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Disablement Benefits: Uprating

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 9 December 1987

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2.47 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to increase the benefits and allowances now paid to people with disabilities to take account of inflation after April 1988.

My Lords, the next uprating of social security benefits will take place in April 1989 and will take account of inflation between September 1987 and September 1988.

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply. Does he agree that as well as the problem for the disabled of having to deal with inflation, the severely disabled will face the appalling prospect of a change in their circumstances after April 1988? For example, a spell in hospital could mean a reduction in their level of benefit of about 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. In the light of that, what is the rationale behind the Government's treatment of some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society bearing in mind that 2 million of the 3 million disabled in this country are living on or near the margin of poverty?

My Lords, cash protection is the normal way to protect existing beneficiaries when benefit rules change. The cost on this occasion will be £200 million for the first year. The special protection for the domestic assistance addition recognises the exceptional difficulties of this small group of severely disabled claimants.

My Lords, how many pensioners will receive transitional protection? Will they not all suffer a gradual decline in the real value of the benefit they receive?

My Lords, I would prefer, please, to answer with accuracy the question put to me by the noble Lord.

My Lords, can the Minister give some comparison of the amounts paid now in respect of disablement and those paid before this Government's term of office?

My Lords. since 1979 the Government have spent on average £35 million per annum more in real terms on disabled people than was spent under the previous Government between 1974 and 1979.

My Lords, the noble Earl has promised to write a great many letters. How long will it take before we receive the answers? The DHSS makes me feel like St. Paul, still waiting for a reply from the Corinthians, the Galatians and the Philippians. There seems to be no sense of time in that department.

My Lords, the noble Baroness has made the comment that I shall be writing a fair few letters. I am doing so in the interests of your Lordships' House and in the interests of accuracy. As regards speed, I am well aware of what the noble Baroness has said. I shall personally do my level best to see that those letters are very quickly completed.

My Lords, is the noble Earl saying that the transitional payments will or will not be index-linked? If they are not to be index-linked, may I ask him a question to which I should like a Written Answer?

My Lords, from next April the income support paid to people who now have very high domestic assistance additions will include special transitional protection for these additions. That protection will be uprated from April 1989 to take account of inflation.