Disability Benefits for the Elderly

Part of Opposition Day — [1st allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 5:53 pm on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of Laura Moffatt Laura Moffatt Labour, Crawley 5:53 pm, 8th December 2009

It is a real pleasure to follow Alistair Burt, who made a reasoned argument. Of course, I accept none of it, but it was done beautifully.

Care of the elderly was my first love when I completed my nurse training and it has continued for many years, because I believe that a society is judged by the way it treats elderly people and by how we prepare for our lives as we grow older and more dependent. That is what this debate is all about, and I very much welcome it. I am relying not on briefing notes from the Library or from my party, nor am I reading out news releases prepared by the Conservative party for its candidates; rather, I relying on the great good sense of my constituents.

In the later part of the summer, I held a consultation with more than 40 individuals, including people from the caring professions, carers and those who are cared for. It was to their comments on disability that I listened. We came together to discuss the White Paper. It was clear in our conversation that those people were not going crazy about benefits or getting upset or anxious. We were having a conversation because the proposals were undergoing consultation. It was a reasonable, adult, mature conversation between a representative of the Government and those who would be most greatly affected by the proposals, and I very much welcomed it. Following our morning's deliberations, we were able to prepare a submission in response to the Green Paper. I hope that our comments will be taken seriously. I am glad that a solution has not already been offered, apart from the assurances, which were given early on-weeks and weeks ago-about the safeguarding of those benefits.

I know that scaremongering is the reason for today's debate, but I am absolutely delighted about it because it has given me the opportunity, as a Member of Parliament, to engage many more people than I thought I would at the beginning of the consultation. I wrote to many people. I have no interest in what happens to me-this is about the future of older people. Whatever happens at the next general election is of no importance compared with what the future may hold for older people. That is why it is important to have this debate without making silly, snidey remarks to each other.

I was interested to hear Mr. Dorrell, because the 60th anniversary of the NHS was a great opportunity to revisit the arguments that were had when the then Labour Government were determined to introduce it. In his very reasonable way, he tried to explain why many of the proposals are unaffordable-that was the gist of his contribution. I only hope that we do not listen to that argument. I believe we have a responsibility to step up to the plate and to tackle what I believe is one of the biggest omissions in care today-bringing together health and social care, and ensuring that we adequately help people as they become infirm and those with disabilities.

I welcome the debate, and I am now able to correspond with many more people. They made some quite interesting suggestions-they are not out of briefing notes or anything else. I have been assured that the benefits are certainly no longer under consideration, but people ask me why the Opposition, who have produced a news release for the next general election, say they are.

I take issue with that. We are talking about a matter of great concern, and our constituents rightly tell us to explain to the Government why we do not believe in wrapping up those benefits and why a national care service, which is a fantastic innovation, is a good idea, but the campaigning has gone on long beyond when those reassurances were made. That brings into question how that whole campaign has been conducted. That brings that campaign into disrepute, and I hope that none of my hon. Friends will support the Opposition motion tonight.

Two constituents of mine, who suffer from severe disabilities themselves, run two excellent groups in Crawley. First is Mrs. Carslake, who runs the Jackdaw club; last weekend the whole club went to Butlins at Bognor, where they had an excellent time-using their DLA to get out and about. The people in that club understand that it is this Government who are committed to their care in the future. The second is Mrs. Kay Turner, whom I visited at home following some concerns that she raised. She runs the GEMMS club, which looks after people with neurological conditions. The members have discussed the Green Paper and the national care service proposal.

Mrs. Turner made an excellent point to me. She said, "I'm not badly off. I was well before I became ill, and the level of care that I have been able to secure through the DLA has ensured that we have a decent life together. We enjoy each other's company and we do not feel as though we are impoverished." We need to protect such people too. Through the empowerment that the DLA has given that couple, she has managed to keep well in herself and to remain active and engaged with many other people.

This is an issue of trust. I have listened carefully to the contributions from Opposition Members and the undeniable stoking up of anxiety to ensure-

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