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Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 10:


Page 1, line 27, at end insert--
("( ) Regulations shall provide that each local authority shall ensure that recipients of payments under subsection (1) above have access to personal assistance support services to help with the management of direct payments.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 10 and 13 relate to advice and support for those who will be purchasing their care requirements for the first time. It takes no great leap of imagination to realise that many of the issues will be difficult and complicated for people to deal with, in particular those who have not previously purchased their own community care requirements. The vast majority of us when confronted by a new form, shiver when we first see it and wonder what it means. I wonder how many noble Lords are totally familiar with legalese and how often they see it. It is frightening to many of us.

Both amendments provide for ways in which support can be given. Amendment No. 10 is similar to an amendment tabled in Committee and is put forward in hope and expectation. It provides that guidance shall be given. However, if the Government have not changed their decision about such support being on the face of the Bill, we ask them to consider Amendment No. 13. That provides that the Government will be able to give support and is tabled in response to a reply given by the Minister in Committee. She stated:


Amendment No. 13 merely enables the Government to give guidance and is therefore in line with the Government's own thinking. Without such support

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many people who are supposed to benefit from direct payments will not be able to do so simply because they will be unable to understand the system. They will be frightened off, or, even worse, some people will not be able to follow through and give the correct help to the employees and may have legal action taken against them.

There is a practical problem as regards understanding and implementing the regulations. Surely some direct form of guidance would be appropriate and I invite the Government to accept Amendment No. 13 if they cannot accept Amendment No. 10. Such advice is vital to the operation of the scheme, which we all hope will work. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am happy to support the amendments. I should prefer a regulatory power. However, a Section 7 guidance might meet the point, as the noble Lord said.

The issue is simple. Many disabled people who have only received services from a local authority would prefer to receive cash payments to buy those services but are apprehensive about being an employer. People who have been employers are familiar with the situation. However, as a mother in full time work, with two young children, employing a mother's help, I found it difficult to cope with national insurance, tax and all the other requirements of an employer. Many disabled people will be similarly nervous, especially as they may need to employ not one mother's help but two or even three carers, some of whom may be on the PAYE system or self-employed, as well as turning to the back-up support of an agency.

It is easy to make mistakes. The ILF has experience of people who have done so and who have run up arrears of national insurance, tax or the like. But whereas someone like myself in full-time work was able to throw money at the problem (if I may use that expression) and sort it out with the tax and national insurance offices, a disabled person might not have the finances to sort out the financial problem retrospectively.

Most local authorities recognise that when skilled people find themselves unemployed and, perhaps with a redundancy payment in hand, consider moving into self-employment or setting up a small business--they may wish to start a taxi service, a sandwich delivery service or engage in desktop publishing, all small businesses which I was involved in establishing in local authority days--the biggest single obstacle is the ability to cope with the paperwork as an employer. That is what deters most people when employing someone else. They need to be able to cope. Most local authorities, including my own, have enterprise agency trusts precisely to give the wrap-around support and guidance to help small businesses avoid being broken by bureaucracy in the first two years of trying to fly.

What is available in most authorities for a fit and able person starting up a small business employing an individual should also be available to a disabled and unfit individual employing someone. An employer who employs an individual performs in the same way as a small business. It makes good sense. The amendment

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ensures that direct payments are properly spent and there is no risk of misuse--I do not say abuse--of public moneys. It ensures that the disabled person acts as a good employer. He does not rely on cheap labour and casual arrangements which leave the employee without adequate holidays, sick pay or the like. The amendment avoids the risk of financial problems. With the knowledge that there is a support package in place, many more disabled people will take the risk of moving from services to cash payments.

We want the Bill to succeed. We know that the Minister wants the Bill to succeed. We want local authorities to take on this provision with goodwill. But we also want disabled people to have the courage to manage their own affairs. They will do so with the support package. They will not do so if there is no support package. If the Minister cannot provide by regulation, will she please use her best endeavours to ensure that the provision is in place by guidance.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, the measure to extend cash grants to people who have community care and wish to manage their own care will, I fear, have limited success unless support services are also available. This is, I understand, the view of organisations such as the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People and the Disablement Income Group, both of which have considerable experience. They argue that many more people could become confident and competent employers of their own personal care assistance if practical advice, training and other support were provided. Support for people who are managing their own personal assistance arrangements goes beyond the provision of leaflets about the legal requirements for tax and national insurance. Information on a range of issues has to be up to date and available to each individual as he embarks upon independent living.

It is important that resources are made available for the production of written material for direct payment users and that organisations with a track record of producing guidance are involved in its production. A handbook for direct payment users would be a step in the right direction. I hope that the Government will make resources available.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendments. Last week I visited a lady in Alloa. She has cerebral palsy and receives direct payments. She has achieved her own specially modified home through her local housing association after many years of having to live in residential care. The lady is determined to live independently with 24-hour care, and, to many people's surprise, she is successful. She cannot tackle wages or other employment issues. Those are handled for her by the Whins Independent Living Scheme set up by Central Region social work department. However, she can select her own assistance and prepare on the computer the 24-hour rotas. She lends her staff in emergencies to other members of the scheme. Quite simply, the amendment would enable that situation to occur in England and Wales.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, both amendments deal with the support which will be provided to people

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who receive direct payments. I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that forms can be very intimidating. As the noble Baroness said, employing others is not an easy option. Amendment No. 13 also deals with the choice available to people who receive direct payments. On the question of choice, we have already said that we hope local authorities will allow people who receive direct payments as much freedom as possible in how they use them. But we have also said that ultimately the authority must be satisfied that the money is appropriately spent.

Both amendments seek to ensure that local authorities provide advice and support to those people who receive direct payments. It is not necessary to amend the Bill to enable local authorities to do that. The Government agree that experience to date has shown that direct payment schemes work better where there is support, and we intend to encourage local authorities to do so. We see this as a matter of good practice.

We shall be issuing practice guidance on direct payments in addition to Section 7 policy guidance. Our practice guidance will cover the issue of support to direct payments recipients and will stress its importance. We shall be discussing the content of both sets of guidance with the direct payments technical advisory group and we shall also consult more widely on both sets of guidance before they are issued. We have already said that we intend to tell local authorities that they should inform people to whom they are offering direct payments that they may have responsibilities as employers before the individual decides to accept direct payments.

Amendment No. 13 talks about safeguarding the terms and conditions of people who are employed by those who receive direct payments. People who use their direct payments to employ staff will have the same legal liabilities as every other employer. That means that those who are employed will have the same safeguards as other employees. I do not think that it is either necessary or desirable to attempt to use the legislation to do something different for this particular group of employees than for the workforce generally. Nor do I think it right that the Secretary of State should tell people who receive direct payments what terms and conditions of employment they should use.

Amendment No. 13 places a duty on the Secretary of State to issue guidelines on the issues of choice and employment terms. We have already said that we intend to issue guidance and that we shall consult on that guidance in draft. But we do not think it right to use the Bill to limit the Secretary of State's discretion over what that guidance covers or contains.

The Government are also considering producing a guide to managing direct payments for the people who receive them. We intend to discuss the matter with the technical advisory group to see if it thinks that that would be useful and, if so, what it might contain. If we do produce such a guide I am sure that it would cover the issue of employing staff, although I must stress that it would not be an exhaustive, authoritative guide on employment liabilities. That would not be appropriate. Authoritative information and advice are already

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available from the appropriate sources such as the Inland Revenue and Contributions Agency. It would not make sense to attempt to duplicate. In addition to the guidance we shall issue, we intend to produce training materials to help local authorities train their staff to implement direct payments. We have not yet decided what exactly to produce, as again we intend to discuss the matter with the technical advisory group.

The Government intend to encourage local authorities to provide support or arrange for it to be provided by some other agency such as perhaps a voluntary organisation of disabled people. We do not, however, think it right to go beyond that and require local authorities to provide support, as Amendment No. 10 proposes. We think that it should be left to local authorities to decide on the level and type of support they provide, taking into account local needs, circumstances and priorities. Local authorities are best placed to decide what is appropriate, just as, for community care generally, local authorities decide on the level and nature of services to arrange. It is clear that direct payments will only work with the commitment of local authorities to the policy. I am sure that authorities who want to make direct payments a success will want to help and support direct payments recipients.


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