Clause 83

Part of Welfare Reform Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:45 pm on 10th May 2011.

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Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston 7:45 pm, 10th May 2011

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.