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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I did not.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, then it was another example. I thought that the noble Baroness was harking back to the example she had already used in Committee. If she was not I shall not go over that. It is undoubtedly the case that one has to look at all these cases in the round and at the person in front of the doctor, as it will be, making the decisions. It is difficult to come to decisions across the Dispatch Box about hypothetical cases, as I had been about to point out to the noble Baroness if she was putting the previous case—

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: "Hypothetical" again?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Our reforms to incapacity benefit have been designed to break the dependency culture of people who can in some cases, despite a reduced level of capacity to work, play a role in the labour market. The amendment would simply open up the possibilities of people resting on benefit despite all the offers of help and assistance open to them. I cannot believe that that is in the interests of the labour market, the taxpayer, or, least of all, those individuals concerned. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment. I hope that it will be withdrawn.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, I wonder whether he yet understands why we are worried. A partially disabled claimant who does not now qualify for incapacity benefit but who has received invalidity benefit —that is, he is pretty seriously disabled, but has failed the 10 to 15 point test—must now seek JSA. He has to meet two conditions: that he is available for work and that he is actively seeking work. The Minister rightly said that the actively seeking work test will reflect the claimant's degree of partial disability.

However, there are two problems. The first is the availability for work test; the second is the notion of what constitutes a "disabled person". First, the availability for work test, as opposed to the actively seeking work test, requires an additional set of tests which a disabled person who has a mental health problem, such as suffering panic attacks, or who is unable to go out of the house alone, may fail by virtue of his disability, thus rendering himself ineligible for benefit.

The second problem that the Minister failed to address is the definition of a "disabled person". The definition that the Minister offered is of someone receiving a disability premium, which is somebody on the disability living allowance; someone who is registered blind, I understand, or someone with a serious

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underlying medical condition. The problem is that most people with a mental health problem, who have some points from the incapacity test, do not qualify under the Minister's definition of a "disabled person" because they do not qualify for DLA, they are not registered blind and they may not be regarded as having a serious underlying medical condition. Such a person will have been sufficiently "disabled" a year, six months or even a month ago to receive invalidity benefit but has come off that benefit (although not qualifying under the new definition of "disability") and therefore has no protection at all. That is the group of people we are trying to help.

We accept that many people have a physical disability which is easily understood and appreciated by a relatively untrained employment officer and that they will not be at risk. However, someone with a moderate mental health problem or with a learning disability who has come off invalidity benefit will not, under the Minister's definition, qualify to be labelled—perhaps I should say "flagged up" because the word "labelled" has an unfortunate overtone—as a "disabled person". Such a person can be treated as though he or she is not disabled even though, to return to the Minister's example, that person may exhibit agitation, confusion or forgetfulness which results in accidents. That would count for one point. Such a person's concentration may be sustained only by prompting—again, one point. Such a person may be frequently distressed for part of the day due to mood fluctuations—again one point. The claimant's mental stress may have been a factor in making him stop work—two points—or he may frequently feel scared or panicky for no obvious reason. Again, that scores two points, making a total of seven points. However, that person does not qualify for incapacity benefit or meet the Government's definition of "disabled". That person is virtually unemployable, yet is likely to fail the availability for work test, the actively seeking work test and, without any protection being flagged up, will be incomeless.

If I have mis-stated the case, I ask the Minister to correct me, but I believe that I am right in saying that such a person will not get incapacity benefit, will not be regarded as "disabled" under the Government's own definition, and will probably be income-less. However, only a month or two months previously, such a person would have been in receipt of invalidity benefit.

Given the previous voting, there is probably no point in seeking a Division at this stage, but I think that what we are doing to some extremely vulnerable people should rest heavily on us this evening. We refused to regard them as vulnerable in the previous amendment and the Minister has not accepted that we should flag the situation at the interface with employment officers and adjudication officers when it comes to determining benefit, yet those people are virtually unemployable and without protection as they enter an overstocked labour market. We should be very worried about them. I hope that the Minister shares our concern and that, as and when we return to this issue, possibly when we consider the regulations, we shall be able to encourage him to move further than he has tonight. If we do not, we shall

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be leaving some of the most vulnerable people on our streets extremely vulnerable. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned until 7.55 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.16 to 7.55 p.m.]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 3A:

Page 1, line 12, at end insert ("and, notwithstanding any other provisions in this Act, in the case of a person who is responsible for the care of another, "available" in this context shall mean available for employment at 48 hours' notice").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak also to Amendment No. 23A. This is a simple, straightforward amendment. We all recognise, including the Government, the degree to which care in the community depends upon the willing support of carers. Government support for the Bill relating to carers introduced in another place by my honourable friend Mr. Wicks is evidence of that.

Throughout the Bill the Government have agreed that carers may restrict their hours of work as part of their jobseeking agreement. We know that most carers do not receive incapacity support premiums. They do not receive ICA. A survey by the Carers National Association found that about 60 per cent. of carers were in financial difficulties because of their caring responsibilities. Those are difficulties that would be overcome if they could re-enter the world of work.

Although we still have to persuade the Government that carers may reasonably put restrictions on location and type of work, we accept that the Government have allowed carers to limit the hours that they may work. In one important sense—beyond location and type of work—we feel that the responsibility of carers has not been recognised adequately in the Bill; that is, they have to be available for work on 24 hours' notice.

As I said, this is a simple amendment. There is no cost involved. It suggests that carers should be required to be available on 48 hours' notice only. Why is that necessary? We would all agree that young, single people without dependants would expect to be immediately available. We have all agreed, and the Government have accepted, that volunteers with commitments to organisations for which they are working should be able to give 48 hours' notice. Those volunteers are often working with old people in old people's homes and with disabled people.

If doing so as a volunteer one is entitled to offer 48 hours' notice, why if one is doing the same work but on a one-to-one basis as a carer—the same elderly or disabled people—should one be allowed only 24 hours' notice to make oneself available for work? Is not that unreasonable?

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In Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, argued that it was unreasonable to provide child care on 24 hours' notice. Tomorrow we shall be supporting the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, which provides for seven days' notice because we accept that it is crucial for the well-being of young children that they have secure and kindly care.

I have to say as a parent and a former carer of my elderly parents that finding good childminders was simplicity itself compared to finding care for elderly people. The local authority will have a list, for example, of registered childminders. There will be nurseries and there may be grandparents. It is infinitely harder to find a carer where, for example, an elderly person is becoming increasingly confused at perhaps the onset of Alzheimer's disease or may be incontinent and requiring personal toileting. But because that person may need less than 35 hours a week in care, the carer is not eligible for ICA. How easy will it be within 24 hours to find someone to undertake such demanding, difficult and not always pleasant jobs? How does one ensure that the person is gentle, kind and reliable and that the elderly or disabled person will get on with him or her? I suggest that it is not possible to achieve that within 24 hours. It would be difficult within 48 hours but at least it would be possible.

The alternative is that a conscientious and loving carer of an elderly parent, in particular, will turn down a job if within 24 hours he cannot find someone he trusts. He will then be threatened with loss of the JSA. The Minister may well say—and he would be right—that the job for which the carer can apply will reflect the hours that he is available. But carers work up to 45 hours per week unpaid. Few jobs will allow a perfect dovetailing of the employer's hours with caring responsibilities. That is fine if the caring is a modest 10 or 15 hours per week. However, trying to dovetail with work 30 or 32 hours' caring per week will be difficult and untidy. It is certain that the carer will need to have alternative and additional back-up arrangements at home in order fully to meet the employer's demands, even if he takes a reduced-hours job knowing that the person being cared for is safe and comfortable at home.

We ask for a tiny concession which will bring the situation of carers of disabled and elderly people into line with those volunteers who care for elderly and disabled people. It would also give the carer a real possibility of re-entering the world of work as he would wish. He would have a reduced-hours job knowing that there was satisfactory back-up care in place. It would help to float the carer off the poverty and social isolation that he is likely to face. I hope that on grounds of compassion and consistency the Minister will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

8 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I support the amendment and wish to advance two arguments in addition to those put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. The first argument is that we are living in

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a society in which the proportion of elderly people is constantly growing. Most families can expect to have at least one elderly dependent person. As we know from the figures projected forward to the end of the millennium and beyond, approximately one elderly person will be dependent on every two working people by the year 2010. The number of working people, or those hoping to find work, looking after a dependent elderly relation will not diminish but increase. Many working families will have to care for an elderly dependent relation.

I advance that argument because Ministers may say that if people satisfy the available-for-work and actively-seeking-work criteria they must be able to get away from their caring responsibilities. However, they will find that in real social truth the combination of caring responsibilities and attempts to obtain a remunerative job will become common for an increasing number of our fellow citizens.

Furthermore, if we cannot rely on voluntary carers within the family or the wider community there is no way in which we will be able to support by statutory services the number of elderly people for whom we must be responsible and must look after. That would be wildly expensive and an outcome that few elderly people would prefer.

My first argument is that, given the fact that in the Bill Ministers are legislating not only for today but for the next few years and beyond, and given that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, has consistently relied on precedent from previous social security Acts in order to justify some of the provisions in the Bill, any precedent that we now set could be most important. Therefore, I urge that in this instance, where we are looking at a large population of dependent elderly people in their 80s and 90s, Ministers will give fresh consideration to this relatively modest amendment.

There is a second argument which is in a sense caught up with Amendments Nos. 6 and 77. I shall not attempt to argue them now but merely point out the heavy penalties for failing to meet the condition of the jobseeker's allowance; for instance, those involved if one falls in the category of giving up a job or without sufficiently good reason refusing a job offered. We are trying to amend that heavy penalty which, as the Minister knows, can amount to as much as 26 weeks' loss of benefit.

I turn to the point so ably argued by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis; namely, that the possibility of someone losing his allowance because he failed to satisfy the condition of the jobseeker's agreement—that condition being his availability for a certain job at a certain time—could mean a very heavy penalty. If the carer failed to accept a job when it was offered to him, he could face not only the difficulty of taking up a job but the loss of the jobseeker's agreement and the benefit that goes with it.

The 24-hour rule is difficult to satisfy. Anyone who has had the care of an elderly relative or parent will know that one of the hardest things in the world is not to find another carer but to settle down the elderly relative with a new carer. That can be a nightmare, as

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almost every woman with an elderly dependant knows. The 24-hour rule is not in line with common sense nor with mildly humane practice.

I urge the Minister to consider this modest amendment. The job of looking after elderly or difficult parents or relations is not enjoyable. Probably no one would like to give that task priority over accepting a remunerative job. There is no temptation to "skive", as described by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. The Minister could well make a concession which would be to the good of care in the community, to elderly people and a cohesive, decent and mutually supportive society. I support the amendment.

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