Sir Harold Wilson, who is also very deeply interested in effectively dealing with the needs of the disabled, and certainly within the activities of the Minister himself. I think that some of the suggestions that have been made today will be brought home not only to the Government but to the community at large.

Reference has been made to an attempt in the course of the Silver Jubilee Year to bring people's attention to this very important human problem. I do not think that the community as a whole are aware of the seriousness of this—certainly not as aware as they should be—and I hope the results of a debate of this nature will be that sufficient publicity will be given for the media to take it up in an appropriate manner and not just shift it aside. The debate this afternoon is an extremely important one. If it will influence the media to do something of value in that direction, then I believe that the community as a whole will support the Government.

Although I have much more to say, I want to keep within the suggested time limit and it is nearly that now. The Minister said in a speech recently that: Happily more and more people are coming to see that it is undesirable to institutionalise even severely disabled people, that their needs must be met in the community, that we must emphasise their abilities rather than their disabilities, that their rights must be asserted and traditional attitudes modified. If the noble Baroness used the language that the Minister used, she would be in full accord with all our sentiments.

There is one point on which I should like to touch and to which I should like the Government to give an opinion or an answer. I understand that there is a tendency to use institutions rather than private housing. I have been given the information—and I think it is authentic— that to keep a person in an institution, apart from the fact that it is undesirable if it can be possibly avoided, costs something in the nature of £2,000 a year compared with something like £500, which is the cost of keeping a person in a private house. If that is so, the Government would be well advised to inquire into the situation.

If the question is one of economy—and one really must look at that position when considering matters of this sort—the public can help very much in that direction through charitable organisations, in good will and with the ordinary kind of help that so many people are prepared to give once they know the need for it. It would be advisable to see whether, in so far as this particular problem that I have raised is concerned, it can be arranged that the disabled shall be given accommodation in personal housing rather than in institutions.

4.33 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, first may I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for bringing this matter to our attention today, and also the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, for his excellent report. I hope that it will be sent to all local authorities. As the noble Baroness reminded us, it was rather difficult to obtain a copy today, but if all local authorities had one, it would be a guide for them in the future. I expect that, like myself, many think back to that tremendous meeting held in Trafalgar Square and organised by a disabled person, Megan du Boisson, from which practically all legislation came. Really, the disabled people themselves started this great movement.

This report sounds the cry from them: "Help us to help ourselves"—in other words, "Give us the tools and we will do the job". That is what we must do today. I mention this because several things can be done. When there was a ferry plying between Plymouth and France we gathered a party of 30 disabled people who spent a week in Brittany. Fifteen of them were in wheelchairs. The French reciprocated, and now we have parties coming back from France. We also have a hotel, which I opened not long ago on Dartmoor, especially equipped for disabled people from this country and abroad. There they can lead a completely free and normal life. Freedom is something they really need.

As this is a short debate, I should like to concentrate on two points: housing and transport. I understand that there are about 79,000 people in England and Wales who are in wheelchairs and who need what is known as wheelchair housing. Twelve per cent. of them are under 16 years of age; 40 per cent. are between 16 and 65 years of age, and 48 per cent. are over 65 years of age. I suggest that all future housing for the elderly should be built to take a wheelchair, which I understand, for example, means merely widening doors to 900 millimetres, having a downstairs lavatory and a kitchen which can be adapted. Many disabled people are likely in later years to need some form of aid in their mobility. In this connection, I should like to mention the Miles Mitchel Housing Association which has been one of the leaders in providing this type of housing. As noble Lords who have been present at the Council of Europe will know, studies have taken place there on this problem, and France, Holland and Germany are doing a great deal in this field.

There are many gadgets available for the disabled, but I doubt whether many know or understand how to use them. From a reply in another place the other day on what local authorities were doing, it seemed to me that very few gadgets were being provided which could help people to remain in their own homes. Instead of having institutions, one should try to have flatlets. I know of a home where the very disabled do not have their own flatlets, but there are a great many flatlets available for the less disabled in which they have their own furniture and cooking facilities. They can also go to the dining room if they wish to do so. They can be completely independent, having their own latch-key. This is important. It is very good because should they become unable to look after themselves in their own flatlet, they can move into the community accommodation and still be among friends. Furthermore, the common room is open once a week for various forms of entertainment. Therefore there is a mixing of the non-disabled and disabled at least once a week.

I should like to back up what the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said regarding new towns. The difficulty is that they do not have the same statutory obligations as other local authorities. This is something we could deal with. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, regarding the Vandyk v Oliver ruling. To get this settled would be of tremendous help. It would be a great advantage to be able to add on to accommodation a lavatory or a room in which a kidney machine could be installed, thus allowing the disabled person to remain in his own house as a result of these alterations.

Regarding transport, I should like to make a practical suggestion. Not enough is known about the transport and facilities which are available. I should like to suggest that the English Tourist Board might take this up and produce a booklet. They cover the whole country and are able to tell people where facilities are available in the event of their wanting a holiday, and so on. It is essential that such information should be assimilated. Regarding mobility allowance, we get into a difficulty. I gather that at 51 years of age, whether the person is working or not, at the present time the mobility allowance stops. That will prevent a great many people from continuing to work. It also cuts off retired people. Many people, including some who actually worked on this report, who have worked all their lives, have now retired and will not be able to get this allowance in the future. A friend of mine told me that a taxi at Christmas time cost £9 to take her from Dorset Square, W.1, to Camden and back. I know she would be entitled to claim that sum under the mobility allowance; but it seems to me that taking away any form of transport when people have retired is a great mistake. This is the time when they at last have leisure, are able to see their friends and can derive some enjoyment in life.

Senior citizens now receive a senior citizen rail card. Why should disabled people who have an attendance allowance and a doctor's certificate not get the same type of rail card? It would be beneficial to them. I know that wheelchairs already attract some preference, but I know many people without wheelchairs who would prefer to use public transport, but cannot afford to do so.

My last point concerns television. Television does a great deal already, but I think that more could be done about the subject we are discussing today. I should like to see disabled people themselves going on television and demonstrating how they can manage with the various gadgets that are available. For example, when you are newly disabled it is very often difficult to dress yourself, but when you are able to see on television how gadgets can be used it makes a lot of difference. For example, I remember very well the time when I was trying to set up workshops for the blind in Africa. I tried to teach them that they could "read "with their fingers and used to try them with Braille letters. I convinced them about what could be done because I had a scarf over my eyes so that I could not look at my fingers. They really did believe that something could be done and they could be taught. So demonstration plays a very important part in this work, and I hope that perhaps some demonstrations on television, by people who are themselves disabled, could be arranged.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, it is always a pleasure to support the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. Indeed, she is so persuasive that I trust the Government will find her as irresistible as I do. There are many kinds of disablement afflicting individuals in our community. There are the obvious physical ones, but there are also the partially sighted and the partially deaf, who are not so obviously disabled but still need help from those who are not so afflicted. Of great importance, is that no disabled person should be made to feel "different". They should not be made to feel that they belong to a sort of second tier in society or that they are an unwanted part of the community. Those who are unfortunate enough to become severely disabled in adult life have the added burden of trying to come to terms with their disability, especially if they sustain a loss of power to walk. If they can still continue in the same sort of occupation, if it is a sedentary one, surely that is important.

With children, the more the disabled can play with other children where possible, and join in nursery schools, the better for them both. If they can go right through their school life with each other, the handicapped with the non handicapped, then surely so much more easily will the disabled adapt to the working world in later life, without feeling embarrassed. The parents of a child who is born disabled, whether in mind or body, psychologically need all the help they can get to help them to come to terms with their difficulties. I believe their need is to be able to talk to their neighbours and not to shut themselves away. Society itself needs educating in regard to the needs of handicapped people and as to how best those people can be helped to join in the social life around them.

Wherever possible, the child needs to go to the ordinary nursery school and primary school. If the able-bodied child can be encouraged to play with a disabled neighbour, both children will come to accept each other quite naturally when they are very young. Visits to schools by handicapped children or adults to talk about their handicaps, so that the able-bodied learn about them and how they try to overcome their disabilities, could also help in their integration into schools and also into later life. I realise that there will always be some among the young and old alike who will need either special schools or permanent professional medical care, and who will need to live in residential accommodation or hospitals. In ordinary schools, access for the disabled child is so often thought of in terms of one in a wheelchair, but there are also the blind or partially sighted, the deaf or children with partial hearing. Colour schemes play a most important part in the life of a partially-sighted child. With the partially deaf, the loop system—that is, a system of wiring round a room which assists hearing aids—and acoustics are of great importance.

Some children who are on crutches but have no special trouble in getting about, would benefit from attending an ordinary school; but so often they are placed in special schools because of the reluctance of the staff in ordinary schools to take them. That is generally due to ignorance of the needs of the child or children and also of their abilities in other ways in making up for their particular handicap. The ordinary school may well feel more able to cope if it has the necessary back-up services—specialist teachers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and others—to visit the school or, alternatively, time for the children to visit clinics. Perhaps in some schools there could be special classes to help with specific disabilities and to help the child to mix with an ordinary class later.

The BBC are much to be congratulated on an excellent report given in "Woman's Hour" last Friday afternoon at 1.45 p.m., when they broadcast an interview with the headmaster and children of a new primary school at Hawick near Glasgow. There they are integrating handicapped children of all kinds, whenever it is possible. I am aware that many other schools are also doing this, and very successfully. That particular headmaster found that his first hurdles were the natural anxieties of the parents. Having explained it all to the parents, the children themselves, after their first natural shyness, soon made friends with each other: that is the able-bodied and the disabled. I should like the headmaster of that school—I regret that I do not know his name—his staff and all the children to know that I think they are doing a wonderful job which is an example to all; and I am sure that other noble Lords will agree with me.

My Lords, I have deliberately spoken warmly of that school and of the BBC. I think there is here an enormous field of opportunity for the Government, and a wink is as good as a nod. I am not asking the Government, at this point, to reply, but I should be very happy to think that as an outcome of this debate there might be some permanent liaison in matters of this kind between the Government and the BBC.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad to be able to take part in this excellent debate and to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, and all those who have helped with the report which has so impressed us and about which we are so very much concerned.

I have been involved in trying to bring about the intergration of handicapped and non-handicapped people for a very long time. I first began to do so because, some 20 years ago now, an experiment was started by the National Association of Youth Clubs to run clubs for handicapped and non-handicapped young people together. It was a brave start: nobody had tried to do it. There were, of course, organisations dealing with the handicapped and any number dealing with the non handicapped, but the idea that the two groups could be put together and that it would work as successfully as it has was something quite new.

Today, these clubs, which are called PHAB—the physically handicapped and able-bodied—are now spread all over the world. There are 200 in this country and there are clubs of this kind in Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and in other parts as well. I learned only yesterday that an expedition of non-handicapped and handicapped young people is going to Kuwait, to demonstrate what can be done in this way. I am quite sure that that is only a beginning and that this is something which is going to develop tremendously in the future as the community begins to realise how very wrong it is to put all handicapped people into one community and all the non-handicapped into another.

Following the experiment I have referred to, which has proved so successful, some of us raised a very large sum of money to build a college, or a building specially designed for non-handicapped and handicapped people together. It took a long time to get the money, and a great deal of money was needed, practically all of it coming from voluntary sources, from trusts and so on. The building is in Birmingham: it is called Prospect Hall and is ready to start now to bring the handicapped and the non-handicapped together. This is one of the ways in which other areas might also co-operate, because it need not be so elaborate as the one we built. But the idea of bringing the handicapped and the non-handicapped together, for recreation and for courses of different kinds, is something which I am sure is of great importance and which other local authorities and organisations can copy.

There are just two aspects of the Snowdon Report which I should like to mention. I agree with every word that has been said so far, and I do not want to stress anything which has already been mentioned. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, on the subject of transport, as it is extremely important that there should be a co-ordinated method of dealing with it. There are many voluntary organisations and local authorities which have suitable transport for handicapped people, but, judging by what is said about transport in the report, which I have read carefully, some of these vehicles are not sufficiently used; that is to say, the co-ordination between the two groups concerned is not very good.

I entirely agree with the suggestion that there should be a committee composed of voluntary organisations and, if necessary, local authorities, as well as handicapped people, to examine the use of these vehicles and to see whether they can be used to their fullest extent. At the same time, the committee could inquire into the siting of the vehicles, and list them and their drivers, because the reason why some vehicles are not sufficiently used is that there are not enough drivers. Obviously, these drivers need a special licence and it is no doubt difficult to arrange that. But with the help of local authorities, and by co-ordinating the voluntary organisations, I believe that the special vehicles could be used more extensively to the benefit of the whole community, not only to those who own them.

The last point that I should like to make—and I know that the noble Baroness who is to wind-up has had the same kind of experience of local authorities as I have had—is that we must hammer home to every local authority the fact that, when they are planning public buildings, housing or schools, they must remember that the community in which they are operating is composed of both handicapped people and non-handicapped people, and everything that is done can be adapted to both sections. When I was chairman of a housing committee, I found that when I suggested that there should be two or three houses equipped for handicapped people on any housing estate, people looked at me in surprise and asked, "What do you mean about handicapped people?" I replied, "Yes, handicapped people who will possibly be on their own ", as the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, suggested just now. I asked, "Why can we not put that type of house into our housing plans?" We did it, but much too late and it should have been done years before.

In the same way, local authorities now build sheltered housing for old people in housing estates. Before that, people used to be segregated into large old people's homes. Thank goodness people have now realised that a true community must have all age groups in it, from granny and grandpa down to the young couple who were married a few years ago. We must hammer home to local authorities the fact that integration, and providing housing facilities for handicapped people, are a natural corollary to new housing and town planning.

Similarly, on the question of building schools or public buildings, why should we always think in terms of handicapped people being educated in buildings fitted for and suited only to handicapped people? This seems to me to be a most retrograde way of looking at the problems. I do not say that there are not children who cannot be integrated, but far more could be integrated into schools if they were built and equipped with what very often amounts to very little—just doors large enough to take wheelchairs, or ramps instead of steps. This is all described in the Snowdon Report, and I am sure that all your Lordships know the kind of equipment that is required. As the noble Lord, Lord Janner, said, it would be very much cheaper than building special schools and keeping children segregated or in homes.

I hope very much that the Government will stress these points to local authorities. They are beginning to take notice. I am sure that there are enlightened local authorities which carry out this type of work and this type of planning, but I am certain that not enough is being done. I remember once finding out that a new further education college had just been built in an area in which I was interested, but when I tried to send a boy in a wheelchair there, in order to have evening classes and technical training, he could not go because he could not get into the building and we had to send him to Edinburgh instead. That is the kind of thing that should never happen.

One has to get at the architects and the people in the departments. It is not a question only of a committee; it is the people in the departments whom one must get at about this, and stress to them that this is vital in the present age and that it should have been done years before. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has had the same kind of experience and I am sure that she will agree. It is through the local authorities that we must press the matter. The Government may issue a circular, but if it does not get to the right committee and to the people who are responsible, nothing at all will happen.

I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, say that in this Jubilee year the appeal money from the Jubilee Trust may, in many cases, be used to help organisations dealing with the handicapped and similar work. I am probably the only Member of your Lordships' House who was in on the original Jubilee appeal in 1935 for King George V and Queen Mary, and I spent 30 years of my life on the council of King George's Jubilee Trust. I am extremely glad to hear that, having continued into a third reign, the Jubilee Trust is to devote so much of its appeal money this year to this kind of work, and I am sure that there is no better way of spending it. I hope that what is said in our debate today, short as it is, will spread around the country, particularly to local authorities. I also hope that there will be a response to this splendid report, and that in two or three years' time we shall not find it still on the shelves of Government or other libraries.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, integration is a vital aspect in the care of the disabled. Unfortunately, it is one of its aspects that is very often overlooked. In the case of someone who is physically disabled, a failure to integrate can gradually bring a mental condition which is a greater disability than the original physical disability. That, I think, stresses the importance of integration. Integration in education and employment and, above all, in social and recreational activity is absolutely vital if the disabled person is to lead a reasonably full life.

I congratulate the noble Earl on the work which has been done by his Working Party—in particular the way in which it has highlighted the problem by pointing out its importance and putting forward some of the remedies. Also, I congratulate my noble friend for the way in which she has drawn the attention of the House to this report. I join the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, in saying that this is a social rather than an economic problem and that the idea of a year in which we should concentrate on the integration of the disabled is worthy of consideration for 1978 or 1979. Also, I join my noble friend Lord Janner in giving credit to the Government for what they have done in the past three years.

May I remind the House that when the Government took Office in March 1974 the view of the Opposition was that if we were to avoid going back to wartime austerity, clearly we would have to borrow on a very extensive scale. Despite that, the Government had the courage to appoint a Minister for the Disabled. This was not a token appointment. The Government appointed a man who was conscientious, sympathetic and experienced in the problem with which he had to deal. That Minister has a most excellent record of achievements in the past three years, a record which I think it would be difficult for anybody else to equal in such a short time and in such economic circumstances.

I join other noble Lords in directing the attention of the House in particular to Commons Hansard of 24th January 1977 at col. 471 where there is a list of some 80 ways in which action has been taken by the Government to improve the lot of the disabled. Of course this is merely a summary. It is possible, as my noble friend Lady Phillips showed, to ask questions, following up some of the points that are raised there. Obviously it is legitimate, possible and reasonable to do this, but may I suggest to all sides of the House that a study of the list shows that real work has been done in the past three years. Nevertheless, I believe that we should not leave it at that. Although we have achieved much in the past three years we have to go ahead and achieve more in the future, and in order to do that we need not so much economic assistance directed by the Government as a social conscience. We need public support, especially over the problem of integration. I hope that this debate will do much to help to overcome that problem in the near future and that, as the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, said, very soon we shall have a year in which we concentrate upon the need to integrate the disabled with every aspect of the life of the community.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down could he mention the name of the Minister involved? I know the Minister very well indeed and I agree with everything that has been said. Many noble Lords have spoken about "the Minister" but they have never put his name on the record.


My Lords, I shall be very pleased to put the name of the Minister on the record—the right honourable Alf Morris, M.P.


Hear, Hear!

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for giving us the opportunity of debating this report today. If I may, I should also like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, not only on his speech but on the report itself—the end product of what must have been a very hardworking party, ably chaired by himself. In this context I should like to pay sincere tribute to Duncan Guthrie whose drive and enthusiasm brought the report to birth. I have known Duncan Guthrie for some 24 or 25 years since he conceived what is now known as the National Fund for Research into Crippling Diseases. Then it was that he persuaded my old friend Edward Courage, that well known campaigner for good causes, to join him, and he in turn invited my wife to become a founder member. This Fund has steered and financed this excellent and concise report. I think that this is the right moment to give to your Lordships the message of regret from the noble Lord, Lord Harding, Chairman of the Fund for no fewer than 14 years, that he cannot be here today to take part in these discussions.

There is a wealth of practical recommendations in the report, many of which would cost little or nothing to implement and which only require the acceptance of the duties of a humane and Christian country, much thought and determination. Let us at least get these under way at once. I refer to such instances as the exclusion of guide dogs from railway sleeping cars and flower shows, and the other examples which the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has given to us. There arc, of course, many recommendations which would be costly and which could not be followed until the economy of the country is in better shape. However, as the noble Earl suggested, this is the time to lay down the plans.

The report also stresses that the funds that are available could be better employed and that it costs far more to support people in institutions than in their own homes. Not only is this true but it is also true that most people infinitely prefer to live at home rather than to be institutionalised. When the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, comes to reply I fervently hope that she will give an assurance that urgent steps will be taken to effect a redeployment of resources on these lines.

I thought that one of the most important themes running through the report was the need to involve handicapped people at all levels. This theme has been mentioned by many speakers today. Able-bodied people, however imaginative, can have only a limited understanding of the problems. Doubtless there are very many handicapped people who could play invaluable roles in planning, administration and coordination.

I should now like to declare a personal interest. I am Chairman of the National Listening Library which provides a Talking Books Service for handicapped people similar to the service provided for the blind by the RNIB. Almost daily we receive letters of appreciation from people who have been unable to read for months or years—unable to hold a book or turn the pages—and who have only just heard of our existence. That is why I so strongly endorse the recommendation that full information about the services available should be made known on the widest possible front. So often handicapped people remain unaware of some service or facility that could transform their lives.

In concluding a speech which I hope your Lordships will consider commendably short, I should like to refer to the opening paragraphs of the report. Here, or so it seemed to me, was shown a real understanding of the concept of integration. Perhaps if those of us, who consider ourselves "unrestricted", were more aware of our dependence on the facilities that we enjoy to overcome our own handicaps, we would be keener to make more provision for those less fortunate. As the noble Earl mentioned, most of us are handicapped, but we are well integrated in your Lordships' House. Looking around, I see many noble Lords, like myself, wearing spectacles. Many of us appreciate the loudspeaker system and, if I dropped my voice, several ears would gravitate towards those inconspicuous receivers. But what really concentrates the mind is the presence of two Members of our gallant chairborne brigade. They have come here today as they always do on such occasions. They make such a tremendous impact—but, my Lords, it is possible for them to come: there is appropriate access and egress; there is a lift. How otherwise would they enrich our debates as they have so often done in the past and are doing again today?

5.10 p.m.

Viscount INGLEBY

My Lords, I suppose I am one of the objects of this debate and I am by no means sure that I am completely integrated—in fact I am sure I have a long way still to go, but as the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, has just said, there are a lot of advantages for disabled people in this House. We have good access, good mobility, interesting and worthwhile work to do and we have friends whom we can join. But of course not all disabled people are lucky enough, as I am, to be a Member of this House. I suggest from my own experience that it is a tremendous help to a disabled person to be able to find oneself as part of a team with able-bodied people, pursuing some project in which we are all concerned.

I was interested to see at page 43 of the Snowdon Report, paragraph 64: The disabled person must hurtle himself into the community otherwise he can become a drop-out. I am not sure that I am terribly good at hurtling myself in; indeed when I do so I try to make sure that I have a reasonably smooth landing. I think it illustrates the importance to disabled people of taking the initiative. I believe subconsciously one tends to take something of a back seat—indeed perhaps society expects one to take rather a back seat. The only way to overcome that is to "hurtle in", as the Snowdon Report says, but if one is going to hurtle in it means attending meetings and that means going to village halls, town halls, churches, public houses, Women's Institutes, and so on. Although a lot of progress has been made there are still many of these which have steps to contend with and I wish warmly to support the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. Could this not be a worthwhile and inexpensive aim for Jubilee Year: to ensure that all public buildings have one entrance free from steps?

5.13 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, although this has only been a short debate it has, like the report being discussed, covered a very wide range of topics, and as the Government spokesman I should like to say that we are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for giving us the opportunity to pay tribute to the authors of Integrating the Disabled. The Working Party is to be congratulated on the two years' work put into producing the document and particular tribute is due to the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, as Chairman of the Working Party, and to the National Fund for Research into Crippling Diseases, under whose auspices it was set up. We have also been lucky this afternoon to have such a sympathetic and thoughtful contribution from the noble Earl himself and also from our two disabled Peers, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, who contribute so much to debates on this type of subject.

There are a total of 96 specific recommendations in the report as well as many other comments on the general philosophy of integration. I am sure your Lordships will appreciate that in a short debate I am unable, in the time remaining, to give anything approaching a detailed report on the Government's view of each of these recommendations. You will wish to know however that the relevant Departments have studied, and will continue to study, the proposals in detail. What I can try to do this afternoon is to consider the general approach of the Working Party and to look at one or two of the more important points that have been raised in the debate. As I have said, time will not allow me to reply in detail to all the points that have been raised, but I do give the assurance that if I do not touch on any particular request this afternoon I will read the Hansard Report and if anyone requires further information or comments on any suggestions which have been made I will see that they are dealt with as promptly as possible.

I am sure your Lordships would agree that 10 years ago a debate on disablement and on the needs of disabled people would have been very different. The nature and extent of help available to disabled people has developed remarkably quickly since the passing of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act in 1970—a piece of legislation rightly regarded as a watershed. We are fortunate indeed to have the architect of that Statute as Minister for the Disabled; and in order to oblige the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of North Tyneside, I will give his name, Mr. Alf Morris—I see she is not here. Shame!

Coupled with the improvements in practical help and support for disabled people has been a continuing improvement in general attitudes—a wider acceptance of the abilities of disabled people and of the ways in which these abilities can be nourished to the benefit of the individual and of society as a whole. It is against this background that we must consider the Working Party report. Your Lordships all know that there can be no "right time" to put forward proposals which involve increases in public expenditure, and the present is certainly not the most promising time in which to make such suggestions, as noble Lords have already recognised. However, the report recognises that some of what it proposes can be no more than signposts indicating the ways in which services can be developed. Other recommendations would have little extra resource implications whilst some are virtually cost free and are aimed primarily at changing public attitudes.

Thus the report can be regarded as a widely based plan, as well as a review of what has been done and what different people feel needs to be done. It embodies a realistic view of how fast changes can be made. In this sense it will be a useful document on which Government Departments, local authorities and other statutory bodies will continue to consult in years to come. While the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, referred to the shortage of copies of the report, may I at this stage make a plea that if any noble Lords who have obtained a copy do not want it to collect dust on their bookshelves will they personally see that it is passed on to their local authorities or to some other organisations who can learn from it?

In commenting on the various chapters of the report, I hope that your Lordships will bear with me if I deal mainly with only four of the areas covered. Chapter 1, which covers education, does not claim to break new educational ground. Its main recommendation, for the planned introduction of a system of integrated education, is in line with the policy of the Department of Education and Science over many years—that no child should attend a special school if his needs can be met in an ordinary one. Thanks to the work done in your Lordships' House, this principle has now been embodied in recent legislation in Section 10 of the Education Act 1976. The new law points the way ahead, but it cannot be implemented overnight. As the Working Party recognised in suggesting a period of 10 years, it will be a gradual process. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science in a speech in Derbyshire last month explained that education in an integrated framework would require very careful preparation and full consultation with local education authorities, teachers and all other interests concerned. Integration must be seen to bring benefit to all the children who are affected by it and this in turn raises complex issues relating, for example, to the quality of special education and the conditions which ensure its success. These are matters which I appreciate the Working Party was not able to examine in any depth.

While I have no wish to dwell upon the practical difficulties arising from issues of this kind, it would be unrealistic to ignore them. It is not simply a matter of resources. The conditions must be right, and this requires co-operative and patient exploration within the Education Service. As part of this approach, the Department of Education and Science intends to commission research to obtain a clearer picture of what is involved for ordinary schools in catering for greater numbers of handicapped children, including the more severely handicapped, and of the best ways of setting about it.

Two final points on education. First, the report calls for a higher school leaving age for handicapped children. This was considered when the age of compulsory attendance was raised to 16 for children in ordinary schools. The conclusion was reached that the needs of handicapped children were so varied that more flexible arrangements should be made for them. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, asked about access to buildings used for educational purposes. The Department of Education and Science have undertaken to revise the relevant regulations to embody the provisions of Section 8 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, and they will also be preparing appropriate design guidance. In addition, a letter has already been sent to chief architects which will seek to ensure that in future plans which require departmental approval will show what provision is being made for disabled persons.

I should now like to turn to the chapter on employment. Comments on the report have been sought from the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Disabled People, which has a statutory duty to advise and assist the Government on all matters concerning the employment and training of disabled people. The Council, whose members have great experience and practical knowledge of the complex issues involved in the employment of disabled people, strongly welcome the reports' main theme of integration within the community, and its recognition of the importance of employment to that end. But they drew attention to one or two controversial proposals.

The two particular recommendations about which the Council had reservations are those suggesting a "disablement tax" and the strengthening of the quota scheme. The Council's view—and it is one that I share—is that such developments could have an adverse effect on the co-operation of employers, which it firmly believes to be fundamental to the resettlement of disabled people in jobs. The Government are studying and will take particular note of the advice of the National Council on these recommendations and on the whole strategy set out in the report.

My Lords, the report naturally stresses the need for special support, so that those who are disabled can compete on equal terms in the jobs market. I was concerned by the statement of the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, about the quota. I will read carefully what he said. I will check on the position and write to the noble Earl. The Minister for the Civil Service Department made a statement only last summer indicating a whole range of measures to help disabled people to enter the Civil Service. I will check on the facts and will write to the noble Earl. This principle has been accepted for many years by successive Governments, and is the philosophy behind the resettlement, rehabilitation and training services for those who are disabled, of sheltered workshops for the severely disabled, and the quota scheme.

These provisions are now the responsibility of the Manpower Services Commission, the Employment Service Agency and the Training Services Agency—statutory bodies committed to establishing coherent and unified policies for helping disabled people to train for and to obtain the right jobs; and to modernising the services to this end. To those noble Lords who have not seen it, I commend the Employment Service Agency's new publication Outlook. There is a copy in the Library, and when this debate is over there will be a second copy in the Library. I hope noble Lords will read it, because it reflects new approaches within the statutory services and their commitment to ensuring so far as possible real integration for disabled people within the community.

One particular initiative planned for later this year is especially relevant to the employment points raised in the report. The Manpower Services Commission is proposing to issue a guide to employers to encourage them to develop positive employment policies for disabled people. The aim of the guide will be to establish the right attitude among employers, and the Commission believe that this is best done through education and the encouragement of co-operation. The National Advisory Council wholeheartedly endorse this approach and indeed they have been involved in the initiation of the guide. The Government will play their full share in getting the right message across and thereby achieving a national focus on the employment needs of disabled people. I am sure the authors of the report, like your Lordships, would want this initiative to be successful.

The Government, the National Advisory Council and the statutory bodies providing employment services are far from complacent about the problems of disabled people at a time of regrettably high unemployment. New ideas are always welcome and will be critically and constructively examined, including those in the Snowdon Report. Although the Government cannot accept without reservation all that has been put forward in that report, there are a number of points on which there will be complete unanimity of view.

The third main topic covered in the report is housing, which, as your Lordships will know, is an area of activity to which this Government attach great importance. We accept, of course, the philosophy behind this chapter of the report—that the housing problems of disabled people should be dealt with in a community setting so far as possible. This has been at the heart of our approach. The other important point which has to be recognised is that such a strategy has to take account of the interaction between accommodation and the support services that will be needed. Here I should like to stress how important it is that Government Departments have forged a closer working relationship in regard to problems facing disabled people. This example of co-operation and co-ordination needs to be mirrored at local level by joint endeavour of housing, social services and health authorities, and the Government take every opportunity they can to draw attention to this need.

As the report indicates, the Department of the Environment has carried out a comprehensive study on ways of meeting the housing needs of disabled people in collaboration with the DHSS. This led to detailed guidance to local authorities on the design of two types of housing which we have suggested should form part of every new housing scheme of any size. The concept which we call "mobility housing" dates back only to 1974. It consists of ordinary Parker Morris housing planned in such a way that there are no steps or stairs to negotiate, so making it convenient for the great majority of disabled people to live in. At virtually no extra cost, a substantial proportion of our housing can be built to mobility standards.

Where a person is confined to a wheelchair, or where the disabled member of the household does the cooking and housework, there is of course a clear need for more extensive and more costly modifications to basic house design. These are incorporated in what is termed "wheelchair housing", to which Lady Vickers referred, which incorporates extra circulation space and fittings at a height which can be reached from a wheelchair. The subsidy to meet extra costs, which is an important part of our policy, is payable for a wide range of features, and there is scope to tailor the house to the particular needs of the tenant, which can be surprisingly diverse.

The report accepts that these two types of special housing, together with adapted housing, provide the right mix of accommodation. It suggested that wheelchair housing is needed for a wider range of disabled people than the Government have envisaged, including people using, but not necessarily confined to, wheelchairs. Our present guidelines place emphasis on mobility housing. This approach means that we are able to cater for more disabled people at little extra cost, while ensuring that more specialised provision is available for those for whom, in our view, it is really needed. The concept of mobility housing demonstrates what integration is all about.

That, then, is the strategy which the Government are pursuing. But, really, how effective is it? On returning to office in 1974 the Government were disappointed in the amount of special housing available for disabled people, and in 1975 they launched a special drive to improve the position. That is begining to bear fruit. There is not time for them, and I would not wish to weary the House tonight with too many statistics, but in the four years following the passing of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 local authorities and new town corporations in England and Wales built just under 600 wheelchair housing units. In the following 21 months nearly double that number have been added to the stock. Similarly, the new mobility housing concept is also beginning to gather momentum. By last September there had been over 5,000 proposals by local authorities and new towns. There is obviously more that needs to be done, but these figures indicate a changing attitude which the Government are anxious to foster.

My Lords, I cannot deal with all the points that were raised on the question of housing this afternoon, but I have said that I shall write to noble Lords who raised specific matters.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness, but will she give way? May I raise one small matter?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I would rather not give way. We are very short of time and I shall not be able to deal with the matter, even scantily. I shall see the noble Lord and talk to him later.

The final chapter to which I should like to refer is the one covering community and personal relationships. Much of what is said there is in line with the thinking of the Department of Health and Social Security. Indeed, the Working Party has endorsed the Department's main policy objective as set out in its Consultative Document which was, namely, to enable disabled people to live as full and normal a life as possible within the community by making available the appropriate support care and services. The report raises some important and relevant questions on how this objective is to be achieved. It proposes a number of developments, some of which it must be recognised would have major resource implications.

However, there is a whole range of help available to the disabled from a number of different organisations, both statutory and voluntary, and the very diversity of the help and the providing agencies can be a problem. Often the staff, the social workers and the health visitors have a very heavy burden to carry and even with the best will in the world they cannot keep up with the many new developments in other fields. My right honourable friend has given a great deal of thought to this problem and has examined various ways of ensuring that a disabled person can have the assurance of knowing that there is some point to which he or she can turn for advice and help.

Questions were raised today about the mobility allowances and about the invalid trikes which, again, I regret I cannot deal with more fully because of shortage of time. I shall simply repeat what the Minister has always said. His aim is quite simply to ensure that no one who is now mobile will be made immobile by the phasing out of the trike, except where increased disability itself makes this unavoidable.

I shall deal with the article published in The Times today. At this point in time I do not think that I can go beyond saying that my Secretary of State is exploring all the possibilities of the extension of the mobility scheme with the Central Council for Disablement. Obviously resources come into this and there are very serious problems.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, both referred to the matter of a Silver Jubilee Trust. I have noted the report. Perhaps I should declare an interest as one of the National Vice-Presidents of PHAB. I thank the noble Lords who have given "plugs" to that organisation. I appreciate how much a real injection of capital would help to extend the limits of the work which organisations such as PHAB—organisations for deaf young people and for the mentally handicapped—need. I am informed that the existing trust is in constant touch with many voluntary bodies, and that it would give sympathetic consideration to any new application on behalf of either mentally or physically disabled young people. I am sure that the new trust will continue this tradition. I shall certainly ask my honourable friend the Minister to ensure that the voluntary organisations concerned are at least informed of the position.

Finally, I should like to emphasise that the Working Party Report has made an extremely valuable contribution to the understanding of so many crucial problems. It has already stimulated a considerable amount of thought and discussion, not least among your Lordships. It has provided an opportunity—albeit a brief one—to debate the whole field of disablement and I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, will accept what many Members have said this afternoon, that this Government have made quite unprecedented changes in provisions for the disabled.

The most important result of the report is that it will be in constant use for years to come as a source of ideas on new developments and as a commentary on existing policies. It is an important and perceptive contribution to thinking on the problems of disablement. The Working Party is to be most warmly congratulated on the hard work that it has put into it over the last two years. The noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, whose concern for the disabled is known to us all, must feel extremely proud of what his Working Party has achieved.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am not quite sure how many minutes I have left.

Baroness STEDMAN



My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. It has been an exercise in self-discipline which is unique. I think that possibly my noble friend Lord Jacques won the prize for a speech of four minutes. There is no doubt that all speeches were compelling in their compassion, in the powerful arguments that they advanced, and in the genuine understanding of the subject under discussion. I should also like to thank the Minister for her reply. We appreciate that she will follow up these matters and, indeed, I assure her that as well as the report being useful in years to come, I hope to be here for years to come, ready to prod her or any Minister who forgets that these matters have not yet been attended to.

The theme that has been apparent from the beginning of the debate—from the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, and again I pay tribute to the noble Earl—was that integration simply means independence and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, said, helping us to help ourselves. We all want to be accepted as people. This runs across the board, whether we are old or young, black or white, male or female, able-bodied or disabled. That surely is the basic theme that all Christians must recognise. This is something that will come from this report. Attitudes and education must be changed, even if only in small ways. It is sad to see, for instance, that a hospital is still called a "hospital for the incurables". In this day and age, is anyone incurable? How depressing the thought that one is incurable! There must be education of all of us, compassion from all of us, understanding and, above all, action. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, including the Minister. My Lords I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.