Disabled People: Disability Living Allowance — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:51 pm on 7th February 2011.

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Tabled By Baroness Gardner of Parkes

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether individuals currently receiving disability living allowance who have invested money and payments in aids and adaptations will be disadvantaged as a result of the proposals in chapter two of the consultation paper on disability living allowance reform published in December 2010.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative 2:58 pm, 7th February 2011

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name, and I declare an interest as I have disabled family members.

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Lords, the proposed assessment for personal independence payment is not intended to disadvantage individuals but to ensure that the benefit is focused on those who are least able to live independent lives. We therefore think it right that it takes greater account of the successful use of aids and adaptations than DLA does. We know that this is a complex issue, and that is why we are consulting on this point.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and I am aware of the consultation. Under item 27 of the consultation, it would appear that those who have used their DLA to improve their lot might be disadvantaged. I would like him to agree with me that it is very important to encourage people to help themselves and remain useful members of society and that no perverse incentive should be brought into this process.

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

It gives me pleasure to say that that is the exact purpose of this assessment. We want to make sure that the money that we do have is well directed to supporting people to have independent lives. It would clearly be perverse if people were supported to live an independent life and that support was then removed when they still needed it. I cannot envisage that that situation would develop.

Photo of Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Crossbench

My Lords, will the Minister tell us how the Government expect to achieve the projected savings of £1 billion by 2015 when the highly regarded disability charity Disability Alliance estimates that 823,000 disabled people will lose vital DLA support in order for the Government to meet that target?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Lords, as the noble Baroness pointed out, the target is to reduce the spending on DLA by 20 per cent by 2014-15. But that is against a projection of a benefit that is, frankly, out of control. The actual figure in that year will basically come down to the level that it was in 2009-10, which is just below the £12 billion mark.

Photo of Baroness Hollis of Heigham Baroness Hollis of Heigham Labour

My Lords, the consultation paper proposes that the three rates of DLA should be so-called "simplified" into two rates, which presumably implies-as the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, suggested-the scrapping of the lower rate of DLA care. Lower-rate DLA care goes to those with significant need of help or supervision. Does the Minister agree with the noble Baroness that if the Government go ahead with that, it will take almost £900 million-nearly £1 billion-out of the incomes of disabled people, some of whom are among the poorest in this country? Is that what he means by saying that we are all in it together?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Lords, I disagree entirely with that premise. The personal independence payment is a new assessment of people's needs and is designed to help people to live independent lives and to give them mobility. To that extent there can be no presumption about what is happening to existing rates. We will set these rates based on people's requirements to live independent lives.

Photo of Lord German Lord German Liberal Democrat

My Lords, it seems to me that the consultation paper can be read in one of two ways. Can the Minister can tell us whether the purpose of the PIP is to extend the level of adaptations and aids that will be available to people-to facilitate greater access and ensure that everyone who needs the payment can get it?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Lords, I can respond to that question positively in the sense that times have moved on: adaptations and aids have moved on since the DLA was introduced, and we are looking at a different environment in which people can be helped to live pretty normal lives with those adaptations. It is important that we have an assessment process and a personal independence payment that reflect what is really happening to people's lives.

Photo of Baroness Wilkins Baroness Wilkins Labour

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the extra costs related to lack of mobility are far wider than just moving around-not least the need for extra heating, the extra wear and tear on clothes and the need to employ others to do decoration or repairs in the house and to look after the garden? How does this make the provision of aids relevant in the assessment of extra costs?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right that we need to have a pretty broad view on what mobility implies. One of the big differences between the personal independence payment and DLA is that the personal independence payment looks at the person's ability to plan and execute a journey, not just at their physical capacity. One of the big differences with the personal independence payment is that it puts a lot more emphasis on mental competences compared with physical ones, or it raises those competences in relative terms. Many of those adaptations are clearly for physical requirements; others, the ones to meet mental requirements, will be taken much more into account.

Photo of Lord Rix Lord Rix Crossbench

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, has already referred to the statement, "We're all in this together". In that statement, were the Government including the 80,000 people with disabilities living in residential care who are going to lose the mobility component of their DLA, or were the Government simply thinking that such a valuable aid to so many vulnerable people was a total waste of taxpayers' money?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Lords, we are taking a very close look at the mobility requirements of people in residential care. The existing arrangements are pretty patchy; the payments are used for different purposes in different places and are often pooled in a way that they are not designed for, in a very complex regulatory framework. We will be looking very closely, as part of the consultation exercise, at what the best form of support should be for people in residential care in this way.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, following on from that question, has the Minister read the evidence in the report from 27 leading disability groups entitled, Don't Limit Mobility? The report points out that mobility needs tend to be factored into care packages only to meet specific needs in the community care assessment and not generally to meet individuals' personal mobility needs. Do the Government therefore accept that the proposal to withdraw the mobility component of DLA for those in residential care because of double funding is based on a false premise, is simply wrong and should be withdrawn?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Lords, I have indeed read with great interest that particular piece of research. We are talking to the lobby about it and are very interested in some of the data behind it. We are in the process now of collecting a lot of information about what is really happening. It is a very fragmented area in terms of regulatory support and practice, and when we have that information I will be very pleased to share it with the House.