Questions remain over disability benefits plans


Care services minister Phil Hope has again refused to say which disability benefits – in addition to attendance allowance (AA) – the government is considering scrapping as part of its care and support reforms.

The government said in a green paper in July that it was considering “integrating” some disability benefits, including AA, to help fund means-tested council care services.  

Last week, it ruled out scrapping disability living allowance (DLA) for those under 65, although the Department of Health suggested it was still considering doing so for those over 65.

This week, Hope answered questions about the green paper at a joint meeting of parliamentary groups, including those on disability and social care.

He admitted there had been a “very high volume of responses about AA and DLA” in the Big Care Debate green paper consultation.

But he also claimed the government had never intended to scrap DLA for those under 65 as part of its plans for a “National Care Service”.

He said the announcement by health secretary Andy Burnham ruling out scrapping DLA for under-65s was made “largely because it was never included in the first place” but also because of “the uncertainty it was causing” disabled people.

But the disabled Labour peer Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins asked him: “The green paper talks about other disability benefits. Could you be specific about what disability benefits are being considered?”

Hope replied: “Primarily we have modelled AA and we are keen to hear people’s views about whether there are any other benefits that might be put in.”

When she repeated her question, Hope said: “I am happy to listen to people, [to]what they believe. At the moment we have only modelled AA.” 

Baroness [Jane] Campbell asked how the government would decide which disabled people were so impaired that they would qualify for free personal care at home, as announced by Gordon Brown during Labour’s party conference. Hope said he could not yet say.

He said the consultation revealed “overwhelming support” for a National Care Service, built on features such as “prevention”, “personalisation” and a single assessment system.

He also admitted the consultation had revealed “a lot of support” for a tax-funded care system.

Hope said the government should be able to produce more detailed figures on the various financial models outlined in the green paper by the end of October.

A care and support white paper is due early in 2010.

28 October 2009

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