Disabled Persons Act

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Services – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West 12:00 am, 8th March 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what are his estimates of the additional number of social workers required for the implementation of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

It is for individual local authorities to decide how best to discharge their statutory responsibilities and how many social workers or other staff are needed. Before any section of the disabled persons Act is implemented, the Government discuss with local authorities the overall costs entailed.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

Why is the Minister so apathetic in the face of the growing concern about the adequacy of the implementation of care in the community for mentally ill and mentally handicapped people? When will he implement section 7 of the Act?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

Implementation of section 7 of the Act is under discussion at the moment.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

Surely the Minister cannot get away with the two answers that he has just given concerning the Act. Two years have gone by since the Act was passed and the Government are still discussing and prevaricating. At a time when there is £2,000 million to give away in the Budget, surely the Government can afford one sixth of a penny income tax to help disabled people in such need?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

It was made clear, when the Act became law, that it would not be implemented at once, but would be steadily implemented, and we are making good progress in that direction.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

As one of the sponsors of the measure, I should like to welcome the fact that we are making progress. However, may I ask my hon. Friend to consider carefully the fact that, when disabled people receive an adequate degree of support, they are frequently no longer a burden on the social services, because they are able to earn? That is one of the most important features of the Act.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

It is one of the most important features of the Act, and one of the main thrusts of Government policy, to enable an increasing number of disabled people to have access to employment and education.

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South

Will the Minister confirm that the Government will not fully implement the Act because they will be embarrassed by the amount of unmet need that will be revealed by implementation? Will he recognise that the Government's failure to implement the Act is damaging to disabled school leavers, to young people leaving hospital and to those who care for disabled people? Why does he not implement the Act?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

We remain committed to the phased implementation of the legislation. That always was the Government's intention and we intend to continue the steady progress in that direction.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Minister (Disability)

Is the Minister aware that, despite his reassuring tones, there is grave concern about the Government's clear failure to implement sections of the Act which deal with such matters as advocacy, the scandal of people being discharged from long-stay hospitals and other vital matters concerning the disabled? Many people in local government will take exception to the Minister's implied suggestion most of this afternoon that local authorities are responsible for the delay. Just as the Government refused to listen to local authorities about the Social Security Act 1986, which takes away from disabled persons, they are failing to take on board the strong views of local authorities that it is imperative for the Government to implement fully the decision of the House in terms of this Act.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

It is worth reminding the House that by the production of extra resources to help disabled people and by the actions that the Government have taken, in a statutory sense, to provide access to employment, transport, the countryside and elsewhere, the Government have shown their commitment to disabled people. The Act set out the framework for progress, but detailed discussions need to take place about the implementation of individual sections of the Act, and we are engaged in that.