My Lords, I support Amendment 88Q, which was so powerfully moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. I certainly welcome the Government’s intention to establish national eligibility criteria, so that local councils across the country will be required to provide care for all those with a minimum level of need. However, I share the concerns which were so well articulated by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, that setting the fair access to care services criteria at “substantial” is simply plain wrong. It is wrong because it will exclude many people who I know with autism, and who have a low-level need of support. They will no longer be able to live independently if the level is set at substantial.
Setting the threshold at this level also seems to be running counter to the Government’s stated intention in the Bill, which is to focus on prevention. The requirement for people to have a physical or mental impairment to qualify for support could mean that those without a diagnosis will be excluded and miss out altogether. A great many people with autism do not get a diagnosis. I have been dealing with a case recently where people have been waiting four years to get their daughter diagnosed. I join the National Autistic Society—again, I declare an interest as a vice-president—in urging the Government to reconsider this and set the threshold at something equivalent to “moderate”. That is by far the fairest and best way to do it.
I make no apology for saying something which I think I have said about three times in this Committee: there is substantial evidence from the National Audit Office and NICE to indicate that investing in services for those with a moderate need is cost-effective. New economic modelling by Deloitte, published recently, shows that every £1 invested in support for people with autism and other disabilities who have moderate needs, generates a return across the piece of £1.30. That is not to be ignored and should be part of our consideration. There is much merit in this and I rather feel that the Minister, who is a decent and honourable man, will see that there is. I am sure he is going to give us some good news; at least, I hope he will.