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Lord Addington: The noble Lord, Lord Rix, has done a very thorough job on his amendment. We are at least trying to do the same thing with our Amendment No. 127E. I hope that the Government will listen to what has been said and that the Minister will have something positive to say. It does not matter where you happen to be, you are still entitled to have some basic movement; indeed, freedom of movement is something of a human right. I believe it has been argued that you could be confined to a bed. I do not remember such arguments being used. However, if they were, I agree with the noble Lord that they are pretty lame.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The effect of this amendment and Amendment No. 127E is that the mobility element of DLA should continue to be paid to people admitted into hospital, or resident in other similar institutions. However, I should make it clear that, as drafted, Amendment No. 127A would not alter the current entitlement conditions for the mobility element of DLA. Entitlement to the mobility component of DLA is not affected by a person's accommodation but, once entitlement is established, payment is suspended after four weeks of free in-patient treatment. Nevertheless, in speaking to the amendment, the noble Lord made clear his intention that the current legislation withdrawing payment of the mobility component of DLA from hospital in-patients should be revoked.

Withdrawal of the mobility component from hospital in-patients reflects the Government's policy of targeting help on those people with the greatest need. DLA is paid to help people meet the extra costs of disability. However, most of the needs of people in hospital, including care and basic mobility needs--I am not now talking about people who are necessarily confined to bed--are funded by the NHS, which has that responsibility. It cannot be considered best use of scarce resources to overlap with the help already available. The NHS pays for it and, in addition, people have their own personal mobility component.

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Indeed, the principle of preventing duplication of public spending has always been a key factor in social security legislation. For this reason, most social security benefits are withdrawn or reduced after a period, commonly six weeks, following a person's admission into hospital. This has been a fundamental principle of the benefits system since 1948. Attendance allowance and the care component of DLA have always been withdrawn after a period in hospital. Given this fact, it is clearly difficult to justify the continuing payment of the mobility component to people, many of whom are physically immobile, or virtually so, and all of whom are receiving basic mobility costs from the NHS. Therefore, we do not think it right to restore the previous situation at an additional cost of £30 million a year, much of which would duplicate existing provision. We do not believe that that is a priority in the disability field.

However, while the situation in respect of hospitals and other places traditionally run by the NHS is clear, the broader picture is not as straightforward as it used to be. In my view, the noble Lord, Lord Rix, was entirely correct in the description he gave. There is now a wider range of care options available through the care in the community programme than was the case even when the relevant legislation on mobility and hospitals took effect in 1996, let alone in 1948 when the concept of "half-way houses" was not part of our landscape. This has led to many people being transferred from hospital and into other accommodation in the community but still being maintained by the NHS--for example, in so-called "half-way houses" and other sheltered and residential care settings.

The noble Lord, Lord Rix, is correct. There are gaps in our knowledge about the needs of disabled people in such settings and about how the mobility component of DLA is spent, where it is payable in these circumstances. We think that this is an area which may well be appropriate for research, and we are examining options for what might be done, and when.

The noble Lord asked me to outline whatever evidence we may have of the effect of the 1995-96 changes. Following representations from the disability lobby, as I said, we shall be considering commissioning research to look at the whole issue of residential care, local authority-funded care and NHS-funded establishments, including the way in which people's mobility needs are met. The noble Lord identified a range of anomalies. Because we are caring for people in the community and the legislation has not fully reflected this, we shall be examining options for research. But I must emphasise that our position on hospitals is clear in our traditional understanding of that concept. We believe it right that people in hospital settings, having all their basic needs met in line with the free provision of care and other services, the key feature of the NHS since its inception, should not retain an extra costs benefit. On this basis, I hope that noble Lords will not pursue their amendments today.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Rix: I am extremely grateful to the Minister for that most sympathetic response. Clearly, I would like to

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consult my colleagues between now and the Report stage. However, on the understanding of what I now believe to be the future position and bearing in mind the fact that the Government are seeking evidence, and so on, to back up their current findings, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 62 agreed to.

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 127B:


After Clause 62, insert the following new clause--

INCREASE OF UPPER AGE LIMIT FOR DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE

(" . In section 75(1) of the Contributions and Benefits Act, for "65" substitute "70".")

The noble Lord said: Currently, in order to start to receive disability living allowance, a person must satisfy the disability conditions for the allowance and make a claim before his or her 65th birthday. Those over the age of 65 can claim attendance allowance, but this does not have the mobility component and does not have a level equivalent to the lower level of care component. The amendment suggests that older disabled persons should have equal access to DLA and that there should be no upper age limit. Therefore, increasing the limit from 65 to 70 would be an important step in this direction.

Replying to earlier debates, the Minister has stressed time and again the way in which adjustments to our social security system need to be made in the light of changing circumstances. As I have just mentioned, this particular aspect of the DLA arrangements, which the noble Baroness rightly says are very complicated, dates back as far as 1992. As far as concerns age in this context, we must take account of the transformation that has taken place since the time of Beveridge. I believe it was suggested in earlier debates that, on average, a man retiring at what was then the retirement age was likely to draw his pension for about two years or so whereas the period now would be anything up to 15 or 20 years.

Therefore, in that context and against that background, it seems to me entirely sensible that the figure specified in this clause should be raised from 65 to 70. Indeed, on reflection, I have rather come to the view that this is altogether too modest an amendment. I am glad that I have the support of noble Lords in that respect--

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: It might be better if the noble Lord does not "wing" his amendments and then seek to expand them. Indeed, he may well then commit his party to considerable future expenditure.

Lord Higgins: I always have the Treasury aspects in mind, much as I try to deny my past. None the less I think that against the present background that is a fair point. As I understand the present position, DLA and attendance allowance are benefits to help with the extra cost of disability. That is not surprising. DLA has a care component of, I think, three different rates and a mobility component of two rates. To qualify, someone has to satisfy the disability conditions and make a claim before his or her 65th birthday. Those over 65 can claim

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attendance allowance but in that case they do not receive help towards mobility or receive the lower care component level.

A person who is already receiving DLA when he or she reaches the age of 65 continues to receive the benefit after that age, but someone who does not claim before the age of 65, even though he satisfies the conditions, cannot start to receive the allowance. This seems to me--coming to it rather afresh--a quite extraordinary situation. I am not the least bit clear why if someone has claimed before 65 he or she should receive these benefits, but if they do not claim before 65 they should not do so.

I believe that the implications of the current rules are considerable in terms of financial benefit. This is the other side of the coin to the point which the noble Baroness made a moment or two ago in her intervention. I understand that someone aged over 65 with higher mobility needs and lower care needs could be over £50 a week worse off than someone with exactly the same health problems who happens to become disabled before 65. I understand the other side of that coin which the noble Baroness has mentioned; namely, that if we were suddenly to include everyone over 65 that would involve a considerable expense in aggregate. No doubt the noble Baroness will tell us exactly what sum is involved. However, I believe that people are rather appalled to find that they miss out on an allowance to help with disability costs simply because they do not manage to claim before they are 65. Indeed I suppose that anyone under 65 who has the slightest problems with disability should put in a claim as rapidly as possible.

What I am really saying here is that there seems to be a substantial anomaly. That anomaly is made worse by the fact that people are living longer. Therefore I hope very much that the noble Baroness can give a sympathetic response. If the costs of the measure would be substantial, no doubt we shall have to consider how that problem might be overcome. However, the continuance of this anomaly simply on grounds of cost seems strange. The noble Baroness shakes her head. It looks as if she will be unsympathetic to the amendment but there seems to me to be a strong case for it. I beg to move.


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