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1979-1987 : Mr Major’s Written Parliamentary Answer on Disabled People

Below is the text of Mr Major's written Parliamentary Answer on Disabled People on 14th May 1987.


Mr. Alfred Morris Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action is being taken by his Department's social services inspectorate to inform and train employees of social services departments in regard to their duties under the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Major It is for local authority social services departments to provide information and training to their staff about the duties that arise under the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. However, the Department's social services inspectorate has held discussions about the implications of the Act for local authorities at its regular regional meetings with directors of social services, and has responded to requests from staff in individual local authorities for advice on the Act. It also organised a workshop on the Act at the recent annual conference of the British Association of Social Workers. Possible further work by the inspectorate in this field is being considered.

Mr. Alfred Morris Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action he has taken to speed up the procedures under section 36 of the National Assistance Act 1948 for investigating complaints that local authorities have failed to fulfil their duties under section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Major I am conscious that in some cases it can take a long time to deal with these complaints. The procedures for handling them within the Department are kept under review, but the main problem is that the more complicated cases necessarily involve a considerable amount of detailed work by officials as well as correspondence, which can be protracted, with the other parties concerned.

Mr. Alfred Morris Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if, in light of the ruling in the case of R v The Department of Health and Social Security, and others ex parte Bruce, he will state the circumstances in which he considers it appropriate to use his default powers under section 36 of the National Assistance Act 1948 in relation to allegations of failure by local authorities to fulfil their duties under section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Major Section 36(1) of the National Assistance Act 1948 provides that the Secretary of State, where he is of the opinion that a local authority has failed to discharge any of its functions under Part III of that Act, or to comply with any related regulations, may, after such an inquiry as he may think fit, make an order declaring the authority to be in default. In the case of the application ex parte Bruce on 5 February 1987, Mr. Justice Simon Brown said, in relation to the default power in section 36(1) of the 1948 Act so far as that Ministerial power is concerned it is, in my judgement, perfectly clear that the Minister could not properly intervene so as to declare the authority to be in default unless the authority had manifestly failed in the discharge of any of their functions in such way that no reasonable Minister could take a different view: putting it a different way, had conducted themselves in a way which could only be regarded as a failure on the part of the authority to perform the duty". We accept this interpretation.

Mr. Cartwright Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether disabled people in receipt of invalidity benefit or attendance allowance or both who undertake a Manpower Services Commission training course remain eligible for these benefits while on the course;

(2) whether disabled people in receipt of invalidity benefit or attendance allowance or both who undertake a Manpower Services Commission training course re-qualify immediately for these benefits if they leave the course after eight weeks or more.

Mr. Major People in receipt of invalidity benefit who undertake a training course for which MSC pays a training allowance are not eligible for invalidity benefit during the course. However when the course ends they re-qualify for that benefit provided they remain incapable of work. The period of the training course is treated as a part of the same period of interruption of employment so even if the course lasts more than 8 weeks title to invalidity benefit continues.

The position is different for recipients of attendance allowance. If the medical conditions for entitlement continue to he satisfied, attendance allowance is not normally affected by participation in a MSC training course. However, the allowance may not be paid between the fifth week and the end of a course when the cost of any residential accommodation provided for the disabled person as part of the course is, or may be, met from public funds.