Clause 28

– in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 26th February 2009.

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Purpose of Part

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I beg to move amendment 23, in clause 28, page 36, line 37, leave out ‘aged 18 or over’.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr. Amess. Part 2 of the Bill, which starts at clause 28, is about the right to control the provision of services to disabled people. Amendment 23 is a probing amendment, in which we seek to test why the Bill’s provisions are restricted to adults. The clause sets out the purpose of part 2 and does not in itself set out the right to control, which is dealt with in later clauses. However, I want to test the Minister on why we are limiting the provisions to adults. The Department for  Children, Schools and Families is piloting individual budgets, but as the Minister will know from our evidence-taking sessions, having different Departments carrying out pilots on individual budgets with different rules and different processes is a step backwards, not forwards. It would be better for disabled people and their families if we had one seamless framework and set of rules. Apart from anything else, that would make it clear that where a disabled child and their family had the right to control the services that they received, there would be a seamless transition in the provision of those services as the child grew up and became an adult. As a result, they would not have to move from a framework that was run by the DCSF to one that was run by the DWP or the Department of Health.

The Minister will know, and it is commonly said, that there is already an issue in local government social care services with disabled children’s transition from receiving services provided by local government children’s services organisations to receiving adult services. That transition is not always as smooth as one would hope, despite the fact that the legal definitions of a child and an adult relate to being aged 18 and should therefore be pretty predictable to local authorities, which should be able to put in place plans to make the transition seamless.

I seek to test the Minister on whether removing the limit that restricts the provisions to those aged 18 or over and extending them to all disabled people would not only be a step forward and give disabled children and their families greater rights and control in general, but help with the transitional process involved in moving into adulthood.

The other issue is the cost, particularly where local government services are concerned. Have the Government assessed the possibility of having one set of processes to supply more personalised care and support packages for adults and one set that is designed for children, with different rules and different procedures? Have they assessed whether one, seamless framework would be more cost-effective, ensuring that more resources were used to deliver front-line services or give families an individual budget and a more direct payment, rather than being used on bureaucracy and unnecessary cost?

I will hold my comments about amendment 71 until we reach it; I will not stray out of order. That is all I want to say to the Minister for now. We will get to the wider issues when we move on to later clauses.

A

How are people who have been out of work and disabled for many years, but have undertaken voluntary work to the best of their ability, going to be able to pay for their Social Care and NHS contributions? My special concern is for those who suffer from severe and enduring mental illness,(schizophrenia and bi-polar).

I am unable to remember the name of the Lady in the House of Lords who said they were all in Prison. But this is something that should be corrected. Many are in prison but due to the abominable lack of care and understanding of people who suffer from mental illness who sadly come into the penal system through lack of care, and the feature of the illness which renders them unable to recognise that they are ill.

Submitted by Alix Cull Read 2 more annotations

Photo of Jonathan R Shaw Jonathan R Shaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Disabled People; Minister for the South East), Department for Work and Pensions

In common with Committee colleagues, it is also my pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Amess—I have never heard a Member say anything else. That will stand me in good stead.

I thank the hon. Member for Forest of Dean for the amendment. He is right to probe and I welcome the spirit in which he chose his words. I shall provide details of why we are not including children at this stage, but first I shall answer a question immediately. The hon. Gentleman referred to the pilots that DCSF is undertaking, and working closely with it during those pilots, DWP will test the alignment. I shall talk about that shortly.

We are committed to extending choice and control to disabled people, which includes the empowerment of disabled children, young people and their families. The DCSF pilots will begin soon, and their evaluation will  seek to establish whether individual budgets enable families with disabled children to exercise more control and choice over the delivery of their support packages. It will also examine whether individual budgets improve outcomes for some or all disabled children and their families. The pilots will tell us which services and funding streams are suitable for inclusion in individual budgets for children.

Disabled children cannot exercise the same direct user control as many disabled adults. They have different needs from adults and access different services, which are provided under a different statutory framework. That is why a specific children’s pilot is required—to determine how best to ensure that the appropriate services are developed to meet children’s needs. There are also issues about how children’s rights to individual budgets interplay with the rights of parents, and how those rights interact with provisions in children’s legislation, so it is neither timely nor appropriate to introduce legislation before those issues have been explored further.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful for that outline. I am not sure about the language, but the hon. Gentleman’s Department has decided to call its pilots trailblazers. In one sense I welcome that, because it implies that the Department is committed to rolling out individual budgets, as it explicitly stated in the White Paper. The pilots—the trailblazers—are designed to work out how best to do so, and the commitment to do so is clear. I am not sure from what he said about DCSF, however, whether that Department has taken the decision in principle to roll out individual budgets because the evidence is clear that pilots deliver significant benefits and the pilots will test how best to do so, or whether the pilots will test whether or not the Department is going to roll out individual budgets. His Department’s commitment is clear, but is DCSF’s commitment equally clear in principle? If so, is it simply testing how best to deliver those individual budgets?

Photo of Jonathan R Shaw Jonathan R Shaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Disabled People; Minister for the South East), Department for Work and Pensions 10:00 am, 26th February 2009

The Government have made a commitment to devolving choice to the individual regarding services, but to answer those questions fully one needs to make an assessment—hence the piloting. There are different sets of legislation on the different issues of parents’ responsibilities and children’s rights. If we were to set our face and say, “This is how it’s going to be,” before the outcome of those pilots or trailblazers—whatever fantastic word we want to attach to them—the hon. Gentleman might accuse us of having an ideology without having worked out how to do things. We need to understand those complexities, and we are fully committed to doing so.

My colleagues and I have set out our ambition many times, and I know that the hon. Gentleman shares that ambition. It is also welcome to people who depend on services and who want to be empowered by being in control of care and support services as well as services that support them in work or other aspects of their lives. He is right to talk about that transition period between childhood and adulthood, and I know that my colleague, the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Phil Hope), is working on that aspect at the moment. It seems to be one of our biggest challenges to get that policy right. It  is sometimes frustrating, as a Minister, tying up different Departments, and it is frustrating as a constituency MP to see that two different departments in a local authority area do not always talk to one another as they might to serve our constituents’ needs.

We are committed to piloting this matter. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of and will support, I am sure, Aiming High for Disabled People, into which we are putting additional resources. Indeed, the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme has allocated £1 million in 2009-10, and £1 million in 2010-11, to cover the costs of individual budget pilots for disabled children. So we are putting resources in, as well as having ambition, but we need to establish what works.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out clearly the Government’s ambition. This is a probing amendment, as I said, and I am pleased that he has outlined the commitment of his Department and the DCSF to work together closely on the way in which these benefits are delivered to families, and on ensuring that, where required, the services provided to disabled children can move seamlessly into those provided to adults. Given those assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Work and Pensions Minister

I beg to move amendment 71, in clause 28, page 36, line 41, at end insert—

‘(1) When P is exercising his rights under this Part the relevant authority shall be subject to a duty to cooperate with P.’.

I, too, welcome the measures in this part. As we heard in the evidence sittings, where this approach has been applied to the caring services in the local authorities that have taken it on board, it has liberated many people and has considerably improved their lives. We strongly welcome the measures that will extend that approach to disabled people.

I should like the Minister to clarify a few things before I discuss the specifics behind this probing amendment. We welcome this approach and the pilot. The work that has been done with the caring services shows that it is key that the system is as simple and as straightforward as possible, that it is person-focused and not target-driven, that it is responsive enough to the varying needs of those with fluctuating health conditions, and that people will be given accurate and accessible information. I look forward to the pilot demonstrating those particular aspects.

Why have I tabled amendment 71? If hon. Members consider clause 30, they will see that it details the relevant authorities. In the amendment, we are saying that where a person is exercising their rights under this part of the Bill, those named authorities or people whose services have been contracted to them have a duty to co-operate. We all know and can quote examples from our constituency case load in which a particular authority or even an official has a view on something and is not prepared to give constituents what they are entitled to.

As I say, this is a probing amendment that has been tabled because we believe that it needs to be made abundantly clear to the authorities that they have a duty to co-operate and that doing so is not an option. In a sense, that will not be a problem in relation to the pilot  because the authorities will have been selected and will have agreed to it. However, as the measure is rolled out some authorities may be reluctant to participate. We believe that the cardinal principle that they have a duty to do so must be accepted.

If hon. Members read the briefing produced by the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, although some of the issues that it raises will be dealt with under the equality Bill, they will see that one if its concerns is that particularly where there is public procurement, some of the rights that have been hard fought for and are beginning to bear fruit in relation to contracting out will become lost in the overall noise. Through the amendment, we are seeking to make it clear that the rights of a disabled person are enhanced not diminished by the Bill, and that it is not an option for an authority to participate or grant that person what they are entitled to. The amendment is about liberating disabled people, not leaving them hidebound by official rules and regulations.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I support the concept of the amendment but believe that the hon. Gentleman has tabled his amendment to the wrong clause. The clause effectively sets out the purpose of the part, and a much better worded amendment is our amendment 45 to clause 31, which we shall have the opportunity to discuss later. Our amendment achieves the hon. Gentleman’s objective rather more elegantly. The theme of the quality of Liberal Democrat amendments that is emerging this morning is firming up nicely, so I will close my remarks.

Photo of Jonathan R Shaw Jonathan R Shaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Disabled People; Minister for the South East), Department for Work and Pensions

Following that very modest comment, I am delighted to respond to the hon. Member for Rochdale, and I thank him for his amendment, which explicitly states that authorities must co-operate with an individual who exercises his or her right to control.

If it helps the Committee, the right to control creates a framework to improve flexibility in the services that disabled people use. It will do that through regulations that can place certain duties on public authorities. The right to control will shift the balance of power from the state to the individual and enable the individual to have a real say in how best to meet their support needs.

Regulations made under clause 31 can impose a duty on authorities to consult a disabled person when preparing a plan to meet their assessed needs. They can also empower an individual to require their authority to consult them when revising their care plan and taking account of their wishes. We have chosen to structure the clause in a way that empowers the disabled person, giving their views and wishes full consideration.

The intention is that the delivery of the right to control should be as seamless as possible for the individual, so that authorities and agencies will need to be aware of their obligations under the right to control. It is therefore implicit in the duty to consult that the result of the consultations should take account of the views of the individual. The authority in question will have to co-operate with them in order to reflect the person’s needs and wishes properly. We expect authorities to be supportive in delivering their obligations, so we will ensure that the requirements and expectations of the new right are clearly communicated.

With those words of assurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment. He was right to move the amendment, to seek assurances from the Government, but it is about achieving a balance, about ensuring that there is some autonomy and decision making locally—I am sure he supports that for local authorities, and perhaps a little more than I do generally, hence what I am saying about the amendment—but also some for the individual. That is what we are concerned about today, and what we are doing with the regulations will get the balance about right.

Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Work and Pensions Minister

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. As I said at the start, the amendment was probing in nature, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.