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Lord Renton: My Lords, I must confess that, although this is the last opportunity that one has, this is the first time that I have spoken on this Bill in your Lordships' House. The reason is that I was absent through being unwell.
However, I have a regret to express; namely, that the Bill does not apply to people who are in village communities. I believe that that is an omission which should be cured in another place. It so happens that inquiries have shown that in village communities, mentally handicapped people--if I may dare to call them that in these modern times--have all the facilities which they would have if they were living in homeless foundation places or in other schemes within the community, whether or not they are local authority schemes. I have a daughter who for many years has lived in a village settlement and has been very well looked after there. Those who are capable of being trained in those settlements are trained and that is another advantage of them.
There are those who prefer to be in a rural setting or whose parents prefer them to be there. There are such schemes already operated by local authorities and under the National Health Service, especially in Surrey and in the north of the country. I feel that it is a serious omission from the Bill that it does not apply to those people in village settlements.
I know that my noble friend and the Secretary of State have been giving some thought to that matter. Unfortunately, they had not given thought to it in time for it to be included in the Bill when it was first published. But I most earnestly hope that they are keeping an open mind about it and will realise the equity of the matter. Why should those who are in urban hostels be treated better and given a better opportunity than those who are so well cared for in village communities? I hope that that will receive attention in another place.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, this Bill certainly heads in the right direction and will be very popular in Scotland. It certainly clarifies for all time that direct payments can be made legally under the Social Work (Scotland) Act as it amends and extends Section 12 to establish that.
I am president of the Spinal Injuries Association which was one of the organisations that campaigned for this legislation. It is extremely pleased that some disabled people will be able to take more control of their lives and it believes that this is a step forward. I thank everybody who has supported the needs of disabled people.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, despite the clock, I know that time has not stood still. For all we know, it may be snowing outside and we need to get home. I thank all your Lordships who have supported the underlying principle of the Bill. I suspect that if the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, were writing an end-of-term report they would say, "Good progress but could do better". However, I suspect that that is nearly always the case with a Bill that is taken through your Lordships' House.
Perhaps I may quickly clarify one point that was made on the last debate. I spoke about the noble Baroness's proposals and I said that we were considering them very carefully. I should point out that I was referring to the guidance concerning who may be paid to provide the service and not the amendments of the Bill. I wanted to make that quite clear but I think that the noble Baroness understood that.
With the support of your Lordships, perhaps I may send our best wishes to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I hope that she makes a very quick recovery. I am pleased also that my noble friend Lord Renton has returned to the House in good health.
I listened carefully to what my noble friend said about village communities. Perhaps he will take comfort from the fact that my noble friend Lord Pearson put his views very strongly and those views coincide with those of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. My noble friend Lord Pearson expressed those opinions with force on Second Reading and he sought to amend the Bill. I do not wish to go into the detail of that debate at this late hour.
Finally, I feel that we are stepping forward into a new world. We must tread carefully to see how direct payments work in practice. But I believe that this Bill will enable us to build a solid foundation for the long-term future of another aspect of community care. I commend the Bill to the House.
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