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Attendance Allowance

Volume 827: debated on Tuesday 30 November 1971

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many applications for attendance allowance in respect of severely disabled people have been approved; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people he estimates will receive the new attendance allowance.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is, at the latest available date, the number of applications received, granted and still under consideration, respectively, for the new attendance allowance for disabled persons.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the progress made in the development of the attendance allowance; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many people are expected to qualify for the constant attendance allowance; and how many successful claims have been registered to date.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement about the introduction of the constant attendance allowance.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he intends to extend the attendance allowance for disabled people to cover a wider range of disablement.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what proportion of applications for attendance allowance in respect of severely disabled people has been successful; if he will publicise the appeal procedure; and if he will make a statement.

Over 95,000 claims had been received up to 23rd November. Of these, about 44,000 had been successful, nearly 21,000 were rejected subject to the right to apply for a review of the decision and some 30,000 were still under consideration. The awards up to that date were 32,000 to adults and 12,000 to children. New claims are still coming in at the rate of several thousands a week.

By 6th December, the starting date for payment, the number of awards will be within reach of the 50,000 we originally estimated, but the number who finally receive the allowance when all these outstanding claims or applications for review have been considered will be substantially greater.

I think the House will agree that this is a highly satisfactory outcome so far, and one which reflects great credit on the Attendance Allowance Board, the general practitioners and other doctors whose help they enlisted and, may I add, the officers concerned throughout my Department, all of whom have worked hard and enthusiastically. I cannot at this stage say anything about the timing of further developments.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that encouraging reply, may I ask him whether, in the light of the experience gained by his Department in assessing these applications, he will consider widening the qualifications for eligibility to include some of the very severely disabled people who are excluded at the moment?

We have all the time described this as the first stage, but I cannot today go further than that.

While that is an encouraging start, could my right hon. Friend say, in respect of the applications for children, what the percentage of success has been compared with the overall figures he gave a moment ago?

The overall success rate, to give the background, is 69 per cent. The success rate for children has been 82 per cent.

Is the Minister aware that there are large numbers of severely disabled people who need extra financial assistance but who do not qualify under the present attendance allowance? When will he be able to announce an extension of the range of the allowance to cover the new series of disabled?

When embarking for the first time on trying to help the severely disabled, the House and the Government recognised that we would have to do it by stages. I cannot give the answer today.

Can my right hon. Friend say when he is likely to be able to relax the day-and-night rule, in particular, on these allowances?

My hon. Friend has put again, rather ingeniously, and in another way, the question put by two other hon. Members. I cannot answer that.

While I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's point about the need for attendance allowance to get under way, will the right hon. Gentleman not agree that a tremendous number of families are involved in this? In my own constituency three cases have been reversed on appeal. Would he agree that it is difficult to appreciate why certain categories have to appeal in any case? I can give an example from my own constituency, that of a lady who lost both legs and had three strokes, who had been turned down for constant attendance allowance.

I hope that all hon. Members who come across cases which they feel are anomalous will advise constituents to ask for a review by the Board. We are faced with the inevitability of varied standards by general practitioners up and down the country. That is why we want to encourage reviews of any marginal cases. The Board has so far dealt with 4,100 reviews, of which 83 per cent. have been successful.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the pattern of acceptances and rejections, particularly for mentally handicapped children, in some areas is bewildering and that a large percentage have had to be submitted for a second time? Can he make it known that these second applications may succeed and try to eliminate the need for them?

I do not see how I can eliminate the need for them when we are bringing into payment a new benefit which depends ultimately on a combination of objective and subjective criteria and when the first line of agents of decision consists of a mass of intensely hard-worked general practitioners.

How soon will the Minister be able to remove the condition that severely disabled people should need constant attention, day and night? This is an abysmal condition and unduly restrictive. Can the Minister give these allowances to those who may require attention during the day?

Even to the hon. Gentleman I cannot give the answer that he and many other hon. Members wish to have. I am sorry.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his Department, on great humanitarian grounds, have already overruled the original negative decision and given people this attendance allowance, notably Mrs. Gregory in my constituency—an allowance originally refused. We are truly grateful.

I do not normally refuse any expressions of gratitude, but any credit must go to the Attendance Allowance Board, which is entirely independent.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there have been many disturbing cases of refusal of entitled applicants being reversed only after strong representations from their Members of Parliament? Is it not time that we had an urgent review of procedure?

That is entirely unwarranted. The Attendance Allowance Board is composed of devoted individuals who have very busy professional lives of their own and who have made time to carry out this relatively invidious task. They do not need strong representations from Members of Parliament; they simply need names of constituents whose cases need reviewing.