§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, in returning to the report on the integration of disabled people I should like to begin by adding my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for the way in which he chaired the committee and also for his very comprehensive introduction to the report this afternoon.
In my remarks I do not intend to talk about the problems of disabled people as such nor about some of the excellent schemes that were outlined to the committee. I say that not because I am not aware of the deep human problems that were presented to us and to which the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, referred but because I believe that some of my colleagues on the committee will concentrate on those issues.
For my part I want to look at the problem the committee found in putting the subject into a 646 European context. Again I do so because I believe that there is a general problem in this regard, not one which is related to the area of this particular inquiry alone but a more general problem. That means that I shall be dealing with constitutional competence, structures, common objectives and ways and means of transferring experience.
The issue of constitutional competence of the Community in social affairs is likely to recur time and time again. The report before the House this afternoon refers to that point at paragraph 69:The European Community has not hitherto been involved to any significant degree in social welfare problems and other aspects of social policy except in so far as they affect employment policies and opportunities. Indeed, it can be argued that those who drafted the Treaty of Rome never contemplated that it should".The second action programme which was the subject of our report was based on two separate proposed decisions. The first proposed decision dealt with the vocational rehabilitation of disabled people, the second with their social integration. The question of competence arose in relation to the latter. However, given the nature of the issue; namely, the integration of disabled people, it was not difficult to blur the boundaries of competence.
To provide vocational rehabilitation of the disabled immediately drives one to the provision of welfare facilities in order to buttress the employability of such people. The more disabled a person is the more necessary the second objective becomes. For example, for a lone person who is severely disabled there can be no possibility of vocational rehabilitation without either institutional care or care in the community. Therefore the dilemma of extension into the social sphere by the Community is likely to occur in different situations as the Community progresses.
So I should like to draw attention to the second part of paragraph 69, which I think is of tremendous importance. It reads:However, as this Committee have already said in a previous report, they believe that in the long term there can be no real Community if Member States adopt totally different solutions to common social problems".Although the first action programme had not been systematically appraised before we moved on to the second action programme it was quite clear that there were many structural weaknesses that needed to be corrected. That was true both at Community and at national level. The most glaring example at both levels seemed to be the failure to involve fully both the disabled themselves and voluntary agencies in the policy and planning of the programme, in other words, not to take fully into consideration the views of those who would be at the receiving or the giving end of the work at grass-roots level. Structures for communication in the Community upwards, downwards and across appeared to he deficient and the committee were not fully convinced from the evidence that that problem had been put right.
Turning to common objectives, the report says at paragraph 56 that:The witnesses were more or less unanimous in confirming the primary importance of the issue of independent living".That was one of the principal objectives in the second action programme.
647 Both the noble Lord, Lord Allen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred to the difficulties of defining objectives. Indeed, the noble Baroness quite rightly said that when there is confusion about defining objectives there is also subsequent confusion in determining policies. However, it was difficult, on the committee, to get a definition that had been previously agreed. Mr. Derek Prag, the MEP witness who appeared before the committee, gave us a definition of independent living at Question 383. He said:To me it is enabling a disabled person to do things for himself or herself, rather than being dependent on able-bodied people to do them for him or her".He went on to say that meant, in terms of transport and of access, that much more needed to be done than is being done currently. Here again we see the relationship between the definition of common objectives and the policies which flow from them.
However, it seems to me that there should be no problem about the Community sharing common objectives even if we have diverse ways of realising those objectives. There is a parallel with the principle of equal opportunities for women and men which the Community has espoused. While each country has its own laws, structures and policies on the subject, simultaneously common European case law is being developed and common strategies within the Community are being built. The same process, I suggest, could and should happen with the integration of disabled people.
There is already one area, we were told, where there is a common move across Europe: that is, towards care in the community. This is not just a British initiative. It is not only a Community initiative but one which occurs in different parts of the world; but within the Community it seems that this is a general trend. Equally, it was clear from the witnesses that there is a shared acceptance of the fact that care in the community is not a cheap alternative to institutional care. So we are conscious, at Community level as well as at national level, of the cost that will be involved in this kind of care.
In this whole area there is scope for exchanging experiences and in some cases transferring the benefit of those experiences from one country to another. However, this process depends on channels of communication and on networks in each country and in Europe. Again, the evidence conveyed to the committee was that these networks are inadequate. Even in the United Kingdom it seemed that for the first action programme adequate channels of communication were lacking, and even more so at the European level.
As the chairman has indicated, the committee found itself in an extremely difficult situation over obtaining information about what was happening in other European countries. Nobody had collated information on any aspect either of the extent of the differences between groups of the disabled or on the activities of the different groups of disabled. We were told it is estimated that between 5 per cent. and 9 per cent. of the Community's population are handicapped. The Commission itself put this figure at around 30 million, but the vagueness of those 648 statistics speaks for itself. We do not know whether it is 5 per cent. or 9 per cent. That is in terms of numbers. There is also nothing about the intensity or nature of disability.
The DHSS witnesses, in response to Question 136 on care in the community, said there was quite a lot of information in their department on various databases about what goes on in other countries and that it could be assembled, but that they were not sure if that had ever been done. I feel sure they would have known if such data had been collated and assembled. So although information may exist we are not utilising it to the full, and the valuable area of learning from each other and sharing experiences is being neglected. Clearly it would be much easier for us to develop common approaches if we had adequate data on which to do so. That is why the committee, without fully committing itself to the Handynet proposal, felt there was need for such a system to be brought into existence.
This inquiry has underlined the importance of knowing the extent of common problems within the Community, how those problems are being dealt with and how far other countries' solutions can help us. As well as throwing light on this particularly difficult issue we have been considering, which arouses so much sympathy across the board, it has also demonstrated that some of the recurring problems in this whole process will appear from time to time as we move towards a strengthening of the Community.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Lord Banks
My Lords, as I did not serve on the committee, I should like to begin by thanking its members for producing this most interesting and informative report. I should like also to thank the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for the thoughtful way in which he introduced it to your Lordships' House this afternoon.
The committee has been concerned with the success or otherwise of the first action programme and, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Allen, the first action programme consisted of three main elements: the work of the European Communities employment rehabilitation network, the 19 direct projects, two of which were in the United Kingdom (one in Lambeth and one in Berkshire) and Handynet, the plan to link the databases dealing with disability throughout the Community.
When one tries to assess the results of the programme and the achievements under these three headings, I think one is quite clear at the outset that the rehabilitation network is successful, but of course it has been in operation for some 13 years—a longer period by three times than the actual period of the programme. One wonders how far what has happened during the period of the programme would have happened in any event; but certainly we can say that the rehabilitation network is successful.
Looking at the projects—and the evidence in the report is mainly about the two projects in this country: one co-ordinating services for the disabled in Lambeth and the other training the disabled for employment in information technology in 649 Berkshire—I think we must accept that both have considerable achievements to their credit. The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, said so in his opening remarks.
When one turns to Handynet, it is much more open to question. It is clear that Her Majesty's Government are sceptical and concerned about expense. I was very impressed by the evidence of Mr. Waring, the Berkshire project leader, and Mr. Daunt, the former head of the European Commission bureau, for action in favour of disabled people. They both felt that this was the age of information technology and if we could not achieve this network of databases on disability within Europe we were failing to meet the challenge of the times. I very much hope that the project will develop satisfactorily, even if slowly. In the long run it could be of great potential.
In looking at these three elements within the first programme, we see that there are successes; but there are also some clear lessons for the future for the second action programme. The structure of the plan of the programme comes in for a great deal of criticism. The committee says that the management structure is defective in several respects. A more executive-type leadership seems to be necessary. The national steering committee certainly does not seem to have impressed anyone. The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, was not very impressed by the community liaison committee. Reform of the structure committee is obviously essential.
Secondly, all speakers in the debate so far have made it clear that there is a need for a better and wider flow of information. Too many of the participants knew only a little of what was going on in other parts of the Community, and many of the people with a direct interest in the subject knew almost nothing about what was happening. This leads one on to the need for greater consultation. It is extraordinary that organisations of and for the disabled very often figured among those who knew little or nothing about what was going on in regard to the programme. Therefore, a better flow of information and more emphasis on consultation are necessary.
The need for participation of disabled people appears not to have been taken into consideration very deeply by the organisers. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, said, a seminar in connection with the programme was held in a place where the accommodation was unsuitable for disabled people.
The problem of evaluation and assessment had a good deal of attention from the committee. It was concerned about the diversity of evaluation as between one country and another and about who appointed the national evaluator in each country. When Mr. Daunt explained the relationship between the community level of evaluation and national level it seemed not so unreasonable, but I think that that relationship was not widely understood lower down the scale, and not enough guidance was given to national evaluators. Some effort must be made to assess the whole operation to ascertain whether the original objective has been achieved. There must be some estimate of the positive outcome.
650 What happens to projects at the end of the programme is a point that also arose in the committee discussions. I understand that two projects in this country are still in existence. One has moved to Hampshire. I do not know about the position of the other. At the time of the completion of the report both were determined to continue in operation, but were experiencing considerable funding difficulties, having come to the end of their original funding. The second action programme will probably be better in this respect than the first because it is to be based on projects already in existence when the programme began.
The second action programme was originally intended to be based on two decisions of the Community, one to deal with vocational rehabilitation, the other with social integration. The main theme running through it is to be idependent living, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred. I wonder whether "independence" is the best word in this connection. The word "autonomous" may be nearer to what we are trying to say. We want to ensure that disabled people can make decisions about their own lives. They may not be able to achieve the kind of independence that able-bodied people have because they need to rely on others for simple domestic tasks. Thus they are not freely independent in that sense. The noble Baroness spoke of the work that volunteers do in this connection. I think that the word "autonomous" comes closer to what we mean to say.
I was interested in the evidence of Mr. Peter Large of the disablement income group. He put the spotlight on benefits and pointed out that in this country we have a fit or sick policy in regard to invalidity pensions but no partial pensions for different degrees of disability like many other countries in the Community. He also expressed fears about the operation of the new social security regime in this country in April. That is of particular significance in the week when the Citizens' Advice Bureaux have produced their report on how the new system has been working in the early stages. They claim that as a result of the change 82 per cent. of the poorest recipients of social security are worse off than they were before. I saw no mention of that evidence in the main report, possibly because it deals with matters beyond the scope of the first and second action programmes. For all that, it is well worth reading and I commend it to the House.
A certain amount of discussion has taken place about whether the programmes should be based on resolutions that are not binding, as was the first programme; or, as proposed in the second, on a decision binding on member states. The committee thinks that it should be done by resolution. I do not believe that the United Kingdom Government are particularly worried about the use of decisions. That was my impression from reading the evidence. I wonder whether that is correct.
If action is taken on the various points of criticism that have emerged from the inquiry as set out in the report, to some of which I have referred, I am sure that we may hope for another stimulating report in four years' time.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Lord Hunter of Newington
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, has led us through somewhat difficult pastures with his usual skill and charm, and I pay tribute to him.
I should like to make a number of comments about the changing background of the first and second action programmes which has been occurring quite independently of the proposals in the European programmes, and to make one suggestion for the future. The committee was taken aback to discover that important bodies in this country such as the Cheshire Foundation had never been consulted when the original programme was drawn up. However, it was then even more surprised to discover that there was not close contact between members of the same charity working in this country and in Europe.
It is interesting and relevant that the Community began with a great worry about youth unemployment which was shared in many countries. This led to the movement towards thinking together about youth information. There is now a Europe-wide network of people influencing each other about youth work, working with young people through youth information exchanges. This all began with youth unemployment. I wonder whether it would be possible to link the need for Europe to share thinking and research in the area about which we are now talking to problems that are common and are being faced individually at the moment by member states in Europe.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, said, one of the great and important developments of the past 20 years has been the development of a range of voluntary agencies concerned with the sick and the disabled. This investigation has taught us that there seems to be little contact between these agencies in different countries of the Community, and the Commission does not seem to be aware of the importance of involving them in its planning.
There is strong support for non-governmental organisations for greater exchange of information, experience and innovatory ideas between the statutory and voluntary organisations of the member states. However, there was not much evidence of action having been taken in this regard. There are limits to what charitable and voluntary organisations can do with their available resources. The committee noted that there was a low level of communication for which there had not been compensation by the Commission or the United Kingdom Government either in publicising experiments and initiatives which the Community has sponsored and developed or to widen the discussion of the issues raised by the action programme beyond the small group of people who were already directly involved.
One wonders whether a three-point public health programme of information exchange involving personal health, care of the sick and disabled, and the adaptation to work programmes is needed. This is a point to which I shall come a little later.
One of the most important proposals in the second programme is that there should be a proper management structure. The inadequacies of the liaison group on disabilities were very evident in the 652 first programme. With hindsight, much could have been done in the first programme by dealing through an effective steering group both in Community headquarters and nationally. The United Kingdom steering group failed miserably. The responsibility must rest with the Department of Health and Social Security and failure to evaluate properly must be attributed to the weaknesses of the steering group. Even within the United Kingdom Government there was no clear policy or agreement between the Department of Employment and the Department of Health and Social Security. However, the committee believes, I think rightly, that the second action programme along the lines proposed would offer possibilities for more effective central and national co-ordination.
What are the needs of the disabled? Much has been said about this already. Historically most countries have been concerned with the blind and the deaf and those with physical disabilities. They are only now beginning to face up to the complex and different problems of the mentally handicapped and mentally disabled and how provision can be made for their care in the community as well as their possible employment. The difficulties are that the kind of medical and social provision that has to be made for one disability may be totally different from another. If one adds to those difficulties the complex social and traditional attitudes of the different countries within the Community one begins to wonder whether any progress, organised or co-ordinated centrally, is possible.
There is an extraordinary degree of sensitivity, as your Lordships know, in most countries in the Community about the organisation of their social and domestic structure, which they sincerely believe is a matter for them and not for the Community. But somehow or other it must be made possible to introduce and apply important social and medical facilities for the disabled against this varying background. There can be no argument at this time and at this stage to legislate centrally and the maximum use should be made of other measures to facilitate and encourage change in different situations, as happened with the young unemployed.
I believe that international co-operation between members of the Community in relation to the new public health may be an important instrument. It could be run by a public health commission and a public health authority which had powers only to present results to constituent members and on occasion when it was felt appropriate to submit proposals to the council through the Commission. The use of such an authority might well produce proposals which countries felt they could introduce and dovetail into their own social and domestic structure. It seems to me that in these early days, and in the face of rapid change, legislation centrally is not the right way to proceed. One would wish to see the domestic programmes in a substantial number of countries of the Community tried and their worth proved before there was any question of legislation throughout the Community.
One of the most difficult examples of what not to do is not before us today. It is the use of videos. Legislation seems to have been undertaken by the 653 Commission in the light of mounting concern among the members of the public that something must be done to protect people from the adverse effects of videos. It is proposed to introduce this when the evidence to support such a course of action does not exist. The difficulty about this situation is that the standing and reputation of the legislation and legislators is cast into doubt.
Against this complex background it is not surprising that the committee welcomes the second action programme as a significant step forward, involving volunteers, non-government organisations, and experts, and the important communications which will result from the development of Handynet. This will improve the quality and exchange of information. It is an ambitious scheme which depends for its success on the data basis at national level. Any developments in future, here or abroad, should be compatible with Handynet.
I do not believe that the proposals for the disabled will succeed unless they are introduced against the broad background of the public health and their worth is proven before measures are taken to legislate.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, and to the committee for the work that it has done under his guidance. The noble Lord told us that the report is of increasing importance as we approach 1992. Over the past 10 or 15 years there has developed a pressure group, a consumer body, of handicapped people, themselves articulate, who speak for themselves and their peers. Indeed, they are not underrepresented in this House.
The clear message of the report is that disabled people, their representatives, and organisations working with and for them, must have a major role in the development of the action programmes. Therefore the wide publicity about the second programme, which has been mentioned several times, is essential.
That brings me to the participation of the handicapped in the community. People with disabilities, as we well know, are often denied the opportunity to participate fully in the life of the community because of the physical, social and economic barriers that society has created. The handicapped are frustrated because of inaccessible buildings and transport. They are limited by low income and inadequate benefits and their difficulties are compounded by the extra costs of disability; segregation in education, cultural and recreational facilities that are not designed for them; denial of the right to form normal human relationships and, perhaps most important of all, the right to express their sexuality as human beings.
For people with a mental handicap these barriers are made worse by ignorance and prejudice, which go hand in hand with poverty and under-education. The action programme provides an opportunity to increase knowledge and understanding of the nature and needs of mentally handicapped people, their families and their carers.
654 The second action programme will concentrate on independent living. What does "independent living" mean for mentally handicapped people? MENCAP, the Royal Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults, was one of the organisations which gave evidence to the inquiry. indeed Lord Allen of Abbeydale, chairman of the Committee, is MENCAP's president. Mrs. Mary Holland, who has done so much to articulate the concerns of the handicapped, formerly at the Spastics Society and now at MENCAP, is in your Lordships' House today and she has briefed me and probably some others for this debate.
MENCAP pointed out that successive governments have promoted policies of care in the community and recent years have seen increased emphasis on closing long stay hospitals for the mentally handicapped and moving people into the community. However, it should be remembered that the vast majority of people with mental handicap have always lived in the community until their parents could no longer cope with the care. We all know that the major worry of the parents of a severely handicapped child is, "What will happen to our dear one when we can no longer care for him?" They are admitted, of course, to long stay hospitals or to hostels provided for them. It should also be recognised that simply living in the community does not ensure participation in the life of the community, much less enjoyment of it.
Mental handicap covers a wide range of ability or disability. Many people with mild mental handicap are apparently not significantly affected—it does not show; but many have considerable problems in managing their lives as my noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff pointed out to the House last week. Others with moderate to severe mental handicap will need support and guidance throughout their lives. Independent living will, therefore, for many mean dependence upon physical, social and financial supports throughout life.
Let us consider the financial support. The main source of income for mentally handicapped people is non-contributory benefits which carry a highly devalued image. We had an example of that this afternoon. Why else should White Papers before your Lordships' House refer scathingly to the "dependency culture"? We know, do we not, that the wage someone is paid for the job he does is an index of his value in our society. In a predominantly market economy where pride is taken in the market economy and in the profits syndrome, it is money which will give access to a wide range of experiences and opportunities. How realistic is it for people with a mental handicap to expect to find paid jobs? The short answer is "Not as realistic as it should be". Nor, in times of high general unemployment. is there as much good will towards their doing so. Competition for jobs that bring the fit into competition with the handicapped does not do much favour for the handicapped.
But there are imaginative projects such as MENCAP's Pathway employment scheme. That scheme was set up by MENCAP in 1975 as a pilot project in South Wales in response to parents who were expressing concern about the lack of work 655 opportunities in the area as the industrial base declined. The scheme's innovative approach paid off and there are now 27 Pathway employment officers providing services in 31 cities, boroughs or counties. By December 1987, 1,187 people with mental handicap had been placed in open employment with a success rate of 80 per cent. In addition, 1,051 people had been placed on work experience programmes which are used as stepping stones into work, into a job.
Employment officers in the Pathway schemes are responsible in the first place for seeking out work opportunities. Then they persuade employers to hire people with mental handicap. Their third duty is matching people into their jobs and, fourthly, they support individuals in the work place. Starting work for the first time is an intimidating experience for everyone, even for the very fit and very lively. The Pathway scheme has developed a way of helping with this transition into work. A foster worker is appointed to help the new employee with on-the-job training and with all aspects of the work routine. I would suggest that the Pathway scheme is an excellent example of good practice—one which could be adopted by countries throughout the EC.
But we must remember that for the majority of mentally handicapped people non-contributory benefits will be their only income. The report has highlighted a number of inadequacies of our benefit system. A significant, and I believe demeaning fact, is that a partial pension is payable for partial incapacity to work in all EC member countries except Ireland and the United Kingdom. This is not a political point; it is a personal point. Perhaps the Minister will explain how that can be justified? He knows that income and independence are inextricably linked. It is hoped the second action programme will produce recommendations that will lead to a benefit system that will increase opportunities for part-time employment without financial penalty through loss of benefit.
What of social supports? Sharing leisure time is an excellent way of promoting integration. Again MENCAP's National Federation of Gateway Clubs provides a good model for our European neighbours. Founded in 1966 Gateway now has over 700 clubs throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These clubs give some 40,000 people a chance to take part in a range of leisure activities which encourage movement towards independence, self-awareness and self-esteem through participation, the exercise of choice and decision-making. The success of this national voluntary youth and community organisation is largely dependent on the skills and interests that 20,000 volunteers contribute. Already Gateway has established links with colleagues in France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Holland and Belgium.
The basis of Gateway's success is the partnership between people with a mental handicap and volunteer helpers—partners in pursuit of shared leisure, recreation and social activities. All people who have volunteered to give such help have almost always found the quality of their own lives very much enriched.
656 Finally, do we need further legislation to promote independent living and integration for people with disabilities? My answer is "Yes". It is deplorable that today in the United Kingdom employers and others can discriminate on the grounds of disability. Anti-discrimination legislation in my opinion is long overdue.
Equally important is the implementation of the legislation we already have: specifically the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. That Act is fundamental to a better quality of life for people with disabilities. There can be no good reason for the delay in bringing it fully into force.
As ever, it is a privilege to be associated with the noble and caring Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, in this debate, as it is to be among those others who have contributed to it. I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, who cares too as I well know, will emphasise to his right honourable friend the Secretary of State that this Motion has united many people in this House regardless of their chosen politics.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lady Kinloss
My Lords, the debate on the report of the Select Committee on the European Communities has been well explained by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, chairman of the committee. It heard interesting and informative evidence from various groups concerned with disablement and independent living, or living in the community. It appears that there is no criteria for defining handicap which can be accepted throughout the Community. Precise estimates of the number of disabled people are difficult to establish because no up-to-date statistics are available for all member states.
The first action programme was intended to coordinate the activities in which member states were already involved and to encourage their efforts in promoting the social and economic integration of disabled people. The second action programme was adopted by the EC Council of Ministers on 18th April 1988. Organisations for disabled people are concerned that the mistakes which were made in the first action programme should not be repeated in the second.
Disabled people wish to participate actively in European society and therefore wish to be equally represented in all the talks which concern them. It was noticed that when disabled people were directly involved there was marked progress. That applies particularly to the Lambeth Accord project. The network of local projects established by the Commission under the first action programme was set up in each member state. Each had at least one such project but the United Kingdom had two; the Lambeth Accord project, which I have already mentioned, and the West Berkshire Interface. Unfortunately the projects had little publicity. According to the report, the United Kingdom steering group did not consider that publishing the action programme in the United Kingdom was part of its role. That was a pity because it is one way in 657 which the public at large might reach a more sympathetic understanding of the needs of the disabled.
It appears clear from the report that both the Lambeth Accord and the West Berkshire Interface projects have done well. The West Berkshire project has a high proportion of people passing through its training programmes and gaining open employment as a result. Those responsible in both projects believe that they have advanced the independence of disabled people.
As regards independent living, policy guidance must be broad in order to be flexible. In accordance with paragraphs 112 to 119 of the World Programme of Action, it is recommended that, in the areas of benefits and service provision, the demands of disabled people regarding their needs should be given a high priority. The Greenwich Association of Disabled People—GAD—is an organisation of disabled people working for the equal participation of disabled people within the community. Greenwich is an area where consultation has occurred between statutory authorities and consumer groups and that has led to a redirection of services. It was found that community care in the borough had improved and expanded to include short-term domiciliary care, a care attendance scheme and independent living schemes using community service volunteers. It has meant that over 38 severely disabled people are being kept in the community. Two are in full-time employment, one is at university and three work as volunteers in a local organisation. Surely it is to be congratulated on the success story.
The use of community service volunteers should be only an option. Problems can arise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has already mentioned. The committee noted the practice in the EC whereby any volunteer successfully completing a period of approved volunteer service automatically attracts credits which can be taken into account should the young volunteer wish to join a caring profession. That could be useful in the United Kingdom as a means of easing the shortage of volunteers.
A problem with the community service volunteers is that, in general, they stay in one place for only six months and therefore the disabled person is always in a state of reorganising his or her life. However, many are truly grateful to the CSVs who do a wonderful job.
While recognising the wide field which the second community action programme for disabled people seeks to cover, the RNIB and its sister organisation in Europe (the European Blind Union) welcome the positive impact which the action programmes have had. Under the auspices of the first action programme the European Blind Union has organised conferences on such subjects as low vision, barriers to access, mobility, social legislation, rehabilitation and the needs of deaf blind people. Therefore the RNIB was pleased to learn that the second action programme had been agreed.
The results of the action programmes must be measured not only by individual projects but also by their capacity for increasing awareness and stimulating development in the field of economic, 658 social and cultural integration generally. Most organisations find that the increased European exchange of experience and co-operation has been most helpful.
I should like to ask the Minister whether the Government have a central mechanism for co-ordinating and disseminating information on the various projects. If not, should there not be such a mechanism? Can the Minister reaffirm the Government's commitment to those programmes?
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Blease
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for initiating this important and timely debate. I also wish to express my appreciation of the work of the Select Committee which produced a constructive and challenging report. As the noble Lord, Lord Allen, has indicated, the report and this debate have generated considerable interest in Northern Ireland among organisations and those directly concerned with the needs of the disabled. In that connection I have noted in particular the cogent opinion of the Select Committee contained in paragraph 71, of the report. It clearly underscores matters relayed to me by the Northern Ireland Council on Disability (NICD). It encountered serious difficulties arising from the general lack of awareness and the ineffective communications concerning the EC's action for disabled people, especially in respect of projects directed towards the promotion of integration.
Paragraph 71 has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, and I quote from it because the text should be placed on the Official Report. It contains the nub of the issue; the dichotomy between words and action. It states:The Committee note that this low level of communication has not been compensated by any real efforts by the Commission or by the United Kingdom Government either to publicise the experiments and initiatives which the Community has sponsored and developed or to widen the discussion of the issues raised by the Action Programme beyond the small group of people who were already directly involved. If an intention of the First Action Programme was to raise the general level of awareness, then in this regard in the United Kingdom it must be said to have failed".I quote also from paragraph 72. It states:The Committee believe that there is scope for strengthening and extending the exchange of information relevant to the needs of people with disabilities throughout the Community. The development of the Second Action Programme could be seen as a touchstone of the way the European Community tackles social problems".I have referred to the Northern Ireland Council on Disability. That organisation is the central coordinating and representative body in the Province for the disabled. A quotation taken from one of its publications will indicate that the organisation is making strong efforts to promote integration.The Northern Ireland Council on Disability is a registered charity providing advice, information and support for disabled people, carers, professionals working in the field of disability and disability groups. The Council represents all aspects of disability—physical, mental, sensory and hidden and comprises of over 120 member groups".The publication lists the number of services which the organisation provides, including transport and professional advice to builders on matters of access. It continues: 659The Council provides information on benefits, education, employment, mobility, fund raising, recreation, access and housing and produces a wide range of booklets … It acts as a focal point for disability issues, for an estimated 150,000 disabled people in Northern Ireland".I understand that those 150,000 disabled people in Northern Ireland represent about 10 per cent. of the total population, which is about the average of the number of disabled people throughout the whole of the EC. Therefore, we have a problem concerning not merely isolated issues but 10 per cent. of the population who wish and deserve to have the quality of their lives improved.
One of the main functions of the NICD is to promote in every way possible the integration of disabled people. In June this year when the council became aware of a second community action programme for disabled people, it inquired about details of a programme from a number of sources, including United Kingdom departmental levels, in Brussels at EC level and in the Northern Ireland area. The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, has already mentioned that he received correspondence from Northern Ireland about the difficulties which the NICD was having in that respect.
I have received a number of letters about the manner in which the council sought to glean information about how it could co-operate and participate in a particular programme. I wish to quote from part of a letter which has been sent to me. It says:I have contacted the Training Commission and DHSS in London, who confirmed that no group in Northern Ireland had been asked for nominations, and that the closing dates were 1st September and 16th September 1988.My Council finds the above totally unacceptable.We would have thought that if Northern Ireland has been designated a priority region within the EEC, then there ought to be an effective mechanism within the UK to ensure that our interests are adequately represented. We feel it is essential that Northern Ireland is part of the EC network and can contribute to, and benefit from, the Second Action Programme.We have suggested to the Secretary of State, Mr. Tom King, that a Working Group be established in Northern Ireland to co-ordinate the views of the various Government departments with an interest in the Second Action Programme i.e. Department of Health and Social Services, Department of Economic Development, Department of Education for Northern Ireland and Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, which should then makes its views known to the two UK representatives. The group would have responsibility for collating and disseminating information in respect to the programme. We feel also that the voluntary sector should be represented on such a group".I regret that I may appear to be taking a narrow, provincial attitude. I believe it underscores and presents to the House what the committee found as evidence. There has been a sad lack of communication throughout the whole exercise. Perhaps I may say that that has created serious and critical concern in Northern Ireland. There is concern and anger manifest there about the apparent neglect by the Government to give practical recognition to the Northern Ireland constitutional position within the United Kingdom in regard to this programme. That has been put to me in no uncertain terms.
Whatever are the reasons, it is obvious that the omission actively to associate Northern Ireland with the European Community's programmes for the disabled is the denial of opportunities and rights to 660 United Kingdom citizens in Northern Ireland. Reference has been made to the letter sent by the council to Mr. Tom King, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I understand that he would not have had time to reply to that before this debate and I am sure that the council will receive a reply in due course.
I have not had an opportunity to speak to the Minister who is to respond to this debate, but perhaps I may ask him whether he will use his good offices to draw these points to the attention of his Northern Ireland ministerial colleagues in the hope of having the matters clarified and remedied to some degree.
I repeat that it is not my intention to take a narrow, provincial attitude on this report. Indeed, I support and commend the 17 main conclusions and recommendations contained in the report. I believe that if genuine efforts are made by the United Kingdom Government along the lines contained in the report, such efforts would greatly influence the European Community's action programme for the integration of disabled people. Such concerted action at EC levels could greatly improve the quality of life for millions of disabled people and give them much hope and happiness.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, as a so-called disabled person, I should like to thank the Chairman of the Select Committee on the European Communities for giving us the opportunity today to discuss the report on integration of disabled people.
When reading the report I came to the conclusion that the committee could not have had an easy task in coming to some of its conclusions and recommendations. When discussing so many disabilities all of which have wide variations, it is understandable that there are difficulties. The committee found one problem as regards the first project—namely, that there were no accepted criteria for defining handicap throughout the Community. Article 2 of the amended proposal for a second action programme defines disabled people as:all those with heavy disabilities resulting from physical, mental or psychological impairments".I was interested to see that the Commission's proposal for a first action programme was the response of its Bureau for Action in Favour of Disabled People to the International Year of Disabled People 1981. So there came about a network of projects throughout the member states to pioneer ways of promoting the economic and social integration of disabled people. That was delayed until 1983. So often one has to contend with frustrations and delays when there is any sort of action involving handicapped people. However, I am sure that many people worked exceedingly hard to get these projects off the ground. The biggest problem must have been getting member states to agree when there were such variations involving so many different handicaps.
Paragraph 14 of the report states:One area of activity which the Action Programme sought to co-ordinate was the European network of rehabilitation centres set up by 661 Council Resolution of 9th July 1974. These centres promote the exchange of ideas and information and the disseminaton of good practice in rehabilitation techniques".As regards good practice in rehabilitation techniques, from what I have seen in certain member states, some of them have a long way to go and much must be done to improve the present situation for some disabled people and their families suffer greatly.
To take the speciality of spinal injuries as an example, these are all too common in developed countries with industries and large volumes of traffic but some member states have no facilities for treatment and rehabilitation. In 1960 Italy had a very good spinal centre for workers. It no longer has. The special unit closed when its director retired. Now Italy sends some patients to France for treatment, a long way from their families. A lucky few spinal patients from Greece are sent to other countries such as Britain, but have to pay vast amounts, as these arrangements are very expensive.
Earlier this year the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, who is a Euro MP, contacted me as she had met in Spain the mother of a tetraplegic—it was a neck injury—who had a serous complication. I was able to put the family in contact with the correct place of treatment in England, and because they could afford to pay, we were able to save one life.
There is an immense amount to do. One aim should be to encourage governments to do much more for their disabled people so that they will have adequate places of treatment. That should come first, because people cannot be integrated into the community unless they have first been treated and rehabilitated.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, briefly mentioned Handynet, but I should like to hear more about it. The report says it was expanded to include the dissemination of a wide range of information to facilitate the greater choice and independence of disabled people. I had not heard about Handynet before reading this report. Information is vital and should be made available for everyone who needs it, not just professionals. I hope the Minister can tell us who runs Handynet and from where it operates. I hear that Northern Ireland has just launched a directory on disability needs. Provided they are kept up to date directories are most useful.
My noble friend Lady Darcy (de Knayth) asked me to apologise on her behalf, as she was a member of the committee whose report we are debating but is unable to be here. She had a hospital appointment today. Disabled people who are integrated into society must keep themselves fit, and my noble friend had to keep her appointment. Like myself, my noble friend knows that most disabled people wish above all else to be able to live independent lives. This independence depends on how much help they are able to get should their disability require it. The committee had some difficulty in understanding that point. Disabled people who are able to do so, with or without help, would like at least the choice of being able to control their own lives.
There has been a great move to try to get all handicapped people who can be integrated into the community out of institutions. That must be done 662 with proper facilities such as housIng, access to necessary places, adequate care, transport, education, employment and recreation facilities. If the community is to take integration seriously it cannot be complacent. The community must itself involve disabled people, and I am pleased that many noble Lords have said that.
Paragraph 97 of the report states that disabled people cannot be treated as a homogeneous group. I agree that there is a wide variety of types and degrees of handicap, but they all need some degree of help and, with that, they can be homogeneous. All the needs should be tackled but of course that cannot be done without resources. Having the correct facilities is an insurance policy because nobody can say when or where disability will strike.
Nor does anybody really know what will develop in 1992. I hope that there have been some improvements since I visited the Commission's head office at Berlaymont in Brussels some years ago. There was no lavatory which was accessible to a wheelchair. The doors were all too narrow and the basin was the only solution.
It is important to encourage European Members of Parliament to take an interest in matters relating to disability. The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, told me that she was able to get the disabled persons' car park badge recognised on a national basis throughout the Community. She also told me that Mr. Daunt, who runs the bureau for disability, had helped a great deal with the Reading project. There is now a European parliamentary disability group which meets every month in Strasbourg. Already structural alterations have been made to improve facilities. I hope that there will soon be some disabled Members of the European Parliament. There should certainly be building regulations and codes of practice to assist with the integration of all disabled people who wish to be active members of the community throughout all Community member states.
I conclude by saying that it is unwise to put restrictions on the potential of individuals. Who knows what can be achieved with developing technical aids and personal drive? One young pilot who broke his neck diving during a rest period from carrying out mercy flights during the Vietnam war was told that because of his impaired hands he would never be able to drive a car. Some time after leaving the rehabilitation centre he took pleasure in driving back and showing the doctor concerned what he could do. We should never make judgments for people. They should be assisted to find their own parameters and potentials.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, I too commence by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Allen, and his committee for this report. I am particularly interested in the concept of Handynet. I understand that it is not likely to start for some nine months or a year. If for any reason it does not start in the EC I hope that my noble friend will ensure that a similar arrangement will be set up in this country from which we could expand later into Europe.
663 It is absolutely essential for disabled people and for organisations which look after them to have access to all the information that they need. Although able-bodied people may look different and we can tell them apart, as a group they are one and the same. They might as well all be turned out of the same mould. Physically disabled people, however, are all individually different. They have different handicaps. The handicap may appear to be the same but, for example, the length of reach will be different, or the amount that the person can turn will be different.
The handicapped have very much greater individual requirements than do able-bodied people. If an able-bodied person goes into a room to do a task and he cannot reach that which he requires he can fetch a stool, steps or a chair. He can improvise and do the job. A disabled person is stuck and must ask for help. That is the handicap.
Can the Minister tell me what is likely to happen at the end of the initial four-year period. It strikes me that it will be a most terrible shame if this programme is allowed to lapse because it is absolutely essential. We have an ageing population in this country and I assume that it is the same in Europe, but I do not know. With an ageing population we have a greater degree of disability throughout the population as a whole. There is a greater chance of people being injured and becoming disabled and of more people becoming disabled purely through age. The need is growing.
Where will the funds for Handynet come from? How much will they be and will they be enough? Will Handynet be adequately staffed? If it does not have enough funds, the right quality of staff and enough of them, it will go off at half cock. It will not be properly used and therefore it will not develop as it should. In addition, will my noble friend ensure that all voluntary and statutory organisations in this country are given proper information about Handynet so that they can make use of it from the very beginning. It is no use having a tool that is locked away and no one knows where it is. That is an awful waste of time and money.
There is no real definition of living independently and I hope that no one will try to produce one. The vast majority of people are married with a family. If one is married with a family or even without one, one cannot be independent because one has dependants or one depends upon someone else. If we are talking about living independently in terms of a disabled person, it must mean that within his own ability the individual disabled person has control and choice over his own lifestyle. There should not be a blueprint for independent living, but there should be a range of choices to suit individual needs. In order to help them with that choice it is necessary to ensure that there is a proper assessment of their physical needs; their care needs and also their financial needs.
Perhaps I may give three examples of three groups of young people who have recently left one of John Grooms' establishments where they have spent two years training to be independent. They consider that they are independent. They are independent because they consider that they are independent. The first is a 664 young man and though he does not always need to use a wheelchair, he has to use one whenever he is out of his own flat. He can do everything for himself now that he is in a flat that is properly designed for him. He does not need any help. The vast majority of us would say that as we see it he is independent.
The next example is of a young girl who is severely crippled with arthritis. She lives independently. She needs help twice a day; in the morning when she gets up to dress and in the evening when she undresses to go to bed. That is the only help that she needs, but she is independent because she is able to arrange for the help that she needs. The other example is that of a young married couple who are both spastics. The husband has no control over any of his limbs above the waist. The wife is very much more disabled. Between the two of them they need somewhere in the region of eight-and-a-half hours' help a day. They are living independently in their own council house specially adapted to suit their needs. We might not think that they are independent because they need so much help during the day, but they are independent. They are no longer living in a home. Before they were living in a home they were both living in separate hospitals and they were unable to get married until they were able to move into a home. They are independent in comparison with what life was like before.
When thinking of independence it is important that individuals are able to buy their own care. When assessing how to help them to become independent we must assess how much care they need and help them to get the right financial assistance. We must not forget that it is cheaper to live independently out of a home in one's own dwelling than it is to live in a home. Again, it is cheaper still than living in a hospital. A good deal has been said about volunteers and I do not decry them in the least. But for a disabled person living independently, part of that independence is buying one's own care package and paying oneself those who come to help, negotiating with them the cost and when they are to come.
As a final point—and this has been mentioned already, I believe by the noble Lord, Lord Parry—we in this country seem to decide whether someone is able-bodied and able to work full-time or disabled and therefore not fit to work at all. In my view we have to adapt the allowances that we make so that people who are able to do some work can do so within their capabilities and still, at the same time, have the allowances that permit them to be financially independent.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, like other speakers in this debate I begin by congratulating and thanking the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, and his committee for a most interesting and valuable report and for providing the opportunity for this debate today. The report deals with the social and economic integration of people with disabilities, and those are the two aspects that I wish to discuss.
Before one can look at the question of the integration of disabled people in the European 665 Community, I believe that we should take a long and hard look at home to see how we are faring in this respect. I shall deal first with the social integration of people with disabilities. It is a matter of attitude. So much of the attitude of our society towards the disabled is to treat them either as the brave hero or the helpless victim. We tend to define people by their disability when the disability itself is completely irrelevant. We refer to the blind author or the wheelchair-bound broadcaster when the ability to write or to broadcast is completely irrelevant to the disability.
I believe that there is a subtle change in the attitude towards disability. We seem to be moving towards a situation where somehow the disabled have to prove their worthiness in order to be helped. I believe that there is a danger of a return to Victorian attitudes where there is reliance upon philanthropy or charity to undertake what is and what should always be the responsibility of the whole community. We may contrast this with the European experience and particularly that of Scandinavia, where there are moves towards a comprehensive allowance for disability.
Perhaps I may refer again to the matter of attitudes and the question of children in need or the children of courage syndrome. This may be an unpopular view but it needs stating. I am referring to the telethons that are used to raise money for the disabled and others. The report estimates that there are some 30 million people in the EC who are disabled. A recent OPCS survey in the United Kingdom stated that there are 6 million people with disabilities.
We know all the problems over definition. In the United Kingdom three-quarters of the disabled are pensioners, but the telethons focus almost exclusively on children. There is a total mismatch between the age of disabled people who appear on television and the age of most people with disabilities in the general population. There is a concentration on raising money which ignores or refuses to acknowledge the social needs which have created the problem in the first place. The programmes somehow imply that the disabled poor not only have to be worthy of help but have to be attractive in terms of television and emotion.
I shall quote from the experience of somebody who appeared on one of these programmes. He said:In order to get their money, they have to humiliate me … to me, a wheelchair is a solution, not a sentence. Because I use a wheelchair, I am able to do so many things I otherwise could not. I am not 'confined to a wheelchair'. I don't 'face a life without meaning', and I'm not a 'poor, unfortunate cripple who needs your help' ".In the public sector I can give three examples of where social integration is made more difficult. There is a phrase in the parliamentary draftsman's handbook. Organisations mentioned in various Acts of Parliament set out grounds on which the relevant Minister can debar people from membership. The phrase singles out those who are "incapacitated by physical or mental illness". This is absent-mindedly offensive. We managed to remove this phraseology from the Education Reform Bill and the Housing Bill.
We all know that the Government have spent an enormous amount of money on refurbishing 666 Richmond Terrace for the former Department of Health and Social Security. I am sure that its architecture would meet with the full approval of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. I wonder whether His Royal Highness would be so impressed if he knew that the two departments having most to do with disability were given a headquarters which I am told is internally inaccessible to wheelchairs. I am informed that that is the case. There are now plans to put this right.
The Department of Employment recently issued a leaflet on employment opportunities. The photograph on the front showed people who were available for the schemes—the young and coloured people; and there was somebody in a wheelchair. The person in the wheelchair was able-bodied. He was asked to sit in the wheelchair in order to create the photograph. These are examples of Elle attitude of society towards the disabled.
Paragraph 89 of the report mentions with approval a number of initiatives taken by member countries of the EC. In my view our target should be a comprehensive disability allowance to compensate for the extra costs of disability, and a disability pension to bring the income of the disabled person up to a decent standard. Several countries of the EC and some outside it are well ahead of us in this respect. I am extremely pleased that the Labour Party Conference in 1987 adopted such an arrangement as an objective of policy.
The prospects of economic integration in this country are bedevilled by the anomalies which are found in our treatment of disabled people. I shall give as an example the circumstances of four people. They are all aged around 35. They are unmarried but not living alone and they are all double amputees. The first has never worked because he has had the disability from early childhood. The second had worked but lost his legs through an accident unrelated to his work. The third lost his legs through a work accident. The fourth lost his legs in the Falklands.
The first has an income of £46 per week; the second has an income of £58 per week; the third has an income of £151 per week; and the Fourth has an income of £137 per week. I have rounded up the figures to the nearest pound. All of them have the same condition. All face the same problems and all have the same costs. There is a difference between the highest and the lowest income of £105 a week.
I have another example of four people. They are aged 35, are unmarried, are not living alone and are tetraplegic. They receive mobility allowance and attendance allowance. The first receives an income of £102 per week; the second receives £106 per week; the third receives £248 per week; and the fourth receives £252 per week. All have the same condition. All have the same problems and face the same costs. There is a difference between the highest and the lowest income of £150 per week. This is not a political point. These anomalies have existed under all governments. I think we would all agree that it is extremely hard to think in terms of the economic integration of disabled people while such problems exist.
667 I should like to look outside the EC to see the range of policies for dealing with disability. Perhaps the two approaches most dramatically different are to be found in America and Sweden. Sweden has adopted a social welfare approach. It identifies the needs of particular groups of disabled people and then tries to compensate them for their degree of disability. They are moving towards the disability allowance and the disability pension.
In the United States the approach is pure Thatcherism. However, it is logical and it is followed through to the final degree. Legislation provides for equal opportunity under the law and therefore those rights are established in the constitution. All new buildings and any old buildings being modified must not provide an architectural barrier. If it prevents anyone from entering, the structure is closed to the public and has to be reopened after adjustments have been made. Employers must not discriminate on grounds of disability or colour. What is more, they have to be seen to take affirmative action and go out of their way to give jobs to disabled people. Disabled Americans are confident under the law. According to the World Institute of Disability, incomes in work for disabled people are no different from those of able-bodied people.
In Europe, the Germans operate a quota scheme in employment of 6 per cent. Failure to meet it results in an automatic levy which goes into a fund to pay for the training of disabled people to get the job which the employer says they cannot do. France and Sweden have Ministers for disabled people who themselves are disabled. America, Canada, South Australia and Scandinavia all have some form of anti-discrimination legislation.
In debates in the past on the disabled I have referred to the phrase "the disabled divide", which is the gap between the income, the expectations and the opportunities of the disabled and the rest of the population. The committee's report has gone some way towards helping to close that divide.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ The Countess of Mar
My Lords, one of the problems of being one of the last speakers in the debate is that many noble Lords will already have said what I plan to say. However, I make no apologies for repeating gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for enabling us to debate this report today. It encompasses matters to which I attach a great deal of importance. The report highlights two major problems, both of which have seriously affected the efficacy of the Government's Care in the Community policy and, it would appear, the policies of other countries within the European Community. One is communication, the other is funding.
On the positive side, there is a good exchange of ideas and practices between the many voluntary organisations which provide care for the disabled. Unfortunately, government departments seem to be incapable of hearing, though they make some pretence of listening to, the advice of the disabled or those ideally suited to represent them. The difficulties 668 the committee encountered when trying to obtain evidence in a European context are described in paragraph 22. How can a uniform policy for the integration of disabled people be formulated when there is no clear definition of disability? As other speakers have already asked, what is disablement? What is independence? Until these are clarified there can be no concerted efforts to give disabled people a sense of belonging to the community.
Obviously the degree of disability will affect the extent to which an individual can become independent. Some people can be helped to live independently provided they receive assistance with mobility. Others will only be able to live in the community with a high degree of care, such as that provided by community service volunteers. Some may be able to earn their own living; others may only be able to contribute a part of the money required for their needs; and yet others may never be capable of working for financial reward. The fact that disabled people cannot be categorised conveniently should not inhibit those responsible for formulating policies from considering their individual needs. Therefore those who provide the services for the disabled must listen to the disabled, whatever the extent of their disability, to ascertain their needs.
The Coopers and Lybrand study which is mentioned in paragraph 30 pointed to the inadequate dissemination of information by Government to the disabled, their carers and service providers. Over and over again we see, hear and read of the tremendous problems encountered by the disabled and their carers, problems which could be overcome if they were told of services, aids and funds which could lighten their burdens. Can the Minister say what progress is being made by the Department of Social Security to improve communication?
The recruitment of volunteers, both as carers and advocates, is likely to become more difficult as unemployment falls, as well as for the reason given in paragraph 64. I suspect that an inhibiting factor might also be a fear of the unknown. Community service volunteers tend to be thrown in at the deep end. The disabled person for whom they are to care is expected to train them. The disabled obviously know what they need; but they are not trainers.
I am chairman of a steering committee for a local collaborative project with the Evesham College of Further Education in conjunction with a training commission (originally MSC) to develop modular courses for carers to be approved by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications—I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is not present to hear this. The collaborative partners have found it much more difficult to define the qualities and skills necessary for a good carer than they had anticipated. They have gone out and asked existing carers and those being cared for in nursing and residential homes, and in their own homes, what they expect.
The exercise has been enlightening to the extent that the priorities of the able-bodied are not necessarily those of the disabled. Initially the course will be for mature students, but I am hoping that if it proves successful it can be extended to younger volunteers. Will the Minister therefore give some 669 thought to asking those in his department who are responsible for community care to converse with the Department of Employment and the Department of Education and Science to explore other ways of encouraging voluntary service in this field?
The County of Hereford and Worcester was the first in the Midlands to develop an advocacy service. Priming funds from the DHSS were allocated for three years and the scheme is expected to be self-supporting by July 1989. At present there arc more than 20 partnerships between advocates and those who suffer from mental handicap. Advocates are carefully selected and trained but, as with all volunteers, they are difficult to come by. However, they provide a most valuable service and it seems a pity that central government appear to be unwilling to promote this and other schemes more widely and to provide publicity so that volunteers will come forward.
One of the points made by those witnesses representing the Lambeth Accord was that a number of candidates presenting for training for employment were simply not ready. They needed to be properly settled in the community before venturing into the employment field. There should be a co-ordinated government policy to ensure that patients newly discharged from long-stay hospitals are suitably housed and their social and financial needs adequately provided for.
In the past I have accused the Government of paying lip-service to the concept of care in the community. Some very successful projects have been developed but it must be conceded that their success is due rather more to the energy and enthusiasm of voluntary organisations and enlightened local authorities than to the thrust of central government. In far too many instances fiscal measures and the lack of co-ordination between departments responsible for discharge and subsequent care of patients from long-stay hospitals thwart the development of proper integration of the disabled into the community.
The first action programme was flawed because too much emphasis was placed upon the vocational aspects of integration. Insufficient attention was paid to the needs of the disabled; the limits to the resources of charitable and voluntary organisations were not recognised; and there was a failure of communication between, and within, member states and a dearth of funding.
For the second action programme to succeed in the United Kingdom, and its fellows in the Community, the Government must observe the recommendations of the noble Lords who compiled this comprehensive report. It would be a tragedy if it were left to gather dust on the bureaucratic shelves beside so many others.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, I should like first, as other noble Lords have done, to express my warm thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, not only for chairing the committee but also for presenting the report and for opening an extremely important and valuable debate this afternoon. I should also like to thank those noble Lords who served on the 670 committee, some of whom gave of their experience during the course of today's debate.
I certainly warmly commend the report and its conclusions. Indeed, I think it was the quality of the report which heightened the value of today's debate. I must say that I agree with so much that has been said. However, there is one matter upon which I think I ought to defend myself. My noble friend Lord Carter made some criticisms about the telethon. I only do that as chairman of the Anglia Telethon. We sought to be as sensitive as we could in the presentation of the problems of disabled people and in allocating funds, though I fully recognise the problems which he presented.
Reading the report suggests to me that those involved in this important study experienced a good deal of frustration as they went through the task of taking down the formal written evidence and also the oral evidence. Perhaps I may give just one or two examples from the Minutes of the meetings. On 9th December 1987 they were exploring the policies with the officers of the DHSS. They were exploring the liaison between various projects within the UK and between countries in Europe. The official said—I am paraphrasing—that the DHSS had not been invited to visit any of the district projects in the United Kingdom, and that liaison in terms of exchanging information about projects in different parts of the community had been negligible. He said there seemed to be little consumer participation in the assessment of the various projects. I think that all those matters will be of as much concern to the Minister as they were to members of the select committee.
When the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, asked why Her Majesty's Government did not emulate other countries in terms of linking disabled pensions to employment capacities, one official said that it was not his responsibility— which is fair enough—while another, whose responsibility it was, said that he could not answer the question. I hope that this is a problem to which the Minister and his colleagues will give serious attention. Indeed, it has been touched upon by several noble Lords in the course of today's debate.
The Government's evidence to the committee seemed to me to lack any sense of urgency and any degree of priority. Indeed, I thought it reeked of indecision. Some of the ground covered in the committee's discussion was the same as that covered by Sir Roy Griffiths in his own study of community care—to which the Government have so far refused to respond. I shall not ask them again today to do so, because I have already done so many times in your Lordships' House.
It is to me no wonder that the committee's conclusions—which in my view are very sound—reflect a good deal of disappointment at the situation with which it was dealing. For example, the social and economic integration of disabled people is hampered by a lack of precision in formulating the first and the second action programmes. Further, the management studies of the first action programme were defective, it said, and weakened by inadequate government supervision. The committee said that the UK had missed some of the potential benefits of the 671 first action programme, and that there was no effective definition, as noble Lords have mentioned, of either the term "disabled people" or the objective of independent living. However, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, went a long way towards providing a very good definition in his speech to us this evening.
The committee referred to there being no adequate system of exchanging information and ideas. I make no criticism of the committee's report. My concern is that there seems to be little leadership from the Government, despite the active involvement of non-governmental organisations. It was their evidence which provided much of the vital information and ideas which enlightened the committee's report. I welcome the approval of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, of the work of voluntary organisations in that field. It is of great importance that so many of your Lordships who took part in the debate are involved with organisations of and for disabled people.
In the wake of the publication of the Select Committee's report comes a companion volume from Kensington Palace with the imprint of His Royal Highness Prince Charles, who was referrred to by the noble Lord, Lord Allen, in his opening speech. I should like to touch on some of the conclusions because they are relevant to those reached by the committee's report. Incidentally, Prince Charles is making a name for himself by speaking out with clarity and courage on matters of public concern. More power to his elbow! He stirs up an interest with the freshness of his own approach which most of us here welcome. His report on housing and support services for people with severe physical disabilities is an outspoken and searing commentary on community responsibility, or lack of responsibility, for the integration of severely disabled people.
The living options project was launched by the Prince of Wales' advisory group on disability with a brief to document good practice in the way the housing and care support services are provided for people with severe disabilities. The reality of housing and care support options revealed by the project's investigations is alarming. Direct evidence from service users throughout England and Wales shows that few people obtain the flexible and dependable services essential for personal autonomy. I like the phrase "personal autonomy" and I shall return to it.
The amount and kind of help a disabled person receives are determined less by need than by chance. That is how the report is introduced. It is called a "Living options lottery". It says that disabled people are rarely involved in planning or managing the services they use, and that most live restricted, isolated lives at home dependent on family or friends, or remain in institutions. Inappropriate residential facilities continue to be built. In many authorities the needs of that client group are not yet even on the agenda.
I should like to give one or two examples of what the report says as a result of the study:quality housing and care support services for severely disabled people were few and far between … the housing and support requirements of people with severe physical disabilities remain unacknowledged by those with the power and resources to bring 672 about change. Services for 'younger disabled' adults with severe disabilities were felt to be particularly neglected. Expanding and improving services for this group will have a positive impact for people of all age groups and all levels of physical disability. Despite the emphasis on community care for the past decade, and considerable documentation of service needs, there has been little resulting benefit for younger people with severe physical disabilities. Few authorities contacted through the living options project claim to know either the numbers or needs of the severely disabled adults for whom they are responsible. For some disabled people, the level of care support has decreased during the past 10 years, as a result of funding cuts and diversion of funds to other priority areas (e.g. children at risk). For others, the need for even small amounts of additional support cannot be met".I give just two other quotes. The report states:More than three-quarters of a million physically disabled people in Britain are inadequately housed. With little suitable and financially accessible private sector housing, most disabled people look to the public sector for help, but there is a shortage of at least 150,000 purpose-built or adapted rented public sector dwellings. Some housing authorities are adopting policies of building all new housing to mobility standard plus a proportion to wheelchair standard. The Housing Corporation regulations require that new housing association dwellings are built to mobility standard where possible. Lack of aids, adaptations, and equipment makes even a well designed home a prison. Many disabled people have little idea of what is now available that might help them live more independently".One could continue. This is a document which your Lordships with a special interest in disability should study because it is perceptive and its conclusions are similar to those reached by the Select Committee of your Lordships' House. It points the way forward.
I want to pick on the evidence given to the Select Committee by one of the voluntary organisations (MIND). I do so unashamedly as its chairman, because it made the point which has been made by a number of noble Lords. I quote from the report:Disabled people should be involved in the planning, development and management of care … The second and third action programmes will only be successful if they can demonstrate at a local level how each of the components of independent living can fit together, and how that integration promotes true independence for the individual. True independence is more than simply a home of one's own, important as that is. Independence means the ability and the income to make choices, and have control over one's own life".That is the message that I want to emphasise from the evidence given in your Lordships' report and from so many of the speeches made by noble Lords today, especially by my noble friend Lord Parry, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham.
Disabled people have had enough of people doing things for them. They want to be enabled to take control of their own lives. They need to be revalued and empowered to become real people, making decisions for themselves. It is time that that message got through to the European Community, to governments, including our own, and to the community at large. That is the message of the report. I warmly commend it.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Skelmersdale)
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, and his committee for the hard work that they have put into investigating the second action programme for the integration of disabled people. I have to tell the House—and on this occasion it does not mean that your Lordships will not like what is coming—that 673 these are no idle words and that the Government welcome the report—even the hard hitting comments on the carrying out of the first action programme to be found in paras. 74–78, upon which many noble Lords, and most recently the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, have commented. I take it on the chin because your Lordships' committee is absolutely right. I do not believe that it is profitable to spend too much time on the latter point beyond saying that we and the Commission are determined to learn from our mistakes. One of those was that there was no complete co-ordinated oversight of the programme, which dealt only with two district projects whose aim was to promote pioneering ways of ensuring the economic and social integration of disabled people.
The programme, as we all know, had as a laudable aim the co-ordination of a community-wide network of district projects to promote the social and economic integration of disabled people. In addition, it had a separate community-wide network of rehabilitation centres to promote the exchange of ideas and information and to disseminate good practice in rehabilitation techniques. However the report on social integration proves inconclusive since no yardstick was used to measure results. The underlying problem here was that the national steering group lacked any authority to influence the district projects' management because the projects were Community-authorised and funded, of course, by the Community from the beginning. This was made worse by the lack of a clear mechanism for co-ordinating the various activities being undertaken in the first action programme.
The committee has rightly zeroed-in on the agreement on the objectives as being the only way to make the evaluation work, especially where we have local projects. Again, I agree, although perhaps I should remind your Lordships that it was not the Government who were responsible either for the projects or for the management of the evaluation. This responsibility fell on the Commission and the project leaders themselves. The same also applies to the continuation of the funding of the two local projects.
The objective of the second action programme is to carry on and expand the work of the first one without losing momentum. It goes by the intriguing name of the Greek sun god, semi-accidentally, I assume. Helios is actually an acronym standing for Handicapped People in the European Community Living Independently in an Open Society, whatever that means. Noble Lords have alluded to that point and I shall say something about it later on.
The Helios or second action programme also addresses a point that the committee made in relation to the first action programme; namely, that there was a low level of knowledge of the programme outside those directly involved. At the beginning of the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Allen, sought a reassurance that the Government would do more this time to help local projects and get value for money from the whole exercise. I am very glad to give that reassurance, although clearly our resources for these activities are limited. We had a very interesting speech on the limitation of resources yesterday from 674 my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft, so I do not have to make that point too forcefully.
As a start, the Government have arranged a conference for all the local projects which will be held in Preston at the beginning of December. Perhaps I should say for the avoidance of doubt—bearing in mind one of the questions during Question Time at the start of your Lordships' business today—that I think it is very unlikely that any Minister will be going to that conference.
The Commission intends there to be two community-wide networks of local model activities representing, first, good practice in the field of vocational training and economic integration; and secondly, covering social integration and independent living. In addition there will be a further development of the network of rehabilitation centres. The management of these objectives within the networks is under active consideration by the Government, as are the resources required for this activity.
Side by side with this was the complaint that not enough was done to involve other voluntary organisations in the programme. I would say to the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, that we Faye consulted widely on the Helios programme and invited applications from a wide variety of organisations throughout the United Kingdom. There is no excuse this time for anyone who wants to know not knowing. We have made it clear—and this has been welcomed by the committee—that we want to concentrate on achieving a better balance between the various elements of the programme by concentrating on encouraging innovation within existing programmes of activity rather than setting up new projects. An example of this is the inclusion of the disability resource centre at Waltham Forest which covers a wide range of disabilities and attempts to develop collaboration and co-ordination of services across a wide area at both local and national levels.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen, asked how schemes had been selected for local projects. The projects have been selected to cover the various disability interests and to achieve a good geographical spread. That point will be of interest to the noble Lord, Lord Blease, and I shall come to him in a minute. The Commission and the projects selected have now been informed and of course we shall be happy to publish a list of successful projects.
Not surprisingly, the noble Lords, Lord Carter and Lord Allen, himself and indeed one other noble Lord, mentioned—and I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I call them this—a subset of disabled people, those who are unfortunately mentally handicapped. I know of the direct interest in this of noble Lords. Of course it is vital to include the mentally handicapped in the scope of these action programmes. They were included within the scope of the local projects in the first programme and will also be included within the scope of the second programme.
I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Parry, who also spoke on this subject, that the value of MENCAP's work is of course recognised. Anyone who has gone through approximately the last 16 months opposite 675 the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, at the various Dispatch Boxes will be well aware of the invaluable work of MENCAP. The centre run by MENCAP at Pengwern Hall in North Wales for young people with mental handicaps has been selected for the network of rehabilitation centres. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Parry, will be glad of that.
I feel mildly injured by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Blease, not because he did not discuss what he was going to say with me in advance but when he was remarking about the involvement of Northern Ireland in the action programmes, he clearly did not know that a project in Northern Ireland has been included in the vocational training network. However, I note and will of course pass on the noble Lord's remarks on the Province being represented on the national co-ordinating committee because I agree with him that this is most important.
Over and above these projects that I have been talking about, the multi-lingual database for disabled people known as Handynet which was begun but hardly got off the ground as part of the first action programme is to be carried forward, with priority given to the first part of this database, the Handyaids module on technical aids and equipment. The Commission intends to prepare a report to the Council of Ministers on the progess of Handyaids up to the end of June next year. The United Kingdom Government see this report as a way forward in identifying the need for and feasibility of the Handynet project and we shall reserve our position on this until then.
I would add in partial answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and my noble friend Lord Swinfen that Handynet as such does not exist at present, as it is still very much in the developmental stage. The management and ownership of Handynet is an issue to be resolved at the end of the four-year programme. Its development at present is being funded through the Helios programme to which the United Kingdom has contributed its share.
My noble friend Lord Swinfen asked, why not go ahead with Handynet in the United Kingdom? I can tell him that the DHSS commissioned a consultancy study on the information needs of disabled people which was completed in the spring of this year. We are considering how to carry forward its conclusions at the local and national levels in the United Kingdom. I must say that we shall not wait for Handynet before carrying forward national developments, but clearly they should eventually be compatible.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend will allow me to intervene. He mentioned disabled people. Is he also including in that the voluntary organisations that help disabled people?
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, yes, of course I shall be coming to the voluntary organisations in a minute but they are most certainly to be included. I was interested to hear that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, has acted as a partial Handynet system herself. We all try to do this in our own particular and 676 peculiar ways. I am delighted that the noble Baroness has been able to help someone in Italy.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I am sorry, Spain. Alongside the Handynet programme, the Commission intends to promote projects and award prizes for good practice in mobility and transport; access to public buildings, facilities and housing, including support for people living in independent accommodation. I agree with your Lordships' committee that in this country our objectives in taking Helios forward should be to overcome the problems that arose in the first action programme and to set out a clear and agreed working mechanism for overseeing the whole programme.
Clearly, we want to encourage maximum participation, to facilitate wide dissemination of information on good practice and to encourage the involvement of the public and voluntary sectors in the programme. These are all laudable aims and objectives and I hope that no one doubts that we in the United Kingdom will play our part. I suppose, though, that one of the reasons we are debating this report today is whether the treaty provides an adequate legal basis for binding Community measures on social integration. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, raised that point.
The Government made strenuous efforts to have this action programme adopted as a resolution rather than as a decision. In the end a compromise solution was adopted whereby the programme was accepted on the basis that social integration continued to lie with member states. I should like to make it quite clear that this Government will continue to resist proposals for Community action which are not practicable or desirable, particularly where they would deprive the United Kingdom of the ability to introduce measures better fitted to our own requirements.
In paragraph 73 the committee supported the aim of the action programmes to promote the social and economic integration of disabled people, but pointed out that a lack of precision when formulating them reduces their value. In general I accept this view, though I am sure the committee would agree with me that this recommendation should not carry the implication that the existing innovative schemes are automatically suitable for carrying forward. There has to be a limit to the time that any project can be seen to be innovative. Also, the degree to which the Government can manage their part of the programme will depend on the resources that can be made available. This applies also to the extent to which we can involve non-governmental organisations.
While the Government agree that the voluntary bodies should be involved, this should not be taken to mean any award of Section 64 grants would automatically follow for those bodies. Nonetheless, I would agree that efforts, such as exchange visits, should be made to protect and promote the important contribution of volunteers in assisting disabled people to live independently. The 677 Commission is prepared within the programme to pay for certain networking activities, including the provision of information and advice as well as study visits, seminars and so on, up to certain specified amounts.
The committee welcomed the greater involvement of non-governmental organisations, and as a strong supporter of voluntary bodies myself I am glad that it did. It also suggested that this could provide a forum for consultation. As the noble Lord, Lord Banks, will have observed, a two-tier structure has already been set up at Community level. He will be glad that a national structure to involve the voluntary bodies in the United Kingdom is under active consideration. The Government thus believe that the European Community has also addressed the issue of the role of non-governmental oganisations and experts being strengthened in both the planning and implementation of future Community initiatives. While we generally accept this for the United Kingdom part of the programme as well, the noble Lord will agree with me that the normal constraints that apply on public expenditure should mean that this activity will not get out of hand.
I am very pleased that the committee took the view that disabled people are not a homogeneous group. Indeed, a rapid reading of the recent OPCS survey on disability in Great Britain entitled Report No. 1, Prevalence of. Disability Among Adults, bears this out. Nonetheless, I do not see the same difficulty as the committee does in defining disability as a particular problem within what the action programme seeks to achieve. The main objective is to cover all disability groups, and as far as I can see this has been done.
The noble Lord, Lord Carter, raised a group of specific examples of different incomes from benefits for disabled people. I do not wish to make snap remarks and snap judgments on them, because clearly it is most difficult to comment on the figures for benefit entitlement mentioned by the noble Lord without knowing more about the circumstances of the people whom he cites as examples. I should be very interested to know the details and the evidence on which he made his remarks. The noble Lord clearly has such evidence.
Having said that, it is clear initially that there was a division in the unfortunate circumstances which led to some people receiving non-contributory benefits, some people receiving contributory benefits and some people even receiving state pensions; from the MoD, for example, in the last case. The OPCS report will, when it is complete, present us with an unprecedented volume of information about people with disabilities. We shall use that to examine the performance of our existing benefit system.
The definition of disability is one thing; that of independent living is quite another. Indeed, I would question whether a common definition of independent living is required at either national or European level. I understand that the problem of defining independent living caused particular difficulties at the time that the discussions took place on the Helios programme. At one stage it caused hilarity to the Spanish delegation, who explained that the translation into their language implied the programme was concerned with gypsies!
678 The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, confirmed my suspicion that the committee found this a difficult subject area. The problem is that independent living means different things to different people. My noble friend Lord Swinfen movingly described degrees of independent living. I have no doubt that it would be very difficult to achieve a common definition here. I am not even sure that it is worth the bother. However, it is possible that common factors will emerge and our approach has been to include a range of activities as examples of how independent living can be interpreted. I do not know whether we shall achieve a common consensus on this point. We shall have to wait and see as the results of the programmes come before us.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunter of Newington, was to an extent answered by the noble Countess, Lady Mar. I believe it must be recognised that the needs of disabled people vary greatly. Some are well able to work and to follow successful careers by overcoming the effects of their disability; others require different degrees of help. So it is difficult for governments to prescribe common solutions. The noble Lord, Lord Hunter, will remember that many years ago when he was very much in command of his subject and before, I must confess, I was in a position to take—
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I must finish what I was going to say, before I am accused of being patronising. I was pointing out that the noble Lord was a distinguished doctor well before I took much interest in the affairs of disabled people. I do not think that is patronising at all.
The noble Lord will remember that in those days the phrase as regards disabled people used to be "sick and disabled people". I believe that it thereby distinguished between the two groups. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, made what thought was a devastating point in this connection when she referred to the fact that disabled people needed to be fit in order to cope as well as they could with their particular disability. If one needs to be fit, by definition one cannot be sick.
What in my roundabout way I am coming to say is that I feel that because of that it would be quite wrong for disabled people to be looked after by a public health commission, though I fully understand—we have had discussions about this—that a public health commission could have other valuable roles.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, that there are different solutions to common social problems in the Community. Clearly, we need to develop practical and desirable solutions. However, we see the main responsibility as being within the member states, who are best placed to judge on national needs and priorities. Certainly in taking forward national policies we recognise the importance of taking account of what is happening elsewhere in the Community.
My noble friend Lady Cox was backed up, as it were, by another noble Lord. I can say that as my noble friend is absent. She talked of what she called 679 the paucity of evidence in other EC states. I note that the committee comments that the evidence it received contained examples of good practice within the United Kingdom, and it describes some interesting ideas concerning benefits for disabled people. I heard what the noble Lords, Lord Banks and Lord Parry, said about partial pensions according to the degree of disability. We already incorporate that concept into our thinking and indeed actions in the war pension scheme. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Banks, will remember that.
I believe that we need to do everything that we can to encourage disabled people into more productive lifestyles, whether that means direct employment, partial employment or even the volunteering which noble Lords have talked about. However, with 16 months' experience of responsibility for the war pensions scheme behind me I am sceptical, to say the least, about extending it more widely to disabled people. I would add that until we have the full set of OPCS surveys we shall not be able to judge whether the substantial resources already allocated to benefits and services for people with disabilities are properly targeted. I accept that the Government do indeed need to see whether there are better ways of providing help for those who need it most, and further thought will have to be given to that matter.
In partial answer to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, of course the Government are aware of the development of advocacy schemes and support those initiatives. We recognise the possibility for further development as a result of provisions relating to authorised representatives being introduced into the Disabled Persons Act 1986. However, a lot of work is required before the specific sections of that Act can be implemented, as I have explained on numerous occasions to the noble Lord, Lord Allen.
I should like to say briefly in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, that I am aware of the report Living Options Lottery by Barrie Fiedler, which he will remember was funded jointly by the Department of Health and Social Security and the King's Fund. We recently received the report and are considering it. The study shows that there is still a long way to go to achieve full independence for all disabled people. We welcome the many examples of good practice which it highlights and the fact that it demonstrates how even severely physically disabled people, given the right support, can live independent, fulfilled lives within the community. I agree with him on that point.
I hope that the whole House will agree with me that this has been a most constructive debate. Many noble Lords have paid tribute today to the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Allen. The subject of social affairs across Europe and today's sub-set of issues in the socioeconomics of disabled people is very diverse indeed. I believe that we are all indebted to the noble Lord for exercising the wisdom of Solomon in this matter. Clearly, it was a most difficult report to draw up and put together. I hope that I shall not be accused again of being patronising.
Your Lordships have again targeted your thoughts on an area of social and economic policy by means of which the European Community is making a 680 valuable contribution to developing awareness of the needs of disabled people. The United Kingdom Government are playing their full part and our aim is to ensure that the programmes redound to the benefit of disabled people in the United Kingdom. The Government will keep that aim clearly in view.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
My Lords, it is now some three and a half hours since we started this debate and I do not propose to prolong it, appreciative as I am of the amount of business still to be done. Being astounded at my own moderation, although there has been so much talk of independent living I do not even intend to talk about the possible effect of the poll tax on that concept.
I have not felt patronised by the Minister and I should like to thank him for his most informative reply. It seems to me that lessons have been learnt from the first action programme, and the assurances the noble Lord has given hold out much better prospects for the second programme although we may possibly inquire about progress from time to time. My only slight disappointment is to learn of such a prosaic explanation of the Greek-flavoured title of the new programme.
I should like to thank all those who have taken part in the debate. It seems to me that the numbers of those who have chosen to speak about what was certainly quite a difficult report and the wide variety of points which have been raised are some indication of the interest and care which this House feels for the disabled in our society.
As I am on my feet there is one thing I should like to say. It seems to me most unfortunate that this debate, which I think is of some importance, was interrupted for so long by a Statement repeating something that was said in the other place. I know that it was an important topic and some interesting speeches were made during the debate, rather long though they were. However, it seems to me that it would have been very much better had it been possible to arrange for the Statement to be made between the two debates, as happens when short debates on Wednesday afternoons are in progress. I hope that there may be some opportunity for taking that up with the Procedure Committee.
Having said all that, I shall content myself with adding that there is a great deal to be read and studied in Hansard and repeating my thanks to all those who contributed to the debate.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.