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Disabled Persons

Volume 977: debated on Tuesday 29 January 1980

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10.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what additional measures he is proposing to assist registered disabled persons to withstand the increased cost of goods and services which are essential to aid their mobility.

Local social services authorities provide help with mobility to registered disabled persons and it is for individual authorities to determine, in the light of their own priorities, what help should be made available. As to assistance from the Department, the mobility allowance was increased by 20 per cent. last November and my right hon. Friend will be considering, before the end of the tax year, what the rate should be from November 1980.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. In view of the cost of living rise, which causes many problems for disabled people, will he consult his colleagues in the Treasury to see if the mobility allowance can be made non-taxable since it is an inevitable and unavoidable extra expense?

The mobility allowance will be reviewed along the lines that I have suggested. It is unlikely to be made untaxable.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that disabled people will not be required to pay prescription charges, as some are doing at present? Will he give a categorical assurance that they will not pay any increased prescription charges?

No, Sir. I can give no such assurance. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a wide list of exemptions from payment of prescription charges.

Will the Minister confirm that the Government's view is that they will not give further benefits to disabled people until the economy improves?

There will be a review of benefits in November. As to the introduction of new benefits or the extension of the scope of existing benefits, the hon. Gentleman is right—such improvements must await an improvement in the economy.

Has the mobility allowance been fully phased in? If not, how many eligible people are still awaiting the allowance? Can the Minister say whether the increases in motoring costs will be taken fully into account in increasing the allowance in November?

On the latter point, the increase in motoring costs will be one of the factors taken into account. I cannot say that it will be taken fully into account because the allowance was never envisaged as covering all the costs of mobility. It simply makes a contribution towards them. Those people between 60 and 65 have been phased in—more rapidly than planned by the previous Government. New claims are still being processed and the processing is not quite complete.

Will my right hon. Friend consider whether some special help could be given to the war disabled from the First World War? Although they are not entitled to receive a mobility allowance as such, many of them cannot use motor cars and find it very difficult to get out. Does he not agree that some special help should be given to them as there are only 2,500 of them?

As my hon. Friend will be aware, special allowances are payable to the war disabled. I think it is unlikely that an increase would be paid to the First World War disabled only. However, if my hon. Friend will contact me about this matter I shall look at it further.