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Lord Carter: I should like to make one point before the Minister responds. However, I shall deal with the point at length in my response to the Minister. I was very careful throughout my speech to use the word "guidance" and not "regulation". That was quite deliberate. I notice that the noble Lord slipped from guidance to regulation and then went back to guidance. There is a distinction between the two. As I said, I was careful to refer only to guidance. I also said that the amendments were not in fact properly worded to achieve the desired effect.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I should like to respond to the noble Lord. I must point out that the first words in the amendment are "Regulations shall provide". Indeed, the noble Lord is asking the Government to make regulations as regards the "advice and assistance" that may be given to such people. I feel that that is quite unnecessary.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: Before the Minister responds, perhaps I may ask a few questions. I am now speaking as the President of the Spinal Injuries Association. For some years we have run an emergency care scheme. Individuals and local authorities have used the scheme when the carer has an emergency breakdown and the severely disabled person--and I am talking

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about people who are paralysed from the neck down--is left without a helper. It is a short-term scheme of two weeks, otherwise provision of carers would be blocked.

However, such carers are trained by the Spinal Injuries Association. I should like to ask the Minister about the training of such people. As I said, we are talking about severely disabled people. Many severely disabled people can train their own carers, but they may need help in doing so. For example, they might need a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist to come in and help with the lifting procedures. Indeed, there are now EC regulations on lifting. Can the Minister say whether insurance will be taken into account in the direct payments to cover the extra expense?

Lord Swinfen: I believe that my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding has rather misread the amendment. It says:


    "Regulations shall provide that each local authority shall provide such advice".

It is the provision of that advice which is important. It does not refer to regulations as to what advice should be given. We all need advice from time to time, no matter what we do and what is our position in life. I know that a number of disabled people who wish to be independent and manage their own affairs would very much welcome advice on how to deal with employing people and on managing the grants that they receive.

In fact, in one of the briefings that I have received from People First (an organisation of people with learning difficulties for people with learning disabilities) one of the things that is specifically requested is that such people should be able to manage their own purchase of help and care but that they should also be given advice on how to do it, on how to spend the money wisely and on how to manage employees. At present, many of those people are able to live independently with the benefit of such advice. The amendments propose an extension of that advice. On the other side, local authorities are trustees of public money. I believe that the proposed extension would be compatible with their duty to ensure that that public money is properly used and not wasted. I am in favour of the amendment.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I should like to express my support for the amendment and speak also to Amendment No. 45 which is tabled in my name. I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, that he may prefer the wording of the latter amendment. The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that the local authority arranges for appropriate support to be given to people receiving the payments to enable them to arrange their own care. There is no doubting the fact that giving people with disabilities and elderly people the opportunity to be in charge of their own care provision will give them greater power and control over their lives.

However, the downside is that with power comes responsibility and, as other speakers have said, support, advice and information may be needed to assist people to cope with their new responsibilities. For example, individuals may need to know who can provide the services that they need, how they can access them and

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what is the going rate for them. If a person employs his own personal assistant, he may well need information about the duties of an employer and guidance about national insurance, taxation, health and safety requirements and employer's liability insurance. Again, unfortunately, some people will become unhappy with the care that they are receiving and will need advice about their rights under contract or about how to work the complaints procedure.

Such support does not have to come from the local authority. Indeed, there are centres for independent living in both Lothian and Strathclyde regions run by people with disability for themselves. Those centres have gained experience in supporting people in making their own care arrangements and are a model which other authorities can follow.

The amendment would have the effect of ensuring that the Bill would enable people to take advantage of the new provisions. By receiving support where necessary, they would avoid the pitfalls of employment administration.

Baroness Cumberlege: When a disabled person agrees to receive direct payments in lieu of community care services, that person will take on responsibility for the management of all the arrangements associated with the money he or she receives. Clearly, many people may need advice and assistance to cope with those new responsibilities. Local authorities are required to act reasonably, and I am sure that they will wish to help those people to ensure that they are able to manage their direct payments responsibly and properly. We intend to issue guidance to local authorities to ensure that they are aware of the importance of support. However, we feel that to go beyond that and give local authorities a legal duty to provide advice and assistance would be onerous and probably inappropriate.

I am aware that many people look to the Bill as a way of making local authorities less intrusive than they have been in the past. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, that there are other methods of obtaining advice. We must not lose sight of the fact that the purpose of the Bill is to ensure that people are independent and run their own lives. I am sure that many will seek advice from sources other than the local authority. We believe that it would undermine local authorities' discretion in their dealings with individuals if such a duty was placed on them. After all, as I said, the purpose of the Bill is to ensure that people have their independence.

I should like to address specifically the role of an employer. The ultimate responsibility for the management of all arrangements associated with the individual's cash payments will rest with the individual. That includes the individual's duties as an employer. Direct payment recipients will have the same legal obligations as all employers. We intend to issue guidance to local authorities telling them that they ought to make prospective direct payment recipients aware that they will have legal responsibilities if they choose to employ personal care assistants. However, ultimately

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it is up to the people receiving direct payments to be aware of their legal responsibilities and to comply with them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, asked about the training of carers and those involved as personal assistants. I looked at a scheme in some detail. The recipients of direct payments I met stressed to me strongly that it was they who needed the training as employers. They had personal wishes as to how the work was to be carried out, and they felt that it was important that they should themselves train the carers on the job.

I was also asked about insurance issues. What is included in the direct payment will depend very much upon the local authority, because, as the Committee is aware, we are not setting a rate that will apply country wide. We want to leave as much discretion as possible to the local authorities. We believe that this is an area in which they may well want to ensure that they have that discretion and that they will exercise it wisely.

Baroness Seear: Before the noble Baroness sits down, can she say whether that means that people providing the care do not require some basic training? For example, in the case of lifting, the person who needs to be lifted will not be able to instruct the lifter in the best way to do it. In addition, there are basic domestic skills to be taught which have nothing to do with the way in which the person being looked after may want meals served or may want to eat. There are standards of cleanliness to be observed. Surely it is highly desirable that the people who will take on these jobs should be given some basic training in the skills that they will need.

Baroness Cumberlege: Again, I believe that is a matter to be left to the discretion of local authorities, just as they operate home help services, for example, now. Many have different approaches. Many will want to make use of NVQs and the new qualifications which are now on stream. We do not want to be prescriptive and say to local authorities that a particular level of training is essential for carers to do the job, because there are people of differing abilities and experience: some may need a great deal of help in order to carry out their duties and others may not.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Carter: I am extremely grateful to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in this useful debate. When I opened the debate on the amendments I said that the wording of the first amendment was not perfect. I understand entirely the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and if forced I would accept the wording of Amendment No. 45 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie.

It seems to me that the Government are not being entirely logical. The Minister said in respect of the first group of amendments that the Government have to decide which groups will be eligible, but it appears that they will place no duty on local authorities to give support and advice. They will make them aware of the situation but place no duty upon them. The Government

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will lay down the groups which are eligible and the criteria for eligibility but then it is entirely up to local authorities whether to offer any support and advice. I paraphrase, but that is the basis of what the Minister said. It is not the Government's responsibility, it is up to the local authority whether to offer support and advice, and if it does not that is it.

Of course the ultimate responsibility lies with the individual. All of us who have been employers know the problems of employing the so-called self-employed. If the Inland Revenue decides that a person is not self-employed, then the employer is responsible for tax and National Insurance, which could be a substantial sum.

For all those reasons, I believe that the Government should take much more responsibility and perhaps be prepared to encourage local authorities, through guidance, to sub-contract competent agencies to carry out the work.

I return to the consultation paper, because it seems that the Minister has confirmed the impression that I gained from quickly reading paragraph 35 that the Government see no responsibility for themselves in this area of guidance concerning the problems that could affect the recipient. There are a number of different models of direct payment schemes which are now running which enable disabled people to employ their own workers. Recent research shows that the most successful schemes in terms of user satisfaction and value for money are those for which support and advice are available, often through a personal assistance support scheme, either financed directly by the local authority or using transfer moneys from the Independent Living Fund.

The amendment leaves it to local authorities to decide what support is necessary. The intention is to place an obligation on local authorities to provide the support and advice which we feel is required. We believe that the consultation document does not go far enough in this respect. However, at this point I shall not press the amendment, but I believe that it is a matter that we shall have to discuss with the Minister before the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


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