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COMMONS AMENDMENT

182After Clause 91, insert the following new clause--
CHARGES FOR LOCAL AUTHORITY WELFARE SERVICES

(". In Schedule 1 to the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (enactments conferring functions assigned to social services committee), there shall be inserted at the appropriate place--
"Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Act 1983 (c. 41)Section 17, so far as relating to services provided under the enactments mentioned in subsection (2)(a) to (c)Charges for local authority welfare services".")

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 182. I shall speak also to Amendment No. 289.

These amendments concern statutory guidance on charges for home care. We have debated these matters on a number of occasions, particularly in relation to the various reports. I refer in particular to the Audit Commission reports concerning the variation in charges by local authorities.

It is clear that people in similar circumstances in different parts of the country can find that they are paying nothing or over £100 per week for the same level of services. The Audit Commission report, published in May, highlighted the full extent of variations. While there are arguments for local discretion to local councils to take account of local circumstances, real problems come about, as the Audit Commission identified, when charging policies in some councils are not fully thought through and not properly related to the aims of social care in the authority.

Action has had to be taken to ensure that we consider ways in which we can reduce those variations. That is why we propose the new clause in Amendment No. 182 to allow statutory guidance to be issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 on home care charges. Amendment No. 289 amends the long title of the Bill accordingly.

It might be helpful if I inform the House that we hope to consult on draft guidance to be issued in the autumn, with final guidance to be issued by April 2001.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 182.--(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

Midnight

Baroness Barker: My Lords, I rise briefly to speak on this matter. This is perhaps one of the most important underpinning elements of the Bill. Unfortunately, now is not the time to discuss it in any great length. That is not because it is about to chime midnight and some of us might turn into pumpkins,

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but because of the statements made earlier this afternoon about the Comprehensive Spending Review and, more importantly, the statement which will be made in a few days time concerning the Government's response to the Royal Commission on the future of long-term care, which will have a fundamental impact on the whole of the care economy. To discuss this matter at any length tonight would therefore be premature and foolish.

However, before I sit down I should like to say to the Minister that we welcome the fact that the guidance will be statutory. Perhaps I may return to a concern I raised at the beginning of the debate on the Bill on one of the most crucial factors; that is, resources. It is perhaps timely that as we come to the end of this long debate we return to focus on resources. No matter what duties are placed on local authorities by the Government--there are many; they emanate increasingly from the Minister's department--the capacity of local authorities to make a real difference to older and disabled people in terms of practical help is ultimately a matter of resources. It is good to focus our attention on that. It would not be right to say any more now. However, with those few brief words I hope I have conveyed the spirit of the way in which we welcome the new amendment to the Bill.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I fully accept the construction placed on this by the noble Baroness. This can have an impact on overall local authority finances. I shall not go down the route of describing the Government's generous allocation to local authorities. I agree that we need to await further announcements. Perhaps I may also say that, although finance is a consideration, there are other factors which suggest that some local authorities have not done the job properly. There are issues concerning transparency and how charging relates to overall policy. I believe that statutory guidance here is warmly welcomed and will lead to vast improvements to many people.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

183Clause 97, page 61, line 14, at end insert--
("In subsection (2) and this subsection, references to the Secretary of State include the Secretary of State and the Assembly acting jointly")

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath : My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 183.

I am sure noble Lords will be aware that this large group of amendments, which I shall speak to, concerns various technical matters which are minor and consequential. I seek the guidance of the House as to whether noble Lords would like me to go into those in more detail--

Noble Lords: No.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: --or whether they would prefer me to move them formally. Perhaps I may move them formally.

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Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 183.--(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS

184Clause 97, page 61, line 15, leave out ("The following subsections") and insert ("Subsections (5) to (7)")
185Page 61, line 16, leave out ("or the Assembly") and insert (", the Assembly or the appropriate Minister")
186Page 61, line 33, at end insert--
("( ) The provision which, by virtue of subsection (7), may be made by regulations under the Part of this Act which relates to the Children's Commissioner for Wales includes provision amending or repealing any enactment or instrument.")
187Clause 98, page 61, line 39, leave out ("or instrument")
188Clause 100, page 62, line 9, after ("England,") insert ("Scotland or Northern Ireland,")
189Page 62, line 10, at end insert--
("and in relation to England and Wales means the Secretary of State and the Assembly acting jointly")
190Page 62, line 11, at end insert--
(""community home" has the same meaning as in the 1989 Act;")
191Page 62, line 15, at end insert--
(""enactment" includes an enactment comprised in subordinate legislation (within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978);")
192Page 62, line 15, at end insert--
(""to foster a child privately" has the same meaning as in the 1989 Act;")
193Page 62, line 24, leave out ("mental disorder and")
194Page 62, line 27, at end insert--
(""local authority foster parent" has the same meaning as in the 1989 Act;")
195Page 62, line 41, leave out ("only")
196Page 62, line 42, after ("State") insert ("or the Assembly)")
197Page 63, line 16, leave out from ("if") to end of line 18 and insert--
("( ) his sight, hearing or speech is substantially impaired;
( ) he has a mental disorder; or
( ) he is physically substantially disabled by any illness, any impairment present since birth, or otherwise;")

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 184 to 197.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 184 to 197.--(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

198Clause 100, page 63, line 22, leave out from ("care"") to ("does") in line 23

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 198. In speaking to this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 200.

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These are technical changes to the definitions at the end of the Bill but are extremely important to the workings of the legislation. The amendments deal with the definition of personal care used in the Bill.

The definition of personal care is important to the effect of the requirement for certain establishments and agencies to register with the national care standards commission. Personal care is defined in the Registered Homes Act 1984 as,


    "care which includes assistance with bodily functions where such assistance is required".

That definition has been interpreted, following a High Court judgment--Harrison v. Cornwall--as meaning that personal care could include emotional or psychiatric care as well as physical care.

The intention of the original definition in the Bill was to reflect that interpretation and not to end up with either a wider or narrower definition than the one that applies now. However, as your Lordships may be aware, there has been a great deal of concern as to whether the definition in Clause 100 would extend the definition more widely than currently applies. The fear has come in the main from those who provide sheltered housing schemes and similar arrangements. Their concern is that they would find themselves required to register as care homes. A similar point was raised about this definition by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury.

In our discussions it has never been our intention to extend the definition, nor to require organisations such as sheltered housing schemes to register as care homes. We endeavoured to reassure people about this. But one has to record that there has been considerable worry and it has particularly focused on possible loss of DSS benefits. It has become clear that an amendment to the Bill would be necessary to provide the necessary reassurance.

The reference to "advice and encouragement" has therefore been removed from the definition through Amendment No. 198 and a further amendment, Amendment No. 200, has been made to replicate the provisions of the Registered Homes Act 1984. My honourable friend Mr John Hutton explained fully the intention behind these amendments in Commons Committee, and in particular made clear that the interpretation set out in the Harrison v. Cornwall judgment was intended to apply. We believe that this has now settled the concerns on this issue and I hope that noble Lords will be willing to accept the amendments.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 198.--(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)


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