HL Deb 23 February 1978 vol 389 cc232-4

3.14 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether epileptics are eligible for the mobility allowance.


My Lords, mobility allowance is a non-contributory benefit for severely disabled people aged five to pensionable age who are unable, or virtually unable, to walk because of physical disablement throughout a period of at least 12 months. The noble Baroness may wish to know that, in fact, people suffering from epilepsy have been awarded the allowance where the condition has been particularly severe and frequent, or where other disabling conditions have been present.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for that reply. Is he aware that many people believe that it is a very serious handicap to epileptics who are not eligible to drive cars, to know that there are very few circumstances in which they can ever be eligible for a mobility allowance? Is he aware that many of them can do a job but are unable to get to the job because of the difficulty of transport of one sort or another? Does he issue instructions to the societies looking after epileptics to indicate the circumstances in which they would be eligible for the mobility allowance?


My Lords, anyone who feels entitled—or somebody acting on behalf of anybody who is thought to be entitled—to a mobility allowance can apply for it. There is a procedure involving medical examinations where the person can be assessed. The noble Baroness and the House will know that there has been recently an appeal against a decision of the Department about awarding a mobility allowance to an epileptic. That appeal was upheld and as a result the allowance has been paid to that particular epileptic.

If the Government were to consider extending the allowance to those who can walk but who have problems in getting about, we should be obliged to consider such groups of disabled people as the blind, the deaf and agoraphobics as well as people suffering from epilepsy. I am bound to say, as I have said on a number of occasions, that resources at the present moment are not available.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, if there should be any question of reviewing or extending mobility allowances, whether thought will be given to the question of why this allowance, almost alone among National Insurance allowances, is subject to tax?


My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the present mobility allowance of £7 per week will be going up in July to £10 per week. With regard to the question of taxation, I think that we shall have to look at that because if we make provision in one respect we shall have to do it in the case of a large number of other benefits.


My Lords, can my noble friend give an estimate of the known number of epileptics in this country and of the percentage of them who are eligible for this allowance?


My Lords, not without notice.

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