Clause 83

Welfare Reform Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:15 pm on 10th May 2011.

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Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire 7:15 pm, 10th May 2011

In a change to the published selection list, I intend to select amendment 247. The reason why I have decided to do so is that, although amendment 247 has not been tabled with the notice that I would ordinarily require for selection, I am satisfied that the amendment represents a revision of amendments 225 and 226, which were tabled with adequate notice. In this instance, unusually and for that reason, I am therefore prepared to select this starred amendment.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I beg to move amendment 247, in clause 83, page 58, line 34, leave out ‘meets the condition in subsection (2)’ and insert ‘is an in-patient of a hospital.’.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 225, in clause 83, page 58, line 37, leave out

‘or a resident of a care home’.

Amendment 226, in clause 83, page 58, line 40, leave out subsection (3).

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Thank you, Mr Gray, for that ruling, which is much appreciated. I am sure that we are all feeling a bit weary, but this part of the Bill will certainly wake us up, because it is the most controversial element and the one that has received by far the most attention.

There are no surprises in what the Opposition will say this afternoon. The Government are well aware that we do not believe that the DLA mobility component should be removed from those in residential care homes. We believe that the Bill fails the compassion test because it contains this clause, which will remove the mobility component of DLA for people in residential care homes and put nothing appropriate in its place. We support sensible, careful and compassionate reform to DLA, but this measure will leave many disabled people trapped in their own homes.

There have been various developments in the story of the DLA mobility component cut, so it might be helpful to the Committee if I provide a brief summary of how we got here and try to clarify exactly where we are now. Originally, the Government stated that 60,000 people would be affected by the decision to remove DLA mobility from those in residential care homes:

“We estimate that approximately 60,000 people who claim DLA and live in residential care will be affected by this measure in Great Britain.”—[Official Report, 3 November 2010; Vol. 517, c. 819W.]

The Government have since updated that estimate, and they are now on record as stating that the change will affect about 80,000 people, at a cost saving to the Exchequer of £160 million. I am sure that people are familiar with that figure. On 23 March, the Prime Minister told the House that the Government would not remove the mobility component of DLA. When pressed by the Leader of the Opposition

“Will the Prime Minister explain why he proposes to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance from 80,000 care home residents?”— the Prime Minister categorically said:

“The short answer is that we are not.”—[Official Report, 23 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 944.]

The Budget Red Book, which I know that Members have here today, flatly contradicts the Prime Minister’s statement on two key points. It confirms that the Government plan to remove the mobility component of DLA from claimants in residential care, with £475 million taken from people in residential care by 2015-16 and a cut of £150 million more from the mobility component of DLA than originally forecast in the comprehensive spending review last year—of course that reflects the 20,000 extra people who will lose the mobility component.

Following widespread condemnation of the decision to take the mobility component away from those in residential care homes, the Government once again  changed tack and told us that that decision was now subject to a review. I am sure that many Government Members welcomed that review. The Minister knows that I have asked a series of parliamentary questions about that apparent review, which seems to be shrouded in secrecy.

For the record, I asked the Minister when she expected the results of the review to be published; whether people living in state-funded residential care will be eligible to receive payment of the mobility component of PIP; what plans she has to engage disabled people, groups and organisations in her Department’s review of the proposal and what the terms of reference were for the review. I tabled those questions some time ago, and I received a reply today—perhaps in good time for the Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham has had similar experiences.

The Minister replied:

“The Government received a great deal of feedback on the proposal”—

I am sure they did—

“announced in the spending review, to withdraw the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from people in residential care homes…In response to the concerns raised by individuals and organisations, we announced that we would not remove the DLA mobility component from people in residential care from October 2012 and that we would review the existing evidence and gather more to enable us to determine the extent to which there are overlaps in provision for mobility needs of people in residential care homes.

The work is being carried out by civil servants in the Department for Work and Pensions and has included, among other things, discussions with individuals and groups of disabled people as well as with organisations which represent them.”

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover 7:30 pm, 10th May 2011

I am listening with great care to the case the hon. Lady is putting forward. Does she think that, in principle, it is right or wrong that people receive the mobility component in a residential care home when they are not mobile nor will be mobile or able to go anywhere whatever? Should such people receive or not receive a mobility component?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. He always makes for a lively debate. I heard a colleague say, “That is not the issue”. It is indeed not the issue. In fact, we dealt earlier, under a different part of the Bill, with people in those circumstances. We are saying categorically that those who are eligible for the mobility component if they live in residential homes should be treated exactly the same as anyone else who is eligible for the mobility component.

Charlie Elphicke rose—

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Can the hon. Gentleman bear with me, as he might want to come back again as I refer to certain criteria? I was just about to finish reading the response I received from the Minister about the review. She continued:

“When the work is complete we will make a final decision on the way forward. We have no plans to publish the findings of this work.”—[Official Report, 9 May 2011; Vol. 527, c. 1003W.]

That was a very disappointing response, given that she knows about the parliamentary as well as the public interest in the review. The fact that the review, the outcomes of which are so monumental to so many people and have stirred up such controversy, will not be published really begs many questions. Today, we are calling for full disclosure of the review, much of which will be shaped on what the Minister actually says in response to the amendment. I am assuming that the Government will go ahead, as they planned, although there are many inconsistencies. However, perhaps the hon. Lady can explain why we have had to fight for such things.

Let me put on the record the Opposition’s resistance to the cut. I have been asked to do so, and feel obliged to do so on behalf of many charities that have campaigned against it. Charities are campaigning against the changes, warning that they are fundamentally unfair, target the most vulnerable people in the country and will mean people becoming

“prisoners in their own homes”.

Such credible and respected charities would not use such phrases lightly. Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope, the publisher of “Disability Now”, said:

“The government position has varied massively and this leads to fear and anxiety in the minds of disabled people and their families. If the Prime Minister’s comments mean that the government is going to withdraw that clause, that would be very welcome, but DWP have confirmed that that is not the government’s intention.

The assault on the most vulnerable is characterised by the callous removal”— the words of the chief executive of Scope, not mine—

“of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people living in residential care, which will simply increase dependency and mean many people will literally become prisoners in their own homes.”

Mark Goldring, the chief executive of Mencap, said:

“The removal of the DLA mobility component and the squeezing of local authority budgets, which help fund residential care homes, is a double blow for people with a learning disability. They rely on this money to access the community and live a fulfilled life. Through this cut the government is targeting some of society’s most vulnerable people who cannot always fight for their rights themselves. It also suggests that the government does not believe that people in residential care who receive DLA are entitled to live independently.”

Again, people will be aware of the comparison with hospitals, which was particularly provocative. Mark Goldring continued:

“This cut will take us back to the days when people were left in care homes with just four walls for company and will undo decades of progress. Mencap is calling for the government to urgently review this proposal and prevent this devastating blow to some of the UK’s most vulnerable people.”

In its submission to the consultation on reform to DLA, the Social Security Advisory Committee argued that the proposal to remove the mobility component should not go ahead, arguing that it would substantially reduce the independence of disabled people who are being cared for in residential accommodation. It stated:

“We consider that the proposal to remove the mobility component from people in residential care should not go ahead. This measure will substantially reduce the independence of disabled people who are being cared for in residential accommodation, which goes against the stated aim of the reform of DLA to support disabled people to lead independent and active lives.”

The Minister will know that a large group of influential charities from the disability and social care sector have produced a report on the Government’s proposal to scrap the DLA mobility component. The report highlights the fact that at different times the Government have used eight different arguments, which have shifted to justify this one cut. The report outlines why each argument is deeply flawed:

“We are particularly concerned about the Government’s continuing shift in rationale for this cut and the lack of supporting evidence.

1. The responsibility for mobility/transport costs should be met by the care home provider

2. DLA mobility is being misused and needs reforming

3. DLA mobility is being used to purchase wheelchairs when this cost should be met by the NHS Wheelchair Service

4. The change will align the rules for people living in residential care with people in hospital

5. There is an overlap in transport provision for disabled people. Schemes such as dial-a-ride provide for the transport needs of individuals with a disability

6. Local authorities should be assessing and meeting personal mobility needs

7. Local authorities’ contracts with care homes should cover personal mobility needs

8. People in NHS funded residential care do not receive DLA mobility”.

One person has given substantial, powerful evidence, which I wanted to quote in full, Mr Gray, but I will not because he has asked us not to go into it in depth. It is a substantial part of the argument, so I will briefly quote the end, if I may. I will not go through the substance of it, but may I state for the record that the gentleman’s name is Vincent Greenwood? His memorandum on behalf of his son stated:

“Simon Greenwood is aged 30, is severely learning disabled with a mental age of less than 2 years. Simon is also autistic.”

It is a powerful illustration of why the use of the mobility component adds enormously to the quality of his son’s life. He concluded:

“The evidence given…shows how important the mobility allowance is to my son’s life and the ability of his care home to give all residents as full and independent a life as possible. I also believe most care homes have alternative but equally effective arrangements. I hope I am mistaken but my fear is that the Government are in danger of confusing complexity with disorder and believing a problem to exist where it does not. Therefore I urge the Committee to ensure that the Bill and associated Regulations do not have the effect of removing the mobility component of PIP from severely disabled people in care homes.”

I have a few comments from the Liberal Democrat spring conference. My intended targets for those comments are not with us this afternoon, but I will read them out for the record, because they do in some way aid our understanding of the strength of feeling. At their spring conference earlier this year, the Liberal Democrats tabled a motion to highlight their strong opposition to cut DLA mobility from those in residential care homes. I will shorten the quotes, Mr Gray, in line with your instruction.

“Conference regrets the recent decision to remove the mobility component of the new Personal Independence Payment…from people in residential care and from children in residential schools with effect from October 2012…The outcome of the cut for adults is not in accord with the principle of fairness because it affects the poorest recipients and allows those people who pay for their own care to retain the Mobility Component.”

The motion was successfully passed by the Liberal Democrat party and I hope, when it comes to a vote, that their Members will bear that in mind.

In conclusion, this element of the Government’s proposals has been subject to great controversy and has been heavily criticised. The goalposts have changed significantly over the past four months: first, there was the issue of double funding; then there was overlap and chaos, and everything we heard in the oral evidence sessions showed that there was no shred of evidence for that; and then there was the review and the real concerns about how it has been conducted.

In fact, some people would have us believe that no cut is taking place at all. If that is so, why are we having to deal with this provision in the Bill and why is that saving still flagged up in the Red Book? Unless the Minister makes another announcement today, which would stretch credibility a bit far, that is my understanding. If there is no cut, supporting the amendment to make that clear should not pose any difficulty. I have heard Committee members welcome the review in the sense that there will no longer be a cut and that the benefit will still be protected for disabled people. If they believe that to be the case, they should categorically support the amendment, which would send a strong signal. The removal of the clause from the Bill would also have the advantage of reassuring people such as Mr Greenwood, who are so worried.

If there are inconsistencies, the Government should sort them out with the proper authorities—the care homes and local authorities—but they should not make disabled people the victims of those inconsistencies and of any overlaps in the system. If we care about the evidence that we have all received, the only option is to support the amendment. It would categorically protect the interests of those living in residential homes and ensure that they receive the benefits to which they are entitled, because they receive precious few benefits and they need them.

Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East

This issue has been running for several months. Even before the consultation and the discussion about the need to reform DLA, it appeared to be a one-off issue. Without a doubt, the proposal appeared to be a savings measure. No less a person than the Prime Minister repeatedly stated that the reason for it was to equalise the position with people in hospital, whose situation is said to be equivalent. That was either an example of equalising downward, to which I referred earlier, or it was a misconception about what it means to be in residential care and in hospital.

The intervention made by the hon. Member for Dover suggests that he still labours under the same misconception that people in residential care are like people in what I describe as nursing homes—they are so ill that they are nursed in bed. It takes a long time for DLA to be removed. People in hospital, usually for a relatively short period, clearly suffer from an illness that is over and above their usual disability, which is why they are there. The days have long gone when people spent long periods in hospitals that were equivalent to what are now residential homes.

What became clear during the discussion was that we are talking about not only elderly people, whom some folk think should not go out too much and need not be  mobile if they are in residential care, but young disabled people. They can participate, and are encouraged to participate, not only in social activities, but in training, education and employment, and to meet their care needs—rather than having round-the-clock 24-hour care at home, which might be another option for some—they are in a residential facility. We may have started from a misconception, but we are now in a position where the longer we debate the matter, the more convoluted the arguments become, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East suggested.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover 7:45 pm, 10th May 2011

Far from being a luddite, I am clear-sighted and focused about the nature of elderly residential care, having had personal experience of it. The hon. Lady makes a fair point, however, about younger people’s residential care, providing there is no double counting. Older people’s residential care is my concern, because if the allowance is not used to get out and about, how can it be properly targeted?

Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East

People have to apply for benefit under both the DLA system and the proposed PIP, so it is not simply handed out, with people saying, “Here you are, in residential care—here’s your mobility allowance.” I understand that people will still have to make an individual application and they will doubtless have to demonstrate that they meet the criteria. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East referred to one of those criteria, which is in a separate section that deals with people who are unable to make use of a mobility payment.

Under the measure, people will have to meet the criteria to enable them to participate in society. We have heard much about what personal independence payment is meant to be about. It is to enable people to have the freedoms that the rest of us have. That might be to meet friends and participate in clubs on a social basis, to volunteer, or—especially for some of the younger, working-age people in that situation—to hold down a job or undertake training. Any concerns about people not needing benefit are addressed by the fact that they have to apply for it, which they will have to do under the personal independence payment, and as we have heard, there will be tests in that process.

The suggestion of ruling out a group from the benefit does not sit well with what we have heard in our discussions. Even this very afternoon, we have been told how important it is not to categorise people by group or allow them to have automatic entitlement to a benefit by group, because we must look at people as individuals. It seems strange, therefore, that the proposal suggests that someone should not receive the benefit because of their group category—because they are in a residential care facility. I argue that individuals in that situation should be considered individually. Saying that someone clearly does not meet the requirement or cannot make use of it is very different from saying that anyone in that situation should not be covered.

It was unclear what was meant by the review. The proposal has its own savings category, which is quite separate from any other financial savings that some people might feel will be made from this reform; it comes as a distinct line in the Budget. I was left unclear some weeks ago about whether there would be a review of the specific proposal or whether the proposal was being put into the mix to be considered as part of PIP.  In other words, would people who currently receive the benefit be transitioned to PIP, at which time we would look again at their need for and entitlement to that benefit, or at some point between now and 2013, will a decision be made about what is happening to those people as a group?

If there is double payment, and the evidence from many people is that there is not, the only way to establish that would be for the Department for Work and Pensions to contact local authorities up and down the country to ascertain what people pay for and do not pay for, and what their contracts with care homes cover. If there is an ongoing process to ascertain whether there really is an overlap and a duplication of payments, it is not clear that it is happening. It is not clear that requests for information are going to local authorities. Many allegations of double payment have been made, although little evidence has been adduced. I cannot see an easy way of gathering it without making contact with local authorities, though that will be an expensive process, putting a lot of people to a lot of effort.

Having been in politics as a local councillor, I know that proposals can be made that on the face of it sound like a good idea. However, when examined further, it is realised that the proposal is inherently bad. There are times when it is true that, “If you are in a hole, stop digging.” This is one of them.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston

I strongly endorse the comments of my hon. Friends. I also want the Minister to be crystal clear about the Government’s attitude to proposals affecting people entitled to the mobility component or disability living allowance in residential care homes. Like my hon. Friends, I am confused about what we are reviewing, and why the savings identified by the Government remain in the Budget Red Book.

I want to add a few remarks about the reasons why this particular Government proposal has excited so much concern across so many organisations and families, and across all parties. I have been struck by the depth of concern across the House about the matter, as I am sure the Minister has. There are a few points about which we need to be crystal clear, to understand why my hon. Friends tabled the amendment.

First, we are looking at the position of care homes. Many care homes receive their funding from local authorities in block form. It is not necessarily broken down by the items of expenditure purchased, or by the individuals and the items bought for them. Even if there is some funding by local authorities of mobility for individuals in some residential care settings, it is often extremely difficult to identify. It is not the usual way that the funding package is constructed for care homes. We are looking at a very murky and confusing picture, if we start to read that kind of financial support into the existing contracts.

However, many residential care homes expect to receive people in receipt of DLA as a precondition of taking them on. They know that they come with that source of funding, to enable them to access their own mobility needs and requirements. To be able to provide the quality of care that they want, it is important for care homes to know that they have residents who will be mobile because they have access to the DLA mobility component. That becomes, in some instances at least, a precondition of the acceptance of a disabled person to the residential care setting.

It is important to realise what could happen if those care homes no longer receive those residents and the payments made for them by local authorities. The overall financial impact on residential care homes could be very damaging. It has been suggested that many of them would be forced to reduce wages to care workers. We all know that poor wages lead to poor care, which none of us wants to see for our most disabled individuals.

As my hon. Friends have said, it has not been possible to uncover any specific evidence of duplication of payments. All the witnesses who gave us evidence on this matter, while accepting that it might exist, had never seen it, despite their extensive experience in the disability field. The Disability Alliance has made clear that, if the Government were suggesting that there is a statutory obligation on local authorities to fund mobility needs for residents in care homes, it is completely unclear where such statutory obligation sits.

We know that people in residential care settings are living in what is their home. As my hon. Friends have rightly pointed out, a benefit to assist mobility should not operate differently because of the nature of the home setting. I remind the hon. Member for Dover that we must not confuse profound disability with immobility. People may experience severe levels of need and disability, but it does not mean that they should not be entitled to move around in the community as part of their daily life.

Let me tell the Committee about Hamza, the profoundly disabled adult son of my constituent Mrs Khan-Sindhu. He is in his early 20s and, as a result of brain damage at birth, he is a wheelchair user. He is doubly incontinent and has profound learning difficulties, but he loves being able to go home to visit his extended family at the weekends. Without the mobility component of disability living allowance, which enables his family to afford specially adapted transport, he would not have that pleasure. I am sure that no hon. Member would want people such as Hamza to be unable to enjoy such quality of life.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

The hon. Lady makes a powerful point about targeting, but let me give her another case based on my personal experience. I had to look after my father for the last 10 years of his life. He had Alzheimer’s and was in an elderly people’s residential home. Holding his power of attorney, I was fiducially obliged to claim on his behalf the highest amount that I could. That meant the mobility component, but I did not want him to go anywhere. If he went out for more than five minutes, he would forget who he was and where he was and would become lost. That was the nature of his condition. It is a serious issue. Surely the mobility component should be targeted at need and utilisation, rather than being handed out to everyone who wants to claim it.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston

The problem with the Government’s position is that it is a blanket withdrawal of the benefit from predominantly working-age adults. People have to be of working age to make an initial claim, although the payment may continue beyond retirement. We are talking about predominantly working-age people, younger middle-aged people. For many such people it may be right, in terms of their quality of life and access to social and other activities, that they receive the personal independence payment or the mobility component of DLA.

Whatever the merits of the hon. Gentleman’s argument for targeting to avoid some of the money potentially going to people at the very end of their life and who could in no sense benefit from mobility support, the assessment process should be capable of determining whether there is an entitlement to mobility payments, as my hon. Friends have pointed out. It is utterly wrong to remove such payments wholesale from everyone simply by dint of their being in residential care.

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman said about the circumstances in which it might be wrong for people to move out of their residential care setting. Conversely, the National Autistic Society has pointed out the damaging effects of people being confined to their home and being unable to go out and undertake social activities. That can have an extremely harmful effect on their behaviour and well-being.

My hon. Friends pointed out that some people in residential care homes, none the less, leave their homes to access education or training. Some are leaving their homes to access employment. The mobility component can be used, for example, to assist them in acquiring a Motability car. Removing the mobility component, which will remove their ability to pay for transport, such as special taxi services or the acquisition of specially adapted cars to drive themselves, will remove them from paid employment. Not many people are in that situation, but surely we do not want to remove from profoundly disabled people who are able to take paid work the financial support that enables them to do so.

I look forward to the Minister’s clarification of the Government’s intentions. If we are to assume that everything Ministers have said in recent weeks can be taken in the upmost good faith, then, as my hon. Friend says, there should be no difficulty for any Member in supporting the amendment. It is probably our last chance to offer real reassurance to profoundly disabled people and their families that there will be proper recognition of their serious concerns. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 8:00 pm, 10th May 2011

I welcome your decision to accept the late amendment 247, Mr Gray, to ensure that we have a full debate on the issue tonight, because it is important not only for members of the Committee but for those listening to the debate. I hope I can provide Members with some assurance and clarity on this issue, because it is an important one that has, as the hon. Ladies have said, prompted a great deal of discussion, debate and comment.

First, I want to turn to another aspect of the amendments that the hon. Member for Glasgow East tabled on her party’s behalf. Currently, payment of the care component of DLA stops when a person is in a care home, and payment of the care and mobility components stops when a person is a hospital in-patient. That ensures that there is no double payment for the same need. However, any mobility component of DLA continues to be paid to people in residential care. Clause 83 replicates the existing rules for the daily living component for people in residential care, and for both the daily living and mobility components for people in hospital. In addition, the clause provides for the extension of the non-payment of the mobility component for people in residential care if there is an overlap of provision.

I am somewhat surprised that the hon. Lady has taken the approach she has with the amendments, particularly given that it would reverse provisions that the previous Government had formally supported—on ceasing to pay the daily living component to people in publicly funded residential care. I remind hon. Members that successive Governments have accepted that the care needs of residents in care homes are met through local authority funding, and that is why the care component of DLA currently stops when a person is in a care home. Under the amendment, the cost to the taxpayer last year would have been an additional £235 million. It cannot be Opposition Members’ intention to introduce an amendment that would result in the taxpayer paying twice for the same need.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I think the Minister is discussing an amendment that was on the amendment paper previously, not the one we are debating now.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Order. The amendments were of course on the amendment paper before. They are grouped with amendment 247, so we are indeed discussing them.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I simply wanted to clarify that what the Minister is saying does not apply to amendment 247.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Obviously, I am speaking to the three amendments on the amendment paper. An amendment was tabled late, which we are happy to debate in addition; but I presumed that, because the others had been selected by you, Mr Gray, and submitted by Opposition Members, those are subject to debate.

Stephen Timms rose—

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Order. The position is quite contrary to normal practice. Owing to amendment 247’s late submission, we would normally have debated amendments 225 and 226 only. However, because amendment 247 seemed quite plainly to be amending amendments 225 and 226, it seemed reasonable to accept that late amendment, and, in informal discussions with both sides of the Committee, everyone seemed to agree that that was a sensible thing to do. If we are discussing amendment 247 grouped with amendments 225 and 226, it is therefore perfectly in order to discuss all those amendments.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I thank you for that clarification, Mr Gray. It may not have been Opposition Members’ intention to have submitted that amendment in this way. However, it is clear that these amendments, if proceeded with, would make some substantial changes to the provision of support for people living in residential care homes and in those paid for by the NHS. In doing so, they would also entail quite an additional cost.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

The Minister is perhaps unnecessarily detaining the Committee on this issue. Our intention was to substitute amendment 247 for amendments 225 and 226. You have helpfully indicated, Mr Gray, that to facilitate debate on this matter tonight, which the Government want and are perfectly entitled to have,  you have enabled us to debate amendment 247. I suppose that, to avoid the rather misleading comments the Minister is now making, we should have withdrawn amendments 225 and 226. I do not know, Mr Gray, whether—

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Order. It is simply not possible to withdraw amendments that have previously been selected and are therefore on the selection list. We are entering into a debate on this issue, and the Minister is indicating that, had amendments 225 and 226, which it is perfectly in order for the Committee to discuss, been moved by the right hon. Gentleman, there would have been certain consequences. As the Minister will understand, the Opposition’s intention was to replace amendments 225 and 226 with amendment 247, but that is not what occurred, and it could not occur under our procedure. All three amendments, therefore, are on the Order Paper, and all three are being debated. It is perfectly in order for the Minister to comment on amendments 225 and 226, but she should bear it in mind, particularly given the late hour, that the intention behind amendment 247 is to replace amendments 225 and 226.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Thank you for that clarification, Mr Gray, and I am pleased to hear that the Opposition will not be pressing the relevant amendments and will think again about them. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that I would never wish to mislead the Committee—I am sure he would not want to imply that I would—and I was simply responding to the amendments he had tabled, which, obviously, is my role.

I want to send a very clear message to both sides of the Committee about the new power in clause 83. We have already announced that we will not remove the mobility component of DLA from people in residential care from October 2012, as was originally planned, and we have said clearly that we will review the needs of care home residents alongside all other recipients of DLA, either current or future, and not separately. That is entirely consistent with what the Prime Minister said and what I said previously. Let me be absolutely clear: we will not remove disabled people’s mobility. We will only remove overlaps.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Perhaps the hon. Lady will forgive me, but I will not, because if can finish my argument I might address her questions before she asks them.

A couple of hon. Members questioned whether our approach has been consistent, to which I assert that we have been absolutely consistent from the start. Our contention is that this proposal is about reducing overlaps in provision—something I am sure all hon. Members would want to see. In a time of fiscal problems for our country, we do not want to pay unnecessarily for the same provision twice, and that applies not only in this area but in many other areas of government. All hon. Members want that, as do our constituents and all disabled people: they want to ensure that we are spending every penny piece most effectively in their interests.

This is not about reducing the mobility of care home residents. We have considered this issue thoroughly, particularly in light of evidence provided by a number  of stakeholders, which has been extremely useful in providing some of the detail. The hon. Member for Glasgow East highlighted the fact that the savings are still shown in the Red Book. Let me again make it clear to the Committee, some of whom have been Ministers and will understand the protocols involved, that the current position is that care home support is being reviewed alongside the broader reform of DLA. The figures in the Red Book make it clear that the savings will be made as part of the Government’s overall programme of reform. That is the situation we are in. I give way to the hon. Member for Edinburgh East, who tried to intervene earlier.

Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East

I want to press the Minister further on this point. Earlier, I asked whether this was a review of the proposal. The initial proposal, without a doubt, involved the blanket removal of the mobility component of DLA from people in residential care. I asked whether the intention was to review that proposal or to include the recipients within the overall transition from DLA to PIP. I now understand the Minister to be saying that she intends that individual cases will be looked at as and when people are moved from DLA to PIP. People will have the opportunity to have their cases reviewed. If there is overlap, the benefit will be removed; otherwise, it will not be. However, surely the financial saving relating to this blanket proposal remains within the Government’s budget, so is the Minister saying that that proposal has now been withdrawn in its entirety, with the financial consequences?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The hon. Lady probably was not listening to what I was saying earlier. I have made it clear that care home residents’ needs will be reviewed at exactly the same time as everybody else’s, not separately and not before. So in as much as that is a change, it is one that has been agreed to. It is important that we get this right for everybody.

Sheila Gilmore rose—

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Perhaps the hon. Lady could allow me to respond fully to her point before she intervenes again. Regarding the finances in the Red Book, it is clear that we have to make those savings. How we make them will be down to the way the assessment is put together. Care home residents will be part of that whole process, as we have discussed for the last few hours. We still have a great deal of work to do on how those assessment criteria will work, and care home residents will form part of that. That provides the clarity that Committee members need on this issue.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston

Is the Minister suggesting that the savings in the Red Book will arise entirely because double funding will be identified, and DLA and PIP payments will not therefore be made for those individuals where double funding is in existence? Or is she suggesting that some of those individuals will cease to qualify as a result of the assessment? What she is not suggesting, I think, is that the mere fact they are in residential care homes will, of itself, disqualify them in future.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

If I can unpick the hon. Lady’s question, it is clear that there is a saving that needs to be made. That is the fiscal challenge we face as a Government.  The way in which we achieve that is down to the ministerial team. I can give the hon. Lady an absolute assurance that we are not about removing mobility from people who live in care homes; but what we are about—wherever we can, in whatever part of government—is identifying where there are overlaps and removing them.

Sheila Gilmore rose—

Stephen Timms rose—

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

If Opposition Members will allow me to continue, they may be reassured by what I am saying. Because of the extensive work being done in this area, several Opposition Members have asked about the review we have been carrying out. This is an important part of our decision-making process.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I do not understand the argument. According to my reading of clause 83, unamended, people in residential care will not get the mobility component. The Minister says that she does not intend to take the mobility component away from those people. Does that mean that the Government will amend the Bill?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 8:15 pm, 10th May 2011

What I am saying very clearly is that the way we decide to support individuals in care homes will be looked at alongside the support for other recipients of DLA. We will not remove mobility support from people if additional support is not in place.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I shall proceed with my comments otherwise we will get even more bogged down in the detail.

When looking at this issue, we have discovered a number of things that need addressing concerning the local provision of mobility support, and I am not willing to walk away from some of the problems that we have identified. There is clearly uncertainty about how mobility support works in practice. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy has graphically described some of the work he has been doing by talking to care homes in his constituency, and the different ways that individual care homes identify and meet the mobility needs of their residents. There are a wide range of different duties and contractual obligations to meet those needs, and service providers and residents—and their families—are sometimes very unclear about where the responsibility lies for mobility funding. The issue might be difficult and add complications to the debate, but it is an important part of unpicking the problem. If we are to address the fundamental issue of ensuring certainty about the provision and funding of mobility support for some of the most vulnerable members of our community, we must acknowledge that the system is far from perfect and requires some intervention and remedial work.

Families and disabled people across the board have been concerned about the lack of clarity, and to me that is unacceptable given that we are dealing with some of  the most vulnerable people in society. In reforming DLA and introducing PIP, we must recognise the importance of mobility to residents in care homes, and members of the Committee can be assured that all Government Members take that issue seriously. We must ensure that we have a system where disabled people are in control of their lives, whether or not they are residents of care homes.

I welcome the commitment made by the Minister responsible for social care, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), to personalised services for all disabled people, and I hope that that will move towards clarifying and reducing some of the confusion and opacity currently in the system. Those charities that have been vocal about the issue have pointed out that current provision is patchy at best and may not always work in the best interests of disabled people. I do not find that situation acceptable and I give the Committee a clear undertaking that we will not remove the ability of severely disabled people to get out and about. We will always strive to remove overlaps, and as we move towards introducing the PIP in April 2013, I will make sure that disabled people are treated fairly, regardless of their place of residence. I hope that with those reassurances, hon. Members will find it appropriate to withdraw their amendments.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am speechless: whatever way one describes this measure, it certainly is not clear—no wonder people are confused. I am not at all clear where the Government are coming from on this matter, and as the evidence I gave in my opening speech shows, Labour Members are not the only people who think that. This is not part of a political agenda; the entire disability movement will agree with us. My speech was based on evidence from the disability movement, and the Minister has provided no evidence to support what I believe is her argument.

The Minister says that she does not want us to get bogged down in detail, but I repeat: we have no answers to fundamental questions on this provision. What is the purpose of clause 83? Who does it address and whose circumstances will change as a result?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am sorry to detain the Committee, but which bit of not wanting to remove the ability of severely disabled people to get out and about, and wanting to focus only on overlaps, is unclear?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

We are talking specifically about the clause, and as several of my hon. Friends have indicated, when the Bill was published the Government made it explicitly clear—

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Does the hon. Lady agree with the remarks I have just made, namely that it is important for the Government to have made clear that it is not our intention to remove the ability of severely disabled people to get out and about, and that we are focusing on overlaps? Does she agree that that is a good objective, and does she support us in that objective?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

First, I do not think the Bill provides for that and, secondly, it depends on what we mean by all those things. It depends on what we mean by overlap.  If overlap is ironed out at the cost of disabled people, I would not accept that. If administrative systems are ironed out, I would support it. The Minister has not been clear about this in any of the many discussions that I and disability organisations have had with her. None of us is clear; we remain confused about the purpose of clause 83. Will some people in residential homes lose their benefit, or will all people in residential homes lose their benefit? Will some lose it as a result of the review? Will some lose it as a result of overlap?

I refer the Minister to the Red Book, because the column in the Red Book specifically refers to the mobility component in residential care. She cannot argue that this is a general, overall saving, which is a general part of the PIP assessment.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

First, clause 83 states that regulations “may” provide, so it is conditional and, therefore, it can be fine-tuned. That is as clear as day. Secondly, paragraph 2.63 on page 55 of the Red Book contains a clear explanation of what is going on and makes it clear that it will not happen before October 2012. It states:

“Mobility provision for people in residential care will be reviewed as part of the wider reform of DLA to be introduced from 2013-14.”

The paragraph ends with a cross reference to the financial table. The situation has been clear since the Budget; why do people not try reading the Red Book?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

We obviously have different definitions of the word clarity. Every time I engage in this debate—believe me, I have done so over a period of months—a different argument is posed to me. Research that has been undertaken by credible disability organisations has provided clear evidence to support the facts that I have outlined. No matter what assertions hon. Members hear tonight, no credible argument has ever been put forward to challenge that evidence.

The hon. Member for Dover has said that it is a “may” now. We do not want a “may”; we want to abolish it altogether. Let us be abundantly clear about that. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the Red Book, but—this goes to the heart of what I am trying to clarify tonight—although we are now told that a review will be conducted and perhaps there will not be a saving, the Red Book already contains a saving, which has a number and a column attached. Can the Committee not see the inconsistency in that?

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

Paragraph 2.63 cross refers to AI in table 2.2, which makes it clear that the savings in relation to the DLA mobility component and the gateway reform as a whole are cross referred and brought together. That is the essence of the review; the Government are not quite clear in which direction they are going, because, presumably, they are listening carefully to the concerns of disabled people and looking carefully at double charging, which we would expect them to do.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

That reflects a debate that was held in the Chamber, in which the Financial Secretary to the Treasury got himself into exactly the same argument. I think that he was referring to page 55 of the Budget report, but Labour Members were referring to page 44, if my memory serves me correctly, which indicates that the saving is there.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Dover for making the real problem clear, namely that the Government do not know what direction they are going in. We know the direction in which we are going. We are saying categorically that people who live in residential homes—as a category, which completely contradicts everything that the Minister has said this afternoon—should not have their mobility component taken away because they live in residential care. That is what the Government plan to do, and that is what the amendment is about.

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton Conservative, Truro and Falmouth

The hon. Lady has welcomed the commitment from the Government to make a principled decision. Does she agree that it is not possible to make a principled decision about a gateway into assessing the level of need and support that somebody needs, as a firm budget saving?

It is reasonable that the Government have identified, in the round, an estimation of the savings with these reforms. Those savings cannot be as precise as the hon. Lady is intimating, because it is a principled decision.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

With the greatest respect, if it were that, I would welcome it. I do not think that it is a principled decision, however. That is not what the Government are saying. Maybe the hon. Lady heard this, but I am asking again whether the savings estimated in the Budget—perhaps they are an estimate, although that is not what the Chancellor said, and perhaps you know the facts better than I do, but that is not what the document states—

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am sorry, Mr Gray. I will behave myself. I am sure you are well acquainted with the Chancellor too, Mr Gray. Maybe the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth can answer some of these questions, because so far the Minister has not. What is the purpose of clause 83? Will some, or all, of those who currently receive the benefit lose it as a result of this change and the budget cut? Will some, or all, lose it is as a result of the review? Will some, or all, lose it as a result of overlap? Is the plan for savings a general review?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

If the Minister will bear with me, I will make my argument. Is the plan a general review, or are we specifically looking at people in residential care homes? It is unavoidable that the Government are saying that we need to look at people in residential care homes and reassess their entitlement to a mobility component. My amendment says that that is wrong, that should not be done and that the Government have gone about it in completely the wrong way.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The hon. Lady is asking questions about the assessment criteria, which have not yet been finalised. It is not possible to answer her questions. I am still perplexed as to why the hon. Lady is not hearing my clear assurances that we are not removing severely  disabled people’s ability to get out and about. In hearing that assurance, I am perplexed as to why she does not feel it appropriate to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am astonished at that. The Minister has not given any answers that would allow me to withdraw the amendment. If she had, then, as with other amendments, I would be willing to do that. She has not managed to answer our questions. She has not explained the purpose of the clause. If the Government are saying, “We originally came forward with a proposal that categorically said that, as a group, we do not think that those in residential homes should get a mobility component”, she could have drawn the comparison, as the Prime Minister did, with people in hospitals. There was a huge reaction to that comparison. The Government reasonably said, “That was not what we meant. We understand that it is a different case and that there are differences. We need to look at this again.”

If the Government said to us, “We are looking at this again and we are undertaking a review; we will come back to you. We are not sure which direction we are going in”, I would understand that. That would be a perfectly reasonable approach. I probably would have disagreed with it, if I am being honest, but it would have been a reasonable, consistent and clear approach. That is not what the Minister has said. We will all go back through Hansard, as will a number of organisations, and find that that is not what the Minister or the Government have said. They have said that they are keeping clause 83 in the Bill, that they are undertaking a review and that they are looking at overlap, but they cannot tell us who that will apply to, what the criteria and the terms of reference are for the review or who they will be speaking to. With the greatest respect, it would a dereliction of our duty if we withdrew this amendment, given what we have heard today.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 12.

Division number 1 Decision Time — Clause 83

Aye: 10 MPs

No: 12 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 83 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Miss Chloe Smith.)

Adjourned till Thursday 12 May at Nine o’clock.