HC Deb 24 February 1978 vol 944 cc830-3W
Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the total expenditure of his Department on mobility for the disabled in each of the years 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977; and what is the anticipated expenditure for the years 1978, 1979 and 1980.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The following is the information:

1972–3 9.2
1973–4 11.2
1974–5 13.1
1975–6 17.2
1976–7 26.2
1977–8 37.5*
1978–9 61.7*
1979–80 79.5*
1980–81 82.7*
* estimated

Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he has taken to publicise the availability of mobility allowance to certain disabled people who ceased to benefit from the former vehicle scheme and who may still be unaware of the new help which the Government can provide for them; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alfred Morris

My hon. Friend's Question refers to our decision to give the mobility allowance to disabled people who had a pre-1976 vehicle scheme benefit but lost it for a temporary reason, such as loss of job or the loss of their driving licence. They may now qualify for mobility allowance on the special terms outlined in my Department's leaflet NI 225 "New Option for Vehicle Scheme Beneficiaries".

Our records are not kept in a way that would have made personal contact possible with everyone whose former benefit had lapsed before 1st January 1976. Therefore, I wrote to all the appropriate voluntary bodies seeking their assistance and, at my request, the new help available was given wide publicity in their journals. Directors of local authority social services departments were also informed of the change. To date 1,064 disabled people whose former benefit lapsed have made successful applications for the mobility allowance. They include 93 successful applications from Scotland. I take this further opportunity to remind all who enjoyed a vehicle scheme benefit between 1st January 1970 and 31st December 1975, and who think they could still satisfy the eligibility conditions now, that they should make a claim for the mobility allowance not later than 31st March. The law will not permit consideration of applications received after that date. I shall welcome any help which hon. and right hon. Members can give in making this known among their constituents.

Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what advice his Department is giving to disabled people who receive the private car allowance and who are now to be entitled to switch to the mobility allowance; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alfred Morris

I have written individually to all recipients of the private car allowance—PCA—on two occasions about their new option. My first letter which was sent last autumn was as followsI am writing to let you know of a change we have now made in the law which could be of help to you. The change will entitle many thousands of disabled people to the Mobility Allowance for the first time. As you may know, the allowance is taxable and goes up from £5 to £7 a week from 16th November. If they so wish, disabled people who have (or used to have) a car or a tricycle, or a private car allowance, under the old vehicle scheme, can have the Mobility Allowance instead. Moreover, they can switch to the Mobility Allowance—if they want to—without a medical examination and without any age-limit. As the details are a bit complicated, I have set them out in the leaflet* I am enclosing with this letter. And to simplify things for people who want to change to the Mobility Allowance, the application form has been made a part of the leaflet. If you want to switch to the Mobility Allowance, you can fill in the form. If you don't want to change, there is no need to do anything. Of course, not everyone who wants to switch will be able to do so immediately. We will need a phased programme of transfers, but will nevertheless proceed as quickly as we possibly can. I want also to stress that drivers in Category 3 who want to keep their vehicles will no longer lose them if they retire or otherwise lose their jobs. As you may know, Ministers used to have to write to people who had lost their jobs to say that this meant they would lose their vehicles as well. But we have now made changes to stop this happening. Again, the choice of Mobility Allowance is available to Category 3 people without any age-limit and whether or not they are in a job. The new scheme applies to War Pensioners who have a vehicle, or a Private Car Maintenance Allowance, under the pre-1976 scheme. They will be helped by reading paragraph 11 in particular. I am also sending you a list of new help which the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, formerly the Central Council for the Disabled, have negotiated in consultation with me. They may also be of interest and help to you.

* Leaflet NI 225 (New Option for Vehicle Scheme Beneficiaries).

In January of this year, I sent the following letter to PCA recipients: I am writing further to my message in the Autumn of last year, when I explained your new option to transfer to the Special Mobility Allowance Scheme if you wished.

PCA Special Mobility Allowance
How much? £100 a year Now £364 a year going up to £520 from July, 1978.
Is it taxable? No Yes, it is regarded as earned income.
Is there any limit to the benefit? No No.
If I run a car, am I liable for road tax? No Yes.
Does the benefit continue if I give up my car? No Yes.
The choice is yours.
In helping you to decide, I should like to clear up two misconceptions which have troubled many PCA holders. First, if you transfer to the Mobility Allowance you will not have to give up your vehicle excise duty exemption certificate until next July. Moreover, subject to the usual rules you will continue to receive your present PCA until the Mobility Allowance becomes payable."

To date, 12,282 PCA recipients have opted to switch to the Mobility Allowance.