HL Deb 25 November 1992 vol 540 cc951-3

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

For how long they expect the Independent Living Fund to continue to operate fully and to continue to make new grants, and what will be the shape and scope of its successor.

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

My Lords, the trustees have decided that in order to complete action on all outstanding applications by 31st March, no further applications will be accepted on or after 26th November. As my right honourable friend the Minister of State announced yesterday, we have decided to legislate in the current year to establish a new fund to help the most severely disabled people of working age to live independently in the community.

Lord Ashley of Stoke

My Lords, I welcome that constructive reply by the noble Lord, but it raises a number of questions of great importance to severely disabled people. Will the money for existing cases be increased, as required, in line with inflation and the changing circumstances of individuals? Will the budget for new cases be sufficient, together with the criteria, to enable all severely disabled people to live at home, if they wish to do so?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for the welcome which he has given to my Answer. As regards existing cases, they will be protected. As from next year when the changes are introduced we shall be bringing in a new successor body to look after existing cases in receipt of funds from the ILF. As to whether they will be uprated, it will be for individuals to apply to the successor body to have increases made according to their needs, taking into account inflation or whether their circumstances have changed. Certainly, existing cases will be able to go back to the successor body if their circumstances have changed. As regards the budget for the new cases as from 1st April next year, I am afraid that the noble Lord will have to wait for further announcements.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, will my noble friend tell me what will be the position of those who would have applied to the fund from tomorrow onwards but who will not be able to do so from next April? Will it be possible to put their names on a waiting list and will any payments be backdated to tomorrow?

Lord Henley

My Lords, payments will not be backdated, just as ILF payments have not been backdated in the past. Payments have been dealt with only as and when they have been dealt with by the ILF. Obviously those who miss out on the closure of new claims to the ILF as from midnight tonight will have to wait until 1st April next year.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, will the Minister please amplify yesterday's press statement which indicates that the ILF continues until April 1993; a second and successive fund takes over existing ILF claims from April 1993; and a third fund, in partnership with local authorities, cares for new clients after 1st April 1993? Will the Minister confirm that neither local authorities nor the ILF have been consulted about that new partnership? Finally, how much money do the Government expect to save by those arrangements? If it is very little, why do they not continue with the ILF, as clients and local authorities wish? If it is rather a lot, is it not coming from the most disabled members of our community?

Lord Henley

My Lords, as regards funding, I have already answered that question in my Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ashley. Further announcements will be made. As regards the two successor funds coming in next year, they are not a matter for the ILF but obviously my right honourable friend the Minister for disabled people will wish to hear its views and the views of all other disabled people and those representing them as we develop our ideas on the two successor funds. As I said, the new funds will be working with the local authorities and local authorities will be expected to make a contribution by way of services equal to what would have been spent on either residential or nursing care. The new successor fund will provide cash in addition.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, does not the Minister agree that the essential element of the existing fund which makes it so successful is the cash payments made to individuals? Therefore, will he ensure that that is a central feature of any future funding?

Lord Henley

My Lords, that is something that I have been trying to make quite clear. Any new successor body will be making cash payments over and above the services provided by local authorities. As I said earlier in answer to the noble Baroness, local authorities will be making available services equal to what would have been spent on residential or nursing care. The new fund will be making cash payments over and above that.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

My Lords, in view of the fact that the cost to the successor bodies of maintaining the administration necessary to care for the ILF's existing clients will be nearly as high as the cost now to the existing ILF, and given that it is estimated that the cost to local authorities of maintaining an administration to provide for clients will range from 20 per cent. to 100 per cent. above the costs of the ILF per client handled, how can the Minister justify not maintaining the ILF in existence if only on the basis of an economic use of public resources? Will he not, even at this late stage, reconsider what seems to many of us to be a deplorable decision so that the ILF need not back off from the marvellous job that it has done so far?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and echo his sentiments regarding the marvellous job done by the ILF over the past four years. However I must stress that expenditure on the ILF has increased by leaps and bounds. In the first year it was approximately £1 million although there was provision for £5 million. Provision this year has increased to £97 million, which is a 20-fold increase. We said that we would give a guarantee to existing cases that their provision will be met. As regards provision for the other successor body and the new cases, I tried to make clear that further details will be announced in due course. Additional resources will be made available to local authorities in respect of the changes and further announcements regarding resources generally will be made shortly.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I and perhaps others are concerned about two points. The first relates to the hiatus which will exist from tonight and next April when people who otherwise would apply and perhaps have been successful will not be able to apply and will therefore lose out. The second point concerns the administrative arrangements after 1st April. Have the local authorities been consulted about the arrangements? Have they agreed to them? Are they satisfied with them and will they be able to carry them out satisfactorily?

Lord Henley

My Lords, the ILF has 6,500 outstanding cases. It is important that it processes those before 1st April to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements when community care comes into effect next April. As I tried to stress, two new funds will be introduced from next April; one will deal with existing cases—those we are discussing—and one will deal with new cases thereafter. Of course we shall consult the local authority associations on the matter.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, can the Minister clarify his reply to the question of my noble friend Lady Kinloss? He said that local authorities and the successor body to the Independent Living Fund will be helping people who are disabled or who become disabled. Local authorities are not allowed to give cash grants, as the Independent Living Fund, I understand, is. Will the successor body be able to give cash grants over and above the contribution of local authorities, particularly for people living in their own homes?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I thought that I had made that perfectly clear. It will be for local authorities to make surplus provision up to the equivalent of nursing or residential care. It will be for the successor body to make cash grants over and above that.

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