HC Deb 24 June 1986 vol 100 cc87-8W
Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Prime Minister if Her Majesty's Government will make it their policy to expand rehabilitation facilities for disabled people of all ages in the United Kingdom; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

As indicated in "Care in Action" Government priorities for health and social services already include provision of services for physically and sensorily handicapped, mentally ill and mentally handicapped people of all ages. These priorities apply to services both in hospitals and in the community. There has been a steady expansion in the number of therapy staff employed in provision of these services and regional health authorities' strategies show plans for further substantial increases.

The Government are considering urgently the recommendation in the McColl report about the artificial limb and appliance centre services, with a view to further improving the services they provide.

Considerable progress has also been made in developing support and assistance for disabled people living in the community. Through joint funding and the "Care in the Community" arrangements which are aimed at assisting the transfer into the community of people who do not need to be cared for in long-stay hospitals the Government have assisted the development of services for the most vulnerable groups. Our initiatives on "Helping the Community to Care" based on central funding for voluntary bodies will also benefit people to whom the hon. Member's question refers.

Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Prime Minister what discussions have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the United Nations regarding the implementation of the world programme of action concerning disabled persons; if she will make it Her Majesty's Government's policy to help to promote further steps to implement the world programme in the second half of the decade; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

The Government have kept the United Nations Secretariat informed of the development of services for disabled people in the United Kingdom. These developments broadly reflect the aims and recommendations obtained in the world programme of action.

I have referred in another answer to the hon. Member today to the development of rehabilitation and other health and social services which benefit disabled people. Progress has also been made on a number of other fronts.

The Government have commissioned the first comprehensive study of disablement in the population for some 16 years. The information it will provide is essential if we are to make the best use of available resources in future planning for benefits and services for disabled people.

Total expenditure on cash benefits for long-term sick and disabled people in 1985–86 was over £5.1 billion. This represents an increase in real terms of some 53 per cent, since 1978–79.

The implementation of the Education Act 1981 has improved the arrangements for the assessment and integration of children with special educational needs.

There have been important developments in the key field of access. Amendments to the building regulations introduced in 1985 require developers to provide access facilities for disabled people in some categories of new public buildings. In 1984 the Government funded the establishment of the Access Committee for England, in which disabled people have a prominent voice, to help promote awareness of the access needs of disabled people and encourage provision for them.

The Transport Act 1985 established the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, half of whose members must themselves be disabled, to advise the Department of Transport on all aspects of transport and mobility for disabled people. In 1985 the Department of Transport also set up a mobility advice and vehicle information service to provide practical advice on driving, or adaptations, and car choice for disabled drivers and passengers.

In November 1984 I was pleased to launch the first code of good practice on employment of disabled people, endorsed by both the CBI and the TUC, to encourage greater employment opportunities.

The Government will continue to seek opportunities for making improvements in facilities and opportunities for disabled people.

Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Prime Minister what co-operation is taking place between her Government and other nations involved in the world programme of action concerning disabled people in stimulating better rehabilitation facilities in the underdeveloped world; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

As I explained to the hon. Member on 18 June, at column546, we support the general aims of the United Nations world programme of action concerning disabled persons by giving direct assistance to specific projects under our bilateral aid programmes. In this way, we support rehabilitation programmes for disabled people in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, St. Helena and Zimbabwe. We are also funding jointly with various British charities rehabilitation programmes and projects to assist disabled people in Bangladesh (two projects), Botswana, India (10 projects), Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Zaire and Zimbabwe (two projects).

In addition, the health aid programme of the Overseas Development Administration is directed at improving the availability of basic health services in the developing world. The programme contributes directly and indirectly to the welfare of the disabled and helps to prevent disability.

Forward to