HC Deb 21 February 1972 vol 831 cc213-5W
Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what changes he has decided to make in the arrangements for providing vehicles to severely disabled persons.

Sir K. Joseph

My Scottish and Welsh colleagues and I have just completed a review of the invalid vehicle service. As a result of this we are making changes which, although accomplished within the limits of present expenditure, together enable us to secure important improvements. In trying to make better use of the existing money it has been necessary to introduce a few savings in order to permit the improvements. The changes are:

  1. 1. Persons qualifying for a vehicle will in future be able to forgo it and receive instead an allowance of £100 per annum to run the vehicle of their own which is registered and insured in their name and which they hold a full licence to drive. These allowances will be introduced with effect from 1st April, 1972.
  2. 2. Vehicles will continue to be issued to people with some, though severely limited, walking ability if they need them to get to full-time work but on cessation of employment the vehicle will be surrendered instead of, as hitherto, left with a person permanently once he has qualified for it.
  3. 3. Future recipients of cars issued by the Department will not be required to garage them. In consequence the cash assistance accompanying the vehicle will be reduced by £25 per annum to £35 for each of the first two years after first issue of a new car, 214 to £55 for each of the two succeeding years and to £65 per annum thereafter.
  4. 4. Future recipients of three-wheelers will not receive the £5 per annum petrol allowance.
  5. 5. Those unable to walk because of a heart or lung condition have hitherto had to show that they needed a vehicle to get to work in order to qualify fo one. This employment condition will be removed.
  6. 6. Mothers who qualify for a vehicle will be able to have a car instead of a three-wheeler if they have the care of young children. The requirement that they must be in sole charge of the children will be removed.
  7. 7. Persons living alone in their own households, whose disability is such that they would normally have to be in full-time employment in order to qualify for a vehicle, will be able to have one even if not employed if they need it to carry out their household duties.
  8. 8. Persons whose walking limitations qualify them for a vehicle and who suffer from haemophilia may have a car instead of a three-wheeler.
  9. 9. Any vehicle issued by the Department or run with the assistance of the new allowance will be exempted from vehicle excise duty with effect from 1st April.

These changes will remove a number of anomalies that have developed over the years, introduce a desirable flexibity, meet many of the requests that have received a strong measure of support and increase substantially the number of beneficiaries, notably the unemployed "heart and lung" sufferers. Altogether we hope that about 10,000 people will benefit under the new arrangements.

We recognise that these changes do not solve the problem completely and we are already starting to think about possible future improvements. Before deciding the next priorities for any further help to those who are immobilised by severe disablement, we must consider the alternative ways of helping them, and the proportion of the resources that should be devoted to particular groups of severely disabled people. We shall therefore within the next few weeks invite somebody from outside the Health Departments to study the subject and give us unbiassed advice about further changes it would be useful for us to consider.

We shall make it clear that the money available will be limited by competing claims on our resources. For this reason the inquiry will pay particular regard to the needs of people of working age. The resources of the Health Departments will be made available to the person conducting this inquiry, who will be asked to receive evidence from responsible bodies concerned with disablement and I will ask for this work to be completed within a year. In due course I will inform the House of the main features of the advice received and the Government's intentions regarding it.

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