§ 3.5 p.m.
§ Lord Wells-Pestell rose to call attention to the need for a comprehensive approach to the integration of and equal participation by people with disabilities in the community, as recommended in the world Charter for the 1980s; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, many of your Lordships may feel that I ought to apologise for introducing this matter again. It is perfectly true that during the five years of the last Government and the three years of this Government we have considered the question of the disabled on a number of occasions. But unless one constantly refers this matter to the House, it is liable to be overlooked and, to some extent, forgotten.
§ It is a very wide field; and because it is a wide field I want to say that it is not my intention to deal with every facet which comes within this particular subject. In the first place, I do not propose to deal with or comment on the report of the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People, known as CORAD, which functioned under the very able—and I was going to say distinguished—chairmanship of Mr. Peter Large. Those of us who have worked in the department—albeit even as a junior Minister—will know the value of his contribution to society in this particular field. The committee's report makes an outstanding contribution to the problem, and I understand that some speakers will refer to it today. I ought not to do so because I believe that my noble friend Lord Ingleby will be speaking about the work of CORAD. I do not think that it needs two of us to do so, and he is far more competent to say something about it than I am. It is also true that I have been able to ascertain that a number of matters which I proposed to deal with will be dealt with by other noble Lords.
§ It is now nearly two years since the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, introduced in this House the debate calling attention to the International Year of Disabled Persons. That debate was on 14th January 1981. It is 18 months since a Motion was put down in another place urging the Government to begin discussions on a programme of action to maintain the impetus of the International Year in the years ahead. Perhaps it would be understandable if I asked the noble Lord the Minister whether he will indicate what the Government have done in that respect.
§ It is exactly one year and six days since the Prime Minister accepted the Rehabilitation International world Charter for the 80s, urging the Government to 532 prepare a comprehensive national plan to achieve the full integration of and equal participation by disabled people in our society. Again, I want to ask the Minister whether the Government have moved in this matter, and whether they have so far achieved anything. It may well be that I cannot get all these replies today, and I accept that and understand it.
§ At the beginning of the year, no one was foolish enough to think that the International Year of Disabled Persons would be a magic wand which would solve all the problems related to disabled people and end all discrimination and prejudice. But there is a general consensus that the voluntary organisations, the media and the public generally responded magnificently to the International Year of Disabled Persons. Unfortunately—I do not say this with any bitterness at all—the Government response was and has been very disappointing. Briefly, the aims of the Year—and I will give perhaps four of them—were to increase public awareness of the needs of disabled people and their disabilities, to ensure that disabled people can participate on terms of equality as fully integrated members of society, to prevent disability and to promote a more positive attitude towards disabled people.
§ Those of us who are disabled perhaps have the good fortune not to show it very much. But I can remember quite recently, as a patron of an organisation for the disabled in Oxford, talking to a young man in a wheelchair who has a degree from the Open University. Somebody came up and asked me, "Would you like a cup of coffee?" I said, "Yes". "Would he like a cup of coffee?" I said, "Would you?" He said, "Yes". She said, "Does he take sugar?" That is the sort of thing that happens. Of course it is funny unless you are in a wheelchair and, believe me, I am rather surprised that it does not cause some of the people to be so incensed that they get out of the wheelchair and strike the person. Certainly, however, that was an indication that somebody was trying.
§ What did the year achieve? It is generally agreed that most progress was made in the area of attitudes. Here the media played a very important role: not only were there many special programmes about disability, but it was encouraging to see the features about disabled drivers in ordinary motoring programmes and about holiday facilities for disabled people, and also general travel programmes. The Year brought disability if I may say so, for perhaps the very first time, to the attention of the people, showing the barriers that society has erected between the able bodied and the disabled and encouraging them to help to find solutions. Many people also discovered that those we have labelled "the disabled" were in fact individuals with strengths and shortcomings, feelings and aspirations like everyone else in society, including your Lordships. Even more encouragingly, there was much more co-operation between the voluntary associations at local and national levels, and particularly between organisations dealing with different disabilities, compared with their former parochialism.
§ It was at the local level that there was perhaps the greatest activity. Special IYDP groups, associations of disabled people and councils of voluntary service initiated a variety of projects such as respite care schemes, campaigns on taking up benefits, access projects, special exhibitions and fund-raising projects. 533 Often these were joint initiatives with local authorities and other groups not usually concerned with disability.
§ Here I want to pay tribute to the work of four IYDP committees for each of the countries in the United Kingdom. I want to pay tribute to their chairmen, though this is not possible in the first instance, of the late Sir Christopher Aston, who was responsible for the regional committee for England. A very old and much appreciated friend of some of us, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, is responsible for the whole of Scotland, and I always think that must be a most terrible job. Then there was Mr. Alastair Wood for Wales and Colonel Hughes for Northern Ireland. They did a magnificent job, and although I cannot thank the other three personally, I would, not only on behalf of the disabled community in Scotland but in the rest of the United Kingdom, express gratitude to and thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for the magnificent contribution he made as one of the chairmen of the four areas. It is also true that one has to say a word or two of appreciation to the secretaries of the IYDP and their staff and all the disabled groups in the country and those who lead them, both able bodied and those with a disability, because in many of these clubs some people are in wheelchairs and others not, but when it comes to acting and doing things, except in terms of mobility, there is not very much to choose between the physically handicapped and the able bodied.
§ I think mention should be made of the inspired lead and the very practical assistance which was given by the president of the Year. I am delighted to see the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, today, as will be everybody in your Lordships' House. I can remember, when I had difficulty in walking, that he was going to put on a wheelchair at an absurdly low price, and he invited me to try it. It is this sort of thing that people in your Lordships' House do but the wider public knows very little about it. I did not know whether the noble Earl would be coming today, but I think I speak on behalf of all of us, and certainly on behalf of the disabled, when I say that we are delighted to see him here and always will be delighted to see him here.
§ Lord Wells-Pestell
My Lords, I wanted to say something about the role of the voluntary sector. The IYDP was a triumph for the voluntary sector. It showed its strengths and obviously revealed its weaknesses. The voluntary sector is obviously more innovative and adventurous than the statutory bodies, and can provide a more flexible personalised form of care. The state cannot afford to experiment; it is too costly. But the voluntary organisations can, and the best provision is that based on co-operation between the statutory and the voluntary services. I do not want to mention any particular one. The one it was suggested to me that I should mention happens to be one of which both the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and I are patrons, although the person who suggested the name to me did not know this. So perhaps I should not mention any of them.
We denigrate and abuse the voluntary sector if we expect it to fulfil a role for which it was not designed. 534 It cannot match the statutory sector in terms of resources, administrative structure and the manpower necessary to provide the basic comprehensive social services. The discrepancies in provision between local authorities and health authorities are the cause of a good deal of concern that the voluntary sector is even more prone to patchiness in the provision between geographical areas and social groups and with an unfortunate tendency to divide disabilities into "popular" and "unpopular" disabilities. For example, mental health is not a popular disability and to a large extent mentally-ill people missed out on the Year, even though they were included in the original aims. I think this was a fear expressed, if I remember rightly, at the beginning of the Year by the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw.
I want now to turn to the Government. Since the International Year of Disabled Persons, they have been basking in the reflected glory of the success of the voluntary sector, handing out prizes at the same time as the voluntary sector has had increasingly to take on a statutory role because of cuts in services. I put it mildly because I do not want to be disagreeable; but the Government have been handing out trophies for doing the work they themselves should be doing. For example, the first prize in the IYDP award scheme was won by the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and for social rehabilitation courses preparing young people with those disabilities who want to live as independently as possible. However, the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus have expressed concern that the Government policies are causiung additional hardship to disabled people. The association are now paying out far more in welfare grants for needs previously met by the statutory services. This puts not only a severe strain but a severe test on a voluntary organisation, when they have to spend more and more time getting in money, which often means less and less effective work, because you cannot do the two together.
On the other hand, while praising the good work being done by the charities, the Chancellor has been clawing back a substantial part of their income in VAT. In 1980–81, eight of the largest welfare charities lost £1.3 million in VAT on many of the same services for which local authorities are zero-rated. It really is a bit too much, when you prevail upon people to face up to their responsibilities as citizens in a community, and part of it has to go in VAT. As Brian Rix, the Secretary-General of Royal Mencap commented:We are running a service for charity and we are being clobbered.The most outrageous example of voluntary organisations having to do the Government's job is the project by RADAR, the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, and 13 other charities on the enforcement of Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. As I said in this House, when I took part in the debate on the International Year of Disabled Persons:It is coming to a pretty fine pass when voluntry organisations have to consider [legal action] against a local authority … to enforce"—[Official Report, 14/1/81; col. 61.]—the Act of Parliament.
The Secretary of State's response to the cases referred by the charities has been disgracefully 535 complacent. RADAR complained that they were waiting an average of six months for a reply from the Secretary of State who, although he has intervened in the cases of several individuals, has consistently refused to investigate general policies of local authorities or to direct them to clear their waiting lists. I do not want to be unfair—it is so easy to be unfair—but I do not think it is unfair to say that the Government have passed the buck to voluntary organisations and have refused to give them cash, which they have replaced by kudos.
We were warned by the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, when we had the debate on 14th January last year, that there would be no money. The noble Baroness said:I have no doubt that… the Government, and local government, will be asked to find more resources for a great many good causes, and I am equally certain that I shall have to resist these demands. As a consequence, once again, the Government will be described as uncaring and willing only to pay lip-service to the International Year of Disabled People".—[Official Report; col. 53.]I told the Baroness that I would be quoting that—it was only fair to do so—and she thought it quite reasonable that I should.
Unfortunately, unlike the rest of the population, the Government's attitude towards disabled people did not change and there was no more money. That was to be expected, but we did not expect that disabled people would actually lose out during the year; that they would actually slip back. For example, £650,000 invalidity pensioners had their benefit cut by nearly 5 per cent. in real terms, which meant a loss of £60 a year for the single person and £96 a year for the married couple. It is the wrong end at which to save money. I am sure that the Minister will give a long list of measures which the Government took during the year, but, in fact, most of those were of very little substance at virtually no cost.
There is so much more that I wanted to say, but I have spoken for 19 minutes and we have a large number of people who want to take part. I have not touched on matters such as education, which I intended to do; I have not said anything at all about the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which I intended to do; I have said nothing at all about employment, which, again, I intended to do and I have said nothing at all about various other matters which impinge on this debate. I apologise for not completing what I intended to say, but I am sure that the t's that are left uncrossed and the i's that are left undotted will be taken up by my friends who will be following me. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Lord Banks
My Lords, I am sure that the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for raising this important matter this afternoon and for the way in which he has done so. I listened with great interest and much sympathy to what he had to say. He was right in indicating that there is a great danger that the interest aroused in 1981 by the International Year of Disabled Persons may be allowed to dissipate.
The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, referred to Sir Christopher Aston, the chairman of the IYDP (England). He, in his report, said: 536The value of much of IYDP's work will be lost, unless we have a plan of action for the '80s",and the Charter for the 80s, which is referred to in the Motion, and which is produced by Rehabilitation International, is one such plan. It is really based upon five simple principles—prevention, rehabilitation, integration, participation and education. What is aimed for, of course, is equal opportunity and measures to neutralise, so far as possible, the effects of disability. No special privileges are asked for, but discrimination against the disabled is opposed; though there has to be, perhaps, some positive discrimination.
When people are at a disadvantage, it is sometimes necessary, in order to even things up, to provide a certain measure of what might be called positive discrimination in their favour. For example, enforcement of the quota of disabled people to be employed might be regarded as positive discrimination. The removal of barriers to provide access for the disabled might also be so considered. The Charter for the 80s states:At least 25 per cent. of the people in any population are adversely affected by the presence of disability.That is a rather startling statement. Of course, some disablement is not apparent, but able-bodied people—and this is the point—can be crucially affected by the disablement of others. So if 25 per cent. are affected in one way or another, this is clearly not a problem of a small minority.
We were much concerned in this House a little while ago with the integration of handicapped children into the normal school system, and that at once involves not only the handicapped children themselves, but parents, brothers and sisters, other children, teachers and staff. We on this side of the House were afraid then that the Government's intentions might be frustrated by the lack of resources, so we must monitor carefully progress in this field.
But the majority of handicapped people are over age 65. Fifty-eight per cent. of handicapped people are over age 65 and 28 per cent. of handicapped people are over age 75, and the increasing number of the very old means that this number is being continually added to. It is estimated that, between now and the year 2001, an extra 493,000 persons will be in the age 75 and over category, and an extra 288,000 in the age 85 and over category. That is an increase in the latter category—the over-85s—of 52 per cent. If, as is natural, there is a heavy incidence of handicap in those age groups, then we see that there is an increasing problem of providing the proper resources to integrate these people into the community. The object must be to provide care in the community for as many as possible. The principle of integration demands that we do this. As Age Concern say:The desirability of keeping elderly people in their homes has become an accepted wisdom".But again the problem is resources. The Select Committee on Social Services in another place recently concluded in its report on public spending that the personal social services were already falling behind in the care of the frail elderly. "Services", they say, "are almost certainly insufficient to meet growing demands". Day care places have fallen in proportion to the population over 75 since 1975–80. Home help hours of service to those over 75 have failed by 8 per cent. to keep pace with the growing numbers of elderly 537 people. Meals served to those over 75 have failed by 11.6 per cent. to keep pace. These are the conclusions of the Select Committee, and I should like to ask whether the Government agree that these conclusions are correct.
I should much appreciate an answer on that point, because, if these conclusions are correct, this is a serious and worrying situation. But the amount spent on the personal social services—the local authority social services—is under £2 billion a year, compared with £32 billion spent on social security, £11 billion on the National Health Service and a total of £115 billion for all the Government's expenditure. We could increase appreciably—say, by 10 per cent.—expenditure on the personal social services without a very great effect on the overall national budget.
Now consider the allowance for the carer—the help for the carer. When we do this we are passing from the sphere of the personal social services to the much more extensive sphere of social security. The majority of carers, research tells us, are married women, but they do not qualify for the invalid care allowance which is going up this month to £19.70 per week. The income care allowance is paid to married and cohabiting men but not to married and cohabiting women. When he replies to the debate, I wonder if the Minister can say whether he agrees that that is an unjustifiable discrimination. It would cost £40 million to rectify, but the £19.50 itself would need to be increased if there is to be a proper carers' benefit. I am not talking at the moment about whether or not we can afford it. I am merely trying to indicate how we fall short of what seems to be the minimum necessary to deal with the situation in which we find ourselves.
There was the pledge to restore the 5 per cent. cut in invalidity benefit when the benefit was made taxable. I wonder whether any date has been set for that, and what the Government are doing about the invalidity trap where those with earnings slightly below the upper limit can never qualify for the upper limit. What is going to be done to put that right?
Considering further the position of the handicapped themselves, what is the current thinking of the Government about the desirability of establishing as soon as possible a disablement income consisting of two parts: one part which would replace inability, or partial inability to earn and another part which would make a contribution towards the additional expenses which disabled people inevitably have? I should like to hear what the noble Lord has to say about that.
Moving from cash to discrimination, I should like to ask the Government what their views are—indeed, I should like to know what are the views of the House—on the possibility of legislation to make discrimination against the disabled unlawful. Many feel, like the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People to which the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, referred, that legislation is necessary to give sufficient backing to the disabled in their fight for greater equality of opportunity.
Speaking from these Benches, I am well aware of the danger of surrounding the individual with too many restrictions on his personal conduct, yet we on these Benches have fully supported legislation to deal with discrimination on grounds of race or sex. It may be that similar legislation is required to deal with discrim- 538 ination on grounds of disability and perhaps, too, on grounds of age. It would help us to decide this question if the Government would commission some thorough research into discrimination against the disabled. Perhaps the Minister could indicate the Government's thinking on these matters.
The Charter for the 80s asks that in each country there should be established an office or the appointment of an individual directly responsible to the head of Government to have primary responsibility for the implementation of a comprehensive plan dealing with disability. Are the Government satisfied that there is sufficient co-ordination and cohesion in their organisation for dealing with this matter through a Minister at the Department of Health and Social Security who also has responsibility for the whole complex social security system?
Finally, are the Government satisfied that, in the words of the charter:all necessary steps [are being taken] to ensure the fullest possible integration of and equal participation by people with disabilities in all aspects of the life of their communities"?
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Baroness Lane-Fox
My Lords, many of your Lordships already show much concern about the needs and aspirations of disabled people. The very provision this afternoon of extra space for wheelchairs on the Floor of the Chamber is proof of this, and it is something for which I certainly am extremely grateful. So it could seem as though it might almost be belabouring the point unnecessarily to parade our case once again. But there continue to be gaps in provision which really do call for attention, as we have heard from the two noble Lords who have already spoken. Thus, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, serves a very valuable purpose in initiating this debate in step with Charter for the 80s, and I am very grateful to him.
Rehabilitation is a much overworked word, but it has an important range of uses, so it is not surprising that it crops up very often in the charter. Last week, the Minister for disabled people, Mr. Hugh Rossi, told of seven new demonstration centres in medical rehabilitation, of RADAR's new communication aids centre and of the Department of Health and Social Security's support for an extra 30 occupational therapy students in the current academic year. The fact is, I believe, that until this academie year the department supported a new intake of 551 first year occupational therapy students. Earlier this year it was decided to increase the number of students to 581. And that was not all. The department also let health authorities know that there were some places available in schools for students individually sponsored by authorities. So an extra 54 students are being supported in this way, giving a total of 635 new occupational therapy students entering training this year.
These are three examples to illustrate the importance which Mr. Rossi places on rehabilitation, which he says he sees as a means of enabling someone to return to an independent and productive life which brings greater happiness all round. That was one of the ways in which he saw rehabilitation as a good investment for society as a whole. Of course, the Minister is absolutely right, and I believe that one of the finest means of rehabilitation is to be trained for, 539 and to get, an opening in gainful employment. Although the middle of a recession may not be the best moment for this, the marvel is that progress made in electronics and in the computer and microchip industry makes it feasible now for even very severely disabled people—those with flail upper limbs or respiratory troubles, for example—to have a much wider employment prospect. This is particularly relevant for patients at a place with which I am connected, the Phipps Respiratory Unit, so I do know quite a bit about it.
Of course, there are some whose physical condition allows them to work only part-time. Nevertheless, such new opportunities really do deserve the very maximum encouragement. Alas, as things are, there is a great disincentive to whatever part-time employment some disabled people can manage. On 23rd June there was a debate in your Lordships' House initiated by my Unstarred Question about partial incapacity to earn and the disincentive of the therapeutic earnings rule, when we discussed these matters, The fact is, in effect, that today a disabled employee who earns more than £16.50 per week (which is to rise to £20 a week very shortly) becomes liable to lose the whole of his invalidity benefit. Let me remind your Lordships that the basic rate of invalidity benefit will soon rise to £28.35 per week, and that is a sum which a disabled person just cannot afford to put in jeopardy.
During the course of our debate in June, the Minister was kind enough to explain that those who are disabled but who retain some capacity for work are debarred from normal incapacity benefit. The theory is, presumably, that it is not supposed to be in one's best health interests to work as much as one wants and as much as one can do. So the therapeutic earnings limit is the amount to which a doctor may prescribe work for a disabled patient; that is the theory. In practice, usually this is not what happens at all. No doctor ever prescribed work nor found a job for me—why should he have done so? Like may others, I took whatever job happened to appear which was within my capacity. The question of the earnings limit was a matter between me and the social security office, leaving me fairly puzzled that my keenness to work should be snubbed in this way. Was it really the general intention to restrict somebody severely disabled at a difficult point in his or her earnings level?
A happy aspect of the June debate was provided by my noble friend the Minister, and I quote:We have been persuaded that there is a problem and that we must look carefully at all possible solutions to it".There have been statements also from the Minister for disabled people, revealing that the present situation is seen to be unacceptable. The clearest ray of hope of creating a partial incapacity benefit appears to me to shine out from the report by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. This recommends that changes within the present law of invalidity benefit would be the easiest and cheapest method of achieving it. They claim that it would save the economy in the region of £5 million. I shall not presume to explain the basis of its arguments, but the co-authors have very good reason for contending there are fears that people now working full-time will filter in on the part-time level, but those fears can be provided 540 for by isolating certain illnesses of which those known to have fatigue as a characteristic would be prominent.
There had been fears that the BMA would not wish to undertake the assessment required. Now there is very clear evidence that the BMA would have no objection whatsoever to GPs carrying out an assessment of partial incapacity, provided that the doctors are authorised on a fee basis by the DHSS. It further appears that the BMA does not see any reason why provision of partial incapacity should represent any substantial cost to the economy, with the basic structure already there. It does appear that this particular time could be very propitious for the provision of partial incapacity benefit. There are two more reasons.
The Department of Employment has been good enough to say that every effort will be made to ensure that disabled people are able to participate in job-splitting schemes. This is most welcome, but the irony is that those who suffer partial incapacity may not be eligible to join such schemes, where the prerequisite is to have been in receipt of unemployment benefit—the sort one can receive only if one is seeking full-time employment. So that needs tidying up. My second point in favour of immediate action is a report prepared by the Open University for the European Economic Commission. In its final draft, it emphasised the need for an employment policy to be considered in conjunction with social security benefits in countries with no recognition or inadequate recognition of partial incapacity. It is believed that the report will carry considerable weight in policy development within the EEC.
It seems to me that we in this country have the chance now to try and make use of an important scheme, both economic and humane, in line with the Government's admirable philosophy to help make the very most of everyone's enterprise and initiative, despite their handicap or whatever. It appears that Ministers see the need to abolish the glaring anomaly which at present exists. They have spoken of the advice from the Social Service Advisory Committee, on which they rely to some extent, as on the work of the Civil Service as to the exact cost of the scheme. I do ask—I do more and implore—the SSAC to give this clear-cut scheme the favour of their wise counsel at the earliest opportunity.
At present, I understand that the Civil Service suggest that £100 million would be the expenditure involved in the report's proposals, compared with the report's estimate of a saving to the economy of £5 million at least. I ask them, please, to try to see the merit of our argument and, if possible, to move fast on a matter which has cried out for attention for a decade. Even if the scheme suggested did not succeed (and this I find hard to visualise) there is another categorical demand: for an end to the earnings restriction on invalidity basic income. This is contained in a very new document available from the Printed Paper Office. It is the Minutes of Evidence of the Treasury and Civil Service Committee's sub-committee in another place on the structure on personal income taxation and income support. This is one more indication that the thinking public is not prepared for the wish to work to be squashed in disabled people.
Finally, may I repeat that the chance to work remuneratively can be the best form of rehabilitation for disabled people. For this reason I humbly submit 541 that a partial incapacity benefit is an important factor in the charter under debate.
§ 3.50 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for bringing this matter before us again. It is obviously a subject upon which we need constantly to be reminded. There are still too many who regard disabled people as being a race apart. I was going to use the illustration of the sugar, as the noble Lord has already done; nevertheless I forgive him, and I apologise to him that I cannot remain for the whole of the debate.
In church we pray from time to time, in the words of the old Book, for all sorts and conditions of men. And many people forget—and there is something in all of us perhaps that forgets—that the disabled are in fact whole people. They are certainly as whole as the rest of us, with the same emotional and physical and spiritual needs as everybody else has. I would like to quote from the annual report of the Royal Association for the Deaf and Dumb. Of course, their affliction is not visible to the naked eye and they often feel passed over. Their annual report reads:Disabled people would like those who have no obvious recogniseable disability to realise that they share the same humanity, the same feelings as the rest of humanity. They would like the rest of humanity to know that they are just as entitled to have such feelings, however strong or passionate, irrational or sensitive, or sinful or idiocyncratic they might be, as their non-disabled counterparts. They would like to have these feelings recognised, accepted and valued. As long as disabled people are not accepted by their standards as real people, equal people, then whatever is done for them and with them is only, in their opinion, scratching the surface of the problem. Disabled people do not wish for a dichotomy of function and feelings. As whole persons they cannot see themselves as functioning to their own satisfaction unless their feelings also are taken into consideration".Among such feelings one of the most powerful is the sexual side of our nature. Society appears still to have very great reservations regarding the development of deep personal relationships between handicapped people, whether the handicap be mental or physical. Mencap (that is the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults) found public attitudes towards the mentally handicapped even harsher than for those who are physically handicapped in this respect. A public opinion survey recently revealed that only 29 per cent. of the people believed that mentally handicapped people should marry and should have children, though in fact they have the same urges and the same rights as we all have. Very often couples meet in institutions and are frequently drawn to one another and encouraged to think in terms of permanent relationships. We all must know of many such cases. They hope to set up home together and do in fact create ideal marriages, more ideal in very many cases than the marriages of those who have apparently little external handicap.
But if you want to set up home you must have a house, and finding separate self-contained accommodation is a very real problem today, for everybody, of course, but not least but rather most for those who have handicaps. Last week the General Synod of the Church of England passed by an overwhelming majority a resolution which acknowledged the role that inadequate housing plays in exacerbating health 542 problems and social problems, and called upon Her Majesty's Government to give higher priority to the construction of suitable housing. The housing of disabled people and their needs may be met in various ways; perhaps by mobility housing—that is to say, the adaptation of a building so that the doors are made wider to take chairs, where there are few steps and so on—where wheelchair units can be used.
In this area, sadly, the effects of cuts in public expenditure of over 50 per cent. have been quite devastating. I am told, and indeed it is in the Department of the Environment's housing and construction statistics, that for the first two quarters of 1981 the numbers of conversion and improvement adaptations averaged two per local authority per quarter, and the number of grants for adaptations in the private sector were less than that, less than two, with one intermediate grant per local authority each quarter. Thus, for the first two quarters of 1981 starts were made in only the same proportion of all local authority starts as in the first two quarters of 1979, and this despite last year with its special emphasis. Some local authorities are building no such houses at all; and there is an even greater drop, sadly, in the number of starts for housing associations. We have such a association, I am glad to say, in my diocese where particular concern for sheltered housing and mobility housing is made a most important end.
The figures which I have just given seem to indicate the end of the progress being made in the late 1970s, particularly in the trend to including special purpose housing among new council and housing association developments. Now the little construction that is being undertaken is entirely by specialists and there is a danger that disabled people will become isolated in ghettos. There is a need for more incentives, too, in the private sector, to recognise their role and responsibility in this area, and that with an ageing population it makes good commercial sense, apart from anything else, to include mobility housing in their developments.
We are all concerned, too, with the problems of access. Apparently the Prince of Wales drew a comparison with California, where, he says, every corner kerb on every public pavement is ramped for wheelchairs. Every public building must be accessible to the handicapped, every cinema must be equipped for wheelchairs, and all public parking facilities must provide a certain number of reserved spaces for the handicapped.
If I may again enter a personal note, in the diocese of Chelmsford we have just published a booklet of 51 pages entitled Can I Get In? which lists all the churches in the diocese. We have 660 churches, and I imagine that the other denominations have an equivalent number. They have all been listed with details of what is available and what is not in ways of getting into the place, provided, of course, that it is unlocked, which defies even those without handicap. This is a rather simple thing to do, though it took a lot of time, using a computer and one thing and another, but nevertheless it has been well received as at least a gesture in the right direction.
Physical access, however, is not to be seen as an end in itself. It is a first step, but without taking further steps it is a complete waste of time, like going to the 543 moon and then not getting out of the rocket. The disabled need to share very much more and to participate in all the things which we are enabled to do. Which brings us, of course, to financial matters, which have just been dealt with so comprehensively, if I may say so, that I need add little. May I quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech in this House last year. He said this:It should, I believe, be a principle of government that available resources should go first to the weakest and the most vulnerable. That means that even in a time of stringency we must try to ensure that those who begin life with mental or physical handicaps do not suffer further because of what we fail to do and inevitably end up at the bottom of a heap".—[Official Report, 14.1.81, col. 68.].Many people deplore the decision announced by the Chancellor last week to claw back the rises in social security benefits in November 1983, following the estimated overpayments of about 2.5 per cent. next year caused by falling inflation. This, if I may say so, seems to be a missed opportunity to increase slightly a benefit for the handicapped, who are among the weakest and most vulnerable. Indeed, the Parliamentary All-Party Disablement Group only last month noted the urgent need for a comprehensive disability incomes scheme. Such a scheme would involve bringing the incomes of people with disabilities at least up to the levels of those without, and would reform the system of social security benefits so that people with equally severe disablements, irrespective of how or where they were caused, would be entitled to similar weekly allowances or pensions at realistic rates. In turn, these allowances would greatly diminish the extent to which disabled people would depend on means-tested assistance. The Conservative Party, I need not remind the Minister, committed itself in its election manifesto to the creation of a coherent system of cash benefits to meet the costs of disability.
I close with another factor; that is, the spiritual needs of the disabled. The work of the Royal Association for the Deaf and Dumb, which I have already quoted, is primarily based on caring for profoundly deaf people of all ages. To help them in this work they have a trained lay staff. Spiritual care is provided by their chaplains. They work largely in London and, therefore, to a great degree in my own diocese. This dual approach, they claim, enables deaf people to realise that they are not a forgotten sector of the community as a result of the problems of communication and that they have the potential to play a full part in communal life.
The Queen's Speech included reference to a Health and Social Services Bill to implement the Government's "Care in the Community" proposals. Of course, the Churches support these proposals in large, but an unfortunate aspect of moving patients from long-term care, especially in mental handicapped hospitals, into the community is that, while spiritual and pastoral care is offered by chaplains financed through the NHS, no such provision is made for those needing continuing support from the statutory social services.
An International Year of Disabled Persons Working Group submitted a statement to the Department of Health and Social Security about this particular matter. It stated:
544The Working Group seeks assurance that attention will be paid to such omissions. Mentally handicapped patients in particular will require every assistance possible to establish themselves within the community: even where there is sufficient goodwill amongst caring congregations and clergy little can be achieved unless statutory workers, be they hostel staff, social workers or others, also acknowledge a responsibility to encourage and, if necessary, initiate links with local Churches where this is the wish of the individual.I certainly wish to identify myself with those sentiments.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, like others who have spoken, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell for initiating this important debate and for the thoughtful and moving speech with which he opened it. The fact that the subject has been debated before indicates the significance this House attaches to it. The Government have also made statements about disablement. But we cannot detach an assessment of the International Year of Disabled Persons from an analysis of the general economic and social policies of this Government. The vast majority of disabled people are still among the poorest and most vulnerable groups in our community. As the right reverend Prelate has just said in his constructive speech, the Conservative election manifesto stated that the disabled would be singled out for special help. But what is the Government's record on disability? I think it is our duty to examine this with great care.
By June 1980 the Government had already demonstrated their half-heartedness on disability to such an extent, as my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell reminded us, as to prompt an Opposition debate in the other place to draw attention to the Government's policies which were in conflict with their own manifesto commitment and which were creating hardship to thousands of disabled people. Some of those measures were: the 5 per cent. cut in invalidity benefit; the change in the linking period making it more difficult to qualify for that benefit; the increase in prescription charges from 20p to £1; the abolition of exceptional needs payments for disabled people not drawing supplementary benefit; the abolition of earnings related supplement for sickness benefit; the abolition of the Parker Morris space standards for council housing, which would make them less accessible for wheelchairs, and so on. The list, I regret to say, is not a short one. Therefore, any account of the Government's measures in this special Year for disabled people which the Minister may well give us later must be seen in the context of policies which have already reduced the standard of living and created hardship for hundreds of thousands of disabled people.
Let us examine some of these measures as outlined in the DHSS booklet which all of us read at the time with considerable interest: IYDP and After—the United Kingdom Response. What has really happened to disabled people? The section in this booklet on social security headed "Personal Finance" contains the dubious statement, on page 41:The protection which the Government has given to long term and sick disabled people despite the economic problems of the past year is no mean achievement".This protection included—again, I give some examples—the doubling of the blind persons' tax allowance from £180 to £360 a year; an increase in 545 mobility allowance to £16.50 a week; a 90 per cent. grant for home insulation to recipients of mobility allowance or attendance allowance who were also receiving supplementary benefit or housing benefit, and extension for eligibility for invalid care allowance to non-relatives. It would be quite wrong—indeed, it would be churlish—for me to deny that these measures were of some assistance to disabled people, but only 30,000 out of 128,000 registered blind people benefited from the increase in tax allowance and only 21,500 people received mobilituy allowance, and this does not include thousands of disabled people over 65 years or the many blind and mentally handicapped people with severe mobility problems. The extension of the invalid care allowance reinforced the discrimination against married women who are not eligible for the benefit but who make up the vast majority of those caring for elderly and handicapped dependants.
An old friend of mine who is blind called to see me at the weekend. He said that because he had not made an application for mobility before he had reached the age of 65 he is not now entitled to make the claim at all. That is reaching the heights of unfairness and, indeed, absurdity.
The noble Lord, Lord Banks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, referred to the 5 per cent. cut in invalidity pension from November 1980. The House will recall that the reason given for the cut was that IVB would be ultimately subject to tax. But the date for this recedes further into the future and as many invalidity pensioners would have incomes below the tax ceiling they are being doubly penalised. I strongly support the case which the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, made in her speech. Again, changes in the statutory sick pay scheme made in the Social Security and Housing Benefits Act will adversely affect many disabled people. For example, it will reduce the linking period from eight weeks to two weeks and will particularly hit disabled people who suffer from short periods of incapacity; there will be a lower rate of sick pay for lower earners; and by shifting the responsibility for payment from the state to employers there is the danger of reinforcing prejudice against disabled employees and worsening their job prospects.
Changes in the Industrial Injuries Scheme are often presented as bringing more assistance to the most severely disabled—no benefit for disability assessed at less than 10 per cent. and reduced payment for 40 per cent. and less—but in fact it is a matter of depriving one group of needy people to pay another, in line with all the Government's "nil cost" social security measures. Disabled people and their organisations have had a firm rebuff from the Government on the call for a general, non-contributory disablement income based on need, not cause of disability, with a costs allowance and provision for partial incapacity; for the extension of mobility allowance; for the extension of eligibility for ICA to married women and, eventually, a general careers benefit.
I should now like to say a brief word about the document, Care in the Community. As the House will know, the professional and voluntary organisations welcomed this consultative document and its commitment to bring mentally handicapped and mentally ill people out of hospital, but they are greatly disappointed by the Government's rejection of their 546 proposals on the planning and structure of services, and especially their unanimous insistence that a new injection of funds is necessary. Wales—and this is an area which I know well, and in which I have been privileged to work in this area—appeared to be leading the way with the announcement by the Secretary of State for Wales, Mr. Nicholas Edwards, that he would be providing £1 million of extra cash each year beginning in 1983–84 for an initial period of five years, building up to £23 million per annnum additional expenditure after 10 years. We were delighted to hear of that initiative. However, our delight was slightly dampened by the simultaneous announcement that this extra money would be taken from the existing National Health Service budget. This seemed to us to be really negating the objectives which the Government said that they were pursuing. The effect of this on other parts of the National Health Service in Wales will become clearer after health authorities have evaluated the impact of nil growth—that is, the £52 million holdback.
Progress on transferring people from long stay institutions into the community is already being impeded by the crisis in housing—to which reference has already been made—and the personal social services. The Government plan to extend joint financing to include education and housing and voluntary organisations and, where the object of a scheme is moving people out of hospitals, allowing 100 per cent. joint financing to be extended from the standard three years to 10 years, with tapering over a further three years. This of course will be helpful, but again questions arise.
In many areas joint financing is now being used to rescue basic services such as meals-on-wheels. When hospitals and homes have closed, the money saved has contributed to cuts or asset stripping, and there has not been a transfer of resources into community services. Despite the extension of joint funding, local authorities are understandably reluctant to take on a commitment with revenue consequences for the future. It is obvious from discussions at conferences of local authorities and professional bodies concerned, that they do not believe that the same Government that is each year turning the screw on the rate support grant will in fact effect a central transfer of funds from the National Health Service to local authorities. Perhaps the Minister can give us some reassurance on this point when he replies.
Thus I move to personal social services. It does no good for Ministers to claim repeatedly that there has been a 5 per cent. increase in spending on local authority personal social services. This just does not square with what is happening in individual authorities, and the experience of voluntary organisations involved in the Section 2 project, nor the conclusions of the Social Services Select Committee in another place. I learnt a great deal from the report of the Select Committee in another place, especially as regards the difficulties which now confront local authorities. The House will bear in mind that the Select Committee concerned is composed of Members of Parliament of all parties.
The Select Committee also noted the exacerbation of the problem of discrepancies between local authorities in the provision and quality of their services—a problem that has continued since the 1970 547 Act came into force. The greatest extent of the variation is among those London boroughs that have imposed higher increases on charges and greater cuts. RADAR found that differences in charges, in definitions and criteria led to such glaring anomalies as the case of the man who, when rehoused by the Greater London Council because of increasing disability, could no longer claim for assistance with the payment of telephone rental charges because he had crossed the street and was now in a new borough and this new borough applied a different criteria of need from that used in the other borough where he originally resided. This kind of absurdity must be brought to an end.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford referred to housing—another gravely neglected area, as he pointed out so effectively. In October last year the Minister of Housing announced that disabled people wanting to adapt their homes would be able to obtain grants of 75 per cent., compared to the previous limit of 50 per cent., and 90 per cent. in cases of hardship. This was a most welcome and helpful measure, but it must be seen in the context of the appalling statistics on housing starts for disabled people. The right reverend Prelate gave some of the figures. From 1980–81 the number of starts by local authorities in wheelchair housing and mobility housing fell from 5,603 to 2,405. In the same year, wheelchair and mobility housing, as a percentage of all local authority total starts, fell from 14.6 per cent. to 10.5 per cent. and for housing associations from 3.7 per cent. to 0.7 per cent. The figures for the first two quarters of this year indicate that there will be no improvement. This is extremely sad. I hope that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary when he gets back to his department will call his right honourable friend the Minister to him and discuss these matters so that we may make some real progress and not be flailing the air when we talk about them. The evidence seems to me to be clear, and we would like to know what action the right honourable gentleman and his noble friend are now proposing to take.
The swingeing cuts in the housing investment programme in recent years have reversed the steady progress which was being made since the mid-1970s in local authority and housing association provision of wheelchair and mobility housing. Encouragingly, much of this was being built within ordinary housing schemes, thus integrating disabled people—a very important step. Now there is little chance of much progress on sheltered housing, satellite housing and "core and cluster" schemes for people coming out of institutions; or what building does take place will be in the form described by the right reverend Prelate as "special need ghettos", and there I must agree with him.
The extension of joint financing to include housing is totally inadequate. There should be specific grants to housing authorities with target numbers for provision of special needs housing. At the very least I hope that when asking councils to increase their capital spending on housing, the Government will urge them to give priority to those with special needs.
I turn now to what is probably the most important disablement issue of all—namely, that of prevention. 548 Again I regret to say that the response of the Government has been less than encouraging. The prevention of the birth of handicapped babies starts with preconception care, as the general health of the mother is one of the most important factors in the healthy development of the foetus and the production of a healthy child. Poor nutrition and smoking during pregnancy increase the likelihood of a low birth weight baby, with subsequent susceptibility to infection, and continuing health problems later on. Government support for health education has been small. In 1981–82 they gave £4,750,000 to the Health Education Council, of which £900,000 was spent on the anti-smoking campaign, while the tobacco industry spent £100 million on advertising. There should be a ban on all tobacco advertising and sponsorship, mandatory health education in all school curricula, and more stringent regulations on chemicals and noise at the place of work, which research indicates to have an adverse effect on the foetus. It is also of little use to urge mothers at risk during pregnancy to eat properly, have sufficient heating and so forth if they cannot afford it because of low standards of living due to unemployment and other problems.
The maternity grant was made non-contributory this year but, again, it is a totally inadequate £25. On the Government's own figures, it should be increased to £114 to restore its original value, while Parents Magazine of January this year estimated that the cost of basic essentials for a new baby was in the region of £277. Several Government Ministers have publicly deplored the atmosphere of many ante-natal clinics which deter many women from attending them, but no effective measures to improve the situation have been taken. The Spastics Society has, again, long urged the establishment of minimum standards in the provision of maternity and obstetric services, as did the Select Committee on Social Services in its second report; indeed, this was the argument advanced in the four previous reports on the same subject.
The cost of the state supporting a disabled person over a lifetime has been put at between £300,000 and £500,000. It is strange—I must say this with all the emphasis that I can command—that a Government so concerned with saving money do not take the most minimal and cost-effective measures to prevent disability.
My noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell has drawn attention to the concern about the implementation of the Education Act 1981. Although I should like to have covered some of the educational ground, when she replies, my noble friend Lady Jeger proposes to deal with this subject and I shall leave it there. However, I should like to say a few brief words about employment, which was also a subject mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox.
The employment figures for disabled people are depressing in the extreme. The facts are that unemployment among disabled people is twice the national average. In July this year 70 per cent. of registered disabled were employed compared with 30 per cent. of the total workforce; 50 per cent. had been out of work for over a year compared with 25 per cent. of the general workforce; the average level of compliance with the 3 per cent. quota is 1.2 per cent. in the public sector and 1.7 per cent. in the private sector, 549 with only 35 per cent. of firms in compliance. That is really disgraceful; yet there has been only 10 prosecutions under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944. Although I do not deny the value of educative campaigns, such as "Fit for Work", it is clear that exclusive reliance on them has not protected disabled people. I am very pleased that the Government have decided to retain the quota, but they now have a duty to see that it is enforced, with proper penalties.
The Government's excuse for their poor record on disability and lack of progress on the outstanding issues is, first, that there is no more money and, secondly, that progress can be made through better use of existing resources. The first statement is just not tenable. At the same time as the Government were cutting invalidity benefits, they were handing back £1,400 million in tax cuts to 5 per cent. of the richest people in this community. On any basis, that is indefensible. I know that noble Lords opposite are as concerned as I am about this, and I hope that they will press the Government that they support to see the unreasonableness of such an attitude. Again £500 million was suddenly and properly found from the Contingency Fund for the Falklands war, and there are other great plans in process.
We are frequently reminded from the Benches opposite—and I am bound to make this point because the noble Lord may make it—of the shortcomings of Labour Governments. No Government are perfect. Labour Governments have been known to make mistakes and I am the first to concede that, although not often and not big ones. Nevertheless, they have made their mistakes. But under the Labour Government when public spending in almost every other area was being cut back, spending on cash benefits alone for chronically sick and disabled people rose from £474 million in 1974 to £1,574 million in 1979, and spending on centrally provided services for disabled people almost trebled. At a time when we were deeply concerned about the problems created by public expenditure, this is what we did.
In the other place the Minister for Disabled People said that the Government "readily" accepted the motion calling for the Government to initiate discussions with all the relevant organisations before the end of 1981 on a programme of action to maintain the impetus of the International Year in the years ahead. We are still waiting for the Government to do this. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne—for whom we all have a great respect—will have something to say to us about the Government's intentions when he winds up the debate.
I must conclude this rather long speech, for which I apologise, but I think that a number of things needed to be said. Perhaps I cannot do better in conclusion than quote from the Charter for the 80s. Tributes have properly been paid to those who have played their part in various areas of the United Kingdom. I should like to pay my own special tribute to my right honourable friend Mr. Alf Morris for the contribution that he has made. As the House will appreciate, he was one of the moving spirits behind this charter. Paragraph 31 says:People with disabilities have rights equal to those of all other people in their societies, including the right to participate in and contribute to all aspects of economic, social and political life. A society which shuts out any segment of its members is an impover- 550 ished society. Each social structure should be planned and organized in all of its aspects to provide opportunities for the full participation of people with disabilities".That is the challenge. The Government have not so far distinguished themselves. Although they say that they have money to spend, some money was handed out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week and more money is to come in the Budget—indeed, we are told, very large sums of money, tremendous sums of money. We await with interest how that will be spent. But a small percentage of that sum which is available as a help to the disabled would make an enormous contribution to them, to their way of life and to their hopes for the future. The Government should now try to rescue their reputation by showing a real commitment to progress for disabled people by initiating discussions and drawing up a comprehensive plan for the coming decade, of which they and we can be proud.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for having introduced this important debate. I want to apologise to him in advance, because I am afraid that I shall have to be absent from the Chamber for an hour or so owing to a previous commitment, but I shall certainly be back to hear the winding up speeches.
It was with some misgiving that I put down my name to speak in this debate, not through any lack of sympathy with the subject, but because I cannot claim familiarity with it or, indeed, the expertise that other speakers have in this field. My speech will, therefore, be brief; I am here mainly to listen and to learn. I have, of course, read the Charter for the 80s, and it would be extremely difficult to quarrel with any of its ultimate objectives. Therefore, it would seem to be an important question how far these admirable intentions are implemented in domestic law and practice. For instance, we have had the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act on the statute book since 1970, and I understand that there are serious doubts about its effectiveness.
I should like to devote most of my remarks to the question of employment. This is one of the themes which the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, would have touched on but for the fact that unfortunately he ran out of time, because he would have done it a great deal better than me. It was also a matter which was touched on in a very eloquent speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, in particular in relation to the partially disabled.
Here again it is difficult to quarrel with the aims expressed in paragraphs 49 to 56 of the charter, but there are difficulties which it would be foolish to overlook in a generally cold climate for jobs. The question of jobs for the disabled is discussed in Chapter 13, paragraphs 13.26 to 13.30, of the report of your Lordships' Select Committee on Unemployment, which was debated last night. In May 1981 the unemployment rate among disabled people was 15.7 per cent., as against 10.4 per cent. among the whole working population. Other noble Lords with more experience than myself in this field will possibly have more up-to-date figures, but I should be surprised if the gap had been narrowed. I am afraid that I missed 551 it if the noble Lord, Lord Clwdwyn, had more recent figures up his sleeve. Another discouraging statistic is that in October 1980 45 per cent. of all unemployed disabled people had been out of work for over a year—that is, had joined the growing army of the long-term unemployed—and 21 per cent. for over three years.
As we all know, the quota system has been in operation since 1944, but, in the view of the MSC at any rate, the decreasing number of disabled people who choose to register has made the system impracticable, and the MSC has proposed to replace the 1944 Act with a general statutory duty upon employers (linked to a code of practice) to take all reasonable steps to promote equality of employment opportunity for disabled people.
In paragraph 13.29 of its report, the Committee on Unemployment approved the MSC's proposals on the ground that many disabled people dislike the quota system, and that it does nothing to ensure,that the disabled person is employed at the highest level for which his abilities fit him and for which his disability is not relevant".The unemployment committee also stressed, in its recommendations on the public employment service, that disablement resettlement officers in job centres must be given the time and resources to do their job properly.
Those, in a nutshell, were the views of your Lordships' unemployment committee, but of course I did not know whether they accorded with the views of those most concerned with this problem, and so I turned for guidance to the CORAD Report, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, drew my attention. There has been a certain shortage of documents for this debate and I am afraid that I managed to get my hands on a copy of the CORAD Report only at the last minute, and so I have been unable to read it all, but I have read the sections on employment. Paragraphs 38 to 52 in Chapter 2 outline a wide range of cases of what is clearly discrimination against the disabled for jobs that they could perfectly well do, and I noted the summary in paragraph 2.52:Of all the types of discrimination experience by disabled people, it is probably the field of employment which offers the closest parallel to discrimination on the grounds of race or sex".I read that with particular interest knowing, as I do, that some of your Lordships are in favour of antidiscrimination legislation for the disabled.
Next I turned to paragraphs 3.15 to 3.20, on the existing statutory provision. Paragraph 3.16 describes the shortcomings of the quota scheme. Despite these shortcomings, paragraphs 3.18 and 3.19 indicate considerable, in fact great, reluctance on the part of the authors to see the scheme wound up, though paragraph 3.20 seems to show that many employers of over 250 people have adopted policies and good practice on the new lines proposed by the MSC.
Chapter 4 of the CORAD Report comes out in favour of anti-discrimination legislation, and the authors do not think that employment should be exempted from this. Chapter 5, and in particular paragraph 5.22, recommends that,any measure designed to improve employment opportunities for disabled people should include a quota or quotas element that is enforced".552 That is the main conclusion of the CORAD Report in this field.
However, in Appendix VIII there is a very strongly argued minority report by Mr. Dennis Dodds, who feels that the committee did less than justice to the MSC's proposals. On the grounds of,the practical impossibility of meeting an obligatory quota of 3 per cent. from voluntary registrations amounting to only 1.9 per cent.and also of regional variations in both the incidence of disablement and employment opportunities, he concludes that,an enforceable obligation on employers supported and amplified by a statutory code of practice (similar to the Highway Code) seems to have a much greater likelihood of promoting the employment interests of disabled people … than the present obligation which, though strict in form, is inherently without substance and is accordingly ineffective in practice".This poses some considerable difficulties for anyone attempting an objective approach to the type of employment policy that is really in the best interests of disabled people, and I shall listen with great interest to the views of other noble Lords, noble Baronesses and noble Ladies on this point. I think that it would also be very helpful if at the end of the debate the Government would state their approach to employment policy for the disabled. If it is the case that they have decided to retain the quota system and to reject the MSC's proposals, it would be of very great help to have the arguments clearly deployed.
I want to turn very briefly to my own party's approach to the general problems of disablement. Our Green Paper, No.11, entitled Attacking Poverty—I have it in my hand—on page 13 advances the case for a general disability incomes scheme, payable irrespective of cause of disability, on the grounds that the present system of preference for industrial disability is unfair. However, the paper recognises the financial constraints and comes down in favour of a graduated approach which would be implemented in the following order:
- (a) bring civilian disabled people's benefits in line with industrial benefit levels in a sequence of steps;
- (b) improve work incentives for partially disabled people by removing the earnings conditions and tapering the benefit payable—
That, I think, meets the point on the therapeutic earnings rule raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox—
- (c) remove the age limit on entitlement to mobility allowance—
That is in accordance with a recommendation of Age Concern—
- (d) improve take-up of benefits by the poorest disabled people through support for an independent local advisory/advocacy service;
- (e) commission research on the current and projected numbers of disabled people, their type and degree of disability, with a view to devising a general disability incomes scheme.
I should emphasise that those proposals come from a discussion document and have not yet been adopted as party policy. Therefore, it would be of great interest to me personally, and of great value to us in our policy formulation in this important field, to know whether that order of priorities commends itself to those of your Lordships who have long experience of these matters. I shall certainly value any advice or comments either during this interesting and valuable debate or later, outside the Chamber.
§ 4.39 p.m.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, I join other speakers in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for having introduced the debate in such a helpful manner and for having raised the subject today. As your Lordships will know, the noble Lord has himself been untiring in promoting the interests of disabled people, and it is timely and and appropriate that we should be discussing this charter 10 months after the International Year, since it arose from that year. I was chairman for Scotland of the International Year, and the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, just now said some very kind things about me—they were quite undeserved. However, I can endorse what he said—that during that year a great deal was done in the United Kingdom. I am sure a great deal was done in other countries, too, but we were able to see it fairly closely here.
A lot of people entered into the spirit of the Year. I do not think that those who were leading it in the other three parts of the United Kingdom would dissent from my opinion that one of the most important achievements was the great increase in awareness and knowledge among the general public. In other words, more progress was made generally, I believe, in a single year than one could previously have expected over a period of several ordinary years.
I must again declare a personal interest, in that I am in the category of 80 per cent. war disabled, because the cause was a bullet which went through my middle. I was an officer in the regular army at the time, and my view for nearly 40 years has been that, on the whole, war pensioners have been well cared for, particularly when they have met medical setbacks. I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Haig is to speak later in the debate. He and I took part in a number of occasions and activities during the International Year in Scotland, and he is the president of the Royal British Legion (Scotland), being the son of the distinguished founder of the British Legion. But my concern since the mid-'sixties, when I was one of those who started raising the subject of the disabled in another place, the Commons, has been to bring about a rational system for those disabled people who have been disabled from other causes—causes which, particularly, were not war or recognised industrial accidents.
Progress has been made since the mid-'sixties, but there are still anomalies and a labyrinth of procedures. I should like to refer to one milestone which was passed in that earlier period. It was an announcement which was made in reply to a Question of mine in the Commons on 23rd October 1967. That was the announcement by the then Secretary of State for Social Services that there was to be a survey. It was initiated and became the Amelia Harris survey, which reported in May 1971. That was over two years before the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 had even been introduced as a Bill. But at that time almost nothing was known about what was referred to as the problems of the civilian disabled.
The Amelia Harris report was itself limited. It was a sampling operation. Moreover, it was only for persons in certain circumstances over the age of 16, and it did not apply to Northern Ireland. But for the first time it enabled people in this country to make estimates of the disabled people in various categories, because the 554 report introduced a system of categories, over the country.
I will speak on only two or three points, because the charter ranges over a large number of subjects. First of all, access. This is very much emphasised in the charter, and in paragraph 4 of the declaration, at the beginning, it is stated:Throughout history humanity has erected barriers, both physical and social, which exclude from full participation in its communities those judged to be different because of physical or mental variation. Buildings and transportation are mostly inaccessible to many people with disabilities".That was not intentional, and I will illustrate my observation, which I am sure will be corroborated by others. As the right reverend Prelate drew to the attention of your Lordships earlier this afternoon, churches, chapels and cathedrals are among the worst buildings in this respect, with many steps and an absence of handrails—and this is true of all creeds and denominations. It clearly was not intended: it simply illustrates that this was not taken into consideration as a serious factor until the recent past. Those who were building such buildings, including Sir Christopher Wren, were thinking of other considerations at the time.
Some significant progress was made last year, your Lordships will remember, and initiated in this House. That was to put some teeth (as this was called) into the 1970 Act. This had been recommended by several committees, including the Silver Jubilee Committee, and the clause that went into the first Bill that passed through this House indeed carried out what was recommended by those committees. This was that there should be a new approach and different arrangements for dealing with new buildings for public use. I remind your Lordships that it was during last summer, when a Scottish Bill was passing through this House at its Committee stage, that a clause which had been tabled by me was adopted by the Government. It was extended to the rest of the United Kingdom in a later Bill.
I must draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the procedures for setting up the prescribed machinery have been somewhat slow, and I shall be glad to hear from my noble friend when he replies this evening whether he can give us information on this. I may be incorrect, but I have the feeling that there has been rather more progress in Scotland than south of the Border. There is a different procedure being adopted in Scotland, and I should like to point out that every local authority in Scotland has designated an access officer. Indeed, when that Bill was going through last summer we found that there were only two local authorities in Scotland who had by that time not done so. So some progress is being made.
Then I come to the related question of transport. During the International Year I think that the public transport bodies in this country went to a great deal of trouble, and that meant that they themselves discovered some new problems in addition to the ones with which they had been familiar. There was a day seminar, for example, held by the airline companies and the Airports Authority at Gatwick, which I attended. I can tell your Lordships that now, at airports, special arrangements are made for the deaf. They can go to a certain part of a waiting lounge and 555 then be able to hear announcements and be given information which they need.
Another advance has been the electric buggy at Gatwick. Unfortunately, it is not available at other airports yet; but those very long passages in airports, which are difficult for some disabled people, can now be dealt with much more easily with the buggy. I am perhaps myself an illustration, as I can only do about 40 metres at a time without having to perch or sit. That limitation has meant that in the past I used to make use of those combinations of litter bins and ashtrays upon which to perch, because that was the only thing on which one could perch going down these apparently endless corridors. More than once anxious ladies came up to me and asked me whether I was aware that I was on fire. I can report that I do not now have to do that as much as I did in the past.
A great deal more has been done, and there is more seating at suitable stages on railway platforms and at airports. But there is still much to be done, and I would draw attention to the whole question of car-parking. We have had debates in your Lordships' House about this. The Department of Transport are supposed to be rationalising the whole system of disabled parking signs. One of the matters which must be put right is the question of abuse, because the present system is such that able-bodied people quite rightly suspect that a lot of abuse is possible because the system has not been properly worked out.
My Lords, what I have been speaking about is all helping to carry out the principles of equality and full participation, but when we speak of barriers or transport we must bear in mind the very special arrangements that have to be made for the completely incapacitated. Only last week we read in the press about the boy who was so paralysed that he could only communicate by moving his eyes. I know of similar cases of all ages and have met them in the past. We cannot assume that the kind of arrangements which we have been discussing in general for most categories of disabled people can cater for people who are as disabled as that. So we always have to bear in mind that there are some for whom very special arrangements will have to be made.
We only heard of that case, I would remind your Lordships, because of the damages that had been awarded. If it had not been caused by an accident for which somebody had been found responsible, we probably would have not have heard about that case at all. That raises the whole question of damages and no-fault compensation which we discussed at the beginning of this year in a debate in your Lordships' House initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, on the Pearson Report. That raises the question of liability, but there is no time for that today.
My Lords, one of the aims of the charter is dissemination of information. An important part of this, I believe, is that more should be known about different kinds of disability; for example, mental illness, deafness, particularly among the deaf and dumb, lungs—those who can move only in a limited way because of loss of breath—and epileptics, who seem perfectly all right but may suddenly collapse. Greater knowledge and awareness among the public will encourage people with such disabilities to venture 556 beyond their own doors and to circulate. It will enable them to live a full life alongside the able-bodied.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, who was not here at the beginning of this debate, has asked me to say that she would have been speaking in this debate, but that she has been attending a conference on incontinence at the Royal College of Physicians. This is a subject of utmost importance about which she is very concerned. Sufferers from incontinence need rehabilitation and the greatest support and understanding. The noble Baroness has such close experience with the subjects that we are discussing today that I am sorry she is not enlightening your Lordships with her experience on this occasion. I warmly thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and those who have made it possible for us to discuss Charter for the 80s and the rehabilitation services proclaimed by Rehabilitation International.
My Lords, I have travelled to many countries in the world and have seen how often developing countries still look to Britain for much inspiration and advice on matters relating to overcoming disability. It is a service well worth giving. In some countries, I have been impressed with how much can be done with very little money. In many countries there are shortages of wheelchairs. The charter stresses that Governments must be encouraged to give disabled people the things which enable them to rehabilitate to their full potential. I wholly endorse this. In Sri Lanka a man came up the hill to speak to my noble kinsman and myself. He propelled himself on his hands and his behind. He had had poliomyelitis and had no wheelchair. He had been told that he would get a chair only if he went into residential care. He did not want to give up living in the community with his friends. In the bush of Kenya a man came to me and asked about wheelchairs. His wife could not walk, he told me. I wished that I had had two wheelchairs with me. I advised him to try to contact the Red Cross. I often think about him; he wanted a chair so badly.
The International Year of Disabled Persons 1981 did a great deal in many countries to bring the needs of disabled people to the fore. Disability is not an easy subject as it embraces so many different aspects of accident and disease. Prevention of disability is stressed in the charter. Prevention of sporting accidents should be closely studied; they involve so many young lives. Prevention can be achieved by vaccination and injection. Thus the ill effects of rubella on child bearing, the bad effects of the rhesus-negative factor, of poliomyelitis and even of leprosy can be avoided. Good and well organised primary health care is essential if preventive medicine is to carry on. Of course, much disability would be avoided if there were no wars. I am sure that many people, as I was, were touched to the depths of their souls when they saw on television Mother Theresa of Calcutta going to the rescue of the mentally-handicapped children who were marooned in their hospital in the war-torn city of Beirut.
The charter stresses the need for rehabilitation to reach everyone who needs it. Rehabilitation is not just the physical means of helping someone to achieve their goal; it is also the spiritual and psychological
557 aspects. The need to have the will to want to rehabilitate is vital. It is very difficult to succeed with a patient who turns his face to the wall and wants to die. He must feel wanted and needed, and there must be a life worth living at the end of the tunnel to encourage him. Rehabilitation can be hard work for everyone; it needs enthusiasm, energy and dedication.
We are fortunate to have some splendid doctors and therapists working in this field, and also some nurses who see how vital is rehabilitation if their patients are to succeed. I am certain that we need better links in some areas between the hospitals and the communities. We need more community physiotherapists and occupational therapists who can show people how to use aids and to cope in their own homes. The spinal unit at Oswestry has prepared the way for patients with a charge nurse visiting the home and helping to advise the family, and this has been without doubt of great benefit to many people.
The different disabilities are so specialised and the needs so varied that the generic social worker has not been helpful in the confusing world of disabled people. How can a social worker who has to help the elderly, the delinquent young, children in need and many other necessities, know the needs of the blind, the deaf, the incontinent, the arthritic, the sufferer from spina bifida or cystic fibrosis, the spinally-injured, the rheumatic-diseased, and many other disabilities plus the mentally-handicapped and the mentally ill? Great tribute ought to be paid to the many voluntary specialised organisations who gather information about the needs of their members and can be of great value to the statutory organisations if professional jealousy does not get in the way.
In working for and with disability, great humility and understanding is needed by the statutory people, by the voluntary organisations, by the disabled people themselves and by their families. If good rehabilitation is to take place and people with disabilities are to be successfully integrated into the community, much co-operation and the will to work together is needed. A disabled person can mean a disabled family. It took my noble kinsman and myself five months to get permission to get a ramp at the entrance to a block of flats. How much longer might it take to get planning permission for a hostel for mentally-handicapped people? Charter for the 80s stresses the fullest possible integration of and equal participation by people with disabilities in all aspects of life in their communities.
I was invited to Leicester a few weeks ago and was told that that city employed an access officer, someone trained in the need for access for disabled people. That officer has proved to be of such benefit that an assistant was being appointed.
So many unnecessary mistakes are made by people not following the code of practice. I serve on the corporation of two new towns; Peterlee and Newton Aycliffe in County Durham. To save money, the corporation office moved to a disused factory. Having had a very adequate lavatory suitable for someone in a wheelchair which was used by everyone in their previous office, at the last meeting I attended I discovered the new lavatory in the factory had been made completely inaccessible by placing expensive fixed rails on either side. This has often happened all over the country, on many lavatories on the motorways, by 558 people who get a fixed idea in their heads that fixed rails are the answer. There are splendid rails which can be hinged up and down and cater for all who have different disabilities and needs.
Aids are sometimes vital necessities to the rehabilitation of disabled people. I feel it is now time, with the reorganisation of the health service, to get this vital source of independence efficiently organised. Many aids cost considerable money and much has been wasted. This is not the fault of the disabled people; it is the fault of a Cinderella service. The calibre of people working in this field has not always been of the best and the most caring. The social services in many districts have put it a long way down their list of priorities.
Great credit ought to be paid to the aids centres. The first one was organised by the Disabled Living Foundation. Last year I was invited to officially open the one in Leeds. These centres help to train professional people and give the chance to the consumer to see what is available for themselves. I think it is time each health region had an aid centre jointly funded by the health authority and the social service department with local depots. This would bring the people serving the needs of disability together. So often the disabled person does not know who to go to as aids are supplied some by one body and some by another. The general practitioner generally does not know either, so there is confusion all round.
Rehabilitation services need to be brought together in real team co-operation. It is encouraging to hear that the British Medical Association is researching into the ways in which information technology is being used to assist the disabled. I have so often heard doctors say after years of practising when they come in personal contact with a disability that they had never dreamt it was anything like it really is. So much more could be done to educate the public. A tutor in a college told me the other day that he had gone to Canada on a year's exchange. He took his family. His daughter went to a Canadian primary school. Every child in that school had to spend a whole day in a wheelchair. These are the architects, doctors, and town planners of the future. Some countries such as Canada are more advanced in their planning and attitudes to disabled people.
Advances differ considerably. At the NAIDEX exhibition the other day I saw a car from France which could be driven by the voice. Another one was at the Electrical Engineers' prize-giving. An exhibit for the benefit of the disabled was driven by a girl who had no arms due to Thalidomide. She used a joy-stick. I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, showed great interest and drove the car as he was good enough to give over the prize to the delighted inventor. These aids give independence and widen horizons of severely disabled people. This is good rehabilitation.
Some attitudes are not so helpful, and the charter would not accept them. The correct aid can assist the handicapped person to remain at home with his family. Some aids are essential if the handicapped person is to remain in the community. Too much pressure on a family where there is a heavy disabled person who needs lifting, such as a stroke victim or sufferer from multiple sclerosis, may break down under the stress and frustrations of a bureaucratic system. I will appreciate an answer from the Government about 559 means testing the blind, deaf, dumb and crippled persons, et cetera under Clause 12 of the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Bill which is to be debated by your Lordships this coming Monday. Means testing disabled people and their families who desperately may need a bath lift or stair lift could just be the last straw that breaks the camel's back.
When a wife has to overcome the emotional stress of coping with a husband who dribbles and gets very depressed and is almost impossible to move, is not trying to preserve the last ounce of dignity important? I ask your Lordships to think very hard about this. I feel the criteria should be on need, and the assessment should be correct. I will be bringing the matter up on Monday.
I should like to thank The Times newspaper for some of the excellent articles that it has printed about the experiences of disabled people. I refer to one by Sue Jones. The custodian at the gateway to a 13th century manor house in the Midlands, which was open to the public, told her, "You cannot come in here". She asked, "Why?" He pointed to a notice on the wall stating that wheelchairs were not admitted. The Country Landowners' Association is now encouraging such places to be humane and helpful towards disabled people. Maybe this helpful approach was stimulated by such an article.
It is encouraging that much more out and about is being done, but London remains a major black spot for disabled people. No consideration is given to the parking cars driven by severely disabled people by police and traffic wardens. I should love to discuss this matter with them, and the kerbs are as high as ever. On Monday night I attended a dinner for the doctors and scientists visiting London from America and Canada, who, with our experts, are discussing ways of regenerating the spinal cord. Some of the American members of the Spinal Associations were in wheelchairs and had tried to see London. They were amazed and appalled at the kerbs and difficulties of getting around.
Up and down the country there are great differences on how local authorities and individuals treat and consider the needs of disabled people. Two conference halls have been opened this year costing millions of pounds. The one at Harrogate, costing about £27 million, allows only two disabled people in wheelchairs. The one in Cardiff allows 20. Why should there be such a difference? I am told that in Canada and the United States of America there is legislation so that disabled people must be let into public buildings. I had hoped the goodwill of so many people would have meant that this was not necessary. But when this kind of situation occurs, one wonders. The banning of disabled people in Harrogate is very disturbing because there are several residential homes for the disabled, and integrating them into the community is of the utmost importance to their quality and enjoyment of life. One of the homes is a Dr. Barnardo's school which has just opened and I had the pleasure officially to do this. It is a most excellent rehabilitation unit with three independent living flats, so that the teenagers before leaving school can be "fed" gradually into the community. The situation at 560 the conference hall is very damaging to their rehabilitation; and what makes matters worse is that a town like Harrogate made its prosperity out of disablility, as it was a spa town. In Northallerton, in North Yorkshire again, the post office was completely reconstructed last year. Steps were allowed even though there was room for a ramp. At Murton in County Durham the ex-servicemen's club has been redesigned to incorporate six steps. It goes on and on.
British Rail must be congratulated on the efforts they are making to help disabled travellers, and especially the Eastern Region. Sometimes the system works better on some days than on others, as my noble friend Lord Ingleby and I well know. That is to do with the efficiency of the people working the system at ground level. The railcard and taking the seats out of the 125 trains helps a great deal. British Rail are now putting in an inductive loop at Kings's Cross Station to enable people who are hard of hearing to be able to hear the announcements.
I was written to by a young family doctor a short time ago who was worried because some of his patients had spent years of their lives looking after elderly disabled relatives. Uncomplainingly, they cared and coped with an immense emotional burden which would otherwise have to be picked up by the State service. He was totally unaware that there are some benefits and concessions these people can claim. He now writes to me asking: how does one make the Government publicise under-claimed allowances? The Government should ask the medical and nursing colleges to help publicise this; they could also advertise more widely in medical journals. The family doctor ought to be more involved, as may patients become more disabled by stress and strain which is sometimes unnecessary.
Another costly evil to the National Health Service is the problem of pressure sores, which delay rehabilitation. These can be avoided with correct cushions, supportive care and such things as turning beds. The Society for Tissue Viability is a new and excellent society which I am proud to be patron of. It brings together doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, firms which supply equipment, and universities and consumers. This is run from Odstock Hospital in Salisbury. This problem of pressure sores can cost the National Health Service something in the region of £100 million a year, so much of which could be avoided.
There are some excellent care schemes in the community, such as Crossroads. How many health districts do not have them? This is a very important need to keep disabled people in the community. Without some extra help, some families break under the strain. It is encouraging that the National Consumer Council is so strongly supporting these needs.
In several districts there have been problems for severely disabled people who use wheelchairs and travel home for rehabilitation weekends by ambulance. For some reason, ambulance men have refused to carry the patient's wheelchair. This amounts to taking someone's legs away. It also puts great extra cost on to the National Health Service, as the wheelchair has to follow in a taxi. With more co-operation and understanding, surely this could be sorted out.
561 Not long ago I visited an ex-soldier who had been shot in the neck in Northern Ireland. He spends a month a year in hospital as he is paralysed from the neck down and this gives a break to his sister who looks after him in their own home. He has to eat with a special spoon and fork. These could not go in with the general washing-up process at the hospital, and he told me that in nearly four weeks they had been washed only four times. I washed them in his basin—the fifth time in 26 days. There was no shortage of staff in that hospital but here was a lack of thought-fulness and TLC.
I end by quoting a letter I have just received from a young spastic person who is doing a two-year course at York College of Art and Technology. He says:I feel quite worried at times, as society seems to be far from being able to treat us as normal people. I think this is not their fault as education, in my view, is the only way of changing society. I find it great, but people are very fearful of any of us who are not 'normal'. It is a pity, because once I get to know them they find they can understand what I say".They told him that at first when he went there they did not know what was wrong with him and they were suspicious. It is the unique, living person inside the human shell which really matters. If integration is to be successful, understanding that is paramount and the dignity of all individuals should be respected.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ The Earl of Radnor
My Lords, I, too, would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for bringing up this matter again. I do not see any reason at all why he should be in any way apologetic because I believe that a subject such as disablement should be brought up about once a year, to monitor how things are going along and to see whether there are any new ideas and also to see, as one or two speakers opposite have mentioned, how money is being spent or not being spent. The last time I heard the noble Lord speak was in January 1981, in the debate introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. He then made a cheerfully abrasive speech, criticising noble Lords on the Back Benches on this side of the House for not in turn criticising enough those who sit on the Front Benches about the steps they had been taking so far as disablement was concerned. I could not really agree with him in that respect. Almost inevitably in a debate like this we hear a lot of criticism regarding what is not done—and it is right that we should—but at the same time I think it is quite easy to forget the big steps that have been taken, probably because of the people who have already spoken in this debate.
Before I get on to my pet subject, if I may call it that, I should like to disagree to a certain extent with the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, on the point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, when he said he would be interested to hear the views of the House as to whether there should be a law preventing discrimination against disabled people. At first glance, that sounds very nice indeed but it would be an extremely complicated law and perhaps it would become so complicated that it would not fulfil the wishes of anybody who wanted such a law. I have a feeling that it would be very liable to abuse in practice. I may be wrong about that, but I felt I should like to put my view forward on that.
I was amused to hear—and it was repeated by the 562 right reverend Prelate—that churches were hopeless as far as the disabled are concerned. In Rochester Cathedral, a disabled person really could not worship at all because there are so many steps up towards the choir stalls that it has probably disabled a few people. The reconstruction of the cathedral has been a great improvement, because in cathedrals in the old days, as I am sure your Lordships know, there were not even pews and everybody had to stand. That led to the expression that the weakest "went to the wall". I think at least we are a little better than that now.
The subject I want to speak about—and I am glad to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, is here—is education. I should like to take a brief look at the Education Act 1981, which is now coming into force on 1st April, having suffered a postponement, which makes one feel there may be trouble brewing in that area. I also want to speak, in particular, about dyslexia and I make no excuse for reminding your Lordships of dyslexia and its importance in society as a disability. The right reverend Prelate spoke of people who are deaf and dumb having an invisible disability, but it is not nearly so invisible as dyslexia. Eventually, you realise that somebody is deaf and dumb and can try to help him but unless you are concerned with reading and writing skills—because dyslexia is a language disorder—dyslexics can pass in society as perfectly normal people. But they have tremendous trouble in getting through schools, in getting to universities and in getting through universities, while in finding jobs they must be at a very severe disadvantage.
It is no exaggeration at all to say that there is a very strong connection indeed between this disability and delinquency and crime. For some extraordinary reason, dyslexics tend to be male rather than female, they get frustrated at school, as well as, no doubt, frustrating their teachers, and in the male child this very often leads to aggression and frustration, and then—the syndrome is perfectly logical in a way—there is a strong possibility that it will lead to delinquency and crime.
The point I am trying to make, which was made so well in the Charter for the 80s, is that what we want in society, as we are practical people, as well as being very humane, is to have people who contribute. I think it was put that they contribute to the tax situation and do not withdraw from it. We do not want people to be disabled in such a way that they draw the dole. We do not want them to be disabled in such a way that they take up the time of magistrates, clerks and police. We particularly do not want them to be disabled in such a way that they go through that very expensive process for the state of being in prison.
So I come to the Act itself, over which many of your Lordships took a lot of trouble. The end product satisfied some of us in part, and some of us not quite so much, but Act it is and it is coming into force on 1st April—which is a rather inauspicious day but I do not suppose that it will make any difference. The worry that I have is that, although the Act sounds all right, there is not the wherewithal available to make it work. I put this in various categories. We all know, roughly, what the Act says. It is quite good in that it is obviously meant to try to help disabled people, and it stemmed from the Warnock Report. Disablements were not categorised; they were all meant to be dealt with. If you 563 did not put anything in, then nothing could be left out, which always seemed illogical to me.
But one point is that a parent has the right to ask for an assessment. Talking to people around the counties, I find that educational psychologists are already quite heavily overworked. I would not say that there are queues of people wating to see them, stretching from here to yonder, but there are distressing periods which people have to wait, particularly those who are not too handicapped. On the whole, I think that educational psychologists manage to get around the serious cases on a rota basis, but there are not enough of them. Furthermore, there will be additional people coming forward because a parent has the right to an assessment, which, again, will increase the load. Then there will not be quite enough remedial teachers to deal with the ensuing situation.
But what really worries me, and what I particularly want to talk about briefly, is the fact that dyslexia is such a new thing that there is not the expertise to deal with it within local education authorities. I must point out, quite clearly, that the dyslexic child does not respond to remedial teaching, as it is practised. At the moment the expertise lies with those who have been lucky enough, or who have taken the trouble, to go abroad. It lies basically in the universities and I would mention, in particular, Bangor, Aston and Southampton, as well as the voluntary societies. I would mention one of which I am proud to be president, the Dyslexia Foundation, which now has teaching institutes more or less all over England, and has outposts as well.
My fear is that this Act looks very good. I have seen the papers from the education officer of one county where dyslexia is mentioned and, with great boldness in hard times like these, it is suggested that six or so extra remedial teachers should be taken on. But it is absolutely no use taking on remedial teachers, as they are now known, if they do not have this capability of multi-sensory teaching, which does not have to take any stereotyped form. As many of your Lordships will know, it came originally from Dallas in the States or Scandinavia.
Finally, I have also heard from local education authorities around the counties that they are a little distressed that the Financial Memorandum to the Act virtually states that no more money will be necessary to put it into action. But it does not look as if that will be true, because authorities will need more social workers, more remedial teachers, more educational psychologists and many others as well.
Before I sit down, I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Trefgarne to answer two questions when he winds up. First, in view of the fact that the Financial Memorandum is seen to be, at least, slightly misleading to local education authorities, will the Government produce any more money for them, if a real need for extra teachers and so on is seen? Secondly, can he impress upon local education authorities, in some way or other, the importance of seeing that the remedial teachers have this proper training from the proper source, so that they do not teach this 4 per cent. of the school population—because that is what we are talking about—in such a way that it does them no good and they come out at 564 the end of the system no better than they went in but only more frustrated?
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, like other Members of the House, I was much interested by what the noble Earl has just been saying about dyslexia, on which he speaks with special authority. I do not know whether he knows of a book written by a famous actress about her life as a dyslexic person. It was published by a firm with which I am connected. I see that the noble Earl obviously thinks that it is an excellent book. I was also interested in what he said about the connection between dyslexia and crime. A good many years ago I got to know a young man who could not read or write when he left school at 16. He came of respectable, middle-class parents and was a good athlete and prominent in the school. But when he left school he became so frustrated, and in a sense so looked down on, that he took to armed robbery and killed a policeman. It was a very famous case at the time. When I first met him he had been in prison for some time. Slowly he had learned to read and write in prison. The prison education sercvice is fairly good but there is nothing extraordinary about it. Nevertheless, he was systematically taken in hand and learned to read and write in prison. He came out some years later and he has led a blameless life ever since. It shows what can be done with dyslexic people, but I agree with the noble Earl that it is a very intractable problem and that we ought to be doing everything we can to help him and his colleagues.
The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has probably done more for the distressed in the past 15 years than anybody else in this House. They have had a most ardent champion in him. It is an honour to take part in a debate which has been marked by so many memorable speeches. I hope that the House will allow me to mention that of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, who does such an endless job on their behalf. I know that it is a labour of love, but I cannot imagine anybody else doing quite so much as she does for them.
I realise that this subject is very wide. Like others, I am deeply interested in the mentally handicapped. For some years I was chairman of the national society and, following a debate which I started in this House, I am chairman of a committee which is hoping to report shortly on mental after-care. About half a dozen Members of this House are on the committee.
I must confine myself to the physically disabled. I am sure that the right reverend Prelate who spoke so well will allow me to begin with a text—if that is in order here—taken from what the Pope said when he gave that tremendous address at Southwark Cathedral last year. I have seen him bending over the disabled and doing it in more than one part of Ireland and also in Rome, but everybody seeing him on television must have realised that the Pope has a special tendresse for the disabled. When he addressed a gathering a little later the only person he was able to greet when he left the hall was the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby. What the Pope said in his tremendous speech on that occasion was this:Do not neglect your sick and elderly".565 That includes quite a lot of us who are not technically disabled.Do not turn away from the handicapped and the dying. Do not push them to the margins of society. Let us keep the sick and the handicapped at the centre of our lives. Let us treasure them and recognise with gratitude the debt we owe them. We begin by imagining that we are giving to them. We end by realising that they have enriched us".I do not think anybody could put that better.
Certainly those of us who are here today but also large numbers of people in the country have a great desire to show their goodwill and practical help towards the disabled. What steps does that lead us to take? When I turned to the sporting page in The Times this morning I read there about a gentleman called Andrew Widdowson who contributed, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, to a book about accidents which I edited not so long ago. We are told there that Mr. Widdowson's spinal cord was damaged for life in a rugby accident. We are told of the steps which have been taken to help him. Well over £30,000 has been raised by rugby admirers. To use the words of The Times, he "has been able to buy independence". He is thriving—teaching at Felstead and coaching rugby from his wheelchair. The Times adds truly that "he is a remarkable individual".
He is a remarkable individual, and we in this House have remarkable individuals in wheelchairs. But what I am saying is that most disabled people are not remarkable individuals. On the law of averages, that is impossible. Most of them are ordinary individuals. No doubt they have their quota of rather inadequate individuals—people who were inadequate before they were damaged. We must take them just as average members of the public—some remarkable and some very much not. Therefore, we canot expect everyone to arouse that degree of enthusiasm. We cannot expect them all to be heroic like the disabled we know best. Also, we canot expect everyone to know about their situation.
So what can we do? Here I am afraid, having agreed with the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, earlier, I must disagree with him strongly if he implied, only in passing, that he is against the report of the Committee on Restrictions against Disabled People. I wonder whether the noble Earl has read their report. He did not mention it, and there is no reason why he should have read it. However, the noble Earl brushed that question aside. I cannot help wondering whether, with his great fairness, he might have reached a different conclusion from the one which he seemed to be adumbrating, had he read the report. This committee, chaired by the distinguished Peter Large who rightly was praised earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has come down firmly on the side of legislation to make discrimination on the grounds of disability illegal.
What is interesting is that at the beginning they seemed, on the whole, to be rather in the same state of mind as that expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Radnor. The report said that many of its members started with the instinctive feeling that antidiscrimination legislation, with its overtones of belligerence and conflict, was an over-reaction. At the beginning they were inclined to think that it would set disabled people apart from the rest of society. I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, will speak on 566 this subject with much greater authority than I can command, so I am not going to spoil his speech by explaining all that they have in mind. On balance, however, they come down firmly in favour of antidiscrimination legislation. I expect that this will be set out before us by the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby. I beg every Member of the House who is interested in the subject—and people who sit through a debate of this kind obviously are—to study the report and see at the end whether it is possible to resist their conclusions.
I shall not speak for more than another moment. There are various other ways of helping disabled people. Today I gave lunch to a lady of my own generation—in other words, elderly—and I asked after an old friend of ours who had been staying with her for some time. This other lady had been suffering from what was, I believe, described as schizophrenic paranoia. Certainly she was in no normal state when I saw her some years ago. I asked how this lady was and my friend told me today at lunch that she is now cured. If there are any sceptics here, they will say that the cure may not last for ever. I hope that it will, For the foreseeable future she is cured. My friend no longer has to protect her. This other lady has now gone off to stay with one of her relatives. She is very happy and full of beans. Knowing my friend—the one I was having lunch with—I would not call it a miracle, although it may sound like one. But it has taken four years and it was simply the natural result of loving care. So I am only suggesting that loving care is the most crucial thing of all, whether it is applied by friends or relatives or whether it is applied in hospital or in other ways.
As this report says, one cannot force people to love, but one can make it much more likely that they will love, and so I do beg your Lordships' House to accept the arguments in favour of the CORAD Report. I rather hope that the noble Lord who is going to wind up this debate—I am afraid I may have to leave before he speaks—if he does not have a favourable answer, will at least not give us an unfavourable answer. This is a very serious question and, although it is perhaps too much to expect the Government to say, "We are now favouring this legislation", I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will bear all this in mind. I personally feel that, if we really care for the disabled, we are bound to follow this course.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Viscount Ingleby
My Lords, I would like to start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for introducing this debate; he has a very special place in our affections. I am very glad, also, to see the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, here, and am only sorry that it does not seem that we shall have the benefit of hearing from him. I am also very glad to be following the noble Earl, Lord Longford, because one could almost call him the godfather of the "mobile Bench". Your Lordships may remember that in 1970, when the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill was introduced here by the noble Earl, three of us here all made our maiden speeches under his aegis.
I would like to talk about two main questions. First, is there discrimination against disabled people? If there is, should there be legislation as a long stop? The Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled 567 People—CORAD—have been considering these two questions for the past two and a half years. They define discrimination as the unjustified withholding, whether intentional or not, of some service, facility or opportunity from a disabled person because of that person's disability. To find the answers to these questions, they sent out a questionnaire. Some 20,000 copies were sent to disabled people, to organisations for the disabled, and to other individuals concerned with disablement. They had 763 analysed replies—not surprising in view of the fact that a considerable amount of time, thought and effort had to go into answering this questionnaire. Of those 763 replies, 463—or about two-thirds—believed that there was discrimination against disabled people. When asked what form that discrimination took, by far the largest number—341—thought that access, or rather lack of it, was a form of discrimination. The next largest number thought that employment was a sphere in which there was discrimination against disabled people; 186 answers in that category. The next largest number thought that safety regulations such as fire regulations were a form of discrimination, in that they prevented disabled people from attending places where they would like to go, perhaps not always with satisfactory cause. There were smaller numbers who cited parking facilities, education and insurance as other spheres where there was discrimination.
How best should this discrimination be overcome? I am sure that education has accomplished a lot over the past 10 years—in particular, in the International Year of Disabled People. In fact, of those who answered the questionnaire it is rather encouraging that 185 thought that the situation was improving and only 16 thought it was getting worse. But, education cannot go the whole way, and it may surprise your Lordships to know that, of the 16 members of the committee, 15 came out in favour of legislation as a long stop provision. The only dissenting member was a Mr. Tom Tickle; perhaps he felt a little bit ticklish. Anyway, I am sure he had good reason for his dissent.
When I mentioned legislation to someone the other day as a possible remedy, they threw up their hands in dismay and said, "It is a question of compassion; you do not need legislation, but compassion". But compassion, if it is to be real, is a costly thing. It is costly in terms of time and money and of sticking one's neck out. If a disabled person feels unfairly discriminated against, what can they do at the present time? They can take the matter up with the person concerned, but what can be done if that is not successful? The person could write to Mr. Rossi, the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People. Mr. Rossi has been very helpful on a number of occasions, and merely by taking the matter up and writing to the authority concerned he has been able to secure quite a number of satisfactory answers. But he has no powers other than persuasion, and if the individual or authority concerned dig in their toes there is nothing that Mr. Rossi can do about it.
This is well-illustrated by the question of access to new buildings, which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, touched on earlier. Everybody thought that buildings were going to be accessible after the 1970 Act, but in fact it had no teeth and it was necessary to 568 pass the amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, referred. In that connection I would like to say that yesterday evening the All-Party Disabled Group met the Minister concerned with this particular section—Mr. John Stanley, the Minister for Housing and Construction—and had a very helpful discussion with him. He is shortly going to lay orders, which we all hope will result in new buildings being accessible. That just emphasises the need for legislation in this particular sphere.
I would like to finish with a word about swimming baths. I consider that swimming is the best form of therapy for disabled people, other than membership of your Lordships' House. But when one looks at swimming baths, one must ask whether they are all accessible; do they all have a simple hoist for lowering disabled people and raising them up again? In some cases, I fear that the answer is, No. One wonders, if there was a back-up law that swimming pools and baths should be accessible and should be provided with a hoist, whether progress towards this very desirable end would not be a little quicker.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am indeed grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for once again treating us to his wisdom, as always, on this particular subject. I am going to speak for only a very short time, on a very narrow point which has not been touched on so far. I am going to speak about prevention and in particular about poliomyelitis.
Before I start to do so, I would like to pay a very particular tribute to Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne, for all that she has done in the last three weeks, during her arduous tour in Africa. I have received information that not only was she always genuinely interested but that she was well informed, showed deep compassion, was sympathetic, and was kind. Not only that, but wherever she went, she boosted the morale of the people who are trying to prevent the spread of disablement in Africa; she boosted the morale of field workers. Perhaps she might be able to read this. I would like it to go from this House that we owe her a very deep debt of gratitude. She undertook this trip as President of Save the Children Fund, and this is where I am hanging my few words this evening because I am on the sub-committee of the Stop Polio Campaign. She will have seen the tragedy of the lives of small children in Africa which are already ruined by polio, blindness and other forms of disability. But I am taking the opportunity this evening to tell your Lordships something about the work of the Stop Polio Campaign.
It started in Africa only in 1980, but already well over 1 million children have received three doses of the prevention of polio vaccine. In Malawi, which was the first country they went to, already 72 per cent, of the relevant children, those under two years old, have had their three doses; 3,240,000 children have already been given the doses. There are three expatriate staff and 30 locals in Malawi. We have also been to Swaziland where 22 per cent. of the children have already been given the dosage; Lesotho where 54 per cent. have already been given the dosage. We have also gone into the Sudan, and Zimbabwe recently, and 569 Burma, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Vanuatu, which I gather is in the New Hebrides.
The range of the amount of help that this Save the Children Fund organisation has been able to give to the young children of the up-and-coming generation in preventing them from getting poliomyelitis is really worthy of great note. In 1981–82 they spent well over half a million pounds, over £598,000, in various ways, by sending experts out to train people on the ground, by the purchase of vaccines, by the cold chain equipment which is so vital, and expertise in many fields.
Although prevention of disability is obviously better than a possible cure, if there is no cure then as full a life as possible is surely the right of people of all ages who suffer from any disability. We have heard tonight, and I have listened with great interest, all that is being done in this country, but I thought I would like to take this opportunity to tell your Lordships something of what is being done in the third world.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Lady Kinloss
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to hear the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, once again opening a debate on this subject on which he is so knowledgeable. I should like also to support the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, in saying how pleased I am to see the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, here today, and I am only sorry he is not speaking in this debate. There are an infinite number of topics that can arise within the broad range of this debate. While supporting what the noble Lord and many others have said, I shall confine myself to a few of them.
First, we must achieve the best possible use of existing resources. This seems to be the only rational basis for a policy for the disabled. Local authorities can only make the best use of their available resources if they have as complete a list as possible of the disabled in their area and the different disabilities. I understand that Newcastle-upon-Tyne carried out a survey and discovered that there were four times the number of disabled people they had originally thought. The authority then examined its priorities, with the consequence that the Director of Social Services was able to obtain more resources for people with disabilities in the area. I wonder how many other local authorities have done this. I think Newcastle-upon-Tyne is to be congratulated. I wonder what pressure the Government can put upon local authorities which have not taken a similar action.
I am also anxious about possible wastage of resources. I wonder how many local authorities have systematic arrangements for the return to a central collecting point of appliances which are no longer in use. Each year NAIDEX has its wonderful exhibition of appliances for the disabled, indeed the most ingenious gadgets for all forms of disability, and one sees how very expensive they are; therefore any means of possible saving would surely be welcome at any time.
When speaking of the disabled one must always remember that there is a very broad range of disabilities. In the very interesting report by the Committee on Restrictions Against Disabled People, a minority report by Mr. Larry Walters emphasises the need to remember when legislating for the disabled that they 570 include mentally handicapped and not only the physically handicapped, whether the blind or deaf or otherwise handicapped. Indeed, Remploy employs persons who suffer from both physical and mental handicaps at the same time, as well as those who are either physically or mentally handicapped. Indeed, I have seen this in York for myself. The achievement of categorisation is, of course, very difficult but worthwhile if a satisfactory survey is to be achieved.
One way in which local authorities help the mentally handicapped is the day centres. For the relatives who are caring for them this can mean a respite for a few hours each day. For the handicapped person this can mean learning new skills and learning how to make new friends. A girl of 23 whom I know, with a mental age of 3 or 4, has attended one of the day centres in York for about a year now, and has improved enormously. The local authority and the staff are much to be congratulated.
Only last evening I was able to attend the launching, by the Society for Horticultural Therapy and Rural Training Ltd., of their book Gardening is for Everyone. They had posters demonstrating what a disabled person is able to do, whether physically or mentally handicapped. Of course, a garden can be as large as either a front or back garden or a flower pot. Indeed, there was a poster of a mentally handicapped person taking cuttings from a small plant, another of a physically handicapped person planting seeds in a flower pot with an instrument in his mouth. Gardening can indeed be done indoors for those unable to go out, with window boxes and flower pots. I think this society should be encouraged by all the means at our disposal.
I think also that in overseas aid schemes some proportion might well be earmarked for the needs of the handicapped. I have in mind a long conversation I had this summer with a nominated member of the Kenya Parliament whose especial interest was his work for the disabled. He was endeavouring to set up in Mombasa a sheltered workshop. He had some most interesting ideas, and I wish him every success.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Lord Wilson of Langside
My Lords, not for the first time as 6 o'clock approaches, having listened to a large number of interesting speeches on this all-important subject by many better informed upon it than am I, I rather wish that the rules of your Lordships' House permitted one to do what one used to be permitted to do in the courts when one had a party with a common interest; one could adopt the pleadings and arguments of the other party and ask the court to accept them as repeated repetatis causa. Were this permissible, I have heard many speeches that I should dearly like to adopt now. I mention in particular two sharply contrasting speeches—that of my noble friend (if he does not mind my calling him that) Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham—two very different and contrasting speeches, the one so political, not in any pejorative sense, and the other so full of knowledge and understanding of the subject.
I have only two things that I should like to say, and I hope I do not give a hostage to fortune in saying that I ought to be able to say them in less than four minutes. The first is to echo the appreciation that has already been expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Wells- 571 Pestell, for raising the subject of this Charter for the 80s. I sometimes feel on these occasions, when those who are speaking in these debates express thanks to the initiator, that perhaps there is something about the thanks of what lawyers might call "words of style". This is certainly not such an occasion. Surely the country's response and, more particularly, the Government's response to Charter for the 80s is a measure of the extent to which we, and particularly the Government, are committed to the promotion of a more civilised society.
I do not imagine that very many in your Lordships' House are anything but chary of politicians who are committed to changing society. But it does no harm now and then to contribute towards making it just a little more civilised. Certainly Charter for the 80s is concerned with that. So we are in debt to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell.
The only other thing that I should like to say is that I hope that the Government's response to this debate will be constructive, imaginative and positive. I say that because I was concerned with the provisions in the Scottish Bill a year or so ago to which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, have referred. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, is not here because he might not agree with me. The Government's initial approach to that particular provision was quite lifeless and bureaucratic. It took a great deal of nudging to secure the acceptance of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. I mention that not in any spirit of churlishness, but in the hope that, in spite of everything that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, said, the Government will have reflected seriously on the terms of this very impressive charter and that they will not be lifeless or bureaucratic in their response to what it says.
§ 6.4 p.m.
Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for initiating this debate. After what the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, said I shall try to make my thanks sound genuine. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and congratulate him on his pretty broad portrayal of the scene, although he said that he had left out several aspects.
The noble Lord, has given us this opportunity of examining the existing position of the disabled in this country and to decide what needs to be done and how to do it. I, too, should like to say that we are all delighted to see the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon here and I am only sorry that we shall not be hearing from him on this occasion.
The prevention of impairment, rehabilitation services, access and integration are all interrelated to some degree, some inextricably and some more tenuously. I shall concentrate solely on integration, but not with regard to employment as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, thought. However, while we are on the subject of employment I should like to say how delighted I was to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, speak in favour of the abolition of the therapeutic earnings rule and for the theory of the introduction of the partial incapacity for work. I intend to speak on integration in education. I shall try hard not to go over 572 the same ground as the noble Earl, Lord Radnor. I was particularly interested to hear what he had to say about dyslexia because he speaks from deep experience. On the general field, I share some of his views on integration but take an opposite view on legislation.
I shall not dwell on the advantages of integrated education because we have been over that so often. However, if the disabled child is educated in an ordinary school, not only will he have better employment prospects but will have grown up with the model of the ordinary child beside him and will know how to behave in a world composed mainly of able-bodied adults. The able-bodied child will treat his disabled peer as simply a fellow human being, warts and all. Therefore, an integrated education is crucial, as I see it, to the whole question of integration because only when the disabled and able-bodied children have grown up together, played together, fought, laughed and cried together will real integration come about.
Among, "Targets at National Level", the charter mentions:Providing within all national policies on education for adapted programmes and facilities integrated as far as possible to meet the needs of disabled children and adults with all types and extent of disability and including particulary the severely disabled.Again, it suggests:
reviewing existing educational policies to eliminate any provisions that discriminate against children and adults with disabilities.So what exactly are our existing policies that the charter asks us to review? Do they discriminate against disabled children and adults? Progress towards integration, until now, has been slow. The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, touched on this. Section 10 of the Education Act 1976, which called for disabled children to be educated in ordinary schools where possible, was said only to be enacting what had long been the policy of various Governments. Yet it was never implemented.
As the noble Earl said, the Education Act 1981 will come into force on the 1st April 1983—perhaps not an auspicious day, as he said. Even that is a good deal later than was anticipated during the passage of the Act. But will it lead us any nearer to integration? According to the Department of Health and Social Security's booklet "IYDP and After—the United Kingdom Response", the passage of the 1981 Act is:perhaps the outstanding event of IYDP so far as education is concerned".That appears on page 39. On page 40 the booklet states:In general, the aim will be to continue to move towards integrating disabled and non-disabled children, and to enable all disabled children to be educated to their full potential".I would be more inclined to agree with Valerie Hannon of the Centre for Criminological and Socio-Legal Studies, at the University of Sheffield, who writes about the 1981 Act in the Journal of Social Welfare Law, in September 1982, as follows:On the issue of integration the Government (to use Balfour's phrase) has nailed its colours firmly to the fence. Integration should be effected, but only subject to three conditions so framed as to permit any LEA in the country to pursue a quite contrary policy. It is interesting to reflect that the accepted wisdom on this Act is that it is legitimising changes which have already occurred in practice, as distinct from an expression of political aspirations which may be followed up by real changes. Yet there is good reason to question whether integtration is indeed becoming the preferred option of LEA's".573 Later she continues:No machinery has been created to impel LEA's to move steadily towards integration in a planned manner. No extra resources are available for the task".Those who are concerned with the 1981 Act will remember that lack of planning caused much concern during its passage. Without planning how can we move more effectively towards integration?
I suggest that the lack of commitment to improving access in the Act does, in fact, amount to discrimination. The situation for adults in the education field is not much better. Only a few universities are accessible, which means a very limited choice of courses, and evening classes are frequently inaccessible to those in wheelchairs because they are held in buildings and up several fights of stairs.
How are we going to improve the situation in line with the aims of the charter? The noble Earl, Lord Longford, and my noble friend Lord Ingleby have already drawn your Lordships' attention to the CORAD Report. They have talked about it in terms of anti-discriminatory legislation, but they also have other recommendations which do not concern legislation. Regarding education, their recommendations spell out in practical detail the aims outlined in Paragraphs 45 to 48 of the World Charter. These recommendations include that local education authorities should prepare a plan for providing a range of facilities in different types of schools and further education establishments designed to promote the integration of disabled children and adults with their non-disabled peers, as recommended by the Warnock Committee. Again, as many ordinary schools as possible should be made accessible to disabled children and adults. Moreover, each local education authority should publish a list of schools in its area with details of which are integrated and which are accessible to disabled people. Universities, polytechnics and colleges of further education should take positive steps, without lowering academic standards, to increase the number of places open to disabled students.
Paragraph 69 of the charter says:All legislation should be examined to remove any provisions which discriminate against the rights of people with disabilities".And, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Banks, said:
All systems of law should include provisions that (among other things) ensure the full participation of people with disabilities and their families, in decisions affecting their lives and the services provided to them".If all discriminatory measures are removed from legislation, does it make discrimination illegal? I am not a lawyer, but I should have thought that the mere absence of discriminatory provision would not make the practice of discrimination unlawful. Paragraph 31 of the charter states that:People with disabilities have rights equal to those of all other people in their societies, including the right to participate in, and contribute to, all aspects of economic, social and political life".That is taken from a United Nations' General Assembly Resolution. Do we need some positive legislation to protect these rights?
We have heard from my noble friend Lord Ingleby and the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I shall try not to go over too much ground, but the trouble is that when one is the 15th speaker one must either repeat 574 something that someone else has said or shut up altogether. As other noble Lords discussing the CORAD Report have said, certainly discrimination exists at present. As my noble friend Lord Ingleby said, those who answered the questionnaire felt that the excuses provided by access and fire and safety precautions were the most fundamental cause and manifestation of discrimination. The next most common area of concern was that of employment. I think that that was then followed by education. I shall not bore your Lordships with any examples.
As your Lordships have heard, the majority of CORAD—one member dissenting—eventually concluded that anti-discriminatory legislation was necessary to help disabled people, but it recognised the importance of education and persuasion when accompanied by legislation. I think that here it is worth repeating what my noble friend Lord Ingleby said. We must be very clear as to what is meant by discrimination in this context. It is the unjustifiable withholding—intentional or otherwise—of some service, facility or opportunity from a disabled person, because of that person's disability.
I should like to explain the situation. It would still be reasonable, for example, to refuse someone a job if he did not possess the physical requirements inherent in the performance of some essential task; or it would be perfectly reasonable if, with reasonable accommodation, the disabled person still could not manage to perform the task. So the phrase "reasonable accommodation" is also very important. If the changes necessary to enable a disabled person to carry out the job were judged impracticable or unreasonable, the employer would not be required to make them. I think that that is quite an important point.
Legislation would give the disabled person access to the law when persuasion had failed. It does have an educative effect: both the able-bodied and the disabled would have to examine their position and attitudes and it would set a standard for people to go by. I know that some people—and we have heard it tonight—argue that legislation might damage the goodwill which already exists towards disabled people. I do not deny that a lot of progress has been made and that a good deal of goodwill exists, but we still have some way to go. What I cannot understand is why people should be upset, if they are doing the right thing in any case, if the law simply proves them to be doing so. It would surely strengthen the position of those wanting to help. I have heard that some employers actually welcomed the Race Relations Act because it enabled them to do what they had previously been unable to do owing to opposition from within.
I should like to quote from a letter to my noble friend Lord Ingleby from a disabled lady who cited various instances of restrictions against her, including the fact that not one of over 60 local evening classes was accesible to her. She said that at one time she might have agreed with the view that the advantages of anti-discriminatory legislation might be outweighed by the loss of existing goodwill, but having tried to obtain for herself the same facilities that others automatically enjoy, she feels that there is little evidence to support this view. She writes the following:Where an organisation does not want to help, nothing can be done to persuade them at present. Occasionally I have been told, 'There's no law against it' ".575 Further on, she concludes:Until there is effective legislation, on access and discrimination, disabled people will remain at the mercy of another individual's whim: he will dictate where they can or cannot go, not they themselves. Such law would set a standard and hopefully remove the burden at present put on disabled people to complain when they are unfairly treated".That last point is also valid. The anti-legislationists argue that it is better to educate people, to sort things out amicably and to write letters, and eventually it will all be done. But if, as the charter says, disabled people have rights equal with those of other people, they should not have constantly to complain—it is an exhausting and time-consuming process and sometimes an abortive one too. After 11 months of contact with her local education department about extremely simple ramping procedures—it was only ramping one step outside and one step inside and levelling a portion of floor where there were two steps down and two steps up—and after 11 phone calls and seven letters, the writer of that letter was no nearer her evening class than she had been in the first place. She is by no means a militant because she admits that her thinking has changed with actual experience.
Last summer in another place Jack Ashley introduced a Private Member's Bill entitled Disablement (Prohibition of Unjustifiable Discrimination) Bill, which was unfortunately lost owing to lack of parliamentary time. But I hope that it will come up again soon. In the meantime, I hope that those of your Lordships who are undecided and those of you who are at present against anti-discriminatory legislation, will read the CORAD Report about which my noble friends have talked, and think about it very carefully. It has convinced me, as well as them, that legislation to be used where education and persuasion fail, to be used to back up those who want to help, to set a standard of behaviour and to encourage people to reflect upon their attitudes is the most effective way—perhaps the only truly effective way—of ensuring the integration of disabled people into the community, and would in fact facilitate a comprehensive approach towards such integration.
§ 6.20 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for enabling us to discuss the disablement problem. Certainly for me it has been a most moving debate, thanks quite largely to the contributions made by the noble Viscount and the noble Baronesses in wheelchairs. All of us know of the wonderful courage shown by the handicapped and of their will to overcome their disabilities, and it is up to us to provide all the aids that we can think up. This debate will certainly help towards finding some new way in which to assist them.
On Sunday I had the privilege of joining General Howard Dobson on the saluting base for the march-past of over 4,000 legionnaires in driving rain. The wonderful spirit of those men and women from all three services—some of them blind or in wheelchairs, veterans from the Somme and from the Desert, from Normandy and later wars, men in Royal Marine and Para berets and Chelsea Pensioners—was deeply inspiring.
Less inspiring is my awareness of the injustice done 576 to many of these men and women who were on parade, in the way of their pensions. First, I would say that the state has always acknowledged the debt it owes to the men and women who have served their country so well, and since the end of the last war successive Governments have accepted the principle of war preference compensation, the compensation taking the form of a disability pension, with certain supplementary allowances in connection with unemployability and attendance requirements.
The Legion has always held that such disablement compensation, including the war preference element, should be the same for all, no matter the conditions of their service or for how long and when they served, and that it should be according to the degree of disablement suffered. The basic rates of the war pension and the supplementary allowances have been increased periodically, and over the last decade to combat the ravages of inflation; and, indeed, since the Second World War the real value of the war pension has increased. However, while the war preference allowances for the severely disabled have roughly kept pace with inflation, for the lesser disabled, and in particular the married war pensioners, without supplementary allowances, the war preference element has, to all intents and purposes, disappeared.
Due to improved war pension rates, introduced in 1973, members of the armed forces who served after that date were given advantages over their predecessors. As a result, there has been a considerable gap between the two categories of ex-servicemen. There are anomalies, which are too complicated for discussion in this debate, which need sorting out and clarifying. I have given details of them to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne in the hope of getting an assurance that they will be looked into.
The Royal British Legion throughout the United Kingdom takes the view that the Government should introduce a new supplementary war preference rate, so that the ordinary war pensioner and war widow will enjoy the same rates as their younger colleagues who served their country well in recent times. Many of the allowances have been written off as being incompatible with our modern social security system, and left at pre-1948 rates. The principle of war preference is accepted because of the unique nature of service in the armed forces, but successive Governments have shown reluctance to bring in retrospective legislation to help pensioners, many of whom are now old and going through hard times. Let us hope that this most unjust situation will be put right.
Next, I should like to refer to a lesser problem but one which reflects a situation prevailing in many disabled workshops run by voluntary organisations. Due to various factors in Lady Haig's poppy factory in Edinburgh, there has been a falling-off in the number of recruits. It would be a pity if the factory had to be closed and men were denied the opportunity of working in a comradely atmosphere.
Among the various factors affecting our future are the high running costs together with the difficulties of keeping wages high enough to give the men proper security. The wage of £66 gross a week is extremely low, but this is necessary because of the need to concentrate the bulk of Poppy Day money on the ever-increasing claims for benevolence. Our disabled men are faced with the alternatives of working with low pay 577 or leisuring on state benefit. Most people would chose to do nothing, but neither course is attractive. Unless some way round this problem can be found, many men will be subjected to a life of loneliness and boredom.
In our factory most of the hand-craft departments will have to be eliminated, and on the poppy side an automatic machine may have to be introduced to provide the poppies at a reasonable cost. Before we make these drastic changes we must be certain that they are in the best interests of the disabled men. In my view, these changes would go right against the whole purpose of Poppy Day. I hope that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne will encourage me in the hope that we might offer the men a larger wage consequent to our obtaining grants as a sheltered workshop.
Next, in my capacity as vice-president, I should like to refer to the wonderful training and education being given to partially-sighted and blind people at the Royal Blind Asylum and School in Edinburgh. In the school there are many children who are still partially-sighted but who will suffer a gradual deterioration in their sight. In their case, education is particularly urgent while they can still see something. For these people, many of whom are learning Braille, the problem of learning is being made easier while they are still able to read ordinary letters by the use of various types of reading glasses and magnifiers. In this way, education comes at a crucial stage of development in their lives which may eventually lead to a state of enlightenment. These reading glasses enable the user, with tremendous effort, to read five words at a time due to highly magnified lenses, and are now available on the national health to parents who wish to apply. But the rather more expensive visual text machines, which reflect reading material onto a small screen, are considered to be educational aids and are not yet provided to schools on the national health. So I hope that my noble friend may consider the possibility of schools obtaining this equipment on the national health for use by persons with limited vision.
As past chairman of the Disablement Advisory Committee in the South of Scotland, I am happy to say that in our area most of the disabled are playing a full part in the textile and other industries and, thanks to good employers, we are above the minimum quota. There seems to be a problem of obtaining the necessary regional funds to help towards the cost of setting up small sheltered groups in the area. Most of these groups are small, or even one-man, and, as I understand it, a proposal to employ five persons in a laundry at Dingleton Hospital is being delayed for this reason. The Border area, being a rural area with no serious disablement problems, does not justify the setting up of a large sheltered workshop, but all the more reason to satisfy our smaller needs when they are apparent.
Lastly, I should like to raise two points which affect disabled ex-servicemen as a whole. I urge the Government to give some financial aid to institutions like the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital at Erskine, to help towards the setting up of sheltered housing schemes with nursing care. Due to the mounting age of the majority of the disabled ex-servicemen, many of them need some degree of permanent trained nursing care. For these at present there is no alternative to 578 hospitalisation. Far preferable would be for them to live with their families in homes adjacent to the hospitals where they can find medical treatment. It seems wrong that sheltered housing schemes, which are mushrooming through Legion initiative and which do not provide medical care, qualify for Government aid, whereas sheltered housing with nursing care does not. Perhaps when my noble friend replies to my questions he would also agree to look into the nursing needs of the younger disabled to include not only ex-servicemen who have been injured in the Falklands or in Northern Ireland but civilians as well.
Young disabled men in Scotland needing long-term treatment have to face up to living in an atmosphere which, inspiring as it is at Erskine, is somewhat elderly. There appears to be no provision within the health service for the long-term young disabled person who is mentally alert. The staff at Erskine have found that the lack of companions of a comparable age has tended to make very difficult the task of rehabilitating these young men. This is a problem which should be looked at from a general point of view, rather than be limited to the ex-service aspect alone, though its urgency is increased by the influx of men recently wounded in the Falklands Islands.
The purpose of this debate is to find ways and means of better integration of disabled people in society. Perhaps some of the instances that I have mentioned show just one or two examples of where money should be spent to provide technical aids for the education of young blind people, to keep factories and small, one-man groups going for the employment of the disabled, and to provide for nursing care of the disabled in a family atmosphere if available, or otherwise in an atmosphere that is acceptable from a human point of view.
Far better facilities are needed for all disabled ex-service and non-ex-service alike, and properly coordinated improvements are needed, too. My intervention on behalf of the ex-serviceman, as president of the Haig Fund and Legion in Scotland, is due to my involvement with those ex-service organisations, and is not because I do not see that the problem is one which should be tackled on behalf of disabled people as a whole.
§ 6.32 p.m.
The Countess of Loudoun
My Lords, I, too, should like to say what pleasure it gives me to see the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, on our Benches, as the interest that he takes in the disabled is well known. Since the middle of the last century our society has attempted to help the mentally handicapped by providing long-term care in a mental hospital. Although such institutions started out with high hopes of therapeutic endeavour, many rapidly deteriorated into offering only custodial care. Such is the inherent nature of psychiatric disabilities that if a vigorous, active policy of care is not maintained, patients tend to get worse. This fact has been clearly appreciated over the last 20 years, and attempts have been made to provide care which is based not on the mental hospital, but on services set up outside it, in the community.
I was delighted that the Queen's Speech included the Government's intention to implement proposals from the Care in the Community consultative document on 579 transferring mentally ill and mentally handicapped people from long-stay hospitals into the community. The production of this document some time ago raised all our hopes, but what progress has been made? In England I can find no evidence of concrete proposals. Perhaps I am wrong, and the Minister will correct me. But this is not so in Wales. I applaud the radical changes about to take place there, and compliment the endorsing the recommendations of the report of the All-Wales Working Party on Services for Mentally Handicapped People.
The recommendations proposed a 10-year plan for development of community-based services, urged big new spending on community schemes, and, most important of all, promised that if local authorities endorsed the strategy, the department would increase social services funds to £8 million by the end of five years, and by a further £15 million a year over the following five years. I hope that I have got my figures right. This money would be taken from growth money in other areas of the health service, and would be held by the Welsh Office for grant-aiding direct the development of community services.
By this scheme Wales has faced up to the unequal treatment of mentally handicapped people in hospital as compared with people in acute hospitals, and through this the unfair distribution of resources may begin to be righted. But it is not only greater resources that are needed, though these are crucial. We must endeavour to change public attitudes towards mental disability. Yes, I know that these are changing, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has already said, but they are doing so only very slowly.
The International Year of Disabled People helped to create a greater awareness in society of the needs of people with disabilities, but did little to remove the shame and stigma that is often attached to mental disabilities. We need many more day centres, not only to relieve the burden of caring for someone suffering from a severe mental illness or handicap, so as to give relatives the chance of a few hours to themselves, but to extend to a wider audience the knowledge that these patients are not the monsters that people in their ignorance have been led to believe they are.
Much is already being done by the voluntary sector. To quote only one scheme, I would point out that in my local city of Leicester Age Concern has a large project to raise quarter of a million pounds to provide a multi-purpose centre for the elderly. This is to include a day centre for the mentally infirm. It is a very ambitious scheme, and much hard work by many people is being put into raising the money. I wish them every success.
The voluntary sector has a large part to play, but nevertheless the health authorities have a major responsibility, and care in the community is not care on the cheap. We need many more hostels—Yes, in the community, to prove that living next to people with these handicaps is not the nightmare that so many expect, and can be very rewarding.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for initiating the debate. Other sections of the community have only to ask for more to receive more automatically every year, whether or not the country 580 can afford it. This part of the community has only its voice with which to put pressure on the Government. I am pleased to be part of this voice—the weaker appealing to the stronger.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Lord Milverton
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to join in with all the previous speakers. First, I must give my apologies, because as soon as I have finished speaking I shall have to dash to catch a train. In my conscience I feel that when I come to your Lordships' House I ought to be back at home not too late, so that if anyone rings me up, I shall be there to answer him. Listening to this debate and other similar previous debates the word which comes to my mind is "participation". To me it seems that the public are made more aware of the need of the disabled to take a full part in life—be it work life, or social life, including pleasure and recreation—by the way that the voluntary and statutory bodies and Her Majesty's Government are seen to be working together. I believe that that is happening.
Before I became a Member of your Lordships' House I was aware of what was in some ways being done for the disabled, but later I realised that I was only very slightly aware of it, and it is only since coming here and being involved with the all-party disablement group that my eyes have really been opened to the wonderful work being done by so many people, and in particular to the wonderful example being given by the disabled themselves, including those among your Lordships here.
I would ask Her Majesty's Government to do their utmost to see whether they can respond to the different points made to them and to take note of the concern about the need to bring in partial incapacity aid—I think that I have got it right—and to enable disabled people to benefit from the countryside and nature. Apparently there has been formed a new trust, known as the Country Landowners' Association Charitable Trust, which is hoping to be able to do that kind of thing.
I am grateful to all noble Lords for helping me to appreciate even more the need to bring together the able and disabled. I believe that working together, rather than apart, will greatly enrich society in every way. So one hopes that Her Majesty's Government will be able to respond, on the whole, to all that has been put to them.
§ 6.40 p.m.
The Earl of Snowdon
My Lords, I came here to listen and not to speak, and am totally unprepared; but I want just to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, on behalf of the people who tried to contribute—and I played a very minor part—in last year's International Year of Disabled People. It was, however, only the first 12 months of a new era. If that year gathers dust and is forgotten, it was totally useless. What, surely, we have to do is to make certain that it is not forgotten but is followed up in every possible way. We must make sure that it is followed up with integration, especially integration in schools, where, at the earliest possible stage, able-bodied people and disabled people can mix together. It is exactly the same as where somebody has a different colour of skin. If at 581 the age of four, five or six you do not meet somebody with a differently coloured skin, if you do not meet somebody who is different, somebody who is one of a minority group, then at a later stage, when you do meet them, you do not know how to deal with the situation. If in the majority of cases that integration can happen at school, at that age, then hopefully they will become members and leaders of a better society than we have today.
We must surely concentrate on prevention, which is vital, as so many noble Lords have said so marvellously today. There is also the importance of research at every level, not only to stop polio spreading in the third world but also to ensure that it does not start again in this country, as it could because people have become careless about it. People have forgotten about it; people have taken the situation for granted. At any moment that dreaded disease could break out again in this country, and this is why the "Stop Polio" campaign of the Save the Children Fund is so vital.
We should like to think that discrimination does not exist, but it does. I do not think it is ever practised on purpose, but it is practised through thoughtlessness and a lack of caring. That goes for people in a position of power—architects and engineers in their thinking about access and in giving fire regulations as a feeble excuse when it need not be. It was interesting that in the case of two buildings side by side, the National Theatre and the Festival Hall, the Festival Hall in fact banned or did not allow somebody who was blind to go there unless they were accompanied by a sighted person. The National Theatre is not by any means perfect for disabled people to visit, but because of the people who work there the National Theatre welcome people who are blind, and their guide dogs. In fact, the staff who are showing people to their seats are told where those people are in case there is an emergency; but they are welcomed. Luckily, the position at the Festival Hall has been changed. We were in touch with the GLC and now these people are also welcomed at the Festival Hall.
My Lords, I hate the expression "the disabled". Everybody is disabled, and we are more likely to become so as we get older. It is a question of whether or not we can cope. But every person who is disabled is a first-class citizen, and for them we must demand that equal opportunities and equal rights are taken for granted—not as a favour, not out of pity, but as of right.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Jeger
My Lords, this has been a very wide-ranging and important debate, and it is rather difficult to wind-up from this side. My only comfort is that it will be much more difficult for the Minister opposite to reply to all the points that have been made in this debate, though I can see that he is probably better briefed than I am. We are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who once again has shown his sympathy, his compassion and his expert knowledge and concern for disabled people. I do not want to be invidious, but I was especially glad—and I am sure that this is something which I share with all other noble Lords—to see the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), back with us again. She has had a 582 rotten long time in Stoke Mandeville, and it is very good to have her back with us.
I am especially glad that the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, intervened in this debate, because we know not only of his great sympathy and understanding but of his practical assistance, and that is what is so important in this field. Nothing is easier than to have people talk about these things, but we all have to acknowledge a special debt to those who do something about it. I would say with great respect to the noble Earl that I am glad he said he came unprepared to speak, because I can tell him that some of the best speeches I have heard in this House have been unprepared, and some of the most boring have been the best prepared. It is very refreshing to hear a spontaneous contribution in that way.
In trying to pull some of the themes of this debate together I am thinking in terms of prevention, integration, information and education. I found it especially refreshing that the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, referred to the problems of other countries. We are, after all, supposed to be talking about the International Year of Disabled People, but we have been very domestically fixated, I feel, during most of the debate. That is fair enough, because we have plenty of problems at home; but her reference to preventive measures, particularly as to polio, I think was a fair reminder to your Lordships that we are talking about a world problem.
I have been in India, and I have seen so many people, especially children, blind for lack of the most simple surgical operation for glaucoma and cataracts, which, in terms of the Western World, cost almost pennies to deal with. There was also the world disgrace of malaria, which can be a crippling disease and can become incurable. For some years we thought we were getting on top of malaria, but now, I understand from friends in the World Health Organisation, it is getting dangerously resurgent.
There are two reasons for this. One is the increase in poverty of many of the countries where malaria is endemic and the second is the high cost of petrol. The spray which is used in anti-malarial campaigns is a by-product of petrochemicals, and has therefore become inordinately expensive. Also, to run the jeeps to get the teams up to the areas to be sprayed also needs petrol, and in many of the third world countries this has meant a curtailment of their anti-malarial programme. There has been, in effect, a fallback from the situation where we had almost eliminated malaria, and it has now come back again, so all the money spent previously and all the previous efforts have been wasted. I feel we must keep this world perspective in our minds.
I agree with what many noble Lords have said about the question of prevention. There are so many children who could have been spared lasting incapacity, health problems and mental problems if only there had been better maternity care and better post-natal care. And, as we are thinking about this aspect of the problem tonight, may I remind your Lordships about the emergency situation at a hospital like Great Ormond Street. We are very glad that the Government have stepped in with what I must call a first-aid contribution to keep things going; because, in hospitals like this one with its highly specialised care of children 583 with serious defects, there can be a real hope for their future if not by removing their problems at least by diminishing them. I am afraid that there must be many other hospitals in this country which do not have the prestige of Great Ormond Street where work is being curtailed.
Not long ago, we had questions in this House about the closing of some very important laboratories at the Westminster Children's Hospital. There was a letter in The Times this morning from some staff at Great Ormond Street which pointed out their gratitude for the interim help that had been given but stated that this had given no long-term confidence in the future of that hospital. I feel sure that the most important aspect of our work is prevention. Although I have mentioned only these two London hospitals, I know that the same anxieties pertain elsewhere in the country.
There are so many aspects of this problem that I am going to confine myself to only one or two. I particularly want to refer to the Education Act and I am very glad that the noble Baroness referred to it. I am a very simple person. When the Education Act 1981 was going through this House I moved an amendment asking that it should be implemented by September 1982. I believe that it concentrates the minds of politicians and of officials very much if they are given a sort of vesting date to which to work. I suggested September 1982 on Friday, 17th July, 1981—as can be seen—at column 1540 of the Hansard of that date. I particularly stressed that there should be a date for implementation of this Act, which, as noble Lords will recall, embodied the main proposals of the Warnock Committee, because I am so old that I remember the 1976 Education Act. Section 10 of the 1976 Education Act stated that disabled children should be integrated into county and voluntary schools rather than in special schools. That has been on the statute book since 1976; and absolutely nothing was done about it. When we got the Education Act 1981, I thought that, seeing that this had been hanging around since 1976, it was not a bad idea to suggest to the Minister that what I call the "Warnock Bill" might start work by September 1982. I got a very moving answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, at that time. She said that she could not accept my amendment, the reason being that (and I am quoting from column 1543):we do not wished to be tied to a date … I am already exploring the possibility of bringing some provisions into force earlier than September 1982 . . .I thought that that was splendid and in my naive belief in the goodness of Ministers, even Tory Ministers, I withdrew my amendment.
Then we come to September 1982 and I find that absolutely nothing has happened at all. Well, I must not say that nothing has happened at all. As far as the children are concerned, nothing has happened, although I suppose that a lot of important people have been talking to a lot of other important people about it. So I took a deep breath and I put down another Question to ask what progress had been made towards the implementation of the Education Act 1981. By this time, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, was in charge. He replied that it had been hoped that the regulations would be ready in time to bring the remaining 584 provisions of the Act into force in January next. The noble Lord said—and I am quoting directly from Hansard—This will not be possible and in order to give the local authorities adequate time in which to take account of the regulations, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Wales now plan to bring these provisions into force at the beginning of April 1983".I think this is disgraceful. I feel that I was misled, that the House was misled and that hundreds of handicapped children and their parents will now never benefit from the 1981 Act because they will have left school by the time the Government get around to doing anything to implement the recommendations of the Warnock Committee and the 1981 Bill. They will never get those years back again. As far as the children are concerned, those years have gone forever. I think that this is one of the most disgraceful things that I have known to happen since I have been in your Lordships' House.
I want to say a word about integration. I am not concerned only about the integration of people with mental and physical handicaps into what we choose to call the community. There was one disabled lady who said to me the other day: "I don't bloody well know what the community is because it doesn't seem to care much about me"—if your Lordships will forgive my putting it in her words. I found a lack of integration between various offices of the Government, and I will give one particular case, not because I want to do any special pleading, but because it illustrates the sort of difficulties into which disabled people can get.
I know a young man who is registered disabled but he is not immobile and he is not all that mentally handicapped, though sufficiently so to be registered. He is certainly not unemployable. He has done a YOP course and, as has happened to so many young people, at the end of six months there was not a job and so he became unemployed. Not wanting to sit around at home doing nothing, he made some arrangements to go to the local day centre. When he went to the local day centre, the employment office in East Grinstead said that he had to be taken off the dole because if he went to the day centre he was not available for work. He said, "If I sit at home and do nothing, then will I be available for work?" They said, "Yes, so long as you come along every Wednesday and register". I know that some changes are being made in compulsory registration, but this did not happen in this case. So this employable but unemployed young man was told that unless he signed on every day at East Grinstead he could not be considered as available for work. Meanwhile, he was going to a centre at Burgess Hill which is run under the local authority, West Sussex County Council. He suggested—quite intelligently, I thought, for someone who was supposed to be mentally handicapped—that perhaps he could sign on at Burgess Hill in the lunchtime. "Oh, no!" said East Grinstead, "You cannot do that. If you are supposed to sign on at East Grinstead, you cannot sign on at Burgess Hill". So he cannot get unemployment pay because, in the eyes of officialdom, he is not available for work because he is going to a day centre.
I put this forward very seriously not just on behalf of this one person. I would not presume to raise a single case unless I felt that it illustrated a wider problem. Are disabled people who go to day centres to be 585 crossed off the employability list at the employment office somewhere else? I can understand it if disabled people (or anyone else) are on a structured course where one has to do one's three months or six months. But the people at this day centre are merely filling in time longing for a job. They are longing for work. The fact that while they are there they stand less chance of getting some rare, precious job than if they sit at home doing nothing seems totally unfair. I am not trying to make any mean points out of this. I feel that there must be some misunderstanding between the local authorities who run the day centres and the employment offices which are supposed to look for jobs, including of course jobs for the registered disabled. I hope that the Minister can assure me that if a registered disabled person attends a day centre he is not then precluding himself from employment opportunities.
I must say another word about this case, again in illustration of an increasing difficulty for disabled people. This particular young man lives in a village in Sussex. I have already mentioned that he has to go to East Grinstead to sign on as unemployed. He then has to go to Burgess Hill, which is the nearest day centre. The Government have decided to close the local office of the Department of Health and Social Security at East Grinstead. That has now been moved to Crawley, so, in order to claim social security, he has to go to Crawley. When he gets to Crawley, he is told that because there is a health problem his papers have gone to Haywards Heath. It is very serious that disabled people should be pushed around in this way as if officers cannot telephone one another. It seems that Haywards Heath does not speak to Crawley, and Crawley does not speak to Burgess Hill, and Burgess Hill does not speak to East Grinstead. The problems I have seen for this young man would defy people with a far higher IQ than many noble Lords in this House, and so would the leaflets which have been pushed out. And this is to someone who is supposed to be inadequate and disabled, both mentally and physically!
The Minister ought to be glad that I am asking him to do something that will not cost any money. I beg him to lean on these people to ensure that they use the telephone rather than try to put disabled people on buses. I asked a Question some time ago and I know that where elderly and disabled people go to local offices there are circumstances in which they can reclaim their fares. But they have to pay the fares first, and it is not only a question of money. It is not a very good idea for a cripple to have to stand at a bus-stop in the rain in some of our rural areas waiting to go from one place to another just to save an official a 'phone call or two.
I was sorry to get an Answer to a Question that I asked on 2nd August from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, telling me that 16 national insurance offices and 12 area offices have been closed since May 1979. He stated that their work had been absorbed by the creation of 12 new integrated local offices. They may be integrating the offices, but they are not integrating the services for the local people; in fact, they are disintegrating them because they are making people travel further and further, and from one office to another.
586 It is not a question of money but of attitude. I very much appreciate the work that many understaffed offices carry on in great difficulties. I will end the story of that young man with what I suppose might be regarded as a happy ending. A sympathetic official—I hope that I am not getting him into trouble—said, "The only answer is to go sick. If you can get a medical certificate saying you are sick, we may be able to give you some money". Nothing is worse than to tell a disabled person that he is sick. Disabled people have enough problems working within their limitations. This young man said "I am not sick. I am as well as I ever will be". He was told, "No, but we can give you some money. Have you not a nice doctor who can give you a certificate?" This went on for six weeks, and for six weeks that young man received not one penny because all four institutions with which he was in touch passed the buck. However, I shall tell you, my Lords, that he has a lovely doctor and he is now getting £22 a week and he is still going to the centre. But he would so much rather have a job.
This must apply to many people; it cannot be just an exceptional case that I have come across. It raises many questions of principle. Regarding information, I appreciate what so many noble Lords have said about public understanding, and knowledge. From the enormous amount of literature, the number of reports that we have received, and the thought that is being given to this subject by Government and by statutory and voluntary organisations, there is clearly public support for improvements in this situation. I was very glad that my noble friend. Lord Cledwyn, raised some of the factual and financial implications. Many of the points that he made are evidence not only to us on this side of the House but to thousands of disabled and sick people outside that there is not a reality, not a dedication in the Government's proposals.
I am very sympathetic to the discussion about discrimination. I am not quite sure which way forward we should go, but I can tell you that the biggest discrimination of all against the disabled is financial. To be disabled is bad enough; but anything that makes people poor as well as disabled is almost unbearable. The fact that the Government have done absolutely nothing to restore the 5 per cent. cut in invalidity benefit contradicts all their weasel words of good intention. Poverty among the disabled is the most disabling aspect of their situation.
I am glad that one speaker referred to America. I was in America during the International Year of Disabled Persons and I travelled from New Mexico to New England but not by aeroplane. They seemed to be showing a much livelier attitude to this whole problem. There were stickers up in all windows and on stamps saying—and the text is very useful—"Disabled but not unable". They had made special efforts in the smallest communities and the smallest villages. As one noble Lord said, the kerbs had been sheared off for wheelchairs. Every shop had its disabled parking place marked. People were very respectful of them. One did not see hearty young men jumping out of Jaguars having parked in the spaces reserved for disabled people.
I am sure that there is the same latent feeling in this country. I know that the International Year brought something forward to the minds of the public. But it 587 must be followed up, as several noble Lords have said. It is no use the Government saying that local authorities must do this, that and the other while they are curtailing the resources of local authorities. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Banks, gave some very important information on those cuts, and most of us must know of local situations where there has been a cut in services, where there are fewer home helps, fewer meals-on-wheels services, whatever anybody says.
As for the Government's invitation for local authorities to spend a lot more in capital expenditure in the next few months, I only wish that that could happen and that, after the capital has been expended, the Government will ensure that the current expenditure is available to keep these homes for the disabled and these centres going. There are hospital beds—whole hospitals in this country—shut, and not because of industrial action. There are wards closed because of lack of money, and we do need this continuing effort. I know the noble Lord will talk about the economic difficulties of the country. What we are talking about are people who could help the economics of this country if they were given the opportunities for work and for training and, if not for that, the right, which they deserve, to comfort and support.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I find myself rising to my feet rather earlier than I had at one time expected during the afternoon and therefore I hope that your Lordships will think it appropriate if I reply at slightly greater length than I might have done had the hour been a little later. If I see your Lordships getting restive, I will rapidly wind up my speech. I would naturally wish to join those noble Lords who have expressed their appreciation of the opportunity given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, to debate this important subject again today. It has been an important and fascinating debate and I have listened to it with very great interest.
It is particularly appropriate that in introducing the debate the noble Lord made reference to The Charter for the 80s. Your Lordships will know, because the noble Lord referred to it, that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister warmly welcomed this document when it was presented to her last year. Its aims go to the very heart of what IYDP was all about—prevention, participation, integration—and in calling for a programme of action over the next decade in pursuit of those aims it underlines the message that IYDP should not be looked upon as a one-off exercise in benevolence but as a spur to continuing activity. That was referred to by several speakers, and not least by the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon. This is absolutely right. The achievements of the Year itself have often been debated and dicussed, but I believe we can agree it was a great success in increasing public awareness of the needs of disabled people, in giving disabled people themselves a greater chance to express their own wishes and in promoting opportunities for them to lead as full a life as possible in the community. As recently as last Friday I had the privilege of presenting a special award made by the Institution of Electrical Engineers to an engineer from Reading University for his development of a joystick control system which can be fitted to many standard cars to enable them to 588 be driven by thalidomide victims and other severely disabled people. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was there too.
We must now concentrate on what comes after the Year, on maintaining the momentum it generated. That was the message both of the report of the Voluntatry Organisations Committee (appropriately called A Beginning, Not an End) and of the Government's own report on the Year, IYDP and After—the United Kingdom Response. I think that document has been referred to in only one speech throughout the course of the debate, unless I have missed another reference, and that was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth)—my Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who is obviously feeling a little bit "miffed".
It is not something the Government alone can do. The community as a whole must be involved. The activities of the voluntary sector and the hundreds of local groups which have been set up all over the country, groups both of and for disabled people, have a vital contribution to make and I have every confidence that they will not allow the flame of IYDP to die away from neglect. But Government does, of course, also have a role—and in our report we have already made known some of our wider plans for the development of services to assist the disabled.
May I tell your Lordships about some of those plans and initiatives. The theme of this debate concentrates on maximising the opportunities of disabled people to participate and become integrated into their community. But IYDP and the Charter for the 80s both rightly stressed the tragic fact that many of the disabilities people suffer could be prevented. Prevention of ill health and disability is a major priority in the Government's health policy, and we continue to promote the strategy set out in Care in Action. Encouraging progress has been made. For example, the uptake of vaccination against diseases such as rubella and polio has increased over the past three years, and for two years running now perinatal mortality has fallen at the fastest rate since statistics first became available over 50 years ago. The noble Earl, Lord Snowdon (whom I see is not now in his place), particularly asked me about the take-up of polio vaccination. I have the figures in front of me, and perhaps I will write to the noble Earl on them.
We shall continue to seek improvements in ante-and post-natal care, in screening services, genetic counselling and health education; and in those measures aimed at reducing the number of accidents at home and on the road. Here, too, it is encouraging that, despite increasing numbers of vehicles on the road, the most recent figures for deaths and injuries have shown a further decline. I hope that the new seat belt legislation will reduce the figures even further.
As a mark of the importance we attach to prevention, we convened an international seminar towards the end of IYDP, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, with distinguished representatives from all over the world. This produced The Leeds Castle Declaration on the Prevention of Disablement, which among its recommendations called for a worldwide expanded programme of immunisation, improved nutrition and health care. I am pleased to say that this United Kingdom initiative has been well received 589 internationally and its recommendations are being taken up by a number of international agencies. I listened with care to the words of my noble friend Lady Macleod about the need for these activities in the third world, and I very much agreed with her.
But however effective prevention measures are, they will never eradicate disability, and our overall aim must be to try to ensure as far as possible that when disability occurs it does not become a handicap. This means working towards the creation of the kind of environment in which disabled people will be able to lead fuller and more integrated lives, wherever possible, within the community. We are concerned that there are still large numbers of people in long-stay hospitals, who, given the chance, could lead more independent and fulfilling lives outside; and we are committed to a policy of developing community care.
May I just digress for a moment on a personal note here. One or two noble Lords, and perhaps a noble Baroness or two as well, raised some questions about that policy. Speaking for myself, with a particular responsibility for mental illness and mental handicap within the department in which I serve, I would say this. If any noble Lords had, as I have, visited some of these dreadful old mental hospitals and homes for the handicapped I am sure they would be wholly in favour of the policy we have embarked upon. The fact is that some of these old hospitals are a public scandal and if there is anything I can do, in whatever time I am spared at this department, to see people moved out of them I shall be a little satisfied. The present thrust of our policy in this area is to get the children out of these places in the first instance, and then move on to the others, who in some cases have been there very many years.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question before he moves to another point? When the people are moved out, will he be sure that the resources move with them?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, my noble friend, if I may call her that, raises a very important point. The Care in the Community initiative, which has been referred to on several occasions, does provide for that, as indeed does the Bill which we shall be discussing on Monday.
In July the Government announced their decision on the proposals contained in the consultation document Care in the Community. Some changes we can make right away, and we hope to issue guidance by the end of the year on more flexible arrangements for using NHS funds in the development of community care for ex-hospital patients. We shall be making it possible for responsibility for providing care to be transferred from health authorities to local authorities, matched by the transfer of resources between them. That is the point the noble Baroness is raising. Joint finance will also be available on an extended basis to support projects for getting people out of hospital. We are setting aside £15 million of joint finance money over the next five years for a programme of pilot projects to explore ways of arranging transfers. These projects will be evaluated and results made available to all those concerned in providing community care. Other changes that we want to make involve legislation and, as I have already said, the Health and 590 Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Bill makes certain additional provisions there.
But getting people out of institutions and into the community is clearly not an end in itself. We must ensure that those living in the community have the necessary independence to lead as full a life as possible. Nearly every aspect of public service provision—health, education, housing, employment, social services, transport—has an important role to play here. Many Government departments are involved in actively pursuing policies to promote this aim. Time does not permit me to list all these in detail, but perhaps I may refer to one or two.
It is clearly important that the equality of opportunities we aim to give disabled people in the educational system is carried over into their working lives, and that people who suffer a disability later in life are given chances of returning to employment. The sad fact is that disabled people cannot be isolated from the effects of the recession. But we are doing our best to mitigate its impact upon them. Both the Government and the Manpower Services Commission are committed to maintaining the level of assistance which is provided for disabled people, and the commission operates an impressive range of services and special schemes to help them into jobs. Very many disabled people find work each year through their local Job Centre—more than 35,000 in 1981–82.
About 16,000 people a year attend courses of rehabilitation and more than 4,000 disabled people a year complete training courses open for open employment. In addition, practical and financial assistance is available to both disabled people and their employers through the MSC's special schemes. This assistance may take the form of help with the cost of travel to work; adaptations to employers' premises to improve access or to ensure that the work environment does not place disabled people at an unfair disadvantage; and the issue of special aids to help disabled people do a particular job of work.
But it is increasingly clear that it is not just the number of jobs available for disabled people that is important. We are also committed to promoting equality of opportunity for disabled people once they are in work—by influencing employers' attitudes regarding the quality of jobs available; by encouraging employers to provide suitable training and career development opportunities for disabled employees; and by focussing employers' attention on the benefits of retaining newly disabled employees, as well as recruiting unemployed disabled.
In 1979, the "Fit for Work" campaign was launched by the MSC and Government, with the full support of the TUC and the CBI, to encourage just this sort of approach—to get these messages across, to change attitudes and to improve the employment prospects of disabled people as a result. The purpose of "Fit for Work" has been to bring home to employers what disabled people have to offer as employees. It may need a little imagination to match the skills and abilities of a disabled person to a particular job. The effort, however, is always worthwhile. Experience has shown that disabled workers are good workers—adaptable, co-operative, conscientious, hardworking and reliable. In many ways they are a prize for an employer—not in any sense a liability.
591 Job prospects for disabled people, as for everybody, are obviously linked to the health of the economy as a whole. As I have said, disabled people cannot be isolated from the effects of the recession, and I make no bones about the fact that there is a great deal more that we would like to do, if we had the resources. I appreciate, too, people's concern that disabled people are more at risk than others in an economic recession. We are very mindful of this. In the social services field, for example, we have always encouraged local authorities in their expenditure plans to pay particular attention to the needs of the most vulnerable, and it is fair to say that they have continued to give the disabled high priority in their programmes. For example, spending on day care rose slightly in real terms over the two years 1980–81, and, while spending on aids and adaptations admittedly fell over the same period, the numbers of cases assisted increased.
Turning now to the cash benefits available to disabled people, last year we spent £2¾ billion on benefits for the long-term sick and disabled. Expenditure in this financial year is estimated at over £3 billion—about one-tenth of the total social security budget. In spite of this enormous expenditure, there remain shortcomings in provision which we admit. There is, of course, much more that we would like to do, but I think that this would be true whatever the level of provision we were able to make—the possible demand is almost limitless.
Nevertheless, we should take pride in the achievements which have been made. Governments of both persuasion have introduced many new benefits to help the disabled: for example, attendance allowance for those who require a great deal of attention, and mobility allowance for those who are unable, or virtually unable, to walk. The present Government have continued the improvement on the system of benefits. Apart from the general increases in benefits each year, we have given special help to disabled people in a number of ways. In 1979, we brought the 61–64 age group into mobility allowance in one stage rather than two—earlier than planned by the previous Administration. Next week the allowance will go up to £18.30 a week, an increase of 83 percent. since 1979. In addition, we have increased its effectiveness by taking it out of taxation and by removing VAT from the purchase price of Motability cars.
Invalid care allowance has been extended to people who are not relatives of the person needing care; and the amount which the carers can earn without losing the allowance is being doubled from £6 to £12 next week. The heating additions which go to the poorest disabled people—those receiving supplementary benefit—are going up by 15 per cent., and, at the same time, we shall extend automatic entitlement to the higher rate of this heating addition to people driving invalid trikes or cars provided by the department and to those receiving a car maintenance allowance.
As well as maintaining the value of benefits and improving them, where possible, we have been making efforts to ensure that people are aware of and claim the benefits to which they are entitled. That these efforts are having some success is confirmed by the increasing numbers of claims—for example, the number of new claims for attendance allowance in the first nine 592 months of this year was 18 per cent. up on the corresponding period of 1981. These are all worthwhile achievements and improvements which the Government have made in a period of considerable economic difficulty.
Our long-term objective is to produce a coherent, more rational and easily understood system of benefits for the disabled. But a comprehensive scheme of this kind, cutting through the complexities and catering properly for all disabled people, would be very costly. The Government could not contemplate introducing any such scheme until the necessary resources become available. That is why the fight against inflation and for prosperity is a fight which the Government are conducting on behalf of the disabled just as much as for any other group.
I have concentrated in my speech mainly so far on measures which the Government are providing, but I feel I must make some mention of the vital contribution made by the voluntary sector towards improving the quality of life of disabled people. In our view, voluntary effort formed the backbone of IYDP. Voluntary organisations are uniquely placed to promote public awareness of the needs of disabled people, to provide information, to be the channel through which the disabled themselves effectively voice their views, in a way which the statutory sector simply cannot do. We acknowledge that and will continue to promote a flourishing voluntary sector, through, for example, financial support. Last year my department alone made grants of £2¼ million to voluntary organisations in the disablement field.
Your Lordships will also be glad to know that we are continuing the "Opportunities for Volunteering" scheme throughout the whole of next year. This, of course, covers voluntary work in the health and social services field as a whole, but it has benefitted projects in the disability field as well, giving individual disabled people the chance to participate in projects affecting other areas of service provision. This, too, is very important in the context of integration.
I turn now to some of the points which have been made during the course of the debate. First, I take up one of the points which was made by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy and more than one other speaker; namely, transport. The Government recognise that the extent to which a disabled person has the independence to lead as full a life as possible is closely linked to his ability to move around. Our aim is to make it easier for disabled people to travel with the same freedom as the rest of the community.
I hope that some of your Lordships have had a chance to see the "Away from Home" exhibition which is on display this week in the upper waiting hall. I commend it to those of your Lordships who have not yet done so. This has been mounted by the Department of Transport, British Rail and the National Bus Company and it illustrates past, present and future work being carried out to enable disabled people to use public transport. It shows, too, the exciting work, in collaboration between the Department of Transport and Carbodies Limited, to design a successor to the London taxi which will be able to carry a wheelchair.
The department is also looking at other ways of encouraging more flexible possibilities of door to door 593 transport for disabled people. Indeed, they are today holding a conference with RADAR to consider how dial-a-ride services could be helped to flourish. A number of these community-based minibus schemes have already sprung up and we are keen to encourage more. There are, of course, some disabled people who prefer the independence of their own cars but who find that they face major obstacles—for example, in learning to drive. The "Away From Home" exhibition shows how the Department of Transport is working to help overcome these obstacles, thus allowing disabled people to enjoy the personal mobility which most of us take for granted.
Education was in the minds of several speakers this afternoon. I have tried to show in my remarks that our aim of promoting the integration and participation of disabled people is reflected across a whole range of service development. One of the most fundamental areas is of course education. In this country, disabled children have long shared the right of all children to education suited to their age, ability and aptitude. However, the Warnock Committee drew attention to the need for a reform of the legal framework of education for disabled people, and the Education Act 1981 embodies many of their recommendations. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, said—although somewhat disparagingly, I felt—it has been decided that the Act shall come fully into force on 1st April next. Like the noble Baroness, I regret that it has not been possible to bring it into force earlier, but there were some genuine difficulties in drafting the regulations under the Act. Now I am happy to be able to give the firm date. The noble Baroness referred to the statutory provisions which were made in 1976. She will recall that she and her noble and right honourable friends were then responsible. I do not want to make party politics out of this. We are all anxious to get these provisions into force as soon as possible and I am happy to be able to confirm that this will happen on 1st April 1983.
I have a whole sheaf of points raised by other noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for example, in his most effective opening speech asked about a programme of action, as Charter for the 80s recommended. Many of the aims and recommendations of the charter concerned matters which are already our practice in this country. The Government have made it clear that the remaining recommendations will be taken into account in planning in all departments. I think the noble Lord was concerned that no plan has so far been produced for future action in the field of disability. We have produced the document to which I referred earlier, IYDP and After—the United Kingdom Response, which sets out not only what happened during the year but also what the Government plan to do in the future.
Several noble Lords mentioned the discrimination which many disabled people feel that they suffer. This is an important point, There are calls for antidiscrimination legislation to put it to an end. This is a very serious matter and is certainly one of the most important recommendations of the CORAD report. I do not for a moment deny that disabled people often find that unnecessary restrictions prevent them from going about their lives as they would wish. In a small number of cases there is, I fear, intentional discrimination, and the force of law might persuade those 594 involved to change their ways, but in the overwhelming number of cases I believe that such restrictions arise from ignorance or lack of awareness of the needs of disabled people.
Some of those restrictions can be reduced by legislation in one field or another. I hope, for example, that the Education Act and the Disabled Persons Act will help towards that end. But a great deal can be achieved by the kind of education and publicity generated by IYDP and by the work of local groups, such as access groups, which are being set up all over the country. It was, I believe, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, who asked me about access officers being employed by local authorities. We would not want to dictate to local authorities how they should set about meeting their obligations under the various legislative provisions which now exist, but the fact that there is an increasing number of these officers across the country is, I think, cause for satisfaction.
The noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, referred to a number of minor access problems, including access to lavatories. I have every sympathy with the noble Baroness and the people for whom she speaks about the irritations, small and large, which they must meet in their everyday lives. I entirely agree with her that more education is needed to get better design of such things as lavatories for disabled people. Many organisations, including the Centre for the Environment for the Handicapped, which my department helps to fund, are doing all they can to promote this, and we would wish to give them every encouragement in their efforts. I also endorse the compliments which the noble Baroness paid to the Disabled Living Foundation, which we also help to fund, and a number of other information-providing bodies. The foundation certainly does a most admirable job. The noble Baroness also asked me about the means-testing for people needing aids which is included in Clause 12 of the Bill which we are to discuss on Monday. If the noble Baroness will forgive me, I shall leave that point until Monday.
My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy asked me about the problems with the orange badge scheme. Unfortunately, there has been some abuse of the scheme. Following consultations with interested bodies, a package of measures aimed at concentrating the assistance provided upon those with the greatest need and eliminating abuse by non-entitled people was announced in July 1981. I have some more information about that package, and perhaps I could write to the noble Lord about it.
Housing was in the minds of several noble Lords who spoke, not least the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford. Suitable housing is an obvious prerequisite in giving disabled people independence, and, in his speech to the Naidex conference last year, my honourable friend the Minister for Housing outlined a strategy for helping disabled people in this area. In the private sector there are encouraging initiatives aimed at giving disabled people greater opportunities to buy suitably designed new houses of their own, and in the council house sector local authorities, too, have been making substantial progress in ensuring that their own housing stock is suitable for disabled people. The number of dwellings adapted by them for their disabled tenants has increased in recent months. I 595 think that the statistics which are available to me now are not so discouraging as the ones to which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred. But they are more recent. Perhaps I may write to the noble Lord on that point. Increasing use is being made, too, of improvement grants to assist disabled people to adapt their existing houses. These are available on more generous terms than hitherto.
The Government are conscious of the continuing need to promote greater awareness of the housing needs of disabled people. The Department of the Environment have made a film, "Housing for the Disabled", which demonstrates how disabled people can lead independent lives in the community and the contribution which the private sector, local authority housing associations and others can make. Incidentally, I have visited a number of schemes, for the housing of mentally handicapped people in particular. I was particularly impressed by a MENCAP scheme, which involved some central Government support, near Birmingham. I saw this a month or two ago. I also visited another scheme near Newcastle, at a place called Ashington.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, asked me about the invalidity benefit which was uprated in November 1980 by 5 per cent. less than would otherwise have been the case because the Government thought that the necessary reduction in the social security programme should fall on all benefits which were not taxable. The Government have pledged that this cut in invalidity benefit will be restored when the benefit is brought into tax. I cannot say when this will be because that, of course, is a Budget secret—but certainly it is a pledge that we have given and one that we will stand by.
My noble friend Lord Radnor referred to the problem of dyslexia. I understand that this is quite a complex problem. There are some important discussions going on, and perhaps I can write to my noble friend. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, referred to the problem of VAT and charities, and this is a problem that is very often raised in this context. Charities have traditionally benefited from direct tax concessions and these have been further extended by this Government, but charities have always paid indirect taxes such as petrol duty, purchase tax and now VAT, which form part of the prices of the goods and services we buy. Some specific reliefs are available to charities in this area. For example, there is important relief on medical and scientific equipment bought with charitable funds for use in treatment or medical research. This relief is available to charities which look after disabled people or which carry out medical research as well as to hospitals in the National Health Service. That goes for ambulances, too, and for the types of small minibus fitted out to take wheelchairs. There is also a useful concession on ordinary goods which are given to a welfare charity for resale. This means that charities can operate bring-and-buy shops, jumble sales and the like without charging VAT to their customers.
As far as disabled individuals are concerned, since last year's Budget they have been able to buy a far wider range of specialised aids free of VAT, and in this 596 year's Budget VAT relief was extended to cover cars or small vans designed to be adapted as personal ambulances to carry a handicapped passenger. In fact, virtually every appliance which is designed solely for disabled people is covered by the relief and it includes all subsequent repair and maintenance and the cost of adapting ordinary goods. Charities for the disabled can, of course, get these benefits as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Banks, referred to research into discrimination. I appreciate the noble Lord's wish that research should be undertaken into discrimination against disabled people. This will take time and will be costly, but I am certainly willing to consider the possibility within our other research priorities. This, I believe, was the concern of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy and I certainly take note of the research he spoke about, which was of course a good number of years ago now and needs, I would imagine, to be updated.
May I finally deal with some of the points raised by my noble friend Lord Haig. First, there was the proposal by the Royal British Legion, Scotland, to introduce a new war pensions preference allowance. May I first assure my noble friend that the Government remain firmly committed to a policy of war pensions preference. In accordance with that policy the proposal for a new allowance has been carefully considered on a number of occasions over the past few years. My honourable friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People, who has special responsibility for war pensions, discussed the proposal with representatives of the Royal British Legion, Scotland, as recently as April of this year when he visited Edinburgh. Indeed, I myself dealt with the matter when I addressed the annual conference of the Royal British Legion, Scotland, in May.
Let me say that the Government do not accept the basic assumption in the proposal that there has been an erosion of war preference for those in receipt of the lower rates of war pension. Furthermore, as I explained to the Legion's annual conference, the money needed to fund the new allowance is just not available at present, and even it it were, we would not regard it as a high priority. We woulds prefer to concentrate extra resources, when they become available, on the severely disabled and elderly. These seem to us to be a higher priority than war pensioners with the lower assessments of disablement. My noble friend has passed me additional information, which I shall certainly study. Perhaps I may write to him in response to the other points he has raised.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he say a word about the quota scheme for employment, and the Government's response to the latest MSC proposals?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I do have a lot of information on that and I wonder if the noble Lord would allow me to write to him.
This has been an extremely valuable debate. There have been criticisms of the Government that we have not been doing enough, but we have nonetheless done a great deal. During this time of scarce resources we have maintained the value of benefits and extended some of them to new groups of people. In services, too, we have done much. Recent examples in my own 597 department are improvements in artificial limb and hearing aid provision, and there has been important work in many other areas; for instance, in the field of transport and other developments linked to Information Technology Year. I fully acknowledge that more could be done; yes, much more. The expectations of disabled people are rising. They want to be fully integrated into society and so, of course, they should be. Indeed, perhaps I can put it like this. The day when there is no need for a Minister for the Disabled, no need for special services for disabled people, and no need even to talk about disabled people, rather than about people some of whom have disabilities, will be the day when our policy goals and the goals of IYDP have been fully achieved.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Lord Wells-Pestell
My Lords, I am conscious of the fact that there is an important piece of business to follow this and I believe that I can best serve the interests of your Lordships' House if I do not exercise my right to comment on various speeches, including that of the noble Lord the Minister. All I want to do—and I hope your Lordships will feel that this is the proper thing to do in the circumstances—is to thank every Member of your Lordships' House who has participated in this debate. It has been very revealing and I hope it will be of value to the Government. I have heard every speech with two exceptions; I heard only part of the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, and that applies also to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton. I had to leave the Chamber, and I will leave it like that.
My final point is that my noble friend Lord Longford, with his characteristic generosity, rather implied that I do more for the disabled than anybody else in your Lordships' House; and that, of course, is not true; we must have that on the record too. I can look around this Chamber and see five or six people who do infinitely more than I have done, or will ever do. What I do is very limited. I can remember that when I was in the department as a junior Minister for five years, my thoughts often went out in sympathy to Henry II, who asked, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?". In my case, it was not a turbulent priest but a very troublesome woman by the name of Lady Masham of Ilton, from whom I had wads of correspondence at least twice a week for five years—and I am not exaggerating—with as many as nine or 10 letters in each envelope! If your Lordships want to know who is doing all the work, I will certainly tell you, although I am sure the noble Baroness will agree it is never one person who is doing all the work but always a group of people. With your Lordships' permission, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.