§ Mr. Alan Howarth
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she has further considered the possibility of local authorities being permitted to make direct payments to disabled people in lieu of care services; and if she will make a statement.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
I intend to take, in conjunction with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales, a new power to enable social services authorities and social work departments to make direct cash payments to disabled people in lieu of community care services. Direct payments are a logical extension of the citizen's charter. They will give disabled 333W people greater independence and choice and involve them and their carers more fully in their own care.
This development will give disabled people greater independence and control over their lives. It fully complements the other important measures which my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People is announcing. But, as a new departure, direct payments carry some risks. So in the short term we intend to limit those able to receive such payments to a relatively small number group, probably those disabled people who are able and willing to manage their care. The intended power will also be permissive - authorities themselves will need to decide whether to take advantage of it, based on their judgment of whether it will help them make better use of their resources. Direct payments will be an alternative to community care services, where authorities assess a need for them. There will be no overlap with social security benefits.
There are many complex issues to be resolved. We will be working with the key interests to make sure that the details are right. It would be unwise to introduce legislation before we are satisfied that we have done so. We hope to move to a Bill as soon as practicable.