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1979-1987 : Mr Major’s Written Parliamentary Answer on the Severe Disability Premium

Below is the text of Mr Major's written Parliamentary Answer on the Severe Disability Premium on 18th December 1986.


Mr. Alfred Morris Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will publish the full text of the letter that he sent to Ian Bruce of the Royal National Institute for the Blind on 11 December, concerning the severe disability premium;

(2) what is the number of people whom Her Majesty's Government estimates will be eligible for the severe disability premium;

(3) if the 1982 survey of attendance allowance claimants was used as the basis of the original estimates of the number who would qualify for the severe disability premium.

Mr. Major The text of the letter sent to Ian Bruce of the Royal National Institute for the Blind on 11 December is as follows. It contains an estimate of the number of people who would be eligible for the severe disability premium and information about the data on which the original and revised estimates were based.


11 December 1986

Dear Mr. Bruce,

Severe Disability Premium

I gave the Government's general response to the concerns expressed by you and other organisations representing disabled people in my letter of 4 November. My office will be in touch to arrange a meeting to discuss our proposals for the Severe Disability Premium. But I thought it might he helpful if, before we met, I gave you the results of some further work to assess the numbers who might qualify for the new premium and the policy conclusions we have drawn. Our original estimate in the closing stages of the Social Security Bill was that up to 10,000 severely disabled people might qualify for the premium at a cost of up to £12 million. This estimate was derived from information contained in the supplementary benefit annual statistical enquiry (ASE) for December 1984, the latest date available. It was based on the numbers of single householders shown in the enquiry as also receiving the higher rate of attendance allowance.

In view of the doubts which you and others expressed about the estimates, I asked my officials to re-examine the data; in particular to examine how many might have others living with them who, while not being part of the supplementary benefit assessment unit, could prevent the claimant receiving the premium. In fact, the ASE returns record few deductions for non-dependants living in the same household as the 10,000 single householders. But the absence of any deduction is not conclusive, since it is possible for a claimant to have non-dependants living in the household without a deduction from supplementary benefit housing costs being appropriate. We have therefore examined whether the estimate can be checked against other data. As you know, we do not directly collect information on other members of the household in relation to attendance allowance claims. We have, however, been able to examine a special survey of 1,600 attendance allowance recipients which the Department carried out in 1982. The 1982 survey showed that over 90 per cent. of the sample had a carer living with them. In some other cases, the person was in hospital or in a home. In less than 5 per cent. of cases was the person shown as having no carer either in the household or elsewhere. These results cannot be used as precise estimates because they refer to all attendance allowance recipients, not just those on supplementary benefit, and because the sample was drawn from a population of attendance allowance recipients which was smaller than that of today. It is clear, however, that this further examination bears out the doubts that you have expressed.

I have to say, therefore, that although the data does not enable us to produce reliable separate estimates for those receiving the higher and lower rates, it does suggest that a relatively small number of people would have qualified under our original criteria. That was, and remains, far from our intention in introducing the higher premium. In consequence we have reviewed the qualifying rules for the severe disability premium in the light of this new information. We propose to make a significant amendment so that the premium should be available also to those receiving the lower rate of attendance allowance. That is consistent with the conditions for invalid care allowance itself, which is payable where the person being looked after receives attendance allowance at either the higher or lower rate. Receipt of constant attendance allowance under the industrial injuries and war pensions scheme would also satisfy the first qualifying condition for the severe disability premium. So far as the other qualifying rules are concerned, we think it is right to retain the emphasis on help for those living independently in the community. That is consistent with our objectives on community care; there is a similar emphasis on helping to maintain independence in the domestic assistance addition. We propose a two fold test of independent living. First, it would he a condition that the severely disabled person lived alone in the house, although couples would qualify if both partners were receiving attendance allowance. Second, the person should not be looked after by someone receiving the Invalid Care Allowance. In that case we would he concerned with receipt rather than an attempt to test eligibility.

Applying the results of the 1982 survey to the total number of attendance allowance recipients (at both the higher and lower rate) on supplementary benefit we estimate that around 7,000 people would benefit at a cost of £8 million. The comparable figures for the domestic assistance addition, which the higher premium is designed primarily to replace, are some 3,000 cases (over 90 per cent. of whom receive payments of under £10) at a total cost of under £1 million. There are two factors which it is reasonable to assume could increase the numbers helped. First, we are attaching considerable importance in the reforms to the alignment of the income-related benefits. The rules for the severe disability premium will also apply in setting the needs level in housing benefit. It is difficult to quantify the effect of this as the data source for the housing benefit estimates - the family expenditure survey - is not sufficiently precise to enable reliable estimates on this matter to be made. But we would certainly expect there to he other severely disabled people, in particular pensioners, with incomes high enough not to need income support who would benefit from the value of the premium being taken into account when their housing benefit is assessed. Second, as was frequently pointed out to us in debate, and borne out in some of the individual examples quoted in letters, arrangements to enable severely disabled people to live independently have increased in recent years. I do not think it would be safe to try to quantify the effects of these two factors but they would imply some increase in the numbers who would be helped by the new premium. It is clear that your doubts about the earlier estimates were justified. However, I hope you will accept that they were provided at the time on what was thought to be a reasonable basis.

Our intention throughout has been to help with the extra needs of severely disabled people which it is appropriate for social security to meet. I hope you will recognise this and welcome the new proposals outlined above. I look forward to our meeting. A copy of this letter goes to the signatories of your letter of 7 August.

Yours sincerely,

John Major

Mr. Alfred Morris Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will define the term living alone in the qualifying conditions for the new severe disability premium; and if it includes disabled people living with (a) children, (b) pensioner parents and (c) disabled people receiving mobility allowance, invalidity benefit, severe disablement allowance or benefits under the war or industrial pension schemes.

Mr. Major Living alone means living without a partner, unless the partner is also receiving attendance allowance, and without non-dependent people over the age of 18 in the household. People living with dependent children, other disabled people themselves receiving attendance allowance, or volunteers who live with them to care for them and where a charge is made for the service by the voluntary organisation providing it, would not be excluded under these conditions for the premium.

Mr. Alfred Morris Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if a couple living together and in receipt of attendance allowance will both be eligible for the new severe disability premium.

Mr. Major Where both members of a couple receive attendance allowance, they will both be eligible for the severe disability premium, providing the other qualifying conditions for receipt of the premium are satisfied.

Mr. Alfred Morris Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if a disabled person in receipt of the severe disability premium will lose the severe disability premium when he begins to have a carer looking after him who is entitled to invalid care allowance.

Mr. Major Receipt by a carer of invalid care allowance in respect of a person receiving the severe disability premium would end entitlement to the premium. The intention is that the premium would be set at the same level as invalid care allowance.

Mr. Alfred Morris Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) how many of the people who will he eligible for the severe disability premium will be better off than under the present system of supplementary benefit; and how many people currently receive more than £23.25 in the form of (a) the domestic assistance addition and (b) additional requirements generally;

(2) Under the proposed new arrangements for the severe disability premium, how many people with disabilities will have a lower entitlement under the new income support scheme than they presently have under the supplementary benefit scheme.

Mr. Major I refer the right hon. Member to tables 1A and 1B, and 10A and 10B of the technical annex to the White Paper, "Reform of Social Security" (Cmnd. 9691), which give the latest information available on the effects of the reform. Separate information on the effect of the severe disability premium on entitlement to income support is not available.

At December 1984, the latest date for which information is available, the number receiving an additional requirement for domestic assistance worth more than £23.25 was extremely low: the annual statistical inquiry revealed only one such sample case. The number receiving an aggregate of additional requirements higher than £23.25 was too small to estimate reliably but is unlikely to exceed 4,000. This figure may be inflated by the inclusion of some meals allowances paid to boarders.

Mr. Alfred Morris Asked the Secretary of State for the Social Services what is Her Majesty's Government's policy on future uprating of domestic assistance additions; and how the relationships with severe disability premiums will he dealt with.

Mr. Major My predecessor explained on 23 July 1986 at column 397 our intention to give improved transitional protection for severely disabled people receiving extensive support by way of the domestic assistance addition. The detailed provisions have not yet been finalised.