Skip to main content

Attendance Allowance

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1971

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will seek to amend the regulations governing the attendance allowance to include those who are so severely disabled as to need constant attendance night or day instead of night and day; if he will estimate how many additional people would become eligible; and what would be the extra cost.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will now set up a study of the payment of the new attendance allowance to the severely disabled in order to decide whether to amend the criteria for payment in order to give help to more of the disabled.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many of the unsuccessful applicants for an attendance allowance he estimates were refused because of the requirement that they must need repeated or prolonged attendance during the night as well as constant attendance during the day.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimate he has made of the attendance allowance applications which have been turned down because of the day and night regulations; what representations he has received on this subject from the Disablement Income Group; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will amend the forms for the claim for attendance allowance for the chronically sick and disabled so that the categories of patients who may obtain benefit will be widened.

Up to 14th December about 24,000 of those who had claimed attendance allowance had failed to qualify because they did not satisfy the medical requirements. No information is available about how many did so because they need attention only during the day.

As to extension, I cannot add to my reply to similar Questions on 30th November. Up to 250,000 further disabled people might qualify for the allowance if the present statutory requirements were amended to relate to attendance by day or by night instead of by day and by night together, at a cost which would depend on the rate of allowance which might be paid in such circumstances. I have just received general representations from the Disablement Income Group about widening the scope of the allowance.—[Vol. 827, c. 235–8.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that thousands of people will be grateful for the attendance allowance and, since this is a time for good will to all men, may I say that the right hon. Gentleman can claim credit for that and that I thank him for it? Is he also aware that at the time these regulations were passed there was a feeling that this was in the form of an experiment and that many of us, in the light of this experiment, have become distressed at the way in which many disabled people have been left outside the regulations? Is he further aware that my Question asks the parliamentary draftsman to change only one word and that that one word will be a whole volume of well being for the disabled?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The Government were very glad to have the opportunity to put into legislation an idea which the previous Government had and to bring into payment to large numbers of people a benefit which we all welcome. However, it was inevitable, and was always made plain, that we should have to tackle this new and large job in stages. Whenever matters are tackled in stages, there are always hard cases. I ask the House to draw comfort from the fact that in addition to 50,000 awards already made, which is as many as we anticipated, there are a further 40,000 claims yet undecided.

Will my right hon. Friend consider asking the Attendance Allowance Board to submit a report containing its recommendations on ways in which the regulations might be varied in order to include a substantial number of severely disabled people, most of whom would be included if the regulations could be amended?

As soon as the Government have made an appraisal of the implications of the next step, both for timing and for money, I shall be delighted to invite the Attendance Allowance Board to submit a report.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware how grateful hon. Members are for his replies, but will he consider the situation of very badly disabled people who need constant attendance? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many able-bodied men and women cannot go out to work because they have to spend all their time looking after disabled people and that, if the right hon. Gentleman modified the regulations to say "day or night", it would lead to considerable savings for his Department? Will he reconsider this matter?

I fear that I cannot. We are tackling this matter in stages. When the next stage comes, it will take on board a larger number, including those to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred. But if any hon. Member knows of cases which he considers satisfy the day and night qualification, but which have been refused, I beg him to advise his constituents to apply to the Attendance Allowance Board for a review.

Will my right hon. Friend agree that a much fairer system would result if the form were slightly modified? My right hon. Friend will be aware that, at the moment, one has to put a tick by a group of complaints. This means that the general practitioner has to say whether the person concerned is or is not in a certain position, and no variation is allowed. Will my right hon. Friend consider amending the form so that less allowance is made for the kindliness of the general practitioner and more instruction is given from the centre?

Ministers are always a little threatened by coalitions of the kind that there is on this subject. Subject to the general unwillingness of the Government to bring in stage two until the time is ripe in terms of availability of finance, knowledge and machinery, I shall gladly discuss my hon. Friend's point with the Attendance Allowance Board.

While we appreciate the difficulties and the limitations imposed by the Treasury, surely the time is now ripe for the removal of this unreasonable condition? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept from me a categorical assurance that hon. Members on both sides of the House want to see this condition removed now and the attendance allowance given to those who require attendance during the day or the night?

Of course I understand and share this attitude. But hon. Members will recognise that, gradually, we have dealt with, and are dealing with, the most desperately urgent cases first. The next stage, when it comes, will bring in a lot more.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is now a strong and compelling case, supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House, for some widening of the regulations? Will the right hon. Gentleman publish his reply to the Disablement Income Group and make a further statement to the House at the earliest possible date?

I shall remain under questioning on this subject. Certainly I undertake to send the hon. Gentleman a copy of my reply to the Disablement Income Group.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the latest total number of applications for attendance allowance and the number of the applications allowed, particularly in the regions and areas of low family income; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. Up to 14th December some 115,000 claims had been received and, out of the 74,000 completely dealt with by that date, just over 50,000 had been allowed, including those allowed on review. I will, with permission, circulate regional details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Can he explain how his Department can be satisfied with those figures when, apparently, it does not know what the figures are on a county basis and, in fact, has refused to provide such figures? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if this analysis of applications were made, it would be a much fairer way of assessing the problem? Does he agree, further, that if these figures were available they would also be helpful to the social services departments of the county councils in their attempts to identify the disabled?

We have to balance the cost of requiring information and confidentiality of those who receive benefits against the wider use which might be made of more detailed knowledge. As a result of the hon. Gentleman's Question, the regional analysis given today will, I think, come fairly close to giving information about county performances.

Following is the information:


Number of claims received up to 14th December approximately

Number of applicants who, at the initial stage, were found to satisfy the medical conditions

Yorkshire and Humberside10,2004,700
East Midlands and East Anglia11,0006,400
London North9,5004,000
London South12,6006,200
London West10,0004,400
South Western8,5003,400
West Midlands.9,0003,800
North Western (Manchester)8,5003,700
North Western (Merseyside)8,6004,100
Wales 9,6003,500

* There is inevitably some time lag between the medical conditions being found to be satisfied and an award actually being made to a claimant.