Disability Benefits for the Elderly

Part of Opposition Day — [1st allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of Anne McGuire Anne McGuire Labour, Stirling 5:00 pm, 8th December 2009

I hope not to take up my full allocation of time. I have one or two points to raise, not least because I used to be the Minister with responsibility for disabled people and had to deal with some of the early policy issues and discussions about this development.

Perhaps we should be more optimistic about why we are all here today. The justification for the reform of social care is, as the Secretary of State indicated, that we are all living longer and, thanks to medical science, can be kept in our homes longer. That is the good news to start with. The bad news is that although Mr. Lansley, who opened for the Conservative Opposition, said that there was a need for consensus, he then went on to scaremonger about the so-called attempt by a Labour Government to take away disability benefits from nearly 3 million people in Britain. Frankly, that is a disgraceful way to come at the subject, because the reform of social care is an important matter for all of us.

As Steve Webb suggested, we should have a mature debate. [Interruption.] In some ways-I point this out to the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend Jonathan Shaw, who is the current Minister with responsibility for disabled people-our approach to pension reform should provide a model. That was about consensus and moving forward on the basis of certain principles. Frankly, however- [Interruption.] I think some Opposition Members should take a degree in chuntering, because they are getting very good at it.

I will not take lessons from an Opposition who, in October this year, said that their solution to social care reform was a one-off payment of £8,000, which would give people no guarantee that they would not have to pay a top-up if their social care costs were more than approximately £26,000. There were no guarantees either to people with a pre-existing health condition that their social care costs would be covered. I declare a vested interest: I wonder whether insulin-dependent diabetics who may have complicated health needs will get the benefits that they require if they pay that £8,000. The Conservative proposal was taken apart by every expert in the field because it was drawn up on the back of an envelope to please a Conservative party conference. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health clarified that there was absolutely no contradiction between the reform of social care and independence, choice and control for disabled and elderly people.

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