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The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes): The Grand Committee is in session. Perhaps I may remind Members of the Committee that if there is a Division in the Chamber, we will adjourn immediately and resume after 10 minutes.
(1) Step 5 in regulation 7(3) of the 2002 Regulations has effect in relation to awards of working tax credit for the whole or part of the relevant year as if from the beginning of the day on 6 April 2011 the percentage to be applied under step 5 in finding the amount of the reduction were 41% (instead of 39%).
(2) Anything done by the Commissioners before the coming into force of this section in relation to awards of working tax credit for the whole or part of the relevant year is to be treated as having been duly done, if it would have been duly done but for being done on the basis that from the beginning of the day on 6 April 2011 the percentage to be applied under step 5 was 41%.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My Lords, the purpose of the government amendments in this group is to correct an omission in secondary legislation which was made to implement changes to the working tax credit withdrawal rate announced as part of the June 2010 Budget. I apologise for the fact that these amendments are required.
Any award of working tax credit or child tax credit is reduced or withdrawn by a prescribed rate for every pound of income that a claimant has above a specified threshold. One of the changes announced in my right honourable friend the Chancellor's June 2010 Budget in relation to tax credits was to amend the withdrawal rate for both child tax credit and working tax credit. The intention for the tax year 2011-12 was that the withdrawal rate would be set at 41 per cent, so that for every pound of income above the threshold, the amount
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Let me be very clear for the record. HMRC is paying claimants the right amount of money as announced in the June 2010 Budget. It is applying the 41 per withdrawal rate and has been since 6 April 2011. In practical terms, the implementation of this correction will not impact tax credit claimants as it simply aligns the legislation with the announced and currently effective practice. I beg to move.
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, claimants are being paid what they expected to be paid based on the announcement made by my right honourable friend the Chancellor in the June 2010 Budget. If the legislation goes uncorrected, HMRC will be paying at a rate that is not covered by the law, so it is necessary to amend the legislation to bring into alignment the law and what claimants expected to receive and are receiving.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: So I think the answer to my question is yes. In other words, between April and December, HMRC has been withdrawing money at a taper that was not legitimised by legislation?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, there are a lot of things where HMRC starts in practice, and the law, whether primary or secondary legislation, comes afterwards. If the law does not come in, adjustments will subsequently have to be made. The result of doing this now is that there will be no adjustments and people will have been paid what it was intended they be paid.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I will not say that the noble Lord is wriggling-I am looking for a more courteous word-but it is something like that. He keeps saying, "If we didn't do this, it would get worse". That is quite right. However, will he not confirm that between April and December he has withdrawn money at a rate not approved, legitimised, permitted or allowed by legislation?
Lord McAvoy: My Lords, perhaps the Minister could answer another question. It might be a bit pedantic, but in a litigious world things can happen. Can he assure us that the Government are not liable to be sued in the courts for behaving outwith the law?
Lord Sassoon: I do not believe that there is any question of the Government being sued. The matter is clearly regrettable. The error was not spotted by anybody either inside or outside HMRC until August, when a technician in HMRC spotted it. It was not spotted by any of the numerous parties who no doubt crawled over this technical area, and it is now being corrected at the earliest practical time. Therefore, there is no question of the Government being sued by anybody-but it is important that we correct the technical error.
Lord Wigley: I thank the Minister for that answer, but I will pursue one point. He made the point that nobody spotted this-including, by implication, opposition Members. Nevertheless, it is not opposition Members who are running HMRC. Has any disciplinary action been implemented over this mistake?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, if the technician who spotted it was not part of the original drafting, he or she is to be congratulated. I was not making a point about the Opposition; I was merely pointing out that this is a highly technical area that escaped everybody's notice for a considerable amount of time. What is going on now is that HMRC has introduced new procedures to make sure that the checking process that it will go through for these things in future will mean that there will be a significantly reduced chance of anything like this slipping through again.
Lord Wigley: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that people who had an entitlement under the law as it stood will be paid fully in accordance with the law as it stood, and that there is no question of a clawback coming through retrospective legislation?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: It is worse than that. Money has been taken from people. The thrust of the noble Lord's argument suggests that it should be repaid until it has been appropriately legitimised.
Lord Sassoon: It is certainly the case that if the law were not brought into line with what the Chancellor intended, at some point HMRC would have to make adjustments to the incorrect clawbacks that were calculated. We can discuss this for as long as we want. The fact is that there was a clear policy announcement. It should have gone through in the original statutory instrument-I think it was 2011/1035-and a claimant can at any stage ask for an appeal and ask to have their payments recalculated. However, clearly it would be pointless to do so if they expect that the amendment we are now debating will be agreed and will get the position back to where it ought to have been all along.
Lord Touhig: My Lords, I am not clear on this. Are the Government saying that people who had money taken from them that should not have been taken
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Lord Sassoon: The technical position is that what is paid during the year is only an interim award. Of course, HMRC seeks to pay all entitlements on a correct basis. However, the final calculation is done at the end of the tax year. Therefore, at the moment HMRC is quite properly paying what it believes will be the position once we get the legislation lined up with the original policy intention.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, if the tax system changes half way through the year, we do not say that it is retrospectively applied to the previous six months and rely on an end-of-year adjustment, which is what the noble Lord seems to be doing. He has illegally underpaid people for something like nine months. The fact that tax credits are done at the end of the year and as an adjustment is neither here nor there. For that period he has illegally underpaid and he cannot retrospectively go back and claim money from them which he was not entitled to do.
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, as I understand it that is not the position. The position for all taxpayers and claimants has to be finally calculated at the end of the year-and in many circumstances it can be done only then-because all sorts of circumstances may have changed. The issue is to get the legislation right in respect of this tax year. HMRC has calculated everything to date on the basis that there will be no further adjustments required at the end of the tax year once we get the legislation back into alignment with what was originally intended.
I appreciate the intention of noble Lords opposite to make hay out of this. It was a technical error in a statutory instrument that should not have happened. The amendment we are considering today is not to change anything midway through the year but to change the law with effect from 6 April 2011. There is going to be no unfairness and everything will be in line with exactly what my right honourable friend the Chancellor announced in the first place.
Lord Touhig: Make hay, my Lords? Some of the poorest people in this country have been denied the support they are entitled to. Is it true at 3.40 on a Monday afternoon we have a government Minister coming to Parliament and saying they are going to be denied the money that Parliament says they should have? Is that the case? Let us have a straight yes or no. Will these people get the money the law says they should have if we agree this amendment today?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, nobody is being misled because the Chancellor of the Exchequer made the position extremely clear in his original Budget Statement. People have had their calculations made on the basis of the Statement by the Chancellor. What we are doing today is part of the process of getting the law
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Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I was going to start by welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, to our Committee deliberations, which I now do a little belatedly. It seems to me that the proposition we are hearing today is that you collect the tax you want and then you align the legislation with it in due course. Does the Minister differentiate in his analysis between those who still have a claim that is continuing and those whose claim might have ceased during the course of the year for one reason or another?
I want to ask one or two further questions. In terms of the increase in the tax credit withdrawal rate, has any assessment been made of the impact of that on work incentives? Can the Minister also say something about the distributional impact of that reduction? It may seem just a small adjustment from 39 per cent to 41 per cent but the Red Book for the period shows that the impact in the first year would be £645 million increasing to more than £700 million throughout the rest of the CSR period. These are not small sums of money we are dealing with here in this rather retrospective manner.
In terms of the impact of those sums, the budget line sits on the same page as an item we are just about to discuss in relation to the disability living allowance. On the same line are the savings the Government are planning to make to a reform of the gateway which is something like double the savings they are making from these changes to the tax credits. Can the Minister perhaps just say something about that juxtaposition and the relative position of the two adjustments?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, I always speak for the whole Government, of course. The first point is to re-emphasise that we are talking about an adjustment that will apply, as was always intended, from the beginning of this tax year-6 April 2011-so the issues of what happens to people whose circumstances change during the middle of the year are not relevant. The policy was announced as taking effect for the tax year 2011-12, which is precisely what the amendments are intended to achieve.
There is nothing magic about the amount of money and the juxtaposition. I know that June 2010 seems a while ago now but this was the emergency Budget in which we needed to do a number of things, not least set out a very clear plan to deal with the inherited deficit.
Lord Sassoon: It is important that we are reminded of that. This change to the withdrawal rate was one of a significant number of changes that the Treasury and my right honourable friend the Chancellor had to
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Lord Boswell of Aynho: My Lords, will my noble friend reflect, in conjunction with our noble friend his colleague, that in a sense-I have enjoyed watching the passing scene on this matter-he has been rescued by the fact that the concept of income tax is a tax from year to year and has a defined period in which adjustments can be made? But I understand that under the universal credit, the payment period will be somewhat different and the ability to use that kind of argument, if there were a miscalculation of the taper rate in the future, would not be available? That is perhaps the moral that Ministers and officials will need to take into account in avoiding any slip-ups in the future.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, in the wording in proposed new subsection (2), all that comes close is in the regulations referring to capital being deemed to be income and income being deemed to be capital. Here we have something that has to be treated as being done is though it would have been done had it not been for the fact that it was not done. As a basis of legislation in future, I wonder whether the Minister would welcome such an approach from the Opposition.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, the members of the opposition party have been waxing lyrical in this particular case. With all the experience of his advisers behind him, can my noble friend say whether such an accident-and an accident it most certainly is-ever occurred during the course of the last Labour Government?
Lord McKenzie of Luton: Before the Minister responds to that, perhaps I may add to the list of questions. A moment ago he said that these were fair and targeted proposals, but can he expand on that proposition for us? The increase in the taper rate that affects some people runs to the tune of £780 million and the disability living allowance changes to the gateway amount to a withdrawal amounts to £1.4 billion from disabled people. How does he deal with that juxtaposition? How does he evaluate it? What is the basis for saying that those are fair and targeted? The Minister said it is always right to remind us about the inherited deficit. Perhaps I could say that it is always right to remind
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Lord Sassoon: Perhaps it is worth saying that in future HM Treasury will be making a prospective provision for subsequent years by making new uprating regulations in time for the tax year 2012-13. So, just to be clear, this subsection will operate from the day it comes into force, but relates to this year; something different will happen next year. We will have the regulations in good time. I do not want to prolong things by discussing accidents that might have happened under the previous Government. I am sure there is a long list of things that went wrong; we know that there are significant things that have gone wrong in the administration of tax over the years. As for the distributional point, the critical thing is that with the entire package of tax decisions we took last year- and again it was repeated in the Budget document this year-we look at the effects of the measures quintile by quintile. The critical test here is that we have made sure that when all the measures and decisions taken by this Government are taken together, those who can afford to pay most pay most. So again-
Lord McKenzie of Luton: Does the Minister reject the IFS analysis that the tax and benefit changes that this Government have introduced will lead to an increase in both absolute poverty and relative poverty-both in children and in adults?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, I think we are going much further than this individual measure. This measure is part of a much wider construct, which is not the subject of the amendment today. The amendment today is merely to get the position in line with what the IFS, the OBR and all other commentators believe to be the position
Without prolonging the point about the IFS, the IFS absolutely confirms the point I was just making: it is the richest in our society who will be paying the most as a result of the measures that we have taken, both in the budgets and in the spending review.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I think we have pressed the Minister enough on this. We ought to let him go, but I do wish that he will return for some further deliberations before we finish this Committee stage.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton: My Lords, I shall speak also to the other amendments in my name in this group. First, I should like to take a moment to explain that due to the number of amendments I have tabled for this Sitting, I will not have the lung capacity to give the detailed explanation that is required for all three. I have naturally called on an Olympian to help me out with such an Olympian feat. My noble friend Lady Grey-Thompson has kindly offered her voice for this afternoon but, as permitted by the usual channels, she will also be allowed to speak separately on the amendments if she chooses.
I am really pleased to be kicking off the amendments on personal independence payments, which are known and valued as disability living allowance. I also declare an interest as a very long-term user of DLA and its predecessor, attendance allowance. This is a holy-grail area for disabled people and we should proceed with great caution. I feel an enormous sense of responsibility in proposing the first group of amendments as I know how very important this benefit is and has been to millions of disabled people in the UK.
So where better to start than with the entitlement intention, starting with its name. Naming ceremonies are very important because, as the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, rightly said on day 1 in Grand Committee,
Getting the name right for a state benefit is crucial for targeting and clarity purposes. Those disabled people who need to take advantage of its intent must clearly understand what it is for and who is entitled to it. The name should also prevent any media or general public misunderstanding about its purpose. I think that we have had quite enough of that over the weekend- I certainly have.
However, the phrase "personal independence payments" does suggest something. Unfortunately, it does not suggest what the Government intend. Indeed, the term will create greater confusion than currently exists about disability living allowance. I attempt in this amendment to explain the conundrum and the complexities of the definition and intent.
Changing the name of disability living allowance to personal independence payment, I am sure, was a well-intentioned idea. It may have arisen from the Government's independent living strategy 2008 or at least the principles that underpin it. The strategy sets out the aim that policies and services should enable disabled people to have choice and control over the support that they need to go about their daily lives.
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While it must have seemed logical to use the term "independence" when reforming DLA, personal independence does not mean the same as independent living. If you ask the proverbial man in the street what "independence" means, he would say that it is doing things for yourself and not having to rely on others or on the state.
In contrast, disability living allowance has always meant a recognition that because of impairment and disabling barriers, someone incurs extra costs and therefore needs extra help if they are to experience a level playing field in terms of choices and the opportunities they can aspire to. I believe that using the term "personal independence payment" will be confusing because of its similarity to "social care personal budgets". It is inaccurate as the entitlement is supposed to address in a small way disabled people's extra costs of living with impairment and disabling barriers. It is misleading because the entitlement is not about independence or doing things for yourself. The term "personal independence payment" will therefore create significant misunderstanding not only among assessors and disabled people alike, but also among the general public.
I am not alone in my scepticism. I decided to check out my misgivings with the experts-disabled people. First, I consulted those with a long history of campaigning for the right to independent living, people who designed and developed direct payments and independent living schemes. They shared my fears, reminding me that it has taken 30 years for disabled people to formulate their ideas about what conditions allow for independent living, those that enable disabled people to have choice and control in their lives. What is more, they agreed that disability living allowance does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a building block that seeks to address some of the financial costs of living with a disability in today's society.
I then consulted more widely through various internet websites like "The Broken of Britain", with the membership of the National Centre for Independent Living and with disabled people involved in the Government's Equality 2025. They all agreed that the term "disability living allowance" is a far more accurate description of what the benefit is for. One woman from The Broken of Britain sent me an e-mail explaining that she was awarded DLA three years ago and had never been part of a disability group before, but thought she would apply for the allowance because disability
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A name is very important. Disability living allowance implies help for the disabled, while personal independence payment does not mention disability. It could be for single mums or anything like that. If it is aimed at the disabled, the wording will probably mean that it is payable to those who can achieve some sort of personal independence. "What if you think that you cannot be independent?", asked the woman. During my consultations, it was also suggested that changing the name slightly to "disability living costs allowance" would even more accurately reflect what this entitlement was for.
The Government have stated that the new benefit is designed to help meet disabled people's costs of living and the proposed amendment helps to deliver that aim. A key reason given for reforming DLA is, quoting from the Government's consultation document, that many people,
Yet the new term is likely to create even more confusion. It removes the association with disability and creates the idea that the payment is to enable people to do things for themselves rather than to help with the extra costs of support and daily living. The term therefore does not achieve what the Government are setting out to do. In contrast, the proposed term "disability living costs allowance" does precisely that. It makes clear that this is a benefit aimed at disabled people to help with the extra costs that they have in their daily lives so that they can aspire to choices and opportunities on a level playing field with non-disabled people.
I think we are all in agreement that it is time that DLA was reviewed and reformed. Some 16 national organisations led by the Disability Alliance advocated DLA reform in 2009, but feel that their ideas for changes have been ignored in what has emerged so far from the DWP. Renaming this benefit as the Government propose only hinders the reform process further, it certainly does not help. It is true that disabled people's needs and aspirations have changed since this allowance was first conceived, but in the spirit of babies and bathwater, it is important to look at why this allowance has become one of the most important features of disabled people's emancipation and empowerment.
When thinking about the amendment and this part of the Welfare Reform Bill dedicated to DLA, I called up an old friend, Sir Bert Massie, who was then deputy chief executive of RADAR. The noble Lord,
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"Before DLA there was the Mobility Allowance and the Attendance Allowance. The first was designed to assist with Mobility Costs. The second, Attendance Allowance, was originally introduced to assist with the extra disability related costs that disabled people have",
It was a very important reminder from Bert about how DLA helped to pay the extra costs experienced by disabled people to allow them to participate in their communities and to work where social and economic barriers excluded them. The barriers still exist. Discrimination legislation has not wiped them away. It will take years before the transport infrastructure allows full access. This leaves many disabled people dependent on DLA mobility support.
There are some costs that, no matter how accessible the environment and how progressive society's attitudes, remain very high. I will give the example of a young man in Kingston with a progressive muscle-wasting impairment. He was recently asked to carry out a detailed disability-related costs assessment as part of his local authority's charging policy. The extra costs borne by this man came to a staggering £467.55 per week. The figure included long-term capital costs for his adapted car and building works not covered by his disabled facilities grant. Seeing is believing: I have a copy here for the Minister.
Another reason to call the benefit "disability living costs allowance" rather than "personal independence payment" is to prevent the confusion with personal budgets. The personalisation agenda in social care is about enabling people to have control over the support that they need through personal budgets and direct payments. Most developments in supporting disabled people to achieve independent living are derived from the social care agenda of the past 30 years. The legislative framework for the funding and delivery of these services is the remit of the Department of Health
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The primary task of social security benefits is to ensure an adequate standard of living. DLA helps achieve this by recognising and mitigating the poverty that can arise from the extra costs of daily living faced by disabled people. In contrast, local authorities are engaged in providing practical assistance to disabled people assessed as requiring it against the criteria described in social care: law and guidance, which does not include the risk of poverty as a trigger for intervention.
The term "personal independence payments" is- I am sorry-inaccurate and confusing, and does not reflect the purpose behind government proposals. I would like greater clarity from the Minister about the prime objective of personal independence payments. If PIP is to offset the significant extra costs of disability, enabling a person to live rather than simply survive, it would be far better to use phraseology that makes this clear and also provides a bridge from its predecessor. I beg to move.
Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, I could not agree more strongly with these amendments. As ever, my noble friend Lady Campbell has nailed the issue and then hit it firmly on the head. The title of the Government's proposed replacement benefit to disability living allowance is vague, confusing and misleading. As my noble friend Lady Campbell points out, it does not even mention disability. No doubt this is intentional, and sadly this Government have taught us to be fully justified in our cynicism. By removing any indication of PIP being a disability costs allowance the Government can manipulate entitlement to the benefit to their heart's content.
I should declare my interest as someone who has received DLA and its predecessor benefits since the mid-1960s. Should I now expect screaming Daily Mail headlines spelling out the shocking amount this must total over the years? Of course, they will completely fail to mention that it was only this benefit that enabled me to be mobile, educated and employed, and so become a contributing taxpayer for the whole of my career. Now more than ever this week's shocking press headlines vilifying disabled people as scroungers could not teach us more clearly that it is essential that the press and public know what this benefit is for; that they are given no excuse for the misinformation; and that the name spells out clearly what is in the tin. It is a disability living costs allowance.
The Minister has emphasised throughout this Committee stage that the Government's whole purpose with this Bill is to change the country's culture in people's attitude to work. It remains to be seen whether they will succeed. I hope that they do. But sadly, what this Government have succeeded in doing is changing the public's attitude to disabled people. It has become totally acceptable to depict disabled people as scroungers defrauding the benefits system. The Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, was quoted as saying on 11 November in the Daily Mail:
"At the moment hundreds of millions of pounds are paid out in disability benefits to people who have simply filled out a form. The vast majority are getting the benefit for life without regular checks to see if they are still eligible".
Will the Minister say when we are going to see the Government move to rebut any of these wildly inaccurate press reports which are helping to stoke disability hate crime? The Government's acceptance of this group of amendments would be a welcome indication of their intent and I feel sure that my noble friend Lady Campbell has made the Minister very aware of the importance of this issue.
Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Campbell of Surbiton has very ably described the purpose of this amendment. I, too, declare an interest in that I am in receipt of DLA. Like my noble friend Lady Wilkins, it has helped me in terms of education and working throughout my life.
When I was doing my own research on what the title PIP meant, the most common response was, "Isn't that something linked to pensions-a personal investment plan?". The title should more accurately reflect what the benefit is and why support is required. Obviously, a name change on its own will not solve the issue but anything that clarifies why the benefit is necessary can only be helpful. Many disabled people are very frightened, partly by what will happen to their benefit but also about the change in the way in which they are viewed by society. It is not just in the recent media coverage over the weekend.
There has been a worrying change in how disability is reported in the media. The Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research in the media unit at Glasgow University has recently published a report, Bad News for Disabled People. It compared the coverage of five papers in 2005-06 and 2010-11 and found that there had been a decrease in stories presenting disabled people in a positive way and an increase in stories concentrating on benefit fraud. The focus groups in the same study all claimed that levels of fraud were much higher than they are in reality with some suggesting that up to 70 per cent of claimants were fraudulent. Participants justified these claims by reference to articles that they had read in newspapers. One of my concerns with the current name is that it possibly suggests that disabled people are getting a lot more money than they will actually receive. I also believe that there is an ongoing misconception over the purpose of DLA that we need to correct.
The DWP has highlighted in a press release the length of time many disabled people have received DLA as if people somehow do not need the benefit after a certain time. Again, this leads people to misunderstand the purpose of the benefit. Many people with congenital conditions, like myself, will continue to have higher costs of living throughout their lives. Of course, there need to be reviews as circumstances can change, but the fact that some people continue to
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Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, I give my support to this amendment-the first in a long series that we are due to consider on this part of the Bill which deals with the personal independence payment. Like the noble Baronesses who have already spoken, I declare my interest as a recipient of disability living allowance since its inception in 1992. I hope that that can be taken as read throughout the rest of the amendments as we speak to them.
The noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, has made a very full case. What has emerged is the iconic significance of DLA to disabled people. It was an enlightened measure introduced by a previous Conservative Government, when, as the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, told us, the noble Lord, Lord Newton, was Secretary of State-and, if I am not mistaken, Sir Nicholas Scott was Minister for Disabled People. It corrected many anomalies, as the quotation of Sir Bert Massie by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, reminded us.
Blind people were particularly grateful for the introduction of DLA. They had campaigned for many years for recognition of the extra costs attributable to blindness, but they were never officially acknowledged until the introduction of DLA. There were still anomalies; blind people were only eligible to apply for the mobility component at the lower rate-an anomaly that was only removed with the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2009. That reform was supported by the Conservative Party at the time. I very much hope that blind people will not find that that hard-fought gain is snatched from their grasp-just as it has been won-with the implementation of personal independence payments. That would surely leave a legacy of bitterness that the Government would find hard to overcome.
This brings us back to the iconic significance of DLA. For many people it is not only the means but the symbol of their independence. As we have heard, much apprehension has been caused among disabled people by the changes the Government are making to the benefit system. People are fearful that their independence will be undermined with the change from DLA to PIP, or personal independence payment.
As Ministers probably recognise, the Government have a gap in confidence to overcome as regards the reforms where disabled people are concerned. They may well feel, on reflection, that retaining the name, which has such significance for disabled people, would be a small price to pay for the changes that they wish to make to the benefit. As the noble Baroness has said, names are important, and many disabled people obviously feel that we would lose this one at our peril. I hope, after due consideration, the Minister will take the same view.
Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I would like to speak very briefly indeed in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell. I apologise that I cannot be here for all of our deliberations today.
The noble Baroness made a very strong case. I was struck by one thing she said when she talked about the signal sent out by this label. The Ministers are constantly telling us about wanting to send out signals with this Bill. It is one signal after another. The noble Baroness has said very clearly that disabled people are telling us that this is sending out the wrong signal. Disabled people are the experts here and we should be listening to them.
I want to add one further point. An additional reason why personal independence payment could be very confusing and give the wrong signal is that, unfortunately, the term "independence" in government speak has come to be equivalent to being in paid work. There is a real danger that disabled people will think it is only for those of them who are able to be in paid work or who are in paid work. I do not believe that that is what "independence" means, but it has become a kind of conventional wisdom. There is an opportunity here for the Government to send out the correct signal to ensure that this benefit is taken up by those for whom it is designed. I hope that we can take note of and support what the noble Baroness has said. I am sure that the artwork has not yet been done. The amendment will therefore be completely cost-free and the Government could take the credit simply by accepting it.
Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell. The proposal to amend Clause 75 by changing the name "personal independence payment" to "disability living costs allowance" is intended to clarify the purpose of the payment. However, it does not reflect the way in which understanding of that issue has been developed. "Personal independence payment" has come to suggest that the disabled person is or will become independent as a consequence of the payment. That will not happen. What will happen is that the person will be able to finance the inevitable additional costs that are consequential on their disability or disabilities and the various barriers which hinder full participation.
Independence is about not being reliant on others. The reality for those with disabilities is that they will always need assistance for a range of activities. The cost of that assistance is an additional resource which the disabled person needs. The DLA provides for those costs, and under these arrangements the payment of these additional costs will be enabled, not independence itself.
We are acutely aware of the extent to which people entitled to benefits are unable to claim because of lack of knowledge and understanding of their rights. That is a proven fact, despite the coverage to the contrary. It is most important that the name of this benefit does not have the capacity to add further confusion for the beneficiary. It has been recognised by government that people do not fully understand what DLA is for. It has also been recognised that disability benefit entitlement should be easier for people to understand. I therefore believe that the term "personal independence payment" is not adequate or appropriate.
The aim of the DLA was always to enable a disabled person to experience as full a life as possible and to provide for the additional costs. That approach recognised the reality that independence as others experience it is never going to be a reality for a person with a range of disabilities unless additional funding is made available to enable the access to education, to social and political life, to employment or, indeed, to membership of this House if that is what the person aspires to.
I travel regularly by plane, train, underground, bus and all forms of transport which are profoundly difficult and sometimes inaccessible for those with disabilities. Access to transport continues to be at a very low level, and therefore the use of taxis or cars involving significant additional costs is the only option available in many circumstances. Access to some buildings is still impossible for people with mobility problems. I share an office with someone who has a disability and so I am aware of the endless conversations that ensue on an invitation. Those questions include, "Can I get access to the building? Can I get into the event? How will I get up the steps?". Other problems arise for those who suffer from deafness and learning disabilities in terms of access to the content of material. That has to be provided for and it costs money. Surely we should recognise this and make quite clear what the allowance is intended to enable: simply, the payment of additional costs.
Lord Wigley: I rise with some humility to follow the noble Baronesses who have moved and spoken to these amendments. Reference has been made to the battles that took place in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s to try to make progress on this issue. A number of noble Lords here today were involved in the various stages. I look across the Committee Room and see the noble Lord, Lord Newton, who was very much involved from the Government's point of view and was there when progress was made. The battles were partly with regard to the substance and content of the legislation to ensure that resources were available for those in need. However, alongside that, there was a battle to ensure that the terminology was appropriate. We know that in so many areas of disability there have been changes in the conventional acceptance of terminology. To a very large extent that has been driven by those with disabilities themselves. Many of us have had to adapt to that terminology, coming to realise what it means. The terminology is important not only to disabled people themselves but to the rest of society because of the perception society has of the challenges of disability. One therefore wants to make sure not just that the terminology is neutral but that it works positively to help those most affected by it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, referred a moment ago to the fact that the amendment is not asking the Government to make an expensive provision. We have heard from the Minister speaking to many, many amendments in this Committee that the cost has to be a factor and we all understand that. In this instance, it does not appear that the cost has to be a factor and if the Minister can find some way to accommodate the terms of these amendments, I believe it would do an awful lot of good at very little cost.
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I, too, support these amendments. I also do so with some humility because I have become mildly disabled in recent years and I can understand how many disabled people feel that the life-changing effect of disability is not always fully appreciated. Your life changes completely in all sorts of ways. You wonder whether you can accept an invitation. How will I get there? Will I be able to get back? What will it be like when I get there? Will I have to stand up?
This is with relatively mild disability-for people who have greater suffering it is much worse. I suppose it is one of the reasons I have received more articles and letters on this bit of the Bill than any other section. I recently had a letter from Scope, which is in support of these amendments, of course; it urges that they should be fully supported. It points out that a social-model-based assessment is required and a great deal more attention needs to be paid to the life-changing aspect of disability.
I thank the noble Lords who have brought this before us because it is quite important. If one is able-bodied, one does not realise exactly what it means to have no real mobility. It really is totally life-changing and I do not really think in setting the new arrangements in relation to the PIP this is entirely appreciated by the Government.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly in view of the fact that I arrived at exactly the moment the noble Lord, Lord Low, was making kindly references to me in his speech, although he will probably not have recognised it until a bit later. I was told subsequently by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, that she has also referred to me in reasonably friendly terms and I am duly grateful for that and also for what I understand were friendly references made towards the back end of last week by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, and possibly also again by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister.
If you wonder why I have not been here it is not just because I am so busy but because I was frightened off by the phalanx of female Peers that fell on me the last time I was here for some entirely innocent remark. It has taken me a long while-believe it if you will-to regain my self-confidence. However, I am here and since I have not heard all the debate I am not going to attempt to comment in detail. Also, it would look a bit odd for me to defend the name or the precise detail of it or anything else that I and the late Nick Scott-who played a seminal part in all this and should be remembered in this context-put in place 22 years or so ago.
It is important to recognise from what has been said, even while I have been here, that it has captured the support of disabled people as a phrase, a concept and a purpose, and it would be a huge shame if-I gather that the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, has used this phrase-we landed up throwing the baby out with the bathwater and losing some of what was gained with DLA, even if it is obviously right that at this stage, 20-plus years on, it should be reviewed and refreshed.
All my instinctive sympathy says that if this nomenclature is what disabled people themselves would like, are comfortable with and feel reflects their needs,
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Lord Touhig: What's in a name? I come from south-east Wales where these things are important. We all call the Department for Work and Pensions the DWP, but in my part of Wales "dwp" is a word; it means "stupid". It seems to me that if we are creating a new benefit, it ought to have some relation to the people it is supposed to support.
I am president of a group at home called Access. It campaigns on behalf of people with disabilities. Our members are middle-aged and militant. If they see cars parked on pavements, they stick stickers on them saying, "Pavements are for people. Shift it", and they go back to check whether the cars have been moved. When the town centre was being redesigned, they persuaded two council officials to sit in wheelchairs and said, "You try to get into town and see the problems". I talked to some members recently about this because they were asking about the new benefit and what a personal independence payment is. One, who I have known for many years, said to me, "I am not independent. I am wheelchair-bound and dependent on my husband, my family and my friends. Surely the benefit ought to reflect the fact that it is support for me as a disabled person". So I have every sympathy with those who have tabled this amendment. It is important that the name reflects the people that it is to support and aid. It is quite reasonable to propose that "disability" should be in the name of this new benefit.
Baroness Thomas of Winchester: My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with this amendment. I shall get my interest out of the way at the outset of this Committee stage as I, too, receive DLA. I shall be very brief. It is almost as though the Government want to airbrush the word "disability" out of the picture. I cannot think why, except that they want to signal a change of approach. It is this very fact that is making disabled people so worried that they may not qualify for the new benefit. Can my noble friend say why the words "personal independence payments" were used and whether it is too late to change things? This is not something I would die in a ditch over because there are so many other things in the Bill that may be in that category, but not having the word "disability" in the name is a terrible mistake, so I support this amendment.
Baroness Hollins: My Lords, I, too, have an interest to declare because, as a family carer, I have two adult disabled children who are both in receipt of disability living allowance. I have spent many unhappy hours trying to get my mind around what the various benefits they receive are and how to complete the various assessments they have been sent.
The purpose has to be reflected in the name in order to help people like me when I am trying to help my son or daughter make sense of what benefits they might be entitled to. I wonder whether there is an element of misguided political correctness in the change of the name. Terminology can be a barrier.
My son is one of the 1.5 million people with learning disabilities. He will never be independent but disability living allowance allows him the possibility of being included in society and of leading a fuller life. Social inclusion is so much more useful than ideas about independence which sit uncomfortably with many people. The extra costs that people have can vary. For example, some people with learning disabilities may need to employ someone to help them to keep their home clear, to manage their laundry or to trim their hair or beard so that when they go out and about they are appropriately attired. They may need help to take advantage of special offers in the supermarket, but often people with learning disabilities will use their local shops. They have to pay more for their food than others because they do not understand money in such a way that they can benefit from the discounts available from large supermarkets. They may have special clothing needs. That is what these benefits are about and a lot of it is about inclusion. The name of the benefit needs to reflect its purpose, as should the assessments and reassessments. The name must not create a further barrier to inclusion.
One worry put to me was, if it is called the personal independence payment, will it be easier for the benefit to be scrapped in the future than something with the word "disability" in it? Does that lie behind this? There is a lot of concern and suspicion about motivation for such a name. I support the amendment.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, we have all been very moved by the speeches made by our disabled colleagues, particularly that made by my noble friend Lady Campbell, who put it so beautifully clearly. Perhaps one of the reasons is that quite a number of our colleagues in your Lordships' House are getting older and are beginning to have some form of disability, which makes one a little more aware of the needs. I do not know whether this form of words is necessary but the more that I have listened to the fact that the word "disability" is missing from the description, the more worried I am, not least when you hear how the press is reacting and the effect that that may have.
On listening to noble Lords, I clearly recognised the detailed areas of their special needs. That was useful knowledge on which to play the rest of our approach to this Bill. I hope that the Minister will take back to his colleagues the sort of reasoning that has taken place during this debate. His colleagues are probably engaged in goodness only knows how many other debates around Parliament, but if they had been able to be here I hope that they would have been at least as moved as I was and would have changed their approach. I hope that he will be persuasive in getting them to do just that.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I, too, support these amendments. I think particularly of people with fluctuating conditions which eventually become so bad that they are housebound, bedridden and almost unable to get out, and of the 25 per cent of people suffering from ME who are in this state. I should say that I am the chairman of Forward-ME. Every day I get letters from people who are terrified of what is
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Lord Addington: My Lords, I apologise that this is the first time I have spoken on the Bill. Something is occurring here which I have been aware of ever since the Government, of which I am a supporter, came to power. It is a fact that people are worried about what is going on when reading some of the language being used. Much of this anxiety is caused by things like getting rid of regulations, although I suspect that many of them were useless. The disability movement has in effect had a defence in depth of regulation. We have stuck extra regulations on which have given us a sense of security. I must remind the Committee that I am a dyslexic and therefore a disabled person, but not one who I think would be covered under the regulations here. That provides another example of how complicated the world is that we are stepping into. No two people who have spoken in the debate have the same problems.
In effect, the challenge the Minister faces today is to start to calm down these fears. If PIP is going to come in, what is required is a huge campaign to explain what it actually means. On reading the Bill, I do not think we have much to worry about, but the fear that there might be something there that does huge damage. Underclaiming is historically the biggest problem in this area. It means that we end up with on-costs in health, for instance, because people do not claim the right benefits. It is something that has had to be dealt with for a long time. If the Minister can start the process of dialogue, he will be doing himself a favour.
Would changing the words do anything? I suspect not, even if it made us feel better. I suspect that many of the problems we have in this area exist because we have done one or two too many things in Parliament, and, as I have said on other occasions, I take my share of the blame for that. But giving clarification of what is actually going on will help, and this would be a good place to start that process.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I support the amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton. I listened with particular interest to the analysis of the media representation of people who are disabled made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins. What she said reminded me of the terrible force of envy. Perhaps it is not recognised enough, but envy is an enormously powerful motivator in human societies.
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Lord Skelmersdale: I am sure that the eloquent and moving speeches we have heard today will cause my noble friend the Minister to think very hard indeed. I accept the need for a change in the name of the benefit. "Personal independence payment" is wrong for all the reasons that have been advocated. However, there is a problem. This is a totally new benefit for disabled people, but I believe that having "allowance" in its name is a mistake as it is too close to "disability living allowance".
While listening to the arguments today, I came up with my own preferred formulation-"personal disability costs payment". It is all of those things, and it is a payment. When my noble friend thinks about these issues-I am sure that he will not give us a plus or minus answer today; at least, I jolly well hope not-I hope that he will consider that suggestion.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, the proposition before us today is that we change references to "personal independence payment" and replace them with "disability living costs allowance". We have heard strong and compelling arguments to support that proposition and I am happy to give support from the opposition Front Bench. I do not propose to offer an alternative formulation, but I understand where the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, was coming from. It seems that the reasons that have been articulated today are overwhelmingly right. They are about clarity; about sending out the right signals; about not conceding issues to the press; about not allowing the word "disability" to be airbrushed out of the system; and about trying to combat some of the fears about the way that the proposals have been brought forward.
The DLA has its origins in 1970 when attendance and mobility allowances were introduced for severely disabled people. It was introduced in 1992 under the guidance of the noble Lord, Lord Newton. I am delighted that he is regaining his self-confidence-I cannot imagine him without it. It was introduced because the then system was not meeting the needs of
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As the impact assessment produced for this Bill indicates, DLA is a benefit which provides a cash contribution towards the extra costs of needs arising from an impairment or health condition. Because it is not practical to measure each individual's expenditure and therefore entitlement, entitlement has to be based on proxies for extra costs, care and mobility. These proxies were used at the time because research showed that they were the greatest sources of extra cost. So a decision about whether an award is made is not on the basis of an individual's cost, but on the severity of their care and mobility needs.
Whether the proxies and the assessment process have delivered the appropriate outcomes might be the subject of a debate that we will have shortly on other amendments. The clear intent of the policy is to make a cash contribution to the extra costs faced by disabled people. It does this for some 3.2 million people of whom presently over 1 million are over state pension age. Contrary to popular myths that everyone gets an indefinite award, analysis shows that in the 12 months up to November 2006, only 29 per cent had that outcome. The rights payment programme at the DWP routinely checks samples of awards for appropriateness.
We support the proposition that the aim of the benefit should be to provide support to help offset the costs in the widest sense for disabled people. What is the replacement of the DLA supposed to deliver? According to the June 2010 Budget Red Book, the purpose of reform is to ensure that support is targeted on those with the highest medical needs, although there has been some rowing back from this position. The introduction to the hot-off-the-press publication on November 11 of the second draft of the assessment criteria for personal independence payment refers to all the impressively extensive work that has gone into developing proposals for the assessment criteria. It states that the assessment will be on an individual's ability to participate in society as a proxy for the impact of disability and the extra costs disabled people can face.
As a statement of intent, this seems entirely reasonable and indeed consistent with what the supporters of the amendment are seeking. To make an award on the basis of extra costs disabled people can face, assessed by reference to their individual circumstances, is something to be supported. But, of course, whether the stated desired outcome is achieved or achievable is something we will discuss-whether the descriptors and the weight given to them are appropriate, whether they are too medicalised, whether the process of face-to-face engagement is right, issues around use of aids-in essence, whether they truly capture the barriers that disabled people face in their everyday lives.
The process has not been helped by the introduction of the PIP or whatever else it might eventually be called, proceeding in the context of a 20 per cent cut in spending up to 2015-16. This is in addition to a raft of
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will amount to something like £1.4 billion a year by 2015-16. Perhaps the Minister can take this opportunity to describe for us, in dealing with the title of this benefit, the circumstances of those who will fall outside of the definition of those with the greatest need. The need for clarity on this should also be seen in the context of other assessments that will be going on at this time. The WCA will run on. There will be people who will be subjected to a WCA assessment as well as an assessment for this replacement of DLA. Having clarity about what the benefit is for is absolutely crucial, and making sure that the title is entirely appropriate and conveys that message is something for which a powerful case has been made, and which we support.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My Lords, the noble Baroness is seeking to replace the name "personal independence payment" with "disability living costs allowance". We have also had my noble friend's suggestion that we replace it with "personal disability costs payment". I am very grateful for all the contributions on this genuinely important issue. Before dealing with the noble Baroness's amendment, I should like to take the opportunity to talk about why we are reforming the disability living allowance and the Government's policy intentions that underpin the personal independence payment. We believe that now is the right time to replace DLA by creating an affordable and sustainable system to support those disabled people who experience the greatest barriers to living full, active and independent lives. DLA has failed to keep pace with the changing approach to disability in society. It lacks consistency in the way it supports disabled people with similar needs, and we know from feedback received from claimants and their representatives that the application process is unduly complex.
Personal independence payment will be different from its predecessor. It will be a more dynamic, objectively assessed and transparent benefit based upon people's daily living and/or mobility needs. It will consider the impact an individual's impairment or health condition has on their daily life. It will take account of changes in individual circumstances and in the impact of underlying disabilities. It will reflect the wider changes in society that have taken place since 1992, when DLA was introduced, such as social attitudes, advances in aids and adaptations, and equality legislation. We will prioritise support on those individuals who face the greatest day-to-day challenges and who are therefore likely to experience higher costs.
The changes we are making through the introduction of personal independence payment will ensure that the benefit remains sustainable for the future. Currently, 3.2 million people receive DLA. This is an increase of around 30 per cent in the past eight years and it is
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I turn to the noble Baroness's amendment, the name "personal independence payment" is intended to communicate the purpose of a benefit that continues to make a contribution to the extra costs that some disabled people face to help them to lead full, active and independent lives. I can reassure the noble Baroness that we have not yet incurred artwork costs for personal independence payment, nor, I need to confess, did we invest heavily in private sector consultants to come up with options for the change of name. I guess one can be excoriated and congratulated on both those facts.
Before announcing our plans for personal independence payment, we conducted a series of focus group sessions in which we were able to discuss the name of the new benefit. People felt that the word "disability", although broadly understood and accepted as an umbrella term, was generally seen as relating to physical disability and was a more difficult term for mental health conditions. As noble Lords know, one of the big changes in personal independence payment is the swing in favour of people with mental health conditions. "Living" was felt simply to imply existing or surviving, and 'allowance' was deemed to be old-fashioned and paternalistic, as my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale suggested. It was because of these negative connotations that we decided, as part of the reform of DLA, to rename the benefit. Clearly, people will continue to have mixed views on the name "personal independence payment", but it has found favour in many quarters. Through the DLA reform consultation, we received some positive comments on the new name for the benefit. I will quote one correspondent-if I do not, I suspect that no one else in the Committee will-who stated:
We have always been clear that we will have greater regard for the social model when reforming DLA. The name "personal independence payment" reflects that intent rather than focusing on medical model terminology.
It is clear that noble Lords have differing views on the name of the benefit. I emphasise that our view is that "personal independence payment" reflects the principles and intention of the benefit. However, having heard the debate today, I am happy to take back noble Lords' views, which were put very powerfully, to the Minister for Disabled People. I will ask her to consider how we might seek further feedback from disabled people on the proposed name. On that basis, I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: In responding to the debate, on a couple of occasions the Minister used the formulation "greatest barriers", which carried the implication that people who face lesser barriers will
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Lord Freud: My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, we have published the criteria and weightings but have not yet gone into any further definition of how the system might work in terms of thresholds. I will aim to bring some more definition around that by Report.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Could the noble Lord bring back not just definitions but examples? He talked about a "dynamic" version. I do not understand that, except that "dynamic" is a sexy word. Perhaps he could describe how the situation of somebody who is currently on middle-rate DLA would change under PIP.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I listened very carefully to the debate. Will the noble Lord respond to what I thought was the very important point about sending out a message? Many noble Lords talked about the name sending out a message, and the fact that the change should be understood in the right way. Disabled people are very fearful about the changes that are taking place. There is concern that removing the word "disability" from the title of the benefit might make it more comfortable for the Government for whatever reasons to abolish it in the future. That sentiment has been voiced in this debate. Will the Minister come back on the point?
Lord Freud: My Lords, the point is wrong in the following sense. What we are trying to do with funds that are inevitably limited is to make sure that we focus them on areas of real need and on where they should be focused. That is something that most people would agree with and it is the intention of the benefit. It is meant to be a more efficient way of getting money to the right people. So I do not agree at all with that concern. Some people express concern at the words we have used. As I have sought to describe, we have tried to get feedback and customer insight, and we have tried to get rid of some of the old medical stereotypes to move towards the social model. That is what we are trying to do with the name that we have suggested.
I can just imagine us sitting the opposite way around, having had the noble Lord, Lord Newton, introducing in 1992 the personal independence payment and everyone around this Committee saying, "This is the right word. You cannot change it. Your DLA is outrageous. How dare you use the word disability?". I know that there is familiarity of title and that we are all rather conservative with a small "c". Disentangling all that is rather hard. However, I have heard what Members have said; namely, that there is a concern about whether we have got exactly the right name. I will ask Maria Miller to have another look and we will put more work into making sure that we have got the right name.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I hope that the Deputy Chairman will not mind if I intervene from a sedentary position, which I think has been accepted in this Committee previously. I take the Minister's point. We are all-I certainly can hardly deny even with a big "C"-being conservative with a small "c" on some points. Picking up from what the noble Baronesses on the Front Bench here, as it were, were saying earlier, we have to acknowledge a combination of things, which is nervousness among the disabled population about what is going on, accompanied by a change of name with which it feels comfortable. If the Minister could allay the concerns more clearly, it might be easier to change the name. I ask the Minister to bear in mind that at the moment they are trying to change a name which is aggravating the worries about the actual changes that are going on. That is the political point.
Baroness Wilkins: To follow up on that, perhaps I may press the Minister on press reports. Is his department, or are Ministers, ready to undertake some counteracting of what is going on in the press? On a previous day in Committee, he said that we do not control the press. Of course, the department does not control the press but there is a strong suspicion that stories such as the one that appeared last Friday in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph with the same words may have been leaked from the department to the right-wing press. If Ministers cannot control the press, it would ease the fears of disabled people immensely if they could come up with some very positive comments for the radio and television media where they have some control to counteract the appalling image that is being put across about disabled people.
Lord Freud: My Lords, I am very sympathetic to that point. The trouble is that when I and my colleagues-and, I am sure, the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, and the opposite side of the Chamber when it was in power-try to make positive stories, it is terribly hard to get any coverage at all. That is the trouble. The press is very hard to use in this way. I could use some emollient language here. I am genuinely concerned at the difficulties that we have as a department in getting a balanced view. Journalists tend to write unbalanced stories. I am conscious of and very concerned about that. I take it and I will try to get some counterspin, if you like, working. I think you are absolutely right that we are in danger of seeing the position of disabled people undermined by the media coverage and it behoves us to try to get that rebalanced. I accept the commission, if that is what it is, and will try to do something about it.
Lord Freud: My Lords, the real trouble with the benefit is that it has been so loosely applied that it is impossible to take it fraudulently. I exaggerate slightly to make the point but that is the reason. The last time
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The Countess of Mar: The press go to town on people who are living in nice bungalows in Spain on their DLA. Yet, the very fact that it is loose is not the fault of the people who have been claiming the benefit but those who are administering it.
Let me just get those figures correctly for you- it is £600 million overpayment and £190 million underpayment. I, like the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, am as concerned about the underpayment as the overpayment.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton: My Lords, I thank the Minister and all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. In fact, I am quite overwhelmed-I did not expect such enthusiasm for this first amendment, although it is a very important one. I have to say again that this is not about a name; it is about intent. I believed, and I stand by it, the noble Lord, Lord Newton-who is now in this Room-when he said back in 1990 that the DLA was better assistance with the extra cost of being disabled. The DLA helps deliver that cost. I think it applied then and I am sorry it applies now. There is intent and it is important to get this name right.
I am so pleased that so many noble Lords have given their personal experiences and examples of the use of the DLA and that other noble Lords have talked about their experience of understanding the needs of other disabled people who may not be in this Room, such as people with hidden impairments and mental health conditions. Yes, we must reform the DLA so it meets the extra costs of all disabled people in this country not just those with physical impairments.
I do not know what focus groups the Minister was at when the name was discussed but it certainly was not with the disabled people that I have been talking to over the last couple of months. I do not want to boast, but I know rather a lot of disabled people. I have been working alongside disabled people for 30 years and I am tapped in to some of the biggest organisations for disabled people in this country which have a long history and authority in this area. So I trump the noble Lord when it comes to knowing what disabled people think about this amendment and its intent.
I am of course pleased that we might think of looking at the name again and I am thrilled that the Minister will be going back to the Minister for Disabled
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I am glad that we have kicked off with a debate about the name because it has got all of us in the Room really focused on the issue, but having heard the debate, for now I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(a) the person's ability to carry out daily living activities is limited by the person's physical or mental condition; and
(b) the person meets the required period condition."
Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I will speak to the amendments tabled in my name in this grouping. These amendments identify what I believe to be a significant weakness in the current approach. When DLA was introduced it was to help with disabled people's high living costs and to ensure that those who could not access alternative help were supported, as well as to maximise disabled people's independence. However, since DLA was introduced, most councils have restricted access to care services. Around 80 per cent of local authorities in England now provide support only to people with needs assessed as being "critical" or "substantial". People with low or moderate needs have been prevented from receiving support through care rationing. But the Government's plans to end DLA and introduce PIP would abolish entirely the low-rate care DLA and deny help to many disabled people and their families least able to receive any kind of alternative support. The amendments have been proposed to ensure that some disabled people who need basic, but not a great deal of, support are still able to access help under the new benefit. I declare an interest in the level of support being targeted for total abolition.
We need to be aware of those who are at the greatest risk of losing help if the proposals progress as drafted. The amendments would secure some basic support for disabled people and would make a substantial difference between being cut off from support and
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The current support helps people manage health conditions and helps towards some of the costs of, for example, higher heating bills for people with conditions that require consistent home temperatures. To lose DLA would undermine the ability to manage and therefore enforce use of the NHS or reliance on formal care services.
In a recent survey for disability allowance, for example, roughly one in eight respondents identified higher health service use if DLA were reduced or rescinded. That was the case for low-rate care recipients and people with mental health conditions, who may end up in intensive and expensive psychiatric hospital care which the £19.55 per week currently helps prevent. The recent Dilnot review of care funding said that,
To remove support would exacerbate the care funding crisis as disabled people would not be able to manage-in particular those with low-level need. The Bill will end support for 652,000 working-age adults receiving low-rate care payments, with disabled children and older people set to follow. I believe that the amendment is essential to mitigate the risks to disabled people, their families, the NHS and councils. It would not simply carry over the same people and the same rules, however. I realise that the Government need space in regulations to ensure a new approach in-fitting their PIP plans. The amendment allows that approach. The Government would, of course, retain the right to establish the level of basic need at which disabled people would be entitled to support. They should work with disabled people and their representative organisations to ensure that people who genuinely need help can access some support.
I have two final questions. First, has the Department of Health provided a cost for the time and expenses of providing the 2 million medical notes for the working-age disabled people who will go through the new assessment process? Secondly, has the Department for Communities and Local Government provided an estimate of how much demand for council-funded care services is likely to change? I beg to move.
Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, the amendment asks the Government to think again about the proposal to have only two levels of the daily living component of PIP compared with the current three levels for the care component of DLA. While changing from three to two levels may seem attractive from the point of view of simplicity, it is likely to be achieved at the cost of creating unnecessary dependency and hardship among large numbers of people. As we have heard it could also result in greater pressure on health and social services.
was crucial in preventing greater needs developing, enabling older people to remain in their own homes, living active lives and saving unnecessary expenditure on health and social services. The same experience applies to disabled people below retirement age. In addition, for many disabled people it is that little bit of help that makes it possible for them to seek and retain employment. Currently the lower rate of DLA care component can make a major difference and, in the long run, save unnecessary expenditure.
As the DWP has acknowledged, many of those who responded to the consultation opposed the proposal that there should be only two rates of the daily living component and expressed a fear that it would result in many people who currently receive some much-needed help no longer getting it. As the Government's own review of research on what DLA is used for shows, there is widespread evidence that current payment levels do not cover the real costs that disabled people incur. That includes those receiving the lower rate of the care component. Not only will the removal of assistance to this group mean that some-many-will make greater demands on health and social care services, it will deprive local authorities of the funds to enable them to do so. Currently local authorities take the whole of the care component when charging for community care services. Once more, local authorities will face higher demands with fewer funds.
"In the early stages of my wife's illness we got this small sum of money which did make a major difference to our lives. It helped to pay for someone to sit with her while I went out shopping, and it meant that our lives could carry on that bit longer before we asked for more help".
It is hard to believe that abolishing the lower rate will do anything more than remove much needed help from large numbers of people. This may help the Government to reduce the DLA budget but the costs will undoubtedly turn up elsewhere in public expenditure, whether it is in the costs of increased health needs or in the implications for social services budgets.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I picked up two points in the course of this debate. First, I think the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, indicated that she thought there were 655,000 potential losers from this. Is that right?
Lord Newton of Braintree: I got it nearly right, but it is still quite a lot of people. In that case, my question to the Minister is: what steps does he expect to take-it may be that this is already clear and I just do not know-to protect people who are already receiving
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The other thing is also, in a sense, a question directed to the Minister, although it may also have occurred to the noble Baronesses and others who are interested in this. It is the reference in the Bill and in this amendment, which follows the Bill, to a person's ability to,
I would like to say a word or two about how that is to be done. In my day, which some in the Room will remember, we had a benefit called the housewives non-contributory invalidity pension, which entailed a lot of tests, that were regarded as demeaning and humiliating in the extreme, about whether somebody could boil a kettle or take a tin off a shelf. I think there were others, to judge from the reaction of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, who will remember them. I would not want to get back into that. Indeed, I got rid of it. I hope that we may have a word that there will be a more civilised way of assessing the ability to carry out daily living activities than is revealed on the surface of the Bill.
Lord Wigley: If the Minister accepts the figure for those who will lose relatively small sums that are of critical importance to them, and if the services that they have been able to purchase or the benefits in their life that they have been able to obtain by virtue of having that money now have to be found through some other means, has some assessment been made of the additional cost that may be going elsewhere in order to ensure that they do not lose out on aspects of their lives that are critical for their day-to-day existence?
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Newton, put his finger on the button in his first comments. It is people's fear of what is going to happen when they have a medical examination. Many of them have already had experience of DWP medicals, and from the correspondence I have had they are extremely distressed about what is going to happen to them in the future. It may be that they are dramatising, in which case we would be very pleased to have our minds put at rest, but on the other hand, if we are making this 20 per cent cut in expenses, they are bound to be frightened because these are people at the bottom who are going to be chopped off, and they do not understand how the process in going to happen.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton: My Lords, I, too, support this amendment. In fact, it was down in my name, but when I saw how many amendments I was
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Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, my name is on the amendment. I will very briefly make clear my support for it. Most of the things that I intended to say have been said, but I will underscore them. My first point is very much the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Newton. The proposal to eliminate the lowest rate of DLA care when introducing the daily living component of PIP at only two levels is one of the principal causes of the fear and apprehension on the part of disabled people that we talked about when discussing the earlier amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell. As we heard, we are not talking about a small number of people but 652,000, or nearly three-quarters of a million. That is a substantial consideration of which the Government should be mindful.
My other point, which I do not think anybody has made, is that the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, allows the Government room in regulations to reduce the number of disabled people receiving the lowest rate of the care component while still ensuring that some of those who currently access this level of help will not be cut adrift at a stroke from support when the new benefit is introduced. Now I come to think of it, this point is the same as that made by the noble Lord, Lord Newton; it is about transition and flexibility. If the Government, for cost considerations or for any other reason, feel it imperative to push ahead in this direction, I urge them to give serious thought to the question of phasing out and showing flexibility on the precise number who will be cut adrift from the benefit at a stroke. If we need to lose some people, perhaps consideration can be given to articulating the benefit in such a way that not all 652,000 people are affected at once.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, I hope that by means of the Minister's response to the amendments we will come to understand the Government's thinking on why and how they will move from three levels of disability living allowance to two levels as part of what today I will call PIP, even though I hope that we may rename it.
PIP will have a daily living and mobility allowance, with the daily living component awarded according to an individual's ability to carry out key activities so as to enable them to participate in everyday life. This is a fairly fundamental description of why it should be paid. However, I will ask four questions about the move to abolish one of the rates. First, what is the evidence base for this change? Clearly there is one; we know that the Minister is a good evidence-based policy developer. However, I am unclear about what it is. Will the two rates satisfactorily encompass the whole range of disability that we seek to help or will it be simply administratively easier and therefore quicker to administer and get help to people? What is the rationale?
Secondly, if neither of these two explanations is right, is it simply a device that has been selected by Government to help achieve the 20 per cent cut? Is it to be achieved by chopping out the bottom one-third of assessed needs? I am afraid that the Disability Alliance judges that this is the reason. It is particularly concerned that disabled people receiving the DLA low-care payments may lose support as a result of the scrapping of this bit of assistance and the Government's stated aim of only helping those with the most severe needs.
The figure of 652,000 mean that if you remove the whole of those-we do not yet know of course whether that will be the impact-that would cut £663 million from expenditure. However, the 20 per cent cut needs more than that because the Government want to cut out £1.3 billion. To achieve the Government's planned savings they are either going to have to remove even more disabled people than those already in the third group or cut payments to those who nevertheless do qualify. I know the Minister already understands why so many people are living in fear. It is a word that has been used a lot today, I think for the first time this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and since then a number of times. I am sure on reflection that the Minister would not want to repeat his own words when he talked about helping those with real needs. People receiving the lower level at the moment have real needs. They may not be the most severe but they are still very real.
Although I do not want to go over what my noble friend Lady Wilkins said about the press reporting I have to say, as maybe longer in the tooth than some people here and rather more involved with spin doctoring in my past, I find it really hard to believe that a number of stories appearing in a number of newspapers on the same day is by accident. Certainly when Alastair Campbell was doing some spinning for us, that would never have been the case. When the same stories were in the same papers on the same days we could normally work out whose sticky fingers were on them. Maybe a look by the Minister rather closer to home-not himself of course-may help find the source of those stories. Unless we rein in the attacks on disabled people, trust in the Government is going to be very hard to rebuild. For all sorts of reasons I may not like this Government, but I believe that in a democracy it is really serious if we lose trust in the Government. It is a situation I do not like to see.
The low-rate care aspect of the DLA may imply low-level needs. I give my thanks as ever to my noble friend Lady Hollis, who has to hand the definition of the lowest rate care components. You qualify only if you are so severely disabled physically or mentally that you,
That to me feels like a real need, and a pretty substantial one. It is also the case, as has been referred to, that people receiving the lowest rate of the DLA are often unable to get support elsewhere. Cuts to these groups could remove vital preventative support, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, and in the long term lead to increased pressures on social care or NHS budgets, causing the on-costs referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. I would be interested to hear the Minister's response to her question on that. As the Dilnot commission, which has been referred to, acknowledges, meeting these lower-level needs is essential to ensure the prevention of later higher or even crisis-level needs.
The National Autistic Society has particular concerns that people with autism will lose out-people who are unable to access social care in part due to ever-tightening eligibility criteria. Low-level DLA is a key benefit that enables people with autism to live more independently. Since the announcement of the changes from DLA to PIP, the National Autistic Society has been inundated with e-mails and calls from people concerned that they may lose the support they rely on to complete everyday tasks such as getting to appointments or going shopping.
My third question concerns a crucial part of the jigsaw that we still await: how we will keep disabled people in the community and how the new PIP will passport carer's allowance. Worryingly, there has been no impact assessment of the effect of the PIP changes on carers. We have no idea how many are due to lose out either as a result of the 20 per cent cut or from the change from three rates to two. If some of the current higher-rate people go into what will be the third rate that is then lost, and they may also lose their carer's allowance. The Minister paid tribute in an earlier session to the role of carers. However, he should know that tributes will not suffice; cash will be needed to enable them to continue their vital role.
Fourthly, will the Minister outline how other passported benefits will be handled with just two rates of PIP? For many recipients free travel, taxis or blue badge parking enables them to live a more normal life. Perhaps he can tell us about any knock-on effects as some people are likely to fall out of eligibility after an assessment.
It was mentioned earlier that it was only at lunchtime on Friday that the Committee received the DWP's revised draft assessment criteria, or descriptors. They give some indication of who might be entitled under the new scheme. We have not had time for detailed scrutiny of the criteria, although I know that a number of my colleagues spent a lot of the weekend trying to do just that. Most importantly, as my noble friend Lord McKenzie said, we have yet to see the proposed thresholds for entitlement under the points system. Without these, it is impossible to assess the impact of the criteria on entitlement, and therefore what the change from three levels to two means.
In answering an earlier question, the Minister said that we will have the proposed thresholds by Report. I was rather disappointed by that. It will not give us or, more importantly, people affected by the changes, much time to consider them. If it means getting them on the Friday before a Monday stage of Report, as
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In relation to the amendments in this group, will the Minister clarify what consideration the Government have given to the needs of the third-level group of disabled people? Should they be excluded altogether from PIP? How will their vital support needs be met? The Opposition fully understand the need for reform. Static is rarely the right approach for any policy or mechanism. However, our problem is that it is impossible to assess the proposed reform with so little idea of who it will affect or how. We know that the department must have made assumptions about the characteristics of the groups that will be excluded. It will have made budgeting assumptions. Therefore, I would be grateful if the Minister would share those assumptions about the people who will drop out of eligibility after the move from three to two levels.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I support my noble friend in her request. In order to have a sound evidence base, we are going to need stats about how the existing clients of DLA-if I can put it that way-will map on to the future ones proposed for PIP and the implications for carers. It is not a discrete thing: it has interactions with ESA; it has interactions with in-work conditionality; and it has interactions with other things, like housing benefit, extra rooms and the rest of it. It has tentacles right through the whole of the Bill.
I will make a serious proposal to the Minister. I will personally not be happy to go into a Report stage of this Bill unless we have had, at least three days before the first day of Report, all the information that we need on the proposed changes to DLA and the linking effect to carer's allowance, because it interacts with so many other aspects of the Bill. I hope the Minister will agree that that is an acceptable position to hold.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, before the Minister replies, which I assume he is about to do, I will just chip in again. I do not have the up-to-date knowledge that the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, has from her more recent experience as a social security Minister, but I did once again prick up my ears at the reference to carers. There is obviously a link between disability living allowance with its three rates and the payment of carer's allowance. This is not something that I have focused on, but I would much appreciate a word from the Minister about what the effects of that might be. That would be on top of the 652,000, as I understand it, and could mean that some households suffer what in conventional jargon would be called a double-whammy. We need to know something about that.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I would add to the noble Lord's very helpful intervention that if someone who is currently getting carer's allowance finds themselves
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Lord Freud: My Lords, I apologise that the information about the second draft criteria was not available earlier and I apologise for ruining a lot of weekends. What is the reason? We had a large volume of feedback to our informal consultation and we have made a significant amount of changes. It took some time-rather longer than we hoped-to work through it all. It is crucial that we get this right. One of the reasons-as noble Lords have pointed out already-is that there is a lot of sensitivity around this. If we put things out that are not right, we will create concerns where we should not. Misleading impressions here are very dangerous.
As I said, we aim to have the thresholds available for the Report stage of our consideration of this-not before the whole of the Report stage, but in good time for when we reach these matters at Report.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords-if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene again-I am sorry, but that really will not do. Too much depends on how you align the two rates of disability allowance; the passporting of carer's allowance will depend on it; and, in turn whole issues such as couple conditionality, in-work payments and the like will depend on that. We cannot deal with earlier sections of the Bill if we do not know what the implications of this are. It will not do to leave this until Report. We have to have it before we start the Report stage.
Lord Freud: My Lords, I regret to say that I am not in a position to say that we will have the implications for carers ready for Report as well as the threshold information, which is another roll-on. We will be discussing the carer's element in a later amendment, so I shall deal with that more fully then. I am looking at the timings of the information that I have. There is a large amount of co-production going on in the development of PIP, where we are talking to disabled people and disabled groups. That is what is taking the time to get to where we need to get to.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: This is obviously more a matter for the usual channels. Having just asked that discussions should happen with representatives of disabled people, the other way of meeting the major problem is by delaying Report and not starting it before Christmas. There are two reasons for that. The first is that we do not have the information and the second is the difficulty of trying to get disabled groups to give us the feedback that we need over Christmas when many offices close down. We will not be as informed as I know the Minister would want us to be.
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Lord Freud: My Lords, the proposition is that we need to have this locked down ahead of the rest of the Bill. Regrettably, we are not expecting to have the passporting elements of this ready for the time we consider it. I will go into some detail. The timing issue is that there would be no gain, if that is the real concern, in pulling this information earlier and hurrying the consideration process artificially.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I think that it would be very helpful if immediately following today's sitting we have an update on what is and is not going to be ready because there are serious issues about consideration. Rather than prolong the process today, if the Minister would undertake to do that, it would be helpful.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: If the Minister were able to say, for example, that carer's allowance will be attached to both rates, whatever they may turn out to be in terms of eligibility, some of our concerns would be removed. If he cannot say even that, I think half of Chapter 1, nearly all of Chapter 2 and quite a fair amount of Chapter 3 are affected by the passporting decision for carers.
Lord Freud: My Lords, I will give a full report on Wednesday, but I have already indicated where I am pretty sure we are. We are looking at passporting in a much wider way. We are having the SSAC report in January with its recommendations. There will undoubtedly be a lot of work around that. It would indeed be foolish to look at one aspect of passporting without taking the whole of passporting together. As noble Lords know, this is a framework Bill. There will be plenty of time to consider all these elements as we go through the regulations when we will be doing things in the fullest possible way. I imagine noble Lords in this Room will be taking a very full interest in all these aspects. Let me leave it that I will come back with the timetable at our next sitting.
These amendments seek to broaden the scope of PIP-I do not know whether my noble friend's formulation of the personal disability costs payment has found favour, but I will stick with PIP, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, for the purposes of this-by introducing an additional tier to the daily living component. When we consulted on the overall framework to personal independence payment, we stated our intention to move to a structure that has two components paid at two rates. We decided on this structure for three key reasons: to simplify the overall structure by reducing possible award outcomes from 11 to eight; to make it easier to understand and administer; and to ensure that it reflects the range of individual needs and provides appropriate levels of support.
We also made it clear that the overall design of personal independence payment is intended to ensure that the benefit is fairer, more transparent and focused on the individuals who are least able to live independently. It also provides an affordable and sustainable platform of provision for the future.
In responding to our consultations, most organisations said that they supported the move to broader definitions for both components as they were a better reflection of the real experience of disabled people's daily lives. Our view, therefore, is that a daily living component paid at one of two rates will enable us to better reflect the impact of impairment on an individual's ability to participate. I appreciate the concerns of the noble Baroness that people will receive lower levels or no support under our reforms and that her amendments are intended to prevent that. However, that fails to deal with one of our fundamental aims, which is to give more consideration to whom we prioritise for support.
The Government have been clear here. We intend to protect those who are most in need and will prioritise support for individuals whose impairment has most impact on their ability to participate. That aim, and the way in which we intend to deliver it through the new assessment criteria, may necessarily result in shifts in provision. Some people will receive more support under our proposals; some the same; and some less. This is not an exercise in simply making arbitrary cuts to existing provision; it is about refocusing benefit provision so that it reflects disability impairments and barriers to participation in the 21st century.
Lord Wigley: The Minister mentioned a shift in provision. Did he look at the responsibility falling on other people? I am thinking particularly of it falling on social service departments of local authorities.
Lord Freud: My Lords, clearly an enormous amount of work has been done on this within both government and consumer organisations. When we refine the criteria-which is the process that we are going through-we look at all those aspects to ensure that we focus the money on where it will have most effect in supporting people to live independent lives.
On the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, on how we will assess people, the version of criteria that we published on Friday looked at a range of key, everyday activities. The main question is to look at what support an individual needs. It is much more holistic than the test described by my noble friend Lord Newton of how to boil a kettle. Our testing results through the summer demonstrated that our approach is both reliable and valid. On the question raised on the cost of getting evidence from GPs, we are discussing PIP plans with the Department of Health but have not yet made any estimate of the specific costs of obtaining evidence from GPs. However, evidence gathering will be a critical part of PIP and we recognise that disabled people will want to present information from a wide range of sources, not just GPs. We will ensure that they are able to do this.
Let me pick up the point made by the noble Baroness on the 652,000 so-called losers. That assumes that all the people currently receiving the lowest rate of DLA
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In the proposed criteria we have demonstrated that we have not simply removed the lowest rate of DLA. The concepts of needing assistance and how individuals prepare food, as described by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, are very much part of the criteria. We are aiming to ensure that passports to provisions elsewhere, such as vehicle excise duty exemption and the blue badge scheme, continue. Where necessary, we are working with other government departments and the devolved Administrations to ensure that the new PIP arrangements match closely their arrangements to ensure continued support for disabled people. It is our intention that the personal independence payment will provide part of the gateway for receipt of carer's allowance in the way that DLA currently does. I have dealt with the timing issue.
In conclusion, let me assure the noble Baroness that our proposals to move to a two-tier daily living component is not about reducing support or cutting costs. It is a principled move that will help us deliver a benefit that will focus on those least able to participate. It will do that in a way that will make it fairer, clearer for everyone to understand, simpler to administer, and affordable and sustainable into the future. The Government have spent a considerable time developing and consulting on the provisions that the noble Baroness wishes to amend. Our view is that they are the right way to progress our aims. I therefore cannot support the amendment and I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw it.
Baroness Hollins: My Lords, the second draft of the assessment regulations is very interesting but it does not help in the consideration of what we are talking about. It does not tell us the threshold, so we cannot assess how many points you would need in order to reach a level of having a limited ability to carry out daily living activities and so on. Will the Minister explain how we could use these to judge what he has just been talking about?
Lord Newton of Braintree: In an attempt to stop the Minister having to pop up and down, I think that I am right in saying that he has not responded to my concern about the effects of this proposal. Whatever the figures turn out to be, there appear to be some "losers". What are the effects of this? What steps will be taken to protect or to provide transitional measures? We are talking about sums of money that are significant to people who have not got very much. We have to keep that in mind all the time. The Minister has
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On carers, I listened with mounting horror to the fact that we shall not know what the effects will be by the time we return to this. If among those 652,000 so-called losers, or whatever number it is, there are a number who also lose carer's allowance, we are talking about a number of households which will lose serious amounts of money in relation to their income. We need to know what is happening in order to make a judgment about these proposals. I do not expect the Minister to say anything else but he needs to know that this former Secretary of State recognises some concerns.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I, too, invite the Minister to expand further on the blue badge. Obviously, we have just had a very important discussion about passporting, carer's allowance and so on. The Minister was almost seen to be giving me reassurance about blue badge and other mobility passporting issues. Perhaps he could expand on the discussions that he is having and on what he hopes the outcome of those discussions might be, and give me a little more hope on that matter.
Lord Freud: My Lords, let me start with the numbers. Large numbers are being thrown around about what is meant to be a 20 per cent cut. In practice, it is a cut from a projection because the benefit was rising very steeply, so measures were taken to get it under control. The whole caseload in 2009-10 was running at £3.1 million and now £3.2 million. In 2015-16 our projection is for it to run at more or less £3.1 million-£3.059 million. In terms of money, this is cash money. We are looking at a figure of £11.5 billion rising to £13.7 billion in 2015-16-and that is cash, not real. That was the projection we inherited and it is from that that we are cutting £1.3 billion. So from £13.6 billion we will take £1.3 billion, which will leave £12.3 billion.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am very interested in this point and it is exactly what I want to press the Minister on. Earlier he said that this was irrespective of-net of, if you like-demographic changes. Is he still saying that that is true for these figures? Certainly, all my assumptions based on his impact analysis and all the rest of it, and from what most of us know about this, are that people are getting their DLA and carrying it through into older age, and there is increased eligibility for attendance allowance by virtue of people living longer. So what one really wants to know is where he thinks the extra cost is coming from and whether, rather like pension costs, it reflects what is happening demographically and does not show any "looseness" in the financial gateways to the benefit.
Lord Freud: My Lords, as I said earlier, the history of this is that only 30 per cent of the gain that we have seen in recent years has been due to demographics. The rest has been the result of a drive in demand. I do not think that there was any assumption of a huge
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I shall take the question on transitional protection put by my noble friend Lord Newton that I failed to answer. He had to ask it again, and I apologise for that. We do not have any plans to introduce such protection for people who currently receive DLA and may not be entitled to PIP. While I accept that they may have been entitled to it for some time, it would be strange to continue to pay a benefit to people who no longer met the entitlement criteria. So there is no difference between this and the similar 2004-05 exercise where 12 per cent of people were found no longer to be entitled.
I turn now to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, on the difficulty of working out what the assessments we published on Friday mean. That was an exercise in showing the weightings and how the criteria might work to prioritise relative need. We know that there are strong views on these relative weightings. That is why we have published them: so that we can now discuss and fine-tune them to the extent that we need to. As I said, we will be able to move on this when we come to these clauses on Report, having done the exercise and worked out what it means in terms of entitlement thresholds.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: Will the Minister explain whether the department, having done that, will put everyone on a list depending on the number of points they have and then say, "Right, we have a fixed amount of money so we will adjust the levels accordingly"? Or will the divisions be based on a real assessment of people and will the Government then find the money come what may if people meet the thresholds?
The Minister did not answer my earlier question about the assumptions the DWP must already have made about the number of people who are likely to lose out. He said some will gain, some will stay the same and some will get less. After all the modelling that the department has done, there must be an assumption about this. It may need changing in the light of the thresholds, but it would be useful for it to be shared.
Lord Freud: My Lords, I will pick up the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. I have no figures on how many people may or may not lose, mainly because we have not yet locked down the thresholds. However, I assure her that this is a bottom-up exercise based on assessing people's real needs. We are working at it that way round rather than working to a budget. That is what some of the testing we did over the summer was about.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, asked about the work we have done on some passported benefits. We had detailed discussions with colleagues in the Department for Transport about passporting disabled people to the blue badge scheme. We will include key outcomes from the discussions in the updated impact assessment that we will publish in time for Report.
Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions this afternoon. I took over the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, and I am responding as
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I agree wholeheartedly with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, on the difficulty of assessments, and with those of the noble Lord, Lord Newton, on transition. The barriers are still significant to those who may not be considered so disabled in the wider context of disability.
I think of this in terms of sport-and specifically athletics, which I know well. If life as a disabled person is a race and the finish line is full integration into society where DLA is not required, disabled people are not at the start of the 100 metres but spread out at different points along the marathon course. Many disabled people are still in the warm-up area and a few were left on the bus. Of course, this should not stop our attempts to remove barriers, but we should be very careful about the choices that we make. I have concerns that we are simply pushing this issue into other areas and I look forward to continuing the discussion with the Minister, especially around the projection figures of the Department for Work and Pensions, of which I take a slightly different view. I will come back to this at a later stage. At the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton: My Lords, I tabled this amendment truly in the spirit of modernisation. The Minister and the Government have called for modernising this benefit and I am at one with that. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the assessment process used to determine eligibility for PIP will be based on the social model of disability. I was inspired to table this amendment by the document, The Future of PIP: A Social Model Based Approach. It was conducted by Scope and has sign-up from practically all the major disability organisations that you can think of.
thereby changing the assessment originally proposed from purely a medical analysis of the barriers faced by the disabled person to a social model approach. This does not mean that the person's medical condition will not be considered-quite the opposite.
This amendment therefore takes a modern approach to the assessment process required if a disabled person wishes to become eligible for PIP, or, I hope, DLCA or PIPO. I feel that the Government will want to welcome this amendment. The Minister will know that they have a robust commitment to the social model of disability by endorsing and adopting the 2005 life chances strategy when taking office. That strategy is entirely informed by the social model approach and the Government have said repeatedly that they want to help disabled people to overcome the barriers that they face to leading full and independent lives. They want to ensure that that support is focused on those with the greatest barriers and to more accurately assess who would benefit most from additional support, which is warmly welcomed. Yet despite these bold commitments, so far civil servants have largely designed a medical model test with a tweak of social model now and then that will not deliver these admirable aims. I have a sneaking feeling that the Minister will assure me and other Members of the Committee that the new draft assessment process has now been redesigned to take more account of the environmental and social barriers that get in the way of disabled people's inclusion in society.
This is very good news and I particularly welcome the fact that the Government have at last begun the work co-productively with a small number of disabled people, and in particular members of their own advisory group on disability-Equality 2025-to redesign parts of the assessment process. However, I have very briefly read the new draft. I feel that it is only just a start and that in order to ensure the social model approach to assessment is maintained by those eventual assessors, who are unlikely to be steeped in the social model of disability, the Government really need to nail their colours to the mast. Where better than in the Bill?
They also need to reassure disabled people that they understand the nature of the barriers they face and that the new system will be based on this. This amendment does just that. I will give some background. Throughout this year as plans for the introduction of PIP have developed, disability organisations such as Scope, the National Centre for Independent Living
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Unless the assessment is clearly based on a social model approach, the system will not be able to accurately identify which people really need to receive support from PIP. Disabled people know that many of the barriers they face do not directly arise from their own bodies, their conditions and impairments but from social, environmental and practical barriers such as inaccessible transport, unsuitable housing or living in social isolation with nobody to support them. I know that the Government agree with this analysis and are equally keen to address such barriers, yet a failure to incorporate this approach properly into the Bill threatens to create a missed opportunity to deliver the Government's aims.
Scope has been the lead charity working on this issue with a range of organisations, including disability organisations for and of disabled people, public services, academic institutions and think tanks to outline a blueprint for an alternative assessment process for PIP; namely, an assessment process that would ensure that the social model of disability was firmly at the heart of PIP/DLCA and the assessment for it, which I believe would deliver the Government's aim of targeting the benefit effectively.
In October, Scope published its report entitled The Future of PIP: A Social Model Based Approachoutlining this alternative assessment. The report received great support and has been endorsed by more than 20 organisations, including Citizens Advice, Disability Alliance, RADAR, NCIL, Mencap, Mind, the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers, Guide Dogs, National Deaf Children's Society, Voluntary Organisations Disability Group and the Papworth Trust.
The report strongly recommends the trial of an approach that: takes greater account of the social, practical and environmental barriers that an individual faces as part of their everyday life-and the costs that come with these-as well as how they manage their condition or impairment on a daily basis; is co-produced with the claimant, rather than being done "to" them, and which tries to avoid many of the same shortcomings evident in the work capability assessment; and is better designed to help disabled people overcome the barriers they face by ensuring that those facing significant external barriers that could be reduced or removed with targeted intervention from services such as occupational therapy are passported on to the relevant services. This will be of benefit to everyone who undergoes an assessment for PIP, regardless of whether they are then assessed as being entitled to the benefit.
This is not to say that disabled people do not experience barriers that result directly from their impairment or condition-they do, and it is, of course, essential that these are considered. However, Scope and other organisations say the plans do not go far
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If the Government are truly serious about embedding the social model of disability within PIP, they must take on board Scope's recommendations. They must redesign the assessment process with disabled people coproductively so that it accurately identifies those who face the greatest barriers. In this way we will have an assessment process that is fit for purpose in the 21st century but which delivers the aims the Minister has been rightfully suggesting it should.
Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, I realise that I should have apologised to the Committee earlier for having taken no part in the debates on this Bill heretofore, then turning up on day 13 and contributing to practically all the debates. I hope that this will be regarded as making up for lost time rather than trespassing on the good will of the Committee. I would have been here for day 11 when contributory ESA was discussed at considerable length, but unfortunately I was away last week and therefore not able to do that, however keen I was to do so. However, I hope that I will be able to make up for lost time on that when we come to Report. There was certainly a lot to get one's teeth into in the report of the debate on contributory ESA held on day 11, which I have already begun to study with care, but it is quite technical so it will need more study-I can see another weekend or two going on that.
I turn to the matter in hand. I certainly want to support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Campbell. People vary in the extent to which they regard the social model of disability as another holy grail of disability policy and in the extent to which they regard the barriers erected by society as opposed to medical factors as accounting for the bulk of a disabled person's difficulties. I confess that I am inclined to allocate a bit more significance than some to the so-called medical factors-those to do with the individual and their impairment. But this amendment is moved in impeccably moderate terms. Its purpose is simply to ensure that the assessment process for PIP takes into account the full range of factors-social, practical and environmental as well as medical-that disabled people face. No one could possibly disagree with that, and I am sure that the Minister will tell us that he does not either.
In introducing PIP, the Government have stated their commitment to support disabled people to overcome the barriers they face in order to lead full and independent
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Lord Wigley: My Lords, I regard this as one of the most important amendments we are considering because of the importance of the message it carries. If we were alive then, most of us remember where we were when President Kennedy was shot, or when 9/11 occurred. I remember exactly where I was when I first came across the social definition of disability. I was in Sweden, it was 30 years ago this year, and it was the International Year of Disabled Persons. I was in the process of trying to get a disabled person's Act on to the statute book in the House of Commons. With the support of a number of people here, we were successful. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Low, gave me a considerable amount of help outside the Chamber at the time.
The definition was put to me in these terms, which I still carry in my mind. Handicap is the relationship between a disabled person and his or her physical, social or psychological environment. By medical intervention, we may or may not be able to do something about the basic disability, but our ability to amend and adjust the environment can prevent disability becoming a handicap. In those terms, it is glaringly clear where responsibility lies to minimise the degree of handicap that people, for various unfortunate reasons, whether accidental or congenital, have to face as the consequence of disability. It is the responsibility of any Government in any civilised country to have that at the core of their approach to disability politics.
I am not certain of the extent to which the words in the amendment will change the thrust of policy, but I am certain that the commitment to this approach must be central. If we have that commitment at the heart of our thinking, other decisions in this Committee and in later stages will work out for the benefit of disabled people.
Lord Addington: My Lords, the social model is something that anybody who has been involved in disability for any length of time has been searching to get hold of and use more correctly. I remember that when we did the Disability Discrimination Act, we had a variety of people coming in to see the committee, and it became my role in that committee to ask for a workable definition, which I failed to get from those groups at the time. We have moved on and are getting better. This is a step forward. We are building an agreement here, and I look forward to what the Minister says about it. This is something on which we might be able to admit that there is a continuation of government policy over various Governments. There has been a continuation of agreement on this over many subjects among the parties and across all political barriers. Implementation may change slightly over the years, but growth and consensus have been built up.
It will be very interesting to know how the Minister sees this approach being built into a variety of other subjects later on in the amendments on this part of the Bill, because that will allow us to assess how deep the
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If we can get a definition of how that is coming in, not so much for this amendment but to throw into a couple of others, we will all be a little happier. If you have a wonderful, magical definition that we can put into a Bill, I will cheer.
Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, I, too, strongly support this group of amendments, which were so comprehensively introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton. I, too, read with great interest the Scope paper The Future of PIP, to which she referred. I strongly urge the Government to take forward the paper's recommendations and to consider seriously the merits of this group of amendments, which would ensure that the assessment used to determine eligibility for PIP adopted the social model of disability.
I am somewhat bemused by the contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. For many years there has been a very good description of a social model. I am proud to say that we first discussed the issue on "Link" in 1975. The progenitor of the social model of disability was on the very first programme. I hope that thinking has progressed since then.
Lord Addington: I did not say that there was no definition; I said that it was not presented to the committee in a way that we felt we could use in legislation. That is the process. One may have an idea that is solid and makes sense, but getting it into workable legislation is something very different.
Baroness Wilkins: I thank the noble Lord for that explanation. As the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, said, it is the Government's stated aim that the new system should be underpinned by the social model. Ministers have insisted that the assessment process should recognise the disabling barriers that stand in the way of full and equal citizenship for people who need support to go about their daily lives. The Minister for Disabled People recently stated:
I welcome the amended draft regulations that were published by the Government on Friday. They take into account some of the criticisms of the earlier draft. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, said, this is only a start. There is still concern about whether the Government will be able to identify the needs of a broad range of people, including those who need to make greater use of utilities or who incur additional transport costs. The amendments will assist the Government's recognition of the need for the assessment process to recognise the impact of disabling barriers. They will reassure disabled people and their organisations that they have been listened to, and they will provide the clear principle on which the Government say they want the new assessment to be based.
DLA and its replacement, PIP-DCLP as we will now call it-were created in recognition of the fact that it is highly costly to live as a disabled person in today's society. It is not just impairment or illness that create costs but the environmental, economic and attitudinal barriers that often accompany such experiences. The Counting the Cost report by Scope and Demos clearly demonstrated that factors such as the suitability of housing, the accessibility of local transport links and whether an individual has already received other forms of support from friends and family will all contribute to their extra costs. Therefore, it is imperative that these factors are considered when designing the assessment for PIP or DCLP. Otherwise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, eloquently outlined, many disabled people across the country will fail to receive the most appropriate levels of support, and the new assessment process will not be fit for the Government's stated purpose.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I was rather surprised to see that the amendment was felt to be needed. I had thought that the past 30 years would have made such an amendment redundant. Some time back, for just a few months and for reasons that I am ashamed to admit, I was in a wheelchair. Looking back, it is hard to say whether the difficulties I had were due to social or medical factors. What I am sure about is that an impairment easily becomes a disability if the environment is not supportive of that individual. That seems to make the difference.
What puzzled me until the noble Lord, Lord Addington, mentioned it was that we had not referred to the DDA. The whole point of the DDA was to set the medical impairment in a context which, through social, practical, emotional and moral reasons, did not serve to bar the person from full involvement in their lives. What we asked with the DDA was that employers and providers of goods and services should be required to make "reasonable" adjustments. This seemed a perfectly intelligent balance between the costs for small businesses and the rights of individuals not to face artificially induced and constructed barriers to their full social inclusion.
I remember going around the city and looking at our historic buildings, which we had been told by various people could not be made accessible for disabled people. On the contrary, the brilliant architect John Goldsmith, who was then over at the old DoE and was himself disabled, showed how we could ensure full
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Baroness Grey-Thompson: My Lords, I rise very briefly to support this amendment as my name is on it. Others have explained very clearly the need for these amendments. More specifically, I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. The social model was a lifeline to me. My parents brought me up to believe that having an impairment was not my fault. I became a wheelchair user at the age of seven-some 35 years ago. I was brought up in the social model before there was even a name for it, but I also grew up in a world where there were loads of people who almost delighted in giving me the long list of things that I never could, or even should, do, such as go to the cinema, stay in a mainstream school, go to university, go to a sports club, or even, more recently, get married and have a baby. The social model outlines very clearly how disabled people can play their part in society. We should not take this for granted because it would be too easy to forget what the social model is.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, these amendments are about encompassing the social model in the Bill. We support them. I have come to this issue somewhat later than some noble Lords here such as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, my noble friend Lady Wilkins and others. I found the Scope document, which has been referred to, particularly helpful not only because it laid out a route to a different process of assessment, but because it took the assessment and criteria in the DWP's document and tried to point out in practical terms why they may not have encompassed these wider issues. I say to the Minister, as others have said, that this should not be a difficulty for the Government because they have on the record their commitment to the social model. It is in Hansard for 30 November 2010. I think it was the Minister, Maria Miller. It is clearly on the record and not a matter of dispute.
"The social model of disability says that disability is created by barriers in society. These barriers generally fall into three categories: the environment-including inaccessible buildings and services...people's attitudes-stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice...organisations-inflexible policies, practices and procedures".
Of course, the model argues that these barriers can be changed or removed. We accept that dealing with these barriers is not just a matter for a DLA or PIP or whatever it is called, but the consequences of these
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"Furthermore, we remain concerned that taking greater account of issues such as housing, access to transport, informal support and utilities would make the assessment more subjective and lead to inconsistent outcomes for individuals. Many of these issues will be dependent on local circumstances and availability of services, meaning that results might differ depending on location across the country".
Of course we understand the difficulty that taking account of a wider range of factors would involve an expanded and different process. However, any process that involves a points-based approach will have a degree of subjectivity to it.
The Minister will be aware of proposals from Scope, which other noble Lords have mentioned, that recommend the trial of a more extensive process that has co-operation with the claimant at its heart. I will not run through the detail except perhaps to comment on the last bit of the process as it sees it, which is the production of a local support plan to capture the evidence and information brought up over the course of the assessment process in order to help highlight where in the individual's life the barriers and the needs tend to arise. This could help the claimant to identify particular areas in which PIP might provide valuable support in meeting disability costs, but would not take the form of an outcome-based agreement binding the individual to use their PIP for specific purposes. Do the Government have any plans to test this approach, together with input from disability groups? We acknowledge that a good deal of work, thought and engagement has gone into updating the assessment criteria, and this has also been recognised by the Disability Benefits Consortium, but inevitably questions arise about the rules of engagement going forward, what further consultation will be taking place, and particularly about why the Government are confident that the current proposals will take account of the full range of barriers and costs that disabled people face. I think that that is a particular bone of contention that may have been eased by the current document, but that has certainly not been fully answered. That is why it is important to have these issues in the Bill.
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