HC Deb 20 March 2002 vol 382 cc422-3W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to increase the level of inpatient care for those spending over a year in mental health hospitals above the present weekly allowance. [40651]

Mr. Todd

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions at what level the personal allowance for mental health patients requiring in-patient care is set; and if he plans to review it. [41469]

Maria Eagle

There are no plans to change the amount by which benefits are reduced for hospital in-patients who have been in hospital for more than 52 weeks.

The hospital downrating rules prevent double provision from public funds as the publicly funded NHS maintains people while they stay in hospital as well as providing free treatment. Social security maintenance benefits are also paid from state funds. They are therefore not paid in full indefinitely where a person is in a NHS hospital and having their day to day living expenses met through the NHS.

The double provision principle is a key cornerstone of the system of national insurance introduced over 50 years ago.

However, we also recognise that people have on-going financial commitments while in hospital, and although we consider the six week rule strikes a fair balance between what the state should provide financially and the provision individuals should make for themselves, we have none the less decided to extend the period before benefits are downrated by a further seven weeks to the 13 week stage. This will mean that people previously affected by the six week rule will be able to keep their benefits untouched if their period of stay in hospital is under 13 weeks. Benefit is generally then not downrated again until after 52 weeks.

Benefit is adjusted in this way because, generally speaking, the national health service will have assumed the responsibility of providing for patients who have spent more than 52 weeks in hospital. The personal requirements allowance is regarded as a reasonable amount to cover small personal items not already provided by the hospital.

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