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Disabled People

Volume 723: debated on Monday 13 December 2010

Question

Tabled By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to ensure that disabled people are involved in the decisions taken by Ministers that affect them.

My Lords, on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, and at her request, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in her name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, under Article 4 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we are required to consult with disabled people on all decisions and policies that affect them. The Government are fully committed to that requirement. I and my colleagues are keen to champion an approach of involving disabled people during policy development across government. We will continue to talk as widely as possible with disabled people about matters that affect them.

I thank the Minister for that reply. As he says, Article 4 states:

“In the development and implementation of legislation and policies … relating to persons with disabilities, States … shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities”.

Article 33 requires the same involvement in the monitoring process. How did the Government discharge their obligation to consult closely and actively involve disabled people in the decision to remove mobility allowance from people living in residential care? What steps do the Government intend to take to include disabled people in the monitoring of that policy?

My Lords, perhaps I may first say on behalf of the whole House how much we look forward to seeing the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, back in her place alongside the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins.

The issue of the mobility allowance was raised in the context of the comprehensive spending review. At that stage the proposal had not gone through a full consultation process, but one would not expect all the measures in such a huge announcement to have gone through the full process. However, the measures will go through a process of full parliamentary scrutiny before they take effect in October 2012. The DLA reform document has also been put out to consultation, on which there have already been discussions with about 50 representative organisations. Those discussions will continue.

My Lords, in the comprehensive spending review the Government allocated £2 billion more for local authority social care services. Unfortunately, this money was not ring-fenced. What assurances can the Government give the House that the money will be spent by local authorities on the purpose for which it was allocated?

My Lords, the Government’s strategy is to go down the path of personalisation of services, on which we clearly look to local authorities to take the lead. As the noble Lord pointed out, we have made £2 billion extra available. In practice, local authorities have much more than that available and it is up to them to make sure that the funds go to those with disabilities in the most effective and efficient way.

My Lords, further to the first reply that my noble friend gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, will the Government also take into consideration disabled children in residential schools whose parents have a car on the Motability scheme and who, given the need to look after their children in the school holidays, need the higher-rate mobility allowance? I quite take my noble friend’s point that there is a public consultation on the disability living allowance—I declare an interest in that I have received the consultation, which is very welcome—but this problem must not be overlooked.

My Lords, I reassure my noble friend that there is a requirement for residential care homes, children’s homes and educational establishments such as special schools to meet children’s relevant needs, including their mobility needs.

My Lords, are the Government aware that there is still great unmet demand from people with learning disabilities and their families for intentional and village communities, which are also cost effective and care effective? Will the Government ensure that such demand is no longer frustrated at local level, as it has been for many years?

My Lords, clearly that issue hits on a key point relating to how we organise our services. This Government are putting an enormous amount of effort into localising services and then personalising them. To the extent that those processes come through by 2015, more localisation will be visible.

My Lords, the Government stated that, when the mobility component of DLA is withdrawn from people living in residential care, local authorities will have a responsibility to provide for their mobility needs. Can the noble Lord tell the House what this responsibility is and where it can be found in statute?

Residential care homes have an obligation to meet residents’ mobility and other requirements, which are translated into individual care agreements with those in residential homes.

I want to ask the Minister about Supporting People, which is a vital programme that has helped around 1 million of our most vulnerable citizens each year. The programme is a qualifying service for the purposes of the disabled person’s right to control regulations to the extent that it helps people to live independently. Given the 28 per cent cut in local authority expenditure—which we will hear about officially shortly—and given the fact that Supporting People funding is no longer ring-fenced, what assurances can the Minister give disabled people that there will be effective monitoring of the programme to ensure that their rights are protected and delivered?

My Lords, we are protecting the Supporting People budget and are spending up to £6.5 billion until 2015, which is roughly the same as the current spend. Clearly, with the localisation agenda, it is for local authorities, particularly in their personal spending approach, to ensure that the money is spent in the most efficient way possible.