HC Deb 05 July 1991 vol 194 cc226-8W
Mr. Alfred Morris

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is his policy towards the recommendations of the "Disability Manifesto: An Agenda for the 1990s", a copy of which has been sent to him, which relate to his Department; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

[holding answer 3 July 1991]; In his reply to a similar question from the right hon. Member, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out on 4 July at column 184 the aim underlying the policies of the Government towards people with disabilities.

In order to achieve the aim of enabling people with disabilities to take a full part in the life of the community, we are continuously reviewing and improving the provision of a broad spectrum of services for disabled people.

We agree with the authors of the manifesto that access to information is essential to enable people with disabilities to make reasoned choices.

In March I announced the establishment of the national disability information project, which has a budget of £3 million over three years, to fund pilot projects to identify good practice in the collection and dissemination of information at a local level to disabled people and their carers.

Guidance on the implementation of the community care reforms and the Children Act 1989, which will be implemented in October, draws attention to the need for service providers to produce information in formats which are appropriate for people with a sensory disability.

The Department grant-aids the production of Braille and has provided financial support for a variety of initiatives concerned with the development of sign languages and other communication techniques, including the production of information about the NHS reforms in Braille and sign language formats.

We agree that the prevention of disability and improved rehabilitation services are important goals. An advisory group on rehabilitation was set up earlier this year to advise on developments in NHS rehabilitation which would improve the range of services available to people with disabilities, and help them to lead as full a life as possible.

In May we announced a central initiative to improve rehabilitation services for people with brain injury. We will be supporting the development of a number of centres around the country which can act as models to the rest of the NHS, and carrying out an evaluation of the services they provide.

Between 1987–89, the Department contributed £800,000 towards a new rehabilitation centre for people who are deaf and blind with additional handicaps. In April 1990, the Department introduced new procedure for certifying people as blind or partially sighted.

In 1990, the Department launched two new initiatives under which it will make available nearly £3 million to the NHS for a cochlear implant programme and 12 pilot projects aimed at improving hearing aid services.

We will shortly publish the results of a review of continence services, including the recommendations for action to promote a good quality service throughout the country.

In June, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State made a statement at Mencap's annual conference on the future developments of services for people with learning disabilities. We have recently issued for consultation a draft local authority circular on social care for people with learning disabilities, and a parallel draft health circular on the role of the NHS in providing health care for this client group.

Considerable additional resources have already been committed to personal social services, including services for people with disabilities, where spending has increased by 53 per cent. in real terms since 1978–79.

When the new arrangements for community care are fully implemented in April 1993 local authorities will be required to assess the needs of people with disabilities and to provide the appropriate services that will best meet those needs. We make it clear in our guidance that users of the service and their carers should be involved as closely as possible in decisions about what services should be provided to them individually and that voluntary organisations representing users and carers be consulted in the preparation of community care plans.

One of the key objectives of the Government's proposals is to ensure that service providers make practical support for carers a high priority. The introduction of a complaints procedure open to all service users and their carers is a major step forward. It is part of the progress being made towards making services responsive to users' needs and it will encourage the drive for better quality services.

In addition, this year we are spending over £2,300,000 on grants to voluntary bodies in the disability field.

Internationally, the Government are actively participating in the European Community's HELIOS programme which aims to promote the integration into the community of both adults and children with disabilities.

We maintain an active role in the Council of Europe as members of the committee on rehabilitation.

We support the United Nations world programme of action concerning disabled persons and in particular the UN global project designed to mark the end of the UN decade of disabled persons 1983–92.

These major programmes, taken together with a range of other initiatives, illustrate the level of commitment to improving services for disabled people. We will continue to build on them in the future.

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