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Amendment 1

Part of Coronavirus Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 12:06 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 12:06 pm, 25th March 2020

My Lords, the amendment would ensure that the impact of Schedule 12, which concerns local authority care and support, is subject to monitoring and review by an appropriate body. The amendment is about the voice of the people affected by Schedule 12 being heard in the process of the Government reviewing whether the system is working and whether they will keep it in place.

We on these Benches believe that that should be done by an independent body or organisation—that is, an independent voice that is not the Government or one of their organisations. The reason is that we know that this schedule will have an enormous impact on our social care systems. Given that those systems have already suffered a crisis in funding and resources—and will also be taking in volunteers to help—this is an important moment.

It is important for two groups of people in particular. Yesterday, I was struck by the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson; as I said then, she made me realise that the impact of this Bill on the disabled is profound indeed. There are two groups that need to be represented and whose voices need to be heard. One is the elderly and housebound; for them, an organisation such as Age UK, or something similar, may be appropriate. The other is the disabled. Both groups of people will be physically and mentally affected by the schedule, but the disabled are a particular cause for concern because this is also about their rights. I gave the Minister notice of the fact that we want those rights to be suspended for a shorter period.

This amendment is about finding a way for affected people in those groups to have a voice. We all need to be very disciplined in this part of the journey through the Bill so I do not intend to speak for much longer; but I would like to say how impressed I am by the way that Age UK has been approaching this crisis, which, of course, has enormous implications for the people it seeks to champion, represent and campaign for. Age UK’s chief executive Steph Harland said:

“Before this crisis began, we were already very concerned about the large numbers of older people who were disadvantaged and isolated. The reality is we’re not at the toughest point of this crisis yet, and it’s difficult to predict what that will mean for us as individuals, our charity, and the older people who rely on us and our partners across the country. What we know with certainty is it will get far more difficult than it is today and older people’s needs will sky-rocket.”

She is quite right. This amendment makes the point that that voice needs to be heard, and the Government need to listen to it as part of their monitoring. I beg to move.