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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for responding to the point. However, in the light of his reply, I must confirm that the Minister is not able or willing to give us assurances on what are in my view two very vulnerable groups: those coming off invalidity benefit who have partial disability but have no guarantee that they will be regarded or treated as vulnerable either in terms of their jobseeking agreement or in terms of their continued eligibility for hardship payment should a doubt be raised as to their availability for work on the one hand, and the same problem with the homeless and those under 18 on the other.

Moreover, given that any changes to the potential list that the Minister has outlined for us may, after April 1996, be reduced and this House will have no capacity to amend and may not even have the opportunity to scrutinise, I seek the opinion of the House.

6.42 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 59; Not-Contents, 114.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Barnett, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bledisloe, V.
Brain, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Craigavon, V.
David, B.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falkland, V.
Geraint, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Grey, E.
Hamwee, B.
Hardinge, V.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howell, L.
Hughes, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lawrence, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Liverpool, Bp.
Lockwood, B.
McCarthy, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McNair, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Newcastle, Bp.
Nicol, B.
Palmer, L.
Perry of Walton, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Stedman, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Whaddon, L.
White, B.
Williams of Crosby, B. [Teller.]
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Addison, V.
Aldington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Astor, V.
Balfour, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Brigstocke, B.
Brookes, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnock, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Colwyn, L.
Courtown, E.
Cox, B.
Craigmyle, L.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Deedes, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elton, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Greenway, L.
Hacking, L.
Haig, E.
Hanson, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Hemphill, L.
Henley, L.
Hives, L.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hood, V.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L.
Jeffreys, L.
Kenilworth, L.
Kimball, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Kingsland, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Macleod of Borve, B.
Malmesbury, E.
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Miller of Hendon, B. [Teller.]
Milverton, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moyne, L.
Munster, E.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orkney, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Pender, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Romney, E.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strange, B.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Suffield, L.
Teynham, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Torphichen, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Wakeham, L.
Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

15 May 1995 : Column 354

6.50 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 3:


Page 1, line 12, at end insert ("or, if he falls to be treated as not available, he shall nonetheless be entitled to a jobseeker's allowance where he has been assessed as capable of work under Part XIIA of the Benefits Act, but he has been awarded one or more points in respect of one or more descriptors applied under the all-work test").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment touches on two issues in particular: first, the interface between incapacity benefit and jobseeker's allowance; and, secondly, the interface between unemployment benefit and income support, which is being replaced by JSA. I shall deal with the second issue first. On availability for work, JSA represents the bringing together of unemployment benefit and income support, but both of those at the moment have, if one likes, different responses to the situation of availability for work. At the moment, if someone is receiving unemployment benefit and doubt arises about whether he is available for work, his benefit is continued until the doubt is resolved. If he is on income support, however, and a doubt arises about availability for work, the benefit is removed until the doubt is resolved. In amalgamating these two benefits the Government have adopted the much harsher income support rules, where benefit is stopped the moment a doubt arises, rather than the more reasonable rules of unemployment benefit, where benefit is stopped only where it is proven that the claimant is not available for work. We shall continue to debate the wrong done to people who are punished in advance of being found guilty, which is what stopping a benefit merely on a doubt entails.

The first aspect of the amendment is that if a claimant falls to be treated as not available for work, whether following the employment officer's doubt or following a judgment by the adjudication officer, he should nonetheless be entitled to a hardship payment if—this is the second part of the amendment—he has some points coming from the incapacity benefit test even though they are not sufficient to qualify him for incapacity benefit.

Why are we revisiting this matter following the previous amendment? The disabled person to whom the Minister referred in the previous discussion who is eligible for such hardship payment comes within a definition that is very narrowly drawn. Such a person has to be in receipt of a disability premium such as DLA, be registered blind or have a serious underlying medical condition. A disability premium is paid to meet the financial cost of care and mobility of someone who is disabled. It is seldom paid to someone who has, for example, a mental health condition. Therefore, most people with a mental health condition will not get a disability premium and therefore they will not come within the Government's definition. That is reinforced by the fact that the DSS's own research—Report No. 19—shows that of those on invalidity benefit only 19 per cent. also obtained DLA. Therefore, DLA is a very narrow definition of disability, particularly for someone with a mental health or learning disability.

15 May 1995 : Column 355

This amendment would widen the notion of disability for hardship purposes to include the partially disabled—those who fail to get fewer than 10 points on the mental health test or fewer than 15 points on the physical health test. About whom are we talking? In particular, such an amendment would pick up those who have not filled in the JSA form properly because they have a moderate learning disability. At the moment they would lose JSA. It would pick up those who may place too many restrictions on the nature of the work they are willing to accept, perhaps because they are frightened to go out alone. At the moment they would lose JSA. It would pick up those who may fail to turn up for an offer of work because that day they experienced a panic attack. At the moment they would be disqualified from JSA. It would pick up those who may fail to attend a Restart interview because, quite simply, they were unable to comprehend the message or the instructions. At the moment such people would fail JSA. By failing JSA they would lose benefit.

The point I am trying to make, perhaps inadequately, is that, because of the very nature of partial disability, particularly in the areas of mental health and moderate learning difficulties, by making them more eligible for hardship payments we will cost them their hardship payments precisely because they suffer panic attacks, precisely because they do not comprehend a conversation and precisely because they suffer from strong mood swings. Those are the very reasons why such people need special consideration. Yet those characteristics will cost them the consideration they should have.

It does not have to be like this. If such claimants come with points validated by the incapacity benefit system those points could be the passport, a clear simple and obvious passport, to the Employment Service and to hardship payments. But, unless we accept such an amendment, those who are partially disabled will find that their very disability renders them regularly offending against a JSA agreement and thus they will lose all benefit. It is important that we protect them. I beg to move.


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