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Schedule 2. — (Provisions for Determining Right to and Amount of Benefit.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Ministry of Social Security Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1966.

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Photo of Mrs Lena Jeger Mrs Lena Jeger , Holborn and St Pancras South 12:00 am, 17th June 1966

I share the anxieties of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), to whom we are all indebted for the way in which he has brought them before the Committee. There is an increasing awareness among hon. Members about many of these cases and great credit for that awareness should go to the Disablement Income Group and similar organisations. My anxiety arises mainly because at least some of the cases which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned would not be covered by the Amendments, because, in spite of my protests, the Committee has already passed Clause 4, which excludes from benefit any person in full-time employment, or any person aggregated with him or her. We would, therefore, have to take some more drastic step to help many disabled people, especially disabled wives.

If my right hon. Friend is not able to help within the confines of the Bill, I hope that, in consultation with the Minister of Health, she will realise the urgent anxieties of all hon. Members, which I know she shares and which are also felt in the country. I do not want to delay the Committee, but in a few words I want to spell out the realities of the kind of life which we are discussing. A young mother is disabled by poliomyelitis from the neck downwards. She has two small children and is living at home. She wrote in The Guardian that her day is like this: Before my husband leaves for work each morning he does the chores of firefighting, shoecleaning, etc., and then washes me, cleans my teeth and nose, brushes my hair, gives me a bedpan, changes me if I have a period, prepares breakfast for us all, gives the children theirs, has his own, and feeds me. However clever you are with time-and-motion study these fiddling jobs take a couple of hours when there is only one pair of hands to do them. We need at least an hour's help at this end of the day to cope with breakfast and feeding me—for six days a week. For a considered minimum of five shillings an hour this would cost 30s. Another hour or two at the children's bathtime and bedtime at the same rate would cost between 30s. and £3. 2.0 p.m.

That is the kind of sum that could greatly ameliorate the position of people in this situation and could make such a difference to the intolerable burden put on a husband. My dread in a case like this is of what would happen if the husband cracks up. He is a hero. Only his devotion enables this woman to be at home. Apart from the pleasure which it gives her family to have her at home, this saves the Health Service between £40 and £50 a week.

I shall not press my hon. Friend unfairly, but we must find an answer for these people. We cannot go on saying that we can find £40 to £50 a week to put them in hospital and take their children into care, but will not give a woman like this £2 or £3 a week to alleviate the heavy burden in the home.

I cannot see an answer to the question within the terms of the Amendment, but I hope that it will be realised that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, and a growing body of public opinion outside the House of Commons, will not tolerate for much longer what seems to be a gross injustice to people who are in need of help, and not only of our sympathy.