HL Deb 22 December 1988 vol 502 cc1455-7

11.13 a.m.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they intend the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 to be fully implemented.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Skelmersdale)

My Lords, we are making good progress in implementing the Act. Six key sections are now in force. The first report under Section 11 will be laid late next year. We have agreed with the local authority associations that Section 7 is the next priority, and we are discussing its resource implications with them.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that very helpful Answer. Is he aware that in addition to the fact that certain sections have not been implemented there is a problem with the funding of sections that have already been brought into force? For example, Hereford and Worcester County Council's treasurer has refused to identify the county's portion of the £5 million for implementing Sections 5 and 6 and therefore no allocation has been made to the social services committee. What would he say to the parents of a disabled child in Hereford and Worcester who know that the social services committee has deferred the implementation of Sections 5 and 6?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I did not know that Hereford and Worcester County Council had deferred implementation in regard to Sections 5 and 6. Extra money has been added to the personal social services allocation of public expenditure to local authorities. We are taking steps nationally through the social services inspectorate to discover how the Act is being implemented. I shall refer the noble Countess's comments to it. However, in the last analysis, it must be for the local authorities to determine their own expenditure in the light of local priorities as they see them.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, has the noble Lord received the observations on this subject of the Social Security Advisory Committee, and are the Government taking any notice of them?

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, my Lords. We have received the comments of the Social Security Advisory Committee on this subject. They are taking a little time to study and we shall respond to them in due course.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, it is a welcome fact that the Government are discussing Section 7 with the local authorities. Can my noble friend give us an idea of when he thinks these discussions will be concluded and action will begin to be taken on this part of the Act?

Lord Skelmersdale

No, my Lords; I regret that I cannot. Discussions are continuing and the next meeting will be in mid-January.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

My Lords, I am glad to hear about Section 7 and discharge from hospitals. Is the Minister aware that it is now two and a half years since Royal Assent was given to the Act?

Is he further aware that an increasing number of people are concerned about the priorities of the Government, given the delays in implementing the Act, the prolonged delay over the Griffiths Report and the extraordinary attitude to the poor and the disabled under the poll tax legislation? The Government have recently undergone a conversion in regard to green issues. Can they go through a similar conversion and become a compassionate government?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I do not believe that we have been slow in implementing the Act. Six key sections are now in force. But it is essential that before each section is implemented the resources required should be identified and made available. Any other approach would be irresponsible. Before any section of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act is implemented the cost must he identified, discussed with the local authority associations and made available. This inevitably takes time.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, can the noble Lord confirm that Section 7 includes elderly mentally infirm people?

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, my Lords.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, to follow on from my question about Hereford and Worcester, is there any way in which the money allocated to local authorities can be separately identified, so that when the Secretary of State allocates £5 million it is put to the purpose for which it was originally intended and does not fall into the general pot?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, over the years local authorities have been very resistant to identifying particular pots of gold, as the noble Countess might call them, and applying them to particular areas. Local authorities are elected bodies. It is up to them to identify for themselves their local priorities and act upon them.