Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Duddridge.)
First, I declare an interest in the debate as the co-chair of the all-party group on learning disability. My main point concerns Government plans to remove the mobility component of the disability living allowance for disabled people who live in a residential establishment. To put that into context, it is important to establish which members of our society qualify for that benefit. The first, and by far the most common group, is where the claimant is unable—or virtually unable—to walk. The second group consists of people who are both blind and deaf. The third category comprises people with a severe mental impairment, and/or severe behavioural problems. In truth, we could not be discussing people who are more vulnerable or deserving in our communities. I understood that that was what the concept of community care was all about.
As far back as 1921, those who required it received help and support with mobility; a decade into the millennium, we are faced with confusion and fear about what the Government advocate. This House, and millions of people with disabilities, are entitled to expect clarity on the issue. Until today, that is exactly what we have not had.
I will give a few examples. On 10 November, my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,
“what consultation he undertook with (a) charities, (b) third sector organisations and (c) other disability organisations prior to his decision to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance for those who live in residential care homes.”—[Official Report, 10 November 2010; Vol. 518, c. 343W.]
On 16 November, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Miss Begg) stated:
“The comprehensive spending review contained a proposal to cut the mobility element of the disability living allowance for those in residential care. Why did the Government make that decision—because it was fair or to reduce the fiscal deficit?”
The Chancellor replied:
“We sought to identify the savings that we thought were most justified. As far as I understand it—although I am happy to be corrected—the DLA changes have been supported by the Opposition.”—[Official Report, 16 November 2010; Vol. 518, c. 740.]
I will attempt to resist the temptation to make political capital, and I apologise if I seem to be doing so. Point scoring is not what disabled people in my constituency want to hear. They want to know the facts and receive clarification on their position and future.
On 22 November, my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr Roy) said:
“Of all the proposals on welfare reform, this is absolutely the most brutal and cruel…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?”—[Official Report, 22 November 2010; Vol. 519, c. 6.]
It is important to remember that that lifeline gives disabled people access to a freedom pass, a blue badge or a disabled person’s railcard, as well as to the Motability scheme and other important items.
I declare an interest because my constituency contains one of the good Leonard Cheshire homes, which I visited on Saturday. I tabled six questions yesterday, which the Minister will probably be able to see tomorrow. They cover the same kind of ground. Is it not right—rather, is it not accurate but wrong—that someone who currently receives the higher element of mobility allowance and who goes on two journeys, perhaps with the home’s van at a perfectly reasonable cost of 60p per mile, will have exhausted the lower limit and will not be able to make any further journeys? The Government must find a way to ensure that the mobility allowance is still available to those who need and use it. Through the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) I invite the Minister to visit one of the Leonard Cheshire homes and speak to those who are affected.
The hon. Gentleman makes his point well. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw asked how people would react, particularly if faced by the Minister. At the weekend, I took his advice and travelled around as many residential homes in my constituency as the heavy snow permitted. I can reliably inform the Chamber that people in residential homes are terrified about the removal of the mobility component of their DLA, and they have urged me to make the strongest representations on their behalf. I have no doubt that the same is true for other hon. Members from all parties.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing this enormously important debate. On the point about impact, will this move not hit all the harder because we are talking about some of the most vulnerable people, many of whom are on very low incomes? It will remove a substantial portion of their real disposable income. How can anybody possibly justify that?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right and speaks with the authority of a proactive constituency MP and as a former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Further supporting my allegation of a lack of clarity, an interesting question was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South on 22 November. I do not go over these questions just for the sake of repetition. She asked:
“Will the Minister take this opportunity to clarify exactly who will lose the mobility element of their DLA?...Will there be exemptions, or will everyone in residential care lose the mobility element of their DLA?”—[Official Report, 22 November 2010; Vol. 519, c. 6.]
As we would expect, Front-Bench Opposition spokespeople have tried to clear up Government ambiguity. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran) asked whether the Government can guarantee
“that there will be ‘no losers’ as a result of this policy?”—[Official Report, 22 November 2010; Vol. 519, c. 7.]
There has been far too much obfuscation on the issue. It is too important a matter for vulnerable people to be left in the dark about how they will be affected. I genuinely thought that the days of “out of sight, out of mind” were long since past.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing this valuable debate. I also declare an interest because there are a number of residential homes in my constituency. Last week I met with some residents, and there is major concern about the loss of the mobility allowance. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if that component is removed, despite what we hear from the coalition Government about giving independence to people who are disabled, such a measure will effectively make people prisoners in their residential homes? The lifeline that they have wanted and have had for a long time will be taken away.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Like other hon. Members, I have received a huge amount of correspondence making the point that he just raised.
In order to seek clarity, I will turn to the question put to the Prime Minister last Wednesday by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain). He asked:
“How can he possibly justify this cruel cut of either £18.95 per week or £49.85 per week to some of the most decent people who have paid their taxes all their lives?”—[Official Report, 24 November 2010; Vol. 519, c. 264-265.]
To my complete dismay, the Prime Minister chose to trivialise his response. I say that because I had expected him to show greater sensitivity towards people with disabilities. In fact, he served as an office-bearer in the all-party group on learning disability and his input then was regarded as positive and welcome. I hope that the Prime Minister will think again.
In any event, the shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander), put the Opposition’s position beyond doubt when he said following Prime Minister’s questions:
“The Prime Minister, after a word in his ear from his Chancellor, got it flat wrong today.
He was asked about his own government’s plans to cut mobility support for people in care homes but confused it with separate reforms…But when the Chancellor went back in his Spending Review and scrapped mobility support for people in care homes, we are clear that goes too far and is a punitive measure that could leave people in care homes more isolated.”
That clarifies the Opposition’s position on the matter, but my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East may want to add to it; I shall welcome what she has to say later. It is in complete contrast to what the coalition has said. We are calling for clarity.
The right hon. Gentleman is making some good points, but on the issue of clarity, will he help those of us who are perhaps not as learned as him on this topic? Is there an underlying issue that different amounts of the mobility allowance go to people who are disabled based on their route into the care home? Will he provide clarity on that?
The hon. Gentleman will know that there are benefits at the moment—we all hope that they will continue—for people who live in care homes, as there are for people who live in their own homes. There are two approaches to the matter. I think that that is the answer that he seeks.
On the question of clarification, the coalition has been unclear and ambiguous, which is one of the reasons why I called for the debate. I genuinely hope that by the end of our discussions today, the Minister will have left us in no doubt that people with disabilities will not be left isolated, as so many fear, because they live in a residential home.
What has caused the current uproar—there is certainly uproar in my constituency—among people with disabilities and disability organisations? Many have been in touch with me as their Member of Parliament, and I am sure that other hon. Members have shared the same experience. I think that the uproar is based on two things. The first is the Government’s proposal as we understand it so far. The Treasury estimates that 58,000 people who live in care homes will be affected by what is an outrageous decision. What would the cuts mean in reality to individual people?
Patricia King drew my attention to the case of Doug Paulley, a 32-year-old wheelchair user and campaigner for disability rights. Doug was diagnosed 14 years ago with a degenerative neurological disorder and now lives in a residential home in Yorkshire with 17 others aged 20 and above. Already they are allowed to keep a personal allowance of only £22.30 from their benefits, or £20 from any earnings, with the rest going to offset the cost of their local authority care. Those sums cannot provide or cover clothes, phone bills, stationery, personal items and so much more. Their only other income is the mobility element of up to nearly £48 a week, which Doug described as a “quality of life-saver”. That is a disabled person speaking for himself and others.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there appears to be a lack of appreciation of the number of people who would be affected by a cut in this budget if that were to come about? In Northern Ireland, it is 10% of the population—about 182,000 people. In my constituency, the proportion is higher—about 12%, or 16,000 people. There appears to be a lack of recognition that this is not about people who are fraudulent or feckless or who fear work, but about people who are incapacitated and cannot work and therefore must be supported.
Again, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. He will know far better than I do what is happening in Northern Ireland, but one of the persons whom I quoted earlier comes from the Province and I know that there are very severe difficulties there, too.
So what are we saying as we ask these questions, seek more information and express the views that we know disabled people living in residential care and their carers hold? We are simply saying this. While disabled people who live at home are to keep the mobility component of their benefits, and that is as it should be, it cannot be right, it cannot be fair and it certainly cannot be equitable for 58,000 disabled people in residential care to be hammered with a 69% cut in overall benefits.
Let us hear what care homes themselves are saying. The chief executive of Norwood, a fairly large, third sector provider for people with learning disabilities, wrote this to me:
“I am delighted that you are able to draw this matter to the House’s attention as it is certainly an issue that appears to have been so far unclearly presented. We provide residential Care Homes for 250 people whose needs are profound or complex in nature…they therefore require additional support for their daily requirements.
The mobility component of the DLA is given only to those people whose mobility is severely impaired. As such it enables them to access day opportunities, shops, leisure pursuits, holidays (often requiring special transport), all things that more able-bodied people take for granted.
To remove this allowance would be extremely regressive.
Surely the solution is straightforward…the mobility component remains to ensure that the people who need it are not penalised. LAs”—
“instructed never to include this in their fees and the mobility component remains intact.”
My right hon. Friend rightly highlights the need sometimes for special transport for people who are in receipt of this component. Does he agree that they have very considerable difficulty accessing mainstream transport, which may be ill equipped to meet their needs and which may also mean that they encounter hostile public and staff attitudes, and that therefore it is particularly important that they can fund transport that does adequately meet their requirements?
Transport is vital to the quality of life of the vast majority of disabled people, but particularly those living in residential care. My hon. Friend makes her point very well.
I come now to the views of organisations of and for disabled people. It must be well known to right hon. and hon. Members that they have been virtually unanimous in their response. For example, Scope says:
“Disabled people are particularly vulnerable to cuts in services and benefits. They are disproportionately reliant on health, social care, housing and transport services, and also, as a result of low employment rates and the additional costs associated with living with an impairment, more likely to live in poverty and/or rely on benefits for a large proportion of their incomes.”
Given the extent and the nature of my right hon. Friend’s campaigning on behalf of disabled people over almost three decades in this House, when he speaks it is always sensible for Governments to listen. On his point about Scope, I remind him of the information it has given to Members on the kinds of activities that will be put at risk by the loss of the mobility component. They include access to work and volunteering; access to friends and family; community activities, health care services and leisure activities, such as swimming, shopping and even going to the cinema; and the ability to maintain relationships with a partner. How does my right hon. Friend imagine that any Government could justify this savage cut?
My hon. Friend, who has added substantially to the quality of debate in the House on these matters, asks the kind of question that people are asking, including, I am sure, people in his constituency. I know that he will always tell it like it is.
I was dealing with organisations of and for disabled people, and so I turn to Mencap:
“Mencap believes the government have misunderstood how disabled people use this important benefit. Without this vital lifeline, many disabled people in care will lose much of their independence, be unable to take part in many community activities and have fewer opportunities to meet with friends and family. Mencap is concerned that by removing this benefit many disabled people who live in residential care…will be unable to lead fulfilling and independent lives.”
“The Government’s initial justification for this decision, was that the situation of people in residential care homes is the same as those in hospital. This is a totally incorrect assessment; residential care settings are individuals’ homes and they should expect to be able to access their families and local communities. Yet Sense’s experience as a provider of residential services to deafblind people is that in the vast majority of cases, local authorities will take the DLA mobility component into account when deciding on funding levels.”
Does the right hon. Gentleman share my concern that, when local authority budgets and the voluntary sector organisations that provide transport services for disabled people are under pressure, this is the worst possible time for the mobility component of the DLA to be withdrawn? Doing so will increase the institutionalisation and isolation of disabled people, instead of promoting their integration and inclusion in communities.
If I may say so, that is an excellent point. The plain and simple fact is that we all know in our hearts that our local authorities are under tremendous pressure. We know that they are facing cuts and difficult decisions, and unfortunately, in too many cases the result is that provision of social services and disability care does not always get the priority needed and required. There is not a shred of evidence from the local government organisations in England—or no doubt from Northern Ireland, and certainly none from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities—that local authorities will be in a position to pick up the bill if the Government remove the money from those living in residential care. We are facing a crisis, both for local government and for disabled people.
Finally, there are many relevant organisations to which I could refer, and I apologise to those I have not mentioned this morning due to time constraints. I want to end with Parkinson’s UK:
“The Government compares this decision with the removal of the mobility component from hospital inpatients. But the two situations are very different. Hospital stays tend to be relatively short, and patients are often not in a position to make good use of the benefit. By contrast, many people live long and active lives in residential care homes.”
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the issue is about not only the elderly, but young people who could be facing their whole lives in residential care? In my constituency, 25-year-old Katherine, who lives in the local Leonard Cheshire home, is devastated that she will be unable to go to the cinema or have outings with her parents and so on. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we need to recognise that this is not like hospital short stays at all?
The hon. Gentleman makes his point extremely well. All the evidence of which I am aware supports precisely what he has to say.
I am acutely aware that this week marks the 40th anniversary of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970—the first legislation of its kind. I am much more comfortable and at ease with the vision outlined by my then colleague, Labour MP Alf Morris, than with the menu of cuts advocated by this coalition Government. Forty years ago, we reached out to people who were marginalised by their disability. As Alf Morris said:
“I would choose a society in which there is genuine compassion for the very sick and the disabled; where understanding is unostentatious and sincere; where needs come before means; where, if years cannot be added to the lives of the chronically sick, at least life can be added to their years; where the mobility of disabled people is restricted only by the bounds of technical progress and discovery, and where no person has cause to be ill at ease because of their disability.”—[Official Report, 5 December 1969; Vol. 792, c. 1863.]
I agree wholeheartedly with Alf, and I plead with the Government to think again.
May I begin by apologising that I will have to leave soon to attend a Select Committee sitting? I congratulate the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) on his thoughtful speech and on securing the debate. Although we might not agree on everything, I understand his intentions.
I want to start by acknowledging the need for welfare reform, which is one of the single most important things that the Government are doing. I know that many Opposition Members, such as the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), have wanted to reform welfare during the past 13 years. Like me, they will welcome the fact that the Government are committed to a universal credit.
Many of my constituents will welcome this chance to escape the poverty trap. However, on the specific issue of the mobility element of disability allowance, many constituents have contacted me with genuine family concerns. Only a small number are affected but, as has been noted, they are deeply anxious, and they do not have a political axe to grind. I have already spoken to the Minister about this and written to her about specific cases in my constituency. Ms Jacqueline Hobbs is concerned about the low residual income that will be left for people in care homes. Mr Kevin McGrath is worried that the cut will apply also to younger adults, who prize their independence and need mobility services to have a decent quality of life. Ms Jean Plumridge is anxious that disabled people must not become prisoners in their own homes, but must retain access to the outside world.
It is important to be clear about what the new Government are proposing. They inherited the largest deficit in our peacetime history, and we now spend £120 million a day on debt interest alone. In June, as part of the emergency Budget, the Government announced that they would save £11 billion a year from welfare spending by 2014-15.
As the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about debt, will he tell us how people in residential homes who have taken out loans to buy electric wheelchairs to use outside will repay that debt? What do the Government have to say to them?
If the hon. Lady is patient, she will hear the answer later in my remarks.
To preserve spending on other front-line services, the Government then announced that they would have to go even further in tackling the extremely large welfare bill. One way in which they are doing that is by ending the mobility component of DLA from 2012-13 to claimants who have been in a residential care home for more than 28 days, which will affect about 58,000 claimants. The Treasury says that that will save £60 million in 2012 and that the figure will rise to £135 million by the end of the Parliament. I appreciate, however, that the Government have confirmed that affected residents will retain an underlying entitlement to the benefit, and that payments will start again if they leave the care home. I also understand that the measure will not be introduced until October 2012. Local authorities will have a legal obligation to provide mobility services for residents from their social care funding.
I come back to the point that I made to the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke): local authorities face the same squeeze in their budgets as everybody else. I know from my constituency that there are some great voluntary services supporting wheelchair users and people with severe mobility problems who live in care homes or in their own homes, but who do not have access to transport. However, those charities are terribly strapped financially because of a lack of giving and the problems with trust funds. There is nothing to pick up the slack. Why should disabled people be on the front line? Why should they be punished for financial mistakes that were not of their making?
Does the hon. Gentleman not realise the extent of the problem? There are 42 care homes in my constituency. As the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) indicated, this issue affects a massive population of elderly and young people. In my case, we are talking about hundreds of people. Every one of those care homes without exception has written to me about this issue—this is massive.
I am here today because I accept that this is a serious problem. Opposition Members do not have a monopoly on compassion; I care just as much about disabled people as they do.
Let me explain what I want to happen and what I believe should happen. Local authorities will have a legal obligation to provide mobility services for residents from their social funding. That funding will increasingly be distributed in the form of personal budgets, giving disabled people more choice and control over their services, including access to mobility equipment, taxis or scooters, if that suits them. That will end the anomaly whereby two state-funded residents with similar needs who are placed in the same care home can be treated differently according to whether they are funded through the NHS or the local authority.
I welcome the fact that the Government are waiting until 2012 to introduce this change, because it is important to give local authorities enough time. They will need safely to translate people on to personal budgets and to get those budgets up and running on a mass scale. Despite the welcome introduction of personal budgets in 2007, progress in rolling them out was simply too slow.
One difficulty that many of my constituents face is that they are in residential care outside the borough because there are insufficient places in the borough, which means that their transport costs are higher. Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern about stretching personal budgets far enough to meet those costs?
In some ways, I agree with the hon. Lady. The whole point of my argument is that we need to extend the personal budgets.
As was mentioned, the Audit Commission recently highlighted the fact that although some local authorities were on course to offer 30% of eligible people a personal budget by April 2011, most were not, and only six out of 152 councils are currently on track. What is more, a 2010 survey showed that only 6% of total spending on adult social care was allocated to personal budgets. That is a disappointing record, given the huge potential of personal budgets to give disabled people more independence.
My central concern is that we must help the 58,000 claimants I mentioned to access personal budgets before the mobility element of DLA is withdrawn. On that basis, I have a few questions for the Minister. Will she reassure hon. Members that the Government will seek to migrate those 58,000 claimants to personal budgets before 2012? Will she set out how the statutory requirement for local authorities to provide mobility services will work in practice? Finally, will she reassure my constituents that disabled people will continue to be supported so that they can keep their independence and mobility?
In conclusion, many people in Harlow are concerned for their families. They do not have a political axe to grind, but they are genuinely anxious about the future. As someone with a disability, I know that any change, or any threat of change, can cause immense anxiety, even if the outcome is not as drastic as expected. The problem with the changes that have been proposed is that decent people are worried. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure hon. Members and my constituents that disabled people and their families will not suffer as a result of these reforms.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate under your chairmanship, Mr Crausby. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) on securing the debate, because there is clearly considerable interest and concern right across the House.
I know that several Members would like to speak, and my right hon. Friend has eloquently presented many of the points that I would have raised, so I will highlight just three issues. First, I remind right hon. and hon. Members that disability living allowance is intended to meet social and participation needs, not to provide support for medical needs. That underpins the reason why so many of us in the debate are so concerned about its removal from people in residential care. To some degree, such people are already isolated from the community because they are in special and slightly artificial circumstances, and many of them are acutely aware of that special isolation. The mobility component of disability living allowance enables people to leave that residential setting from time to time for leisure or social purposes, to be with their families and, in some cases, for employment and educational purposes, so it is a precious aspect of their social participation rights.
My hon. Friend brings enormous expertise to the debate. One point that has not been mentioned so far is that entitlement to DLA is a trigger for accessing the Motability scheme. As she says, contact with the community is enormously important, and some of the people we are talking about have jobs. Will people not risk losing the cars that they get through the Motability scheme? Is that not awful?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising that. I am also grateful to a number of disability organisations, including RADAR, the Royal National Institute of Blind People and Leonard Cheshire Disability, for highlighting the fact that individuals need to be in receipt of DLA for three years to access the Motability scheme. As my right hon. Friend says, there is a very real risk.
Fundamentally, we are talking about a threat to the independence of people in residential care settings. That threat arises because the costs and inconvenience of leaving those settings are greater for such people than they are for those who do not need the mobility component of DLA. The mobility component helps those in a residential setting to go beyond the basic level of transportation—for instance, when attending medical appointments. It enables full participation.
I hope that a full impact analysis of the proposals will be directed specifically to social and participation needs. I would welcome such an undertaking from the Minister.
To what extent does the hon. Lady believe that local authority care contracts should take account of the needs that she mentions? She makes a precise distinction between medical needs and wider social needs, but all Members here today would agree that those needs are equally important. To what extent should local authority care contracts take account of them?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point, which builds on one raised by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford).
Although local authorities might be expected to make full provision within their care packages, many will not—or may not be able to afford do to so because of inadequate funding. We also have anomalies in the system between those in residential care who pay for themselves, those with places in residential care that are funded fully or partly by the local authority, and residential care that is funded by the NHS. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill said, we need certainty and consistency of treatment, and we need adequacy of funding. Given the stretch on local authority budgets and the cuts they face, it is not clear whether disabled people in residential settings can be fully assured of equality of treatment.
I turn to the question of how disabled people will feel as a result of the proposal. It has the potential to threaten their dignity and cause considerable humiliation and hurt. I repeat something said to me by Mrs Khan, a constituent, who is the mother of a profoundly disabled young adult in residential care. She asks, “How will our son come home to see his family, as we will not have a vehicle to bring him home? What happens to his human rights?” She says, “Because he is disabled, is he not important?” That is the impact of this decision on her. Although I am confident that it is not the Minister’s intention to cause such hurt or humiliation, there is a real sense of not being seen as worth while. In the context of the big society, many disabled people feel they are now considered not worthy, not necessarily part of it.
The hon. Lady is making an excellent contribution to the debate, particularly on the question of employment, which had not been mentioned before. Does she agree that many of those in residential settings who are in receipt of the benefit have the most complex needs, and transport may be more important to them than it is to others? Although the Government want to challenge spending across the entire area, they may need to revisit this because those most in need will be affected simply because of where they live.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We are talking about some of the most vulnerable and excluded people, and they have particularly high levels of need and face a higher risk of poverty—not least because of the additional costs often incurred by them and their families in order to cope with living with a disability.
There is a clear sense among my right hon. and hon. Friends, and I suspect more widely in the House, that this group is small but highly vulnerable and we ought to be offering them extra protection, rather than stripping it away. I urge the Minister to reconsider this policy, particularly in the light of the helpful comments offered on the cost of benefit; £135 million is not a substantial sum in the context of £18 billion of benefits cuts.
I alluded earlier to disabled people’s sense that their dignity and their rights are under attack. Will the Minister tell us what consideration has been given to the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, particularly article 20? Regarding disabled children—in that respect, I had a helpful briefing from the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign—what attention has been given to the UN convention on the rights of the child? That convention specifically requires the UK, as a signatory, to ensure that children can access play, leisure, cultural and artistic facilities. What discussions has the Minister had with her counterparts in the Department for Education to ensure that such provisions can be kept in place?
There is widespread concern that the policy should be reconsidered. Most important, however, the voices of disabled people and their families must be heard. I ask the Minister to explain more fully how that consultation will take place. I hope that the significant and genuine concerns of disabled people and their families will be responded to, and that the policy will be reversed.
I start my short contribution by making a confession. This is the first time in nearly 28 years as a Member of the House that I have made a speech in a debate on disability. That was not because of a lack of interest—far from it. However, this entire area of policy has always struck me as something of a secret garden—moreover, one with its own jargon and terminology. My experience is that if we use the wrong phrases or the wrong words, others, including people from NGOs and concerned charities, are likely to shout at us. As a result, I am never quite sure whether I am meant to refer to disabled people or people with a disability.
Listening to oral questions to the Department for Work and Pensions in the House last week, I again felt somewhat lost in this secret garden. I am genuinely interested in the matter, not only as a constituency Member but as the co-chair of the all-party group on carers. I was reassured to hear that even the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Miss Begg), whom I believe chairs the Select Committee on Work and Pensions, was not sure exactly who would be affected by the Government’s proposals. She observed that there was quite a lot on the blogosphere about who might or might not be affected by the changes.
My first request is that Ministers should set out clearly what is being proposed and who is likely to be affected. I am not confident that I am right, but after listening to the answers given by my hon. Friend the Minister at oral questions last week, I understand that it is primarily about people being supported and funded in residential care homes by local authorities. It is a consequence of the move towards personalisation of care—enabling people to have a much greater say over their own care packages, which by common consent is wanted by almost every disabled person. My hon. Friend highlighted the fact that the Department of Health has put £2 billion into social care. Am I right in assuming that a proportion of that money is intended to be used by local authorities, to ensure that residents in care homes continue to have a measure of mobility?
As the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) observed, the Treasury spending review of 20 October mentions on page 28 the intention to save £135 million, but I am unclear from whom that money has been taken or from where. Is it intended that the money should be replaced by the funding that the Department of Health has put into social care?
My hon. Friend the Minister said in the House that
“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.”—[Official Report, 22 November 2010; Vol. 519, c. 6.]
Is that a statutory right? How do disabled people ensure that it is delivered? If it is not being delivered by the local authority, is the matter subject to judicial review? I am unclear as to whether something is actually being taken away, or whether the activities are expected to be funded through a different and separate funding route.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Peter Bottomley), I have an excellent Leonard Cheshire care home in my constituency. Agnes Court in Banbury is home for a number of seriously disabled residents. Many of them, like those mentioned by the hon. Member for Redcar (Ian Swales), have been there for many years. Indeed, I have known some of them as constituents for practically the whole of my time as a Member of Parliament, as they have lived almost all of their adult lives at Agnes Court. The mobility component of the DLA has enabled the residents of Agnes Court and other constituents to access such things as electric wheelchairs; it has funded visits to local GPs or doctors; and, most important, it has funded visits and activities away from Agnes Court.
These constituents, like us, clearly want to live their lives to the full. Is this money now being taken away from them? If so, how will such activities be funded in the future? My hon. Friend the Minister asserts that local authority contracts with care homes should cover services to meet all residents’ assessed needs, including any assessed mobility needs, and that an individual’s care, support and mobility needs should be met by residential care providers from social care funding. If that is what she is saying, I hope she will write to the chief executive of every local authority setting out exactly what the Government expect them to do.
I thank my fellow Oxfordshire MP for giving way; I know that he cares about these issues. I urge him and his colleagues to reflect on the perversity of these proposals. Even if local authorities, under instruction from the Minister, are able to put together some package of support for transport for people in residential care homes, which seems rather doubtful given all the financial pressures that they face, does it not go completely in the opposite direction from the whole philosophy of personalised care, which is that a person has a package appropriate to their needs and they can choose how to exercise it? They may choose to spend the mobility component of DLA on special transport—electric wheelchairs or access to Motability and so on. Will they not have less independence and choice, even if this money is replaced through the local authority route?
The right hon. Gentleman and I are both Members for Oxford constituencies. Having been a Chief Secretary to the Treasury and a Minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, he is a more frequent visitor to this policy secret garden than I am. I am trying to understand whether something is being taken away here. If it is, is it being replaced by something else? If it is, and if the expectation is that local government should be funding it, then that needs to be set out very clearly. The test for all of this is that when each one of us, as a constituency Member of Parliament, meets a constituent who is affected by these changes, we need to be confident that we can explain what is being proposed. I make no criticism of anyone at the moment—the Chairman of the Select Committee cannot even work it out. I am not confident at the moment that I know the answers. If the Government are proposing changes, it does not seem unreasonable to expect those to be set out clearly and unambiguously in terms that everyone can fully understand.
I will not give way again, because many colleagues wish to take part in what is a comparatively short debate.
As this issue clearly involves at least three Government Departments—the Departments for Work and Pensions, for Communities and Local Government, and of Health—it would be immensely helpful, particularly for those of us who are professedly not experts in disability and welfare policy and legislation, if my hon. Friend the Minister clearly set out what role each of those three Departments plays in ensuring that the correct level of support to disabled people is being delivered locally and appropriately to meet individual needs. Everyone will agree that disabled people have different needs, and as far as humanly possible we need to have care personalised for each one of them. That also means there must be clarity regarding who is responsible for doing what.
Yet again, we have an example of how not to do welfare reform—if indeed that is the intent. The Government have attempted to pray in aid the fact that the Opposition had said that they were willing to consider reforming DLA. However, I thought that that meant looking at the benefit in the round, examining how it operates, and assessing what needs to change and what can be done better. I did not think that it was about picking out one brick without looking at the way in which the whole benefit operates. From my perspective—and, I am certain, that of my whole party—that was what we meant when we suggested that we were open to considering changes in DLA.
We are considering something that was clearly proposed as a saving—or a cut. It is about reaching that £18 billion figure, which was why it was announced in the comprehensive spending review rather than as a part of welfare reform. Having decided to do that—ex post facto—all sorts of things are then presented as to why it might be done, why something could be done better and why there may be money somewhere else.
A similar thing happened during the proceedings of the Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Public Bill Committee, of which I was a member. Having decided to make a series of reductions, a number of reasons were suddenly conjured out of the air, and then a whole host of ideas was proposed to find the money to make up for some of the cuts, but those ideas were not costed or fully thought through. The Government were not even able to say whether those proposals would cost more than the savings that were being suggested.
As someone who comes from Scotland, I want to know what consultation has gone on with the Scottish Government. What consultation has been carried out with local authorities in Scotland? I can assure the Minister that, over the past three years, my local authority has already seen substantial reductions in the money going into social care. I have several constituents whose direct payments, which they were receiving from the local authority, have been cut substantially. In some cases, “substantially” means halved. Such cuts have largely come about because of the financial constraints under which the council has found itself. Yes, the cuts have been dressed up in terms of my constituents’ personal needs, but as their needs and capacities have not changed at all, it is clear that this is really about making savings. I am not confident that my local authority has the resource to put this in as a substitute for removing DLA when it is already making so many cuts, and that is before the even further reductions in local authority spending that are coming our way in Scotland and elsewhere.
Moreover, it is important to consult. The Government should not make a decision and then wait for people to react. I heard the Secretary of State for Health talking on Radio 4 this morning about the importance of consultation over public health matters. He was discussing whether to implement the regulation on tobacco and the display of tobacco. He said that it was very important to consult, but if it is so important to consult even on something that has already been passed and subjected to consultation, why is it not important properly to consult the users, care homes, local authorities and the devolved Administrations that are all involved in this change? If it was then felt that there was a need to consider the way in which the benefit is provided and that was better for it to come down the local authority route, so be it, but I do not think that that is why we have got to this position.
The mobility component of the DLA is one of the few parts of the benefit system to which personalisation already applies. Does the hon. Lady not agree that the Government’s proposals will take away that aspect of the personalisation agenda at the very time they are talking about promoting it?
I certainly agree and, as I have said, I have seen some of that personalised agenda being placed at risk in other ways over recent months, which is a substantial concern, especially to the recipients of this component.
I think that we have an opportunity to look again at the proposal and to get it right, if it is genuinely thought to be necessary to fund this scheme differently. However, if it is being seriously suggested that this change can be made—it involves a substantial sum for an individual, but the collective cost of any substitution will be very substantial for a local authority—and if the Government will ensure that it is made, I would ask whether there is a costing of how much will be involved in monitoring the change, in checking that it is made and in managing that whole process, when in fact the system appears to be working well.
I intend to be very brief because I know that other Members still wish to speak.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) on securing the debate. I think that all Members of Parliament will have had contact with our constituents on this issue. People are very concerned about what the consequences of this change will be, and he was absolutely right to remind us that the people affected by the change are those constituents to whom we have a special obligation, given their position in society.
On the other side of the coin, I have a great deal of sympathy for my hon. Friend the Minister and for Government Ministers in general, because they are having to take some incredibly difficult decisions at the moment. I have been a Member of the House only since 6 May. During the last six months, I have had to support a number of decisions that, in an ideal world, I would not have wished to support. I think that if the tables were turned, as it were, and Opposition Members found themselves in the position of being in government, they would probably have to take decisions that they would not ideally want to take.
I will come on to that exact point about this decision.
As a Government Back Bencher, I ask myself a question when I look at each of these issues as they emerge: is there a justification for the decision that is being made? I think that the Government have a case. As I understand it, it is that there is a degree of double-counting in respect of this money and that, legally, local authority care contracts should provide the resources to meet people’s needs—and not only their medical needs but their social and emotional needs, as the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) referred to earlier. The money to meet those needs is also being provided via the mobility component of the DLA. I do not think that a case can be made that residential homes are analogous to hospital care, and the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill made that point very powerfully in his speech.
However, I have two caveats. The first is that if one takes the view that this support is at least nominally being provided in both ways that I cited, it would be better to strip out the local authority support mechanism. The right hon. Member for Oxford East (Mr Smith) made the point that the mobility component of DLA meets the need for personalisation of funding. However, I guess that it would have been much more difficult to identify the exact level of spending by local authorities on meeting those needs and what savings could be made on local authority contracts if we were to say that the mobility needs of people with disabilities were to be met through DLA.
The issue is that this element of funding is not always duplicated. My constituents have expressed concern that there is great confusion because they are told that there is a duplication, but that is not the case for them. Given that the sums involved are so critical to the quality of life of the individuals affected, it is a great concern when that argument about duplication does not match their reality.
My hon. Friend leads me very nimbly on to the second point that I wish to make. We cannot say that everybody is in the same situation. Opposition Members have made points about the pressure on local authority budgets. Indeed, my own local authority has seen a real-terms cut in funding during the last five years. At that time, to be fair, the Labour Government were providing extra resource to local government in aggregate, but because of the perversities of the grant system, my council experienced something like a 3% real-terms cut over the last five years. There is real pressure on local authority budgets.
I wish to conclude by posing a question to the Minister. If the Government go ahead with this measure, and if we accept that there is at least a degree of double-counting at the moment, what guarantee do my constituents have that if the mobility component of DLA is removed and the local authority care contracts do not meet their needs, they will have some recourse? What can they do to ensure that their legitimate needs—I think that all hon. Members would agree that these people have such needs—are met?
Like other Members, I will keep my remarks short, given the time pressure.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) on securing this important debate on an issue that affects many people and that worries many more people. The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) referred to the observation of the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Miss Begg), the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, that a lot of concerns were being expressed in the blogosphere about this issue. However, I do not think that the hon. Lady was reflecting any confusion on her part; she was reflecting the scale of the fear and concern among many people who will be affected by the change.
People are worried about who is affected by these cuts and where the cuts will extend. The proposal is currently that the cut will affect people who are local authority-funded, or who are deemed to be local authority-funded, in residential care, but not self-funders. However, people will inevitably then say, “How does the logic of that stack up? Will self-funders be targeted too, because how can you justify some people in a residential care setting getting this benefit just because they are self-funded when other people do not get it?”
Does my hon. Friend share my concern that this cut—nasty and horrible as it is—affects about 60,000 people, but that the mobility allowance goes much wider than that? Is this the start of something much bigger, whereby the mobility allowance is removed altogether?
I think that many people have that concern, precisely because of the confused arguments that are now coming from the Government to justify the cut. Even in this debate, several hon. Members have suggested that this is just switching from one channel of support to another. Some hon. Members seemed to be suggesting that it might not even be a cut at all. We were told that the change was justified on the basis of the need to cut the deficit and because there had to be a cut in the welfare bill, but now we are being told that it might not be a cut at all and that the money might reach people by different means. However, does anyone seriously believe that the money that already reaches people in a highly personal and highly effective way, and that is well justified by the needs of those people, will be replaced or replicated by personalised budgets coming through hard-pressed local authorities? No, it will not.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore) asked what consultation there had been with the devolved authorities. I know that Alex Attwood, the Social Development Minister in Northern Ireland, who runs the Department that covers the social security agency, has made it very clear that he cannot pretend—to himself or anybody else—that if this cut is imposed, it will be made good by the health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland and the sort of packages of personalised budgeting that they would be able to deliver, because those trusts are already under severe pressure after going through years of efficiency saving and because they face yet more again.
There is no point in people trying to delude themselves, or anybody else, by pretending that this is not really a cut at all. Some of the arguments almost amount to a sort of “let them eat cake” answer, Some suggest that there might be something better for people than what is in place already, but people know what they use the allowance for. They use it to ensure that they are able to get accessible taxis, to continue to run their Motability car, or so they can fund powered wheelchairs to get them about in their life and to keep them connected with their family, neighbourhood, and the voluntary groups and support efforts in which they are involved. Many people in residential care homes who receive the allowance use it not just for themselves. Many of them deliver messages, collect library books or do other things for those who are in the care settings with them.
I ask the Government to think again about this cut. In the minds of the people who are making this cut, I am at a loss to understand whether it is justified by context, because of the urgency of tackling the deficit, as we are told; whether it is a convenience cut, simply because the people affected seem to be a handy group of people to get and those who are making the cut have made the mistake of thinking that they are the equivalent of people who are in hospital; or whether it is a conviction cut. Are people somehow genuinely scandalised that people in residential care settings are able to have a modicum of decency, independence and choice for themselves by virtue of this allowance? We are still getting confused and inconsistent answers from the Government, so I hope that the Minister will clarify the situation.
I am very pleased to be here to respond to this debate. Of course I want to begin by thanking my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke)—I think that I have got the geography right there, but I am very bad at geography so please forgive me if I make mistakes along the way—for securing this debate. I have been in this particular “garden” for many years, as has my right hon. Friend, and I know very well his work on disability. He is an outstanding figure in that field. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) said, when he speaks he commands respect, and I counsel the Government to listen to him.
Of course this has been a very important debate on a vital issue. It has been said that, at first glance, this change appears to affect only a very small number of people. However, as my hon. Friend from Northern Ireland, if I may say that—
Thank you. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) has said, actually this measure has an impact on thousands of lives and it could radically alter thousands of lives. He put it well. However, although £135 million is a huge amount of money, it none the less represents a small percentage of the cuts being proposed by this Government.
As we have heard, there are concerns about the impact of the cut. We have heard dramatic examples of how real-life circumstances have been altered. I have observed in the past few months that the issue has energised many in the disability, voluntary and charitable sector who are deeply concerned. To quote Mencap:
“Without this vital lifeline, many disabled people in care will lose much of their independence, be unable to take part in many community activities they enjoy and have fewer opportunities to meet with friends and family.”
Fear of the cuts’ implications has become widespread and has now captured a wider audience for this debate.
I should make my party’s position clear, although it has been mentioned. Labour supports welfare reform; I quote the Government as saying that they are continuing our work of welfare reform. However, we cannot support these crude cuts. They are ill thought out and, as has been said, they go against the central principle of personalised support for disabled people by actively undermining their empowerment to choose how they live their lives.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely ridiculous to expect local authorities to fill the gap? Will buses run around care homes? Will people be stuck on buses for hours, waiting to be dropped off? How far in advance will they have to book their transport? The issue is about independence and choice, and the cuts will adversely affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
I will come to that central argument of the Government’s, as we must address it head-on, but I will do so later in my comments if that is okay. I am grateful to have this opportunity to correct on the record the view put forward by the Prime Minister about Labour’s position on the issue, because it is important to clarify it.
I repeat that Labour does not support the cut proposed by this Government; the Prime Minister implied that it did. Perhaps I am not as honourable as my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, but I am obliged to say that it is not the first time that the Prime Minister has made a mistake after listening to a whisper from the Chancellor. I think that that explains what happened last week. It is deeply troubling that the Government are about to cut a vital lifeline affecting about 60,000 people living in residential care. They will be £2,500 worse off as a result, and the Prime Minister is not being exactly clear about the details of the proposal, which is of concern.
The issue of double funding lies at the heart of the Government’s case; we have been told that that is their argument. The logic seems to be that transport costs are currently funded by local authorities and therefore should not be funded again by Government. However, as many charities have rightly pointed out, local authorities’ assessments of care needs cover only what they consider core or essential needs. They do not always cover aspects of an individual’s life and social interactions, so social trips such as those to friends and family are unlikely to be included within the current service arrangements.
Furthermore, if that is funded already, why is there so little mention of it in existing community care plans? Surely we should be able to track and identify such funding. If it is funded already, why do so many people use their mobility payments to buy scooters, to take children out of residential homes at weekends and to use adapted taxis to go to the shops? Why do they pool payments to buy or lease an adapted car? Those services are important. The change represents a cut.
We are also told that the £2 billion that the Government are investing in social care could provide the resources to make up that loss. Some hon. Members have argued that the Government should be made to make up the loss. However, the claim of an extra £2 billion for social care has been rejected by the Conservative-led Local Government Association in England, which warns of a 4% increase in the need for social care in coming years and expects that even with the most optimistic efficiency savings, the shortfall will be at least £4 billion by the end of the comprehensive spending review. Even with the so-called extra £2 billion, there will still be a shortfall of £2 billion. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell) said, local authorities cannot reasonably be expected to make up that extra gap.
There is no guarantee that the money will be effective in meeting existing demands, let alone in filling future gaps. I know that some people have said that the Minister should direct local authorities to make up the gap, but that runs completely counter to the decision not to ring-fence. If services are not ring-fenced, the Government cannot direct what they should do.
The Government’s approach, I argue with great sincerity, does not address the fundamental issues. How will it address the individual difficulties cited in this debate? It will fall on local authorities to find the resources to replace what the mobility component pays for, but the argument is that local authorities already fund the mobility component. Does the Minister think that it is realistic or likely that local authorities, which are set to lose one third of their funding, will step in to provide those essential services? I repeat the question I asked her last week at the Dispatch Box: do the Government believe, and can they guarantee, that there will be no losers as a result of the policy?
This has been an important and good debate. I call on the Government to listen to the strength of feeling involved and the range of issues selected. I note a degree of sympathy on the coalition Benches with the argument made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. This is an opportunity for the Government to think again.
In my kinder moments, I honestly think the Government have made a mistake and that the plan was dreamt up by some young spark in the Treasury who had a quick look at the tables and thought, “There’s a quick saving. It looks as if it’s already double-funded.” However, they were not in the secret garden and did not think through the consequences. At worst, it is a callous cut for which the Government will be held to account for many years if they proceed without thinking it through. I leave it to the Minister to tell us which is true.
As it stands, it is a crude, cruel cut that undermines moves towards personalisation, the Minister’s own efforts at welfare reform, quality of life and opportunity. For such a small saving, it will have an enormous impact on the quality of life of the people in greatest need. It cannot be accepted. This is the anniversary of the passage of legislation empowering disabled people, and Friday is the international day of disabled people throughout the world. I call on the Government to take this opportunity to show solidarity with disabled people and announce that they will not proceed with the cuts.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Crausby. I thank all hon. Members for coming to this debate and for taking the time to voice their concerns and their constituents’ thoughts about the measure. In particular, I congratulate the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) on securing this debate. At the beginning of his remarks, he called for clarity, which is exactly what the measure is designed to address and deliver. I hope that he will be able to see that in my comments.
We as a Government owe a duty to disabled people to promote their independence and equality, but we also owe a duty to the country to ensure that we have the right governance in place to deliver support efficiently and sensibly. The problem is that we inherited a system that some might say is not fit for purpose. The hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore) called for a full reassessment, not piecemeal reform, of disability living allowance. I reassure her that that is exactly what we are doing, and I hope that we will have her support when we introduce our full measures in the coming months.
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I can say to her that we will shortly be consulting in full on this and other measures on disability living allowance. Hon. Members, their constituents and interested parties will have a full opportunity to give their thoughts and see the measures that we are introducing.
Across the spectrum of disability living allowance, we see overlaps, duplication and gaps in provision created by a series of opaque, confusing and inefficient systems. The debate has highlighted just how out of kilter the current system is, with different payment streams and delivery mechanisms spanning different lines of departmental responsibility. We have to address the underlying issues, which is why we are proposing major disability living allowance reform. That is the only way we can ensure that the clarity we need is put in place.
I am still a little unsure about when the reform will take effect—2012 has been mentioned. Would the Minister clarify exactly when the measure will be introduced and perhaps give some further information on other measures that will affect disability living allowance?
As the Chancellor has set out, the measure is due to come into place in October 2012, and others will come into place in a similar time frame. It is important to focus on time because, as hon. Members have said, that will give us the opportunity to work across the Departments affected by the measure to ensure that good provisions are put in place and delivered effectively.
We remain fully in support of the principles of DLA as a non-means-tested cash benefit contributing to the extra costs incurred by disabled people. However, we must ensure that the benefit reflects the real needs of disabled people today and their aspirations for greater control in the future and that the system is sustainable in the long term. As the hon. Member for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran) will know from her colleagues who were in government, more than 3 million people currently receive DLA and the expenditure this year is forecast to be £12 billion, which is substantially more than was intended when the allowance was introduced.
The Government are trying to make savings in that budget, but has the Department considered maintaining support for at least the most vulnerable, for example by keeping the higher rate mobility allowance for those living in care homes, as they have the highest costs and the greatest need for mobility support?
We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the independence of disabled people living in care homes is maintained, and that is our prime responsibility. I will give more details on how we intend to do that later, but I am conscious of the fact that other Members have raised points and that I should make progress in answering them.
At a time when we are spending £120 million a day in interest payment on the debt we inherited from the previous Government, the unbridled expansion of DLA is unsustainable. We need to be certain that public money is focused where it can have the most impact in an affordable manner, helping people to lead independent lives. That is why we propose an objective assessment, which we are developing with the help of medical experts and disabled people.
I appreciate that time is short and so thank the Minister for giving way. Would she address the issue at hand? The debate is not about the general reform of DLA, but about the specific cut. We should focus on that, as there are many answers that people are looking for.
The hon. Lady must understand, as her hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East has said, that the measure has to be seen in the context of the wider reform of DLA, so I will outline a little more on that. The reform of DLA will allow us to ensure that we accurately and consistently assess people’s support needs and reassess those receiving the allowance as their needs change over time, which is also currently lacking. We believe that that is crucial. As a result of the reforms, we believe that we can focus resources where they are most needed.
I will now address the specific measure on the mobility element of DLA. We believe that the mobility element plays an important part in helping disabled people lead more independent and autonomous lives, an ambition with which I am sure all Members agree. However, that element also includes duplication and overlap, which is why we have set out to tackle the disparity as part of the spending review. At present, some people in residential care receive DLA cash directly for their mobility needs, and at the same time they receive varying levels of mobility support at local level from care services, funded by their local authority. That issue was raised by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) in her contribution. In some cases care homes provide excellent mobility support, but in others there is only basic provision, which means that some people receive cash support for services and others do not.
The Minister referred to the confusion and overlap that the measure is intended to remedy, but what representations have been received about that? Who has made the case that there are chronic difficulties and that all sorts of confusion are seizing people with worry and bewilderment?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that it is the role of the Government to ensure that systems are clear and straightforward, and he will also know from his constituents who are disabled that the push towards personalisation is something that disabled people feel strongly about. Unless we have clear budgets and budget lines, it is difficult for that to happen. I hope that he will understand that it is incumbent on the Government to be able to deal with that.
Hon. Members must forgive me, but I want to address more of the issues that have been raised directly, and there have been many contributions throughout the debate.
The arrangements are further confused by different funding streams, as Members have pointed out. For example, NHS-funded individuals in residential care do not receive the DLA mobility component, while those funded by local authorities do. If we want to be fair—not only to disabled people, but to taxpayers—we have to tackle the gaps and overlaps and ensure that everyone gets access to the mobility they need, without the taxpayer having to pay again for needs that have already been met. In the current fiscal climate, that is exactly what Members would expect the Government to do.
The hon. Lady must forgive me, but I have taken a number of interventions already.
We simply cannot continue to accept that lack of clarity. We currently have mismatched systems for assessing the needs of disabled people: one for DLA, which assesses mobility and need in terms of cash; and another that provides, via local authorities, a more generic needs assessment reflected in services contracted with care homes. Those mismatched systems produce huge potential for duplication, uneven expectations and varying provision. We have to change that and target the right funding on the right people.
I will answer some of the direct issues that Members have raised. There has been a broad question on what consultation there has been with the Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities. I would like to reassure Members that the forthcoming DLA reform consultation document and the legislative process will allow disabled people and other affected groups ample opportunity to provide their views on the measure. My hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Peter Bottomley), who has had to leave the debate to attend a meeting, made several important points. I would be happy to meet representatives from Leonard Cheshire homes to discuss the matter further.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) made an important contribution to the debate and asked a number of specific questions. He, too, has had to leave, to attend a Select Committee meeting. I can clarify that the measure was designed to remove overlaps in the payment of mobility support, as I have outlined. It is not intended to lead to a loss of independence and we remain committed to promoting greater personalisation for disabled people. I reiterate that milestones have been agreed with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, including the growth in personal budgets, and that we are absolutely committed to the implementation of personalisation across the board.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) talked about the ability of people living in residential care homes to get into work. I would like to be clear that the ability of individuals in care homes to take advantage of access to work, which can cover their travel costs, makes an enormous difference to them. The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston talked about DLA being paid for social and medical needs. To be absolutely clear on that point, we will shortly be consulting on the wider reform of DLA and are absolutely committed to a social model for it, not a medical model. She mentioned article 20 of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which sets out the right to personal mobility and promotes the greatest possible independence. The Government’s measure is designed not to reduce the mobility of disabled people, but to address the current complexities in the system.