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Page 14, line 6, leave out ("bath, shower or washhand basin") and insert (", washhand basin and bath or shower").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 39 to 42. The first of these amendments attempts to redraft a part of the Bill which, in my view, is not clear. The purpose of Amendment No. 37 is to ensure that a disabled facilities grant is available to provide that the disabled person should have access to a lavatory, washhand basin and either a bath or a shower. The current wording appears to indicate that it is sufficient for a disabled person to have access to any one of a lavatory, bath/shower or washhand basin. I very much doubt that that is what the Minister intends in the drafting of the Bill.

When we discussed Amendment No. 31, the Minister made encouraging noises. Therefore, I hope that he will accept Amendment No. 39 or instead bring forward one of his own. The amendment seeks to improve soundproofing within a dwelling as many disabled people, and indeed, able bodied people, suffer stress relating to the noise of neighbours or other occupants. Additionally, some disabled people have a life style which may cause noise nuisance for other neighbours and occupants. The provision of grants for adequate soundproofing would alleviate much of that stress and lead to better communities.

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Amendment No. 40 will ensure that a disabled occupant may obtain a grant to improve or install suitable lighting in his dwelling. Clause 24(1)(g) refers to:


    "facilitating the use by the disabled occupant of a source of power, light...by altering the position...of access to or control of that source or by providing additional means of control".
That will enable a disabled occupant to obtain a grant to fit accessible switches and sockets. However, it does not cover the provision of additional sources of light or improving the existing lighting system in a dwelling to meet the needs of the disabled occupant. Appropriate lighting levels in the home are essential for blind and partially sighted people. That generally means providing significantly more light--around twice as much as for fully-sighted people for general circulation purposes.

The purpose of Amendment No. 41 is to ensure that disabled facilities grants are available to facilitate access and movement of the disabled person around the dwelling in order for him to care for dependent children normally resident in the dwelling and in need of such care.

Many disabled people are also parents and disabled facilities grants should be available to facilitate those parents caring for their children. I understand that in the past some local authorities have interpreted the legislation dealing with disabled facilities grants concerning access for a disabled person to care for another to refer to care for another disabled person. They have chosen not to interpret it as applying to the care of non-disabled children. Therefore, it is important that disabled facilities grants should be made available to allow disabled parents to care for their children.

Amendment No. 41 would allow disabled facilities grants to facilitate access by the disabled occupants to their gardens. Many disabled people spend a large proportion of their time at home. Many are elderly and past employment age. Only one-third of disabled people of employment age are in work. Having access to a garden therefore becomes much more important for their general and mental health and well-being. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: Some years ago when I was in another place one of my constituents was an elderly woman whose husband was seriously disabled and had a progressive condition which prevented him from being able to get into the bath. That lady approached me to ask whether I could arrange with the local authority for a grant to pay for the bath to be taken out and a shower installed, because without a shower it would have been quite impossible for the couple to maintain adequate standards of hygiene.

I took up that matter with the local authority and it proved a long and difficult task. But the point of the story is to show how important it is for people with disabilities to have access to facilities which enable them to maintain decent standards of hygiene.

As Clause 24(1)(d) is worded, it refers to;


    "facilitating the use by the disabled occupant of such a facility".
It is not clear to me whether we are interpreting the English language differently or whether paragraph (d) is phrased very restrictively. Perhaps the Minister will give

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an assurance that it is not meant to be as restrictive as it sounds. If I am wrong, I am sure that the Minister will be as sympathetic to this amendment as he was to one or two earlier amendments.

As regards the amendment dealing with non-disabled dependent children, it may well be that a disabled parent is prevented from looking after a dependent child--the child not being disabled--without some additional features to the dwelling. It would clearly be pretty depressing for a parent who was disabled to feel that he or she could not look after a child simply because of the lack of necessary changes to the flat.

As regards gardens, it seems to me that people, especially in cities, who have the good fortune to have a garden but who are denied access to it because of disability must find that deeply frustrating. I hope that such simple changes to the Bill as envisaged by the amendments will be acceptable to the Minister.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth): I support this group of amendments. Amendment No. 37 is especially important to those who are incontinent or paralysed with, for example, skin problems. It is a modest amendment. As I understand it, a housing association tenant would be able to apply for a wider range of adaptations to a bathroom with a special bath, bidet and so on. Amendments Nos. 39 and 42 deal with "soundproofing" and access to a garden. Housing association tenants could also apply for grants in that respect.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Amendment No. 41 is most important. It would enable a disabled parent to care for his or her non-disabled--or, indeed, disabled--child. On the one side, from the point of view of the child there would be a better relationship with the parent and, on the other, one is a better parent if one is independent and can look after one's own child. Indeed, people have confidence and self-esteem if they are able to do so.

Lord Lucas: My noble friend's amendment, Amendment No. 37, would have the effect of enabling mandatory disabled facilities grant (DFG) to be given to provide access to a lavatory, wash handbasin, and bath or shower, or a room containing those facilities. I am not sure that the amendment provides the flexibility that we need to enable grant to be given to cover all the circumstances which may arise. It is our intention that help should be available to provide a disabled person with a lavatory, a bath and/or a shower, a wash handbasin, or any combination of those facilities.

My noble friend's amendment would provide for a bath or a shower to be provided, but not both. There may, however, be circumstances where it would be appropriate to provide a disabled facilities grant to cover both. As currently drafted, we believe that Clause 24 achieves our purpose. I hope that that will reassure my noble friend and that he will therefore be able to withdraw his amendment. I appreciate that the wording is a little difficult. I shall look at it again to ensure that it achieves exactly what we wish of it.

Amendment No. 39 provides for mandatory grant to be given to improve or install suitable soundproofing to meet a disabled occupant's needs. I know that it is

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important and that some people require peace and quiet in the home on account of their specific disabilities but, because of excessive noise caused by others or from general traffic, they are unable to obtain it.

However, I do not believe that there is a significant number of disabled people for whom the need to be protected from such nuisance is paramount and, therefore, that mandatory grants should be widely available for that purpose. As my noble friend will have observed, Clause 24 ensures that the principal features which are likely to be required to adapt a home for a disabled person are included as specific items for mandatory grant while those which may occur from time to time for specific persons are left to discretionary grant. Local authorities may already consider--and will be able to continue to do so--giving discretionary grant for that purpose as for other individual needs. In our view, the same argument applies to Amendment No. 40 proposing improved lighting systems. We believe that that should come under the discretionary rather than the mandatory heading.

Amendment No. 41 seeks to insert "dependent children" into the provision. Many disabled people are of course parents who have to cope with caring for, and bringing up, small children. We accept entirely therefore that grant to facilitate access and movement by a disabled person around the home in order to care for dependants living there should encompass dependent children. However, paragraph (h) of Clause 24 already achieves that aim. A "child" is a person and is therefore included in the provision. So the amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment No. 42 would allow mandatory grant to be given to provide facilities for a disabled occupant to gain access to a garden. I will take the matter away to check, in particular, if clarification is necessary to ensure that discretionary grant can be given for that purpose. We agree with my noble friend that it should be. With those assurances I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Dubs: Perhaps I may comment briefly on what the Minister said as regards care of non-disabled children. I understand that the noble Lord believes that the clause achieves what he would wish. However, it is my understanding that some local authorities have interpreted disabled facilities grants in a more restrictive way; that is to say, that the grant is intended to refer to the care of another disabled person. If local authorities are aware of the Minister's intention, that may well dispose of the matter. But there is an area of doubt. I wonder whether the Minister will accept the fact that local authorities may not always interpret the legislation in the way that he would wish.


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