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Disability Living Allowance

Volume 519: debated on Monday 22 November 2010

5. What recent discussions his Department has had with disability organisations on proposals to remove the mobility component of the disability living allowance from residents in publicly funded care homes. (25111)

I have had discussions with a number of disability organisations on the proposals to modify eligibility for DLA following the Chancellor’s spending review announcements. Specific spending review measures, along with those in other Departments across Government, have not been subject to public consultation, but they will of course be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.

Of all the proposals on welfare reform, this is absolutely the most brutal and cruel. Disabled people in publicly funded care homes deserve much better than is being offered at the moment. What will the Minister do when she has to meet a disabled person in one of those homes face to face, and how will she explain why she is taking away their much-needed lifeline to the outside world?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the measure on mobility. Local authorities, working with care homes, have a clear duty to promote, where practical, independence, participation and community involvement for every single disabled person living in such care homes. The proposed change to DLA eligibility should not leave disabled people more isolated. Importantly, we have to ensure that there is clarity in funding streams as we move towards personalisation, which is something that almost every disabled person welcomes.

Constituents of mine in Atworth have come to see me about their 30-year-old daughter who suffers from cerebral palsy and will be affected by the changes. In her care home, different residents have very different mobility needs to maintain their independence, as well as experiencing different challenges. Can we expect care homes to meet those needs in an individually tailored way?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. It is important that we have personalised care for disabled people. Every disabled person has different needs and, working with colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department of Health, we will ensure that the correct level of support is being delivered locally.

Will the Minister take this opportunity to clarify exactly who will lose the mobility element of their DLA? There is quite a lot going around the blogosphere about who might be affected. Will the changes affect children in residential schools? Will they affect those in residential care who are self-funders as well as those who are funded by the local authority? Will there be exemptions, or will everyone in residential care lose the mobility element of their DLA?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. This does not affect self-funders, and we will be making clearer as we get towards the Bill exactly how the measure will affect all other groups. I reiterate that it is important to get clarity in the funding streams as we move towards personalisation, which is overwhelmingly welcomed by disabled people.

My hon. Friend makes a good point about the need for clarity and clarification as we move towards the universal benefit, but we must also consider the issue of decency. The measures that she is taking are having deleterious effects on the well-being of people in my constituency. Many of the families concerned have looked after their children for many years outside care. Will she take the opportunity to meet me so that we can discuss some of these constituency issues?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I am very happy to meet him to discuss this matter further. I would draw hon. Members’ attention to the fact that colleagues in the Department of Health have put £2 billion into social care, which will be available to ensure that local authorities and social care providers are able to meet people’s needs.

The spending review said that this measure would apply only

“where such costs are already met from public funds.”

Perhaps the Minister will take the opportunity to reassert that this afternoon. However, Scope and other leading disability organisations have established that removing the mobility component will hit thousands of disabled people. They have described the change as “callous”, and called on the Government to think again. Will the Government listen to those organisations, or do they believe—and can they guarantee—that there will be “no losers” as a result of this policy?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. She will obviously realise that one reason for having to look at these sorts of measures is that we were left an immense fiscal deficit by the previous Administration. I can confirm to her today that we will, of course, listen to the concerns and thoughts of voluntary organisations and disabled people—indeed, I am already doing so—and that the measure we are putting in place will ensure that the existing duties of care homes and local authorities, which are to ensure that disabled people are able to live independent lives, will be fully enforced so that the correct level of support can be delivered locally.