Disability Benefits for the Elderly

Part of Opposition Day — [1st allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 6:41 pm on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of Jonathan R Shaw Jonathan R Shaw Minister of State (Disabled People), Regional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Disabled People), Department for Work and Pensions 6:41 pm, 8th December 2009

This has been an important debate about what many Members have described as a policy that affects every member of our community. It is one of the most difficult issues we need to grasp, not least because, as we all know, we are living longer. In the next 25 years, the number of 85-year-olds will double, the number of people reaching 100 years will quadruple and the ratio of people in work to people in retirement, as my right hon. Friend Mrs. McGuire said, will become 2:1 rather than 4:1 as it is at present. We thus need a debate about how we shape a new national care service that will meet the demands within our communities and meet the higher expectations people quite rightly have in 2009.

People are rightly no longer willing to be just passive recipients of what they are told is good for them. They want to be involved, they want to be consulted and they want to help shape the future. That is why the Government have set out in the Green Paper the available options so that we can have the big care debate. We have had some 40 formal big care debates and I know that hon. Members have had them in their communities, and we thank them for the contributions they have sent to the Department. I have certainly spoken to a great many people as I have travelled around the country.

We have said clearly that no one currently in receipt of attendance allowance or disability living allowance at the time of reform would be a cash loser. It is also important that alongside these reforms, as referred to by a number of hon. Members, we plan to provide greater power for people to control the public funds that we make available to them from the various funding streams. Within the "right to control" legislation in the Welfare Reform Act 2007, we made provision to cover access to work, the disabled facilities grant, the independent living fund, supported employment and, of course, as Mr. Harper mentioned, adult social care.

I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman put forward amendments in the debate on the Welfare Reform Bill and that I opposed them. We then had a mature and wider debate in the House of Lords- [Interruption.] If I am to accept the point the hon. Gentleman made in good faith, I hope that we can think about how we should frame this discussion. We are all talking about having a mature debate, so I accept that I opposed that amendment and I accept that in the debate in the other place, the amendment was put forward by my noble Friend Lord McKenzie of Luton and by Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who commands respect throughout Parliament. She said that the changes we made to accept adult social care were done through co-production and she welcomed the way in which all parties had worked together. That is how we need to approach this issue rather than in the disappointing way in which the hon. Member for Forest of Dean chose to present it on this occasion. He normally does a lot better than that.

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