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Working-Age Disabled Adults

Volume 798: debated on Monday 24 June 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what crisis prevention measures are in place to address the difficulties of those working-age disabled adults who have lost the support needed to live independently in the community.

My Lords, it is critical to the vision of the Care Act 2014 that the care and support system promotes well-being and independence rather than waiting until people reach crisis point to respond. Local authorities must provide or arrange services, resources and facilities that maximise independence for those who have or are developing care needs.

I thank the Minister for her reply, but according to research findings, her words simply do not match the experience of disabled people on the ground. For example, the London Borough of Barnet has recently adopted without consultation a policy that it will no longer prioritise offering community-based care and will instead adopt “an assumption” that disabled people are placed in “cheaper accommodation settings”? Do the Government believe that such a policy is compatible with the Care Act’s well-being principle and the requirement that assessments,

“must consider how to meet each person’s specific needs rather than simply considering what service they will fit into”?

The noble Baroness gives a troubling example and correctly quotes the basic principle of the Care Act: to assess the needs of and have a duty to promote the well-being of the individual. Without more detail, I cannot comment on the specific case, but I am more than happy to take it up with the department if she is happy to share that information.

Does the Minister agree that the savings that the Government have sought to make in their austerity programme through income support and local government cuts have resulted in a false economy and an increase in the number of disabled people in crisis—one in four needing expensive hospital treatment; one in eight getting stuck in hospital? Have the Department of Health and Social Care, the DWP and the DCLG considered how, together, they can best support working-age adults who seem to have lost the support they need to live independently in the community?

If the noble Baroness will permit me, I point out the increases in funding that the Government have committed to: up to an additional £3.9 billion for adult social care in the current year, and a major commitment in the long-term plan for the NHS for access to community-based health services. Furthermore, the forthcoming Green Paper will look at all those issues in detail. We hope that it will be with us before long.

My Lords, of course we want everyone who is disabled to be able to live in the community, but it is also important that they should be able to work where they can. Some businesses make a terrific effort to employ those with disabilities—Morgan Stanley and the DVLA are two. Would it be a good idea for the Department of Health and BEIS to get together to see how they could better promote other businesses that take the same view as those I mentioned?

My noble friend is right: all in this House welcome employers who have made a real effort to be inclusive in employing those with disabilities. I welcome her suggestions for joined-up work across government. Obviously, work addresses not only financial isolation but, crucially, social isolation.

My Lords, my question follows on from that of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. What happened to the cross-government strategy we were promised to address the issues of independent living for disabled people, which spanned several government departments, including housing, care, transport and so on?

The noble Baroness is right that that strategy has not been produced. However, a huge amount of work is going on across key government departments—housing, health and social care and DWP—to try to address many of the issues to which she refers.

My Lords, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recently stated that the UK was going backwards in terms of independent living and went on to say that it was a human catastrophe. In the Minister’s view, are we are doing enough to involve disabled people in producing, designing and providing better solutions for independent living?

The co-creation of services to which the right reverend Prelate refers is a crucial part of our work going forward and that taking place in relation to the Green Paper.

My Lords, we have all been shocked by the appalling abuse suffered by people with a learning disability and autism in the recent scandal at Whorlton Hall, exposed by BBC’s “Panorama”. Can the Minister explain why NHS England has failed to achieve the promised 35% to 50% reduction in in-patient beds as set out in Building the right support strategy? What strategy are the Government and NHS England now working to in order to achieve their goal of supporting people with learning disabilities to live in the community?

I echo the noble Baroness’s shock at the Whorlton Hall documentary. I confess I was unable to watch it all—I kept turning the television on and off. We have seen a 22% rather than a 35% reduction in the number of people with learning disabilities and autism in in-patient care, and we continue to work towards the 35%. I think it fair to say that some of the issues, particularly concerning the care of those with autism, were more complex than we originally appreciated but the CQC has recommended assessing a new model of care for those people. There will be a summit this summer and a further international review in the autumn.