HC Deb 15 April 1991 vol 189 cc85-6W
Mr. Alfred Morris

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is his estimate of the cost of implementation of sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1989; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hanley

The cost of implementing sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 has not yet been estimated.

Government support was given to the introduction of the Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Act on the basis that it would be brought into effect in stages as resources permitted. Sections 9, 10, part of 11 and 12 came into operation on 7 December 1989.

On 1 April 1991, sections 5 and 6 of the Act, and parts of sections 4, 8 and 11, were brought into force. These provisions require health and social services boards to assess the needs of disabled people for certain social welfare services, and the ability of their carers to provide appropriate care. Boards are also required, in association with education and library boards, to ensure that young disabled people have a smooth transition from full-time education to adult life. Substantial resources have been made available to boards to enable them to implement these provisions.

With the implementation of these sections of the 1989 Act, Northern Ireland is now fully in line with Great Britain as far as the implementation of the Disabled Persons (Services, Representation and Consultation) Act 1986 is concerned. The intention is to maintain this position of parity.

Of the provisions of the 1989 Act still to be brought into effect, sections 1 and 2 provide for the appointment of an authorised representative either by the disabled person concerned or by the relevant health and social services board. Section 3 requires the relevant board to give a disabled person or his authorised representative the right to make representations about his need for services, to provide on request a written statement on the assessed need for services and to respond to representations about any such statement.

The implementation of these sections has been overtaken by wider developments in the community care field. The policy paper "People First" which was published last year, sets out the way forward for community care in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. Its wide-ranging proposals reflect and indeed amplify the spirit of sections 1, 2 and 3 of the 1989 Act.

For example, from 1 April 1991 health and social services boards have been required to put in place new complaints procedures which will ensure the formal investigation of all complaints or representations about community care services made by individuals or by anyone on their behalf. From 1 April 1993, comprehensive assessment arrangements will be introduced covering the community care needs of all people who are vulnerable through aging, chronic mental illness, mental handicap or physical disability. A written statement of the result of assessments and the services to be provided under agreed care plans will be provided on request. The Department of Health and Social Services is currently assessing the resources needed to bring these developments fully into effect, and will ensure that boards prepare for their introduction over the intervening two years.

In the light of these initiatives the implementation of sections 1, 2 and 3 would be largely unnecessary, as their impact in the main will be achieved through the wider community care reforms. To press ahead with them now would be to run the risk of imposing upon boards complex administrative arrangements which they would have to fund at the expense of services. As in Great Britain, it has therefore been decided not to implement these sections, but the situation will be carefully reviewed when the impact of the wider community care reforms can be assessed.