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

Yes, they will.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling rightly referred to the scaremongering of Conservative Members. She spoke of the need to secure for a consensus of the kind that we secured for pension reform, and I hope that that happens. We saw the beginnings of it in the debate. The right hon. Member for Charnwood spoke of the need for reform, but did not refer to the need to pay for it.

Along with a number of other Members, I set out the issues relating to a changing demography. We need to find the necessary resources. We have included in the Green Paper options that would provide far more support for care than is provided at present. The current system involves ever more constraint, and if we continue as we are, the constraint and means-testing will continue to increase. Our proposals provide some solutions that can be debated throughout the country.

Opposition Members asked about devolution. Of course it is right for us to have discussions with the Scottish and Welsh Assembly Governments. Any settlement under the new system will have to take account of social care and health, which are devolved matters.

I perceived a lack of support for local authorities. I think that they do a very good job, but it was only my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood who talked of the good work that they do. We often characterise all local authorities by highlighting poor performance. That is why we need a national care service. Disabled people's organisations that support such a service speak of the difference in service from one town to another. They have drawn attention to the need for portability, which does not currently exist, and the struggle that they have to undertake to obtain services. They do not want to have to jump through such hoops again. Our proposals give them the opportunity that they want.

Alistair Burt, a former Minister for disabled people, mentioned Nick Scott. I have heard kind words said about Nick Scott during my travels around the country. The hon. Gentleman will know, however, that next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970-the first legislation introduced to provide rights and services for disabled people not just in this country but anywhere in the world-and that that is thanks to the first Minister for disabled people, Lord Morris.

The hon. Gentleman was right to observe that as time has gone on, we have given people more choice and control so that they can be the architects of the support that they receive. Adult social care is an important component of people's independence, which is why we need it to be more available rather than perpetuating the present constraint.

My hon. Friend Laura Moffatt, who brought her professional knowledge to the debate, had held consultations in her constituency. As I have found in my travels around the country, it is interesting to sit down and engage in a calm and clear debate, helping people to understand the demographic issues that the country faces and the need to find solutions.

Chloe Smith made a measured contribution to the debate. She talked of the need for flexibility, and I agreed with what she said. She talked of meeting someone in her constituency who was blind. She will know that the Government have accepted an amendment from my hon. Friend John Robertson which will increase disability living allowance for totally blind people from 2011.

John Mason said that he did not trust the Tories. In 1979, the Tories made no reference to the fact that they would cut pensions when they got into power. I think that buyers will need to be extremely wary. We have heard very little from those on the Tory Front Bench, or indeed from the Tories in general, about what they expect from a future social care system. We have heard nothing about domiciliary care. We have heard some half-baked ideas about residential care, which fell apart from one day to the next and did not stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. Mr. Lansley smiles, but I think that even he acknowledges that.

What did the Tories give pensioners? They gave them 18 months in which to wait for an operation, whereas our party gave them a maximum of 18 weeks. They produced pensioner poverty, whereas our party produced pension credit. We provided bus passes, but all that we have seen from the Tory party is cynicism and scaremongering. They have focused-as they prefer to-on the 3,000 richest estates for which they want to provide tax cuts. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the amendment.

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