Disability Benefits and Social Care

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:08 pm on 20th June 2012.

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Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow The Minister of State, Department of Health 4:08 pm, 20th June 2012

I have so little time—I have minus 10 minutes, in theory—that I would like to ensure that I respond to the points that have already been made.

Disability living allowance has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members. It is worth saying that Labour left the assessment process as a piece of unfinished business; it did not properly take into account all those with sensory, mental health and cognitive impairments. The move that this Government are making to the personal independence payment gives us the opportunity to ensure that we do take proper account of the impact of mental health needs and fluctuating conditions. Mrs McGuire said in her summing up that the Labour Government dealt with the issue of life awards in 2000. Yes they did—they changed the name to “indefinite awards”. Some 70% of those are still on the case load and they have just been given a different name. The reality is still the same.

Sheila Gilmore talked about PIP assessments, and I want to tell her that the Government are still considering the findings of the consultation on the assessment process. The consultation closed on 30 April and we will be publishing the response to it, along with the current consultation that we are doing on the detailed design, in the autumn, before this House properly debates those matters as part of the regulations.

My hon. Friend Duncan Hames talked about Labour’s legacy of subcontracting out to Atos the decision-making process, and fettering, in a way, the way in which decision makers could act. He is absolutely right about that, which is why we have given back flexibility to decision makers. Indeed, we have moved away from the hard, harsh and tough approach taken on work capability assessments by the previous Government. We have taken the recommendations of Professor Harrington’s independent reviews seriously and implemented all of them. We are building on his recommendations, following his engagements with charities, on how we make sure that the assessment process is more accurate and does properly reflect fluctuating conditions and takes into account those with mental health conditions. Again, that point was raised by my hon. Friend.