HC Deb 16 July 2002 vol 389 cc263-4W
Norman Lamb

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of(a) the number of village halls requiring adaptation and (b) the estimated total cost of such adaptations to meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, so far as access is concerned. [65639]

Maria Eagle

A village hall is covered by Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act where it provides services to the public. We have made no separate assessment of the number of village halls requiring adaptations or the costs involved.

All service providers, including village halls, will only ever have to do what is reasonable to meet their access obligations. There is no question of unreasonable costs being imposed on village halls, or on any other service provider. The Disability Rights Commission will act as a source of information and guidance to service providers, like Village Halls, and the Commission's Code of Practice—Rights of Access: Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises provides examples of good practice and how the Act is likely to work.

Making adjustments to assist disabled customers need not necessarily be costly or difficult. Recent research commissioned by the Disability Rights Commission and the Department for Work and Pensions, with co-funding from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, has examined the costs and benefits to service providers when making adjustments to meet the needs of their disabled customers and clients (DWP Research Report 169).

The research surveyed a UK-wide representative sample of 1,000 establishments in scope of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act. The establishments surveyed covered a range of sectors, including public and private sector organisations. The research found that for many service providers that had made adjustments costs were not seen as the dominant issue when making adjustments. The research identified a wide range of types of adjustments, and found that the costs of these adjustments varied significantly depending on the type. For most kinds of adjustments, the mean initial costs lay between £100 and £1,000. The mean on-going costs for most adjustments lay below £100 per annum.