Skip to main content

Disabled People: Social Care

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 14 October 2008

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether the forthcoming Green Paper on social care will contain a commitment to ensure that disabled people will be free to move between local authorities without risk of loss of their social care package.

My Lords, a Green Paper on the future of care and support will be published early next year. The public debate is informing several key strands of policy discussions, one of which is about the portability of care packages and addresses the question of local flexibility versus national consistency. It would not be appropriate at this stage to pre-empt the outcome of the debate or the policy analysis by making specific commitments about the Green Paper.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. If we accept the principle that she has just explained, that we can make no specific commitment while a Green Paper is being considered—not even debated, but considered—the Government and both Houses of Parliament will be paralysed for years, as these things take time. Having pledged ourselves not to do that, the Government cannot act, and nor can this House or the other place. It would obviously be unacceptable to tie the Government’s and Parliament’s hands like that.

The present system is that anyone can move house if they wish to have a better job, or whatever, but if disabled people want to move house, the new local authority will probably refuse to allow the payment if it disagrees with the previous local authority. Given that that is the case, there is nothing we can do about disabled people that would change the whole system. My noble friend wants to help disabled people, as she made very clear in Committee on the Health and Social Care Bill. Does she not agree that the way to help them is to provide them with a change of system in place of the existing one?

My Lords, my noble friend is completely right. The whole House knows that he is a leading and very successful campaigner in this arena. My noble friend knows, as he acknowledged, that the Government have not stood still while waiting for the publication of the Green Paper. We have had a 45 per cent increase in local council services and extended the right to personal budgets so that people can have control over their own care.

The issue of portability of care to allow disabled people to move from one part of the country to another is a fundamental component of the system being addressed in the Green Paper review. It can be addressed only as part of the wider review, because of its implications for local and national accountability, democracy and the control of budgets. However, that does not mitigate the need for local authorities to have a duty to ensure that, when a disabled person moves into their area, a proper assessment is made of their needs and that those needs are addressed.

My Lords, has the department received a report from the Commission for Social Care Inspection on the eligibility criteria for fair access to care services? Will the process to which the Minister refers include children as well as adults in receipt of packages of care?

My Lords, Fair Access to Care Services is, as noble Lords will know, a system to help local authorities to set the criteria for the provision of care services. The Government recognise—indeed, noble Lords have brought it to our attention—that some councils have tightened their eligibility criteria for adult social care. I am afraid that I will have to write to the noble Baroness about whether children are included in that. We are concerned that it means that some people have been denied the care that they need. The Care Services Minister asked the Commission for Social Care Inspection to undertake a review and we are expecting to publish its report at the end of this month.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that this issue is a major barrier to disabled people's employment and educational opportunities? If the Government want to increase social mobility, it must be resolved quickly. What interim measures will the Government take given the time that it will take to implement longer-term reform through the Green Paper on adult social care and subsequent legislation?

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. During the recent passage of the Health and Social Care Act we recognised that it is important to allow disabled people to have the same rights—to move house, to go to university or whatever it is that they need to do. Some of the measures that the Government have already taken include providing extra resources at local level and ensuring that local councils properly assess people who have moved into their areas. But the long-term issue, which we need to address, is that in 20 years’ time, 1.7 million more people will need care. That has to be addressed on the basis of the Green Paper and a very wide discussion.

My Lords, as the previous speaker raised the matter of employment, has the Minister taken into account the position of those disabled people who have remitting disabilities who go in and out of needing full-time care? They face great difficulties in getting help when the time comes for them to return to full-time care because of the great delays that occur. Is something being done to deal with that problem?

My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point. The consultation process involves the public and stakeholders—indeed, I am attending a public consultation this weekend—and precisely that issue has been raised. It is part of our consideration in the preparation of the Green Paper.

My Lords, in their preparation of the Green Paper, are the Government calculating the savings to local authorities of people moving closer to their relatives who assist with care and daily living?

My Lords, that is exactly the kind of thing that the Green Paper will address, because it is very important.

My Lords, last week I chaired the Learning Disability Coalition meeting discussing the Green Paper on adult social care. Will the Minister confirm that adult social care for those with a learning disability will receive the utmost consideration?

My Lords, the noble Lord, with his record, knows that that is the case. Along with other noble Lords he has helped to ensure that. For example, the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, who is not in her place, provided us with short articles that helped to inform the themes that we are discussing in the process of creating this Green Paper, as did the noble Lord.

My Lords, my daughter had a care package in Hull last year. She then lost both legs and moved to Staffordshire. She is still fighting to get as good a care package as she had in Hull. Will the Green Paper address that problem? Certainly, nobody who loses their legs should have a worse care package.

My Lords, my noble friend, who gave me notice of her question, is completely right and I undertake to look into that case. It is exactly the kind of situation that the Green Paper, which will examine what future planning and provision we need to make, is designed to address.