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Session 2008 - 09
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General Committee Debates
Welfare Reform Bill Committee

Welfare Reform Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: Mr. Jim Hood, † Mr. David Amess
Banks, Gordon (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab)
Baron, Mr. John (Billericay) (Con)
Clappison, Mr. James (Hertsmere) (Con)
Harper, Mr. Mark (Forest of Dean) (Con)
Howell, John (Henley) (Con)
Jones, Helen (Warrington, North) (Lab)
Lilley, Mr. Peter (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)
McKechin, Ann (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)
McNulty, Mr. Tony (Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform)
Mason, John (Glasgow, East) (SNP)
Munn, Meg (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op)
Plaskitt, Mr. James (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
Robertson, John (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab)
Rowen, Paul (Rochdale) (LD)
Shaw, Jonathan (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Ussher, Kitty (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Liam Laurence Smyth, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee


Liz Sayce, Chief Executive, Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR)
Paul Davies, Service Director Adult Social Care, Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
Martin Barnes, Chief Executive, DrugScope
Dr. Marcus Roberts, Director of Policy, DrugScope

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 10 February 2009


[Mr. David Amess in the Chair]

Welfare Reform Bill

10.30 am
The Chairman: Good morning everyone. At the start of our scrutiny proceedings on the Welfare Reform Bill, I have to go through a script of the usual announcements. Members may, if they feel hot, remove articles of clothing—I am relaxed about that. I ask Members to ensure that mobile phones and pagers are turned off or switched to silent during Committee sittings. I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution in connection with the Bill, copies of which are available in the room.
I also remind Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. To be eligible for selection at a Tuesday sitting, amendments must be tabled by the rise of the House on the previous Thursday. For a Thursday sitting, amendments must be tabled by the previous Monday. As a general rule, I and my fellow Chairman, Mr. Jim Hood, do not intend to call starred amendments. In the recess, it will be possible to table amendments up to 4.30 pm on Thursday 19 February, for debate on Tuesday 24 February. I am sure that it would help hon. Members if amendments were tabled before the rise of the House tomorrow so that we are able to see them in print before the recess on Thursday. Any amendments tabled just before the recess onwards may be accompanied by a brief explanation to be printed on the amendment notice paper. This is the latest experiment with explanatory statements on amendments, and the Procedure Committee would welcome Members’ views on those statements. During the week’s break, Members will no doubt like to reflect on these latest developments, and then pass their views on to the Speaker and to the Chairmen’s Panel.
Not everyone is familiar with the process of taking oral evidence in Public Bill Committees—these are early days—so it might help if I briefly explain how we will proceed. I should say immediately that we are indebted to our very wise Clerk. If Members have any queries about procedure or how to deal with particular issues, I know that our Clerk would be only too happy to assist.
The Committee will be first asked to consider the programme motion, on which debate is limited to half an hour, although we do not have to take half an hour. We will then proceed to a motion to report written evidence and then to a motion, which I hope we can take formally, to permit the Committee to deliberate in private in advance of the oral evidence sessions. Assuming that the second of those motions is agreed to, the Committee will then move into a private session. Once the Committee has deliberated, the witnesses and members of the public will be invited back into the room and our oral evidence session will commence. If the Committee agrees to the programme motion, it will hear oral evidence today and on Thursday, and revert to the more familiar proceedings of clause-by-cause scrutiny after the recess.
The Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform (Mr. Tony McNulty): I beg to move,
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 am on Tuesday 10 February) meet—
(a) at 4.00 pm on Tuesday 10 February;
(b) at 9.00 am on Thursday 12 February;
(c) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 24 February;
(d) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 26 February;
(e) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 3 March;
(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table—
Tuesday 10 February
Until no later than 12.15 pm
The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
Tuesday 10 February
Until no later than 1 pm
Tuesday 10 February
Until no later than 5.30 pm
Barnardo’s, the Child Poverty Action Group and Gingerbread
Tuesday 10 February
Until no later than 6.20 pm
Professor Paul Gregg (Bristol University)
Thursday 12 February
Until no later than 10.25 am
Department for Work and Pensions
(3) proceeding on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 3; Schedule 1; Clauses 4 to 7; Schedule 2; Clauses 8 and 9; Schedule 3; Clauses 10 to 19; Schedule 4; Clauses 20 to 40; Schedule 5; Clauses 41 to 44; Schedule 6; Clauses 45 and 46; Schedule 7; Clauses 47 to 50; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 pm on Tuesday 3 March.
I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Amess. I am sure that our deliberations will be focused, but huge fun at the same time. I have no doubt that this will be slightly different from the last Bill that I took through—the Counter-Terrorism Bill—and that there will be far more harmony this time. The scrutiny unit has said that during Thursday’s sitting, for which the programme motion mentions only the Department for Work and Pensions as witness, it is I, the Under-Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friends the Members for Chatham and Aylesford and for Burnley, and a lead DWP official who will give evidence. When we discussed that in the Programming Sub-Committee, I said that I was perfectly happy for this Committee to choose whomever it wanted to give evidence. I am not clear that that is by common agreement. The motion still refers to the DWP, so this does not affect the motion. If, between now and Thursday, colleagues on the Committee decide they want some variation of DWP personnel, I am more than amenable to listening. With that one caveat, I am happy to commend the motion to the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
That, subject to the discretion of the Chairman, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Mr. McNulty.)
The Chairman: Copies of memoranda that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.
That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(Mr. McNulty.)
10.36 am
The Committee deliberated in private.
10.40 am
On resuming—
The Chairman: Welcome to our oral evidence session. I would like to say to the witnesses that while parliamentarians are used to such proceedings, they can be a bit of an ordeal for people who have never taken part in them before. Take deep breaths, if you feel nervous in any way, and relax and enjoy the session. I assure you that Members of Parliament will not harm you; they will simply ask a number of questions to gather evidence before they begin detailed scrutiny of the Bill.
We will now hear oral evidence from our witnesses. For the record, will you introduce yourselves?
Liz Sayce: My name is Liz Sayce and I am the chief executive of the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation.
Paul Davies: My name is Paul Davies and I am the service director for adult and social care for Oldham metropolitan borough council.
Q 1The Chairman: Thank you. You have already done brilliantly, but try to shout, because the acoustics are not absolutely brilliant and the microphones do not pick everything up. It is not only parliamentarians who have to hear what you say, but the people writing the record.
Before calling the first member of the Committee to ask a question, I remind all Members that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill and that we must stick strictly to the timings in the programme order. I hope that I will not have to interrupt anyone in mid-sentence but, if necessary, I will.
Before we turn to the questions, I would like our two witnesses to make opening statements about the Bill. You can speak for as long as you want and comment on the Bill, which will give parliamentarians the opportunity to reflect on what you have said before the questioning begins.
Liz Sayce: Thank you. I would like to concentrate particularly on the right to control in the Bill but, on a broader level, RADAR supports the Bill’s general direction. We agree that nobody should be written off and that disabled people should be enabled to work and should have the support that they need to work. I will be happy to take questions on other parts of the Bill, if members of the Committee wish to ask them.
I want to focus especially on the right to control because it really matters to disabled people. Having control over the services that you need to live your life and participate fully in society, including through education, employment and economic activity, is a huge change from having services provided as thought fit by service providers.
I would like to give some examples. I talked yesterday to people involved in the individual budget pilots relating to people with mental health problems. There are sometimes anxieties that people with mental health difficulties will not be able manage their individual budgets. There are some tremendous examples of people developing dementia being enabled, through the resources available, to carry on doing the activities that really matter to them—from fishing to watching sport on TV. Other examples include people who, rather than going to a day centre, start pursuing their own interests by going to college or pursuing interests in music, sport and so on, thereby regaining the confidence and motivation to get back into employment. People are also pooling resources and joining forces to buy the support that they jointly want. For example, a couple of people have rented a workshop to set up their own business, and a group of people have paid an art teacher, because that is something that they particularly want to pursue as a group.
I therefore think that the right to control is absolutely transformative, and disabled people around the country really welcome it. It builds on the important work of the 2005 report “Improving the life chances of disabled people” and the 2008 independent living strategy. It also builds on the success of direct payments. Initially, there were many anxieties about whether disabled parents would be able to manage direct payments, whether there would be the right staff to support them, and whether people would run off with the money, but those fears have not been borne out by the experience of direct payments. We are confident that the right to control could be just as successful.
The right to control will give disabled people a kind of guaranteed tool. If they take on more responsibility to work where they can, which we support, it is really important that they then have the tools to make that happen, and the right to control is an important part of that, alongside other parts of the contract that need to be in place, such as through the equalities Bill and pathways to work.
There are a few areas in which we think the Bill could be strengthened or go further, and I have several examples. First, we welcome the Secretary of State’s clarification on why community care and health funding are excluded, but we have experts who have looked at that and think that it would be preferable to require the pooling of funds. The whole point of the right to control, as set out in the White Paper, was that it promised to give disabled people the power to take a range of funding streams, and people want to be able to access that range of funding streams and pool resources to achieve what they want in their lives. If the funding streams remain separate, there is a risk that part of the White Paper’s goal will not be achieved. We are looking at that to see whether further amendments might be helpful.
Secondly, in clauses 31 and 32, we think that there could be better alignment with the individual budget process. We think that people should basically have a right to be told the resource allocation up front, rather than having to ask for it. We also feel that it should be based on a self-directed assessment, rather than an assessment by the professional. A person should assess what they need, and then they will be in control of their plan, with the support of caseworkers or professionals.
We are slightly worried about the affordability clause. We understand all too well that public money is limited, but we want to ensure that that cannot be used as an excuse. We have a few other detailed comments, which I will be very happy to come back to, but I have one final point. There is a helpful provision in the Health Bill that recognises the important role of the voluntary sector in enabling people to use personal budgets through advocacy and brokerage, and we think that enabling several people to band together to use budgets would be helpful. People cannot always use the budgets without the right support, so such a provision would be useful.
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Prepared 11 February 2009