Session 2010-11
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General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Disabled People's Right to Control (Pilot Scheme) (England) Regulations 2010


The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Miss Anne McIntosh 

Cryer, John (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab) 

Curran, Margaret (Glasgow East) (Lab) 

Godsiff, Mr Roger (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab) 

Greenwood, Lilian (Nottingham South) (Lab) 

Henderson, Gordon (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con) 

Miller, Maria (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)  

Newton, Sarah (Truro and Falmouth) (Con) 

Parish, Neil (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) 

Percy, Andrew (Brigg and Goole) (Con) 

Redwood, Mr John (Wokingham) (Con) 

Ruffley, Mr David (Bury St Edmunds) (Con) 

Shannon, Jim (Strangford) (DUP) 

Sheerman, Mr Barry (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) 

Smith, Mr Andrew (Oxford East) (Lab) 

Smith, Miss Chloe (Norwich North) (Con) 

Stuart, Ms Gisela (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab) 

Ward, Mr David (Bradford East) (LD) 

Willott, Jenny (Cardiff Central) (LD) 

Glenn McKee, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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First Delegated Legislation Committee 

Monday 15 November 2010  

[Miss Anne McIntosh in the Chair] 

Draft Disabled People’s Right to Control (Pilot Scheme) (England) Regulations 2010 

4.30 pm 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller):  I beg to move, 

That the Committee has considered the draft Disabled People’s Right to Control (Pilot Scheme) (England) Regulations 2010. 

This is the first time that I have had the pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Miss McIntosh, since you have been appointed to your role. I confirm that the statutory instrument is compatible with the European convention on human rights. Today is important because the debate is about a remarkable milestone in achieving equality for disabled people. For the first time, disabled people will have a legal entitlement to choice of and control over the public services they receive. Like anyone, disabled people need to be empowered to take control of their own lives. They need the same opportunities to be involved in a society that recognises them as individuals who contribute, rather than being defined by their disability. 

“Right to control” is the child of collaborative working. Co-production with disabled people, which has continued under two successive Governments, is an approach that commands great respect and broad support throughout both Chambers of the House. A great many people have been involved in shaping the regulations, and I wish to pay personal tribute to their work, particularly Lady Campbell of Surbiton, who chairs the advisory group that has been so important in advising the Office for Disability Issues on the measure, and the noble Lord McKenzie of Luton. 

However, we could not have come as far as we have without the support and co-operation of so many disabled people and user groups; they have been crucial in ensuring that we get this measure right. Their knowledge and expertise have been invaluable and are clearly reflected in the details and the attention to detail that we can see in the regulations under debate. I am sure that members of the Committee who have had the opportunity to go through the measures in front of us will be struck by that. 

The coalition Government have a broad vision to decentralise, empower individuals and cut bureaucracy. “Right to control” therefore fits well with their plans to allow local authorities, communities and individuals to manage their own lives without unwarranted interference from the centre—something I am sure members of the Committee will welcome. “Right to control” fundamentally shifts the focus of our support. Rather than providing disabled people with what we think they need, we are giving the power to decide to those who are usually best placed to decide—the individuals themselves. In that

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way, we are working towards services that meet the aspirations of disabled people, as well as their needs. We want the services to be planned and designed around the disabled person, and to be a diversity of services that can really help disabled people choose the right package for them. In short, we aim for personalised and responsive services. 

The right to a personal budget and, ultimately, the right to take the cash and buy services directly is the mechanism for empowering disabled people. That is important because, at present, too many people are offered services designed for the convenience of the provider not the customer. Too many people still find that their own complex needs are not fully understood and catered for, despite the best efforts of local social services care departments. With “right to control”, the default position for decision making sits with the customer, as it does for the services that most of us take for granted in our own lives. 

With the regulations, we put the experts firmly in charge of their own care as they design the package of support that suits their particular circumstances. No one suggests for a moment that the measure will be the appropriate solution 100% of the time. Clearly, there will be specific cases when individuals need extra support and advocacy to work out the optimum solution for them, but the default position for “right to control” must be that power lies with the individual. 

“Right to control” represents a transformational moment for disabled people, supporting article 19 of the UN convention on the rights of disabled people, which is about the right of disabled people to live independently and be included in the community. It is designed for the benefit of all disabled adults in their interests, and to support each individual’s wishes. That will be made clear from our trailblazers programme, which will run in seven areas over the next two years, with five starting next month—December—and a further two areas getting under way in March and April next year. 

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con):  Will the Minister clarify regulation 14, which says that payment should not be made to a spouse, civil partner or relative 

“unless the responsible authority is satisfied that securing the service from such a person is necessary”? 

It would be helpful to all the people who welcome the proposal and its development to have a little more indication of how close relatives and partners might qualify for the payments. 

Maria Miller:  I thank my right hon. Friend for that contribution. I will await clarification from officials, if he can bear with me. 

The trailblazers will deliver the guidance and support needed to reassure disabled people that everyone can exercise this right. The trailblazers will also create the space for disabled people and user groups to shape the design and delivery of “right to control”, ensuring that those eligible are fully supported in exercising their choices. Building on the issue that my right hon. Friend just raised, it is important that disabled people have the opportunity to call upon their close family and friends or, indeed, a broader array of people to deliver the support and measures that they need. Obviously, some disabled people will have family to help provide support, and others might not. We need to make sure there is flexibility in the system to reflect diverse family structures. 

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From my own experience visiting groups such as the Essex coalition of disabled people, I know that user groups will welcome the measures we are introducing today; they will grab with both hands the opportunity for this different way of working. I look forward to working with all those organisations to put disabled people’s aspirations at the heart of “right to control”. This is important, because the trailblazers represent an important catalyst for change. They will act as a focal point for culture change within public bodies, putting the emphasis on the disabled person and responding to their needs and aspirations, as well as driving culture change among providers to ensure that services are designed for the convenience of the customer, not the provider. They will empower disabled people and their families to see what more they can achieve and decide for themselves how to further their own progress. In short, disabled people will finally own the practical choices about how they live, who helps with their personal support, how they get supported into employment, and who adapts their homes if such a measure needs to be undertaken. 

The trailblazers are aimed at delivering a seamless customer experience. The evaluation of the programmes over the next two years should also help us to see what works—and, just as importantly, what does not—as we strive towards more streamlined and interconnected support networks. We have a real opportunity here to strengthen the links between local authorities, Jobcentre Plus, service providers and third party organisations, including user groups. 

By working together through the “right to control” trailblazers, we will go a long way toward finding the best delivery channels, matched with the best advice and advocacy. I therefore commend the regulations to the House. 

4.39 pm 

Margaret Curran (Glasgow East) (Lab):  I, too, am grateful to be here under your chairmanship this afternoon, Miss McIntosh. May I thank the Minister for giving me some tips on my first outing in such a debate? Despite my brief time with this portfolio and my disagreements with the Government, it is particularly pleasing to be here when I can be in agreement. As the regulations were formulated and drafted by the previous Labour Government, it is logical that I am supporting them this afternoon. I strongly agree with the Minister’s statement that they are a key step in empowering disabled people. As a member of the Opposition and shadow Minister, I will of course ask questions and press the Minister on several issues, but I want to emphasise that the principles she outlined are significant and that the measure is a key step in developing policy in this field. 

Choice and control are being passed into the hands of disabled people regarding the services that are so important to them. That is an important principle, and previous research has shown that such choice and control improves satisfaction with services. As the Minister said, the experience of disabled people themselves should be centre stage in the design of services. The regulations represent an important step, because they concern not only the right to request control but the legal right to have it. 

The trailblazers pilots are a crucial step that will afford the opportunity to ensure that “right to control” fulfils its potential, and they will provide detail on that.

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They will also help us to flag up any difficulties that might limit the measure’s implementation, and which we would want to address. 

I shall focus on four categories of issues on which to question the Minister, in order to tease out some of the detail in the regulations: information, advice and advocacy, which has already been highlighted; the implications for institutional practices; evaluation and monitoring; and, fundamentally and not surprisingly, funding. 

I ask the Minister to reassert the Government’s policy as devised under the previous Government: that “right to control” is not an opportunity for cost-cutting, but that the fundamental premise behind it is based on the needs of disabled people. I ask her to reassert that such needs are centre stage—not just the size of the budget from the local authority—and are what drive the policy. 

In the light of the pressures on local authority budgets, which we all know about, can the Minister assert that “right to control” is not a cost-cutting exercise and that resource allocation systems will be transparent? She will be aware that a number of disabled people’s organisations are worried that local authorities might impose a cap and limit the pilot. What will she do if she finds that local authorities are doing that? 

The Minister will also be aware of worries about the removal of ring-fencing in some local authorities, about which disabled people have a long record of concern. Perhaps their organisations are not the strongest in lobbying and in insisting that their needs be given due attention, and they are worried that ring-fencing may reduce the priority that is given to them. In addition, I understand there has been a wee bit of inconsistency in the details of the regulations concerning which funding streams are included in the pilots. 

More constructively, how do the Government see disability employment programmes developing to ensure that the pilots work effectively? We are all committed to ensuring that disabled people maximise all opportunities for employment, and that barriers to it are removed. A number of programmes aim to do that, and we would all agree that they should be developed and enhanced. How will they fit in with the pilots as they are developing? 

Ultimately, it is important that the Government provide reassurance. We do not want a postcode lottery throughout England, with services in some areas being very good and those in others being not so good; we must guarantee disabled people that they will receive a high standard of service throughout the country. 

On institutional responses to the development, it is important that we tell local authorities that “right to control” pilots are not a soft option or a get-out clause and that they will still have a responsibility to provide services. Essentially, disabled people will not have a choice if local authorities do not continue to provide innovative and empowering services themselves, and the regulations do not remove the demand for authorities to do that. I do not believe that it is a case of “voluntary sector bad” or “voluntary sector good”; we need to develop a culture of partnership between local authorities, the voluntary sector, the charitable sector and disabled people themselves to ensure the availability of a range of services of the highest standard. 

It will come as no surprise to the Minister that information, advice, advocacy and the complexities thereof, as the right hon. Member for Wokingham has indicated,

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are also centre stage in debates about developing services for disabled people. It is vital to recognise the diversity across the disabled people’s community—some people can easily access information and advice, but others need much greater support to do so, particularly if they have complex difficulties. We need to ensure that people with learning difficulties and with mental health issues are included in these processes, along with those who have very complex lives. Those disabled people require sophisticated and sensitive advocacy processes to make sure that we protect their needs, and such services should be designed with their needs being paramount, which is not an easy exercise. As the Minister says, we need to ensure that we consult disabled people’s organisations to achieve good advocacy services and information and advice support services. 

On evaluation and monitoring, the regulations contain much detail on the review of support plans and a variety of other issues where the policy intent is clear, but disabled people say anecdotally that in government, such policies are not always implemented with the intention behind them intact. We need to make sure that there is tight evaluation and monitoring of the pilots to ensure that they, and the policy intent behind them, are delivered effectively and thoroughly. Will the Minister outline plans for evaluation and monitoring, and will she keep Parliament informed of progress on that? 

It is incumbent on me, as a Scottish MP who is still a Member of the Scottish Parliament, to ask whether discussions are continuing with the Scottish Government—I think they were in the past—to ensure that similar processes happen in Scotland and that good practice is shared. 

Finally, the Opposition strongly support the “right to control” pilots, and we want to make sure they are implemented effectively. We must ensure that resources are protected for them, that we end up with a high standard of service throughout the country, and that those effective services are delivered under the direction of disabled people themselves. I offer my support to the Government to make that happen. 

4.47 pm 

Maria Miller:  I thank the hon. Lady for her thoughts and comments, particularly her offer of support. Obviously, it is important that we debate these measures in full, even if there is consensus on the need to move in this direction. From the debate today, it is clear that these measures are overdue in principle, and that disabled people must have this sort of control over their lives. 

I want to respond to some of the specific points raised during the debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham raised the problem about close relatives and partners being able to receive direct payments. These regulations are designed to prevent a disabled person from claiming a direct payment for services provided by the people listed in the statutory instrument. That is to ensure that the money is used for the appropriate services, but it can be overridden by a responsible authority in individual cases. It is important that we have flexibility in the system, because the essence of the regulations is to ensure that we have packages of support and care that are tailored to the needs of each individual disabled person. 

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The hon. Member for Glasgow East raised four further points, of which the first was funding. Obviously, at this time, all our minds are looking at how to deal with the high level of debt inherited by this Government, and at ensuring that what money there is works as hard as it can, particularly for disabled people. I was pleased to see that the spending review has provided an extra £2 billion for social care, and that the Supporting People programme will continue to have £6.5 billion of support. That all shows that this Government recognise the importance of the programme of support for various groups of people in our communities who have particular needs. That, coupled with all the measures that the hon. Lady will have seen in the spending review, aims to provide protection for disabled people. The measures include the fact that people on disability living allowance will not be subject to the benefit cap and our inflationary increase in disability grants. We have a number of measures to make sure that overall funding for disabled people is as it should be, particularly that the lines of funding in this measure are robust and will provide the sort of support to ensure that our trailblazer is measureable in research terms. 

The hon. Lady also brought up the issue of work and employment programmes. I am sure that she is aware that we have recently announced Work Choice, which will offer more support for disabled people than ever before, through having more places for them to get employment, particularly for severely disabled people, who can find it difficult to get into the job market. I am hoping that the “right to control” measure, access to Work Choice, continuing access to “right to control” and the introduction of the Work programme next spring will work together to give disabled people the opportunity for independence that has been so overdue. 

Margaret Curran:  May I ask the Minister to address specifically the question about introducing a cap on local authority budgets? What is the Government’s position on that? Also, is she telling Members this afternoon that she does not intend to see any change in services for disabled people with the “right to control” pilot? Can disabled people still expect the same level of services that currently exists with local authorities? 

Maria Miller:  Obviously, local authorities have the flexibility to adapt their services to meet the needs of the local population; that is very much the direction of travel for this Government. I think that that is right, because every community is different, and the needs of disabled people are different by community. Therefore it is important that local authorities have that flexibility. The “right to control” enables disabled people to have choice and control over the services for which they are eligible locally. It does not change any underlying eligibility, or give any increased eligibility, for any funding stream. 

The hon. Lady needs to consider two different elements, one of which is at a local authority level, where care packages may be put together. They are obviously to be determined in line with legislation to meet the needs of individual disabled people through the local authority. What we are trying to do through “right to control” is to stream together the measures that are included within the statutory instrument, to ensure that there is more choice for disabled people when it comes to the use of that funding and those budget streams. We will continue

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to work with local authorities and support them on the trailblazers, to ensure that that is done in a way that will empower disabled people to use that money most effectively to meet their needs. 

Mr David Ward (Bradford East) (LD):  I understand the constraints on the budgets that local authorities will face, but I was wondering about the trailblazers. They are pilots that we will assess at the end of two years. That is a change taking place, but if it is also accompanied by a change in actual resources, it is difficult to assess the situation before and after. There needs to be some sort of constancy in resources so that we can have a fair assessment of the value of the pilots. 

Maria Miller:  I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. The evaluation will look at the impact of this measure on individuals who are involved in the trailblazer areas, so there will be constancy across the board of those who are in trailblazer areas and outside of them, looking at the impact on the ability of disabled people to get the right support. 

This is not, as the hon. Lady will know, a cost-cutting measure or a way of trying to trim back on resources, but a way of trying to use available resources in the best way possible. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that there could well be differences in budgets between this year and next, or indeed in any of the years of the trailblazer, but that will be a constant across all the trailblazer areas, given the nature of the streams of funding that are included within the measure. I hope that that will assure him that while it is a moving feast in terms of the amount of money that is available to disabled people, that will be a constant across all eight trailblazing areas. 

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con):  While we are on the topic of the trailblazer areas, given that most of the pilot areas are urban—I represent a very rural area—is the Minister convinced that the results that we get from these urban trial areas will carry over to rural areas? I am particularly concerned that in rural areas, people often feel—they often are—more isolated, have difficulty accessing services and the choices made are different. Are we happy that the proportion of urban pilot areas is suitable? 

Maria Miller:  My hon. Friend is right that there is a focus on urban areas within the trailblazers. We have discussed and looked at that, and it is probably the most effective way of getting these trailblazers up and running. We will particularly be looking at how—when it comes to roll-out and the evaluation—we can ensure that any rural-focused issues are addressed head on. I want to reassure my hon. Friend that the streams of funding are available, whether one lives in an urban or rural area. Those streams of funding remain the same. I understand the point that he is making, however, on access to services, and particularly on support services, which are not always as ubiquitous. That is the case whether we are talking about “right to control” or other areas of personalisation. He makes a strong point. 

Mr Redwood:  I want to press the Minister a little further on the issue that I raised. I quite understand that we are being asked to enact something that gives a responsible authority the opportunity to override and

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pay money to a partner, a husband or wife, or some other relative. It would be helpful, though, if we could have a little guidance of when that authority might be used. A large number of relatives and partners provide a lot of care for a disabled person, just as a disabled person often provides care back to them in other ways. People would like some guidance on when they might get money for that. 

Maria Miller:  Obviously, we already have measures in place that recognise the contribution that carers make to the lives of disabled people, through carer’s allowance. My right hon. Friend will be aware, of course, that that is already in place and that it is an important recognition of the role that carers play throughout our country. The trailblazers are there to tease out some of the important issues, such as the one that he has raised on when a local authority will be able to override the broad principle within the measure. Certainly, we will look at that carefully, because it would not be usual that local authorities would override the measure regularly. The most important thing is that the authority must be satisfied that paying a relative is absolutely necessary to meet that disabled person’s needs. That will depend on those individual circumstances, as I have said. Giving people that flexibility will be important. 

I will now move on to some of the other issues raised by the hon. Lady speaking for the Opposition—in particular, advocacy. I wholeheartedly agree that effective advocacy will be at the heart of ensuring that the trailblazers and any subsequent roll-out is successful. The availability of advocacy is not necessarily ubiquitous. It is not consistent throughout the country, but the trailblazers will tease that out. Within the trailblazer areas, a great deal of emphasis has been put on ensuring that good advocacy services are available and that disabled people who participate in the “right to control” trailblazers can have access to that in terms of the information and advice that they would be able to receive and in terms of support, advocacy and brokerage. Our support for local authorities on the ground has ensured that those services are readily accessible and in place. We must ensure good relationships with local user-led organisations so that, where appropriate, they are able to make up part of the provision of such services. 

I recently went to Essex to meet some of the individuals involved in a user-led organisation there. It is a centre for independent living, and I was impressed with the work being done to ensure that good support is in place in that trailblazer area. That is a priority for us and, as the hon. Lady rightly points out, we must ensure advocacy for those with particularly complex difficulties so that their needs are met. That will continue to be an important part of the project. 

In her closing remarks, the hon. Lady spoke about the importance of evaluation. I agree that without good, strong evaluation, we would be failing in our duty to put the trailblazer forward. That is why we have taken a great deal of time to ensure that we get the evaluation right. The trailblazers will evaluate whether our policy proposals increase choice and control compared with the current system, whether outcomes for disabled adults are improved, and whether the “right to control” places unreasonable financial burdens on public authorities. They will also assess the cost-effectiveness of the policy. Those are all important matters, and we must go into

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the measure with our eyes open. We must ensure that the provision is fully costed and that we understand it fully. 

We will also be able to look at a wider range of issues, such as the success of different models for implementing the “right to control”, or the experiences of disabled adults in the process. As I have been at pains to point out, it is about trying to make the process work better for disabled people. That must be at the heart of our evaluation processes. 

Margaret Curran:  I return to the general theme of the concerns of disabled people. I could argue with the Minister—I have done so in the past and I will continue to do so—about the big economic questions. None the less, both of us have to deal with the reality, when disabled people are saying, “In this time of cuts, don’t target disabled people disproportionately.” During monitoring and evaluation, will the pilots record evidence should it find that disabled people are being disproportionately affected as shown by a decline in services for disabled people? Will the pilots look at that issue? Perhaps we could return to the matter during discussions in Parliament about the effectiveness of such pilots. 

Maria Miller:  I am not sure that the trailblazers would necessarily pick that up; that is not their objective. The objective is to test whether bringing streams of funding together will work better for disabled people. I assure the hon. Lady that the Department has carried out a quality impact assessment for all measures that have been put forward as part of the spending review. That will be the most appropriate way to assess the impact of the measures on disabled people. 

In my opening comments, I went through some of the measures that we have implemented to ensure protection for disabled people. I hope that the hon. Lady will be reassured that such protection has been at the heart of the spending review settlement in my Department and other Departments. It is part of our coalition agreement to drive towards more equality for disabled people, and we will achieve that through this spending settlement. Hopefully, that will help the hon. Lady understand better how the provision will work. 

The hon. Lady raised a number of other points, and I want to ensure that I have covered them in detail. She asked about discussions with Scotland, and I assure her that the devolved Administrations are committed to the sort of approaches that we put forward today. They will continue to be updated about our progress on “right to control”, and they will have access to the evidence that we pull together from the trailblazer areas. That will allow them to make decisions about the way that services

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are provided at a local level in the future. Obviously, the legal powers in the Welfare Reform Act 2009 provide sufficient legislation to enable them to do that. I am heartened by her support for the measures, and I hope that she will be able to have further conversations with her colleagues in the devolved Administrations and encourage them as she thinks fit. 

That probably covers the majority of the points that right hon. and hon. Members have raised. 

Mr Redwood:  One final brief point: very important in approving and determining the care plans and payments can be person “S”—the suitable person if the disabled person cannot do it for themselves. Is there any guidance on who should be selected as “S”? Are there any restrictions, and what if there is no obvious “S” in the disabled person’s group or network? 

Maria Miller:  My right hon. Friend raises an important point. It is vital that disabled people get the support that they require to be able to have an effective care package that will meet their needs. Some individuals will need support and help to achieve that, whether from user-led or other organisations if there are no obvious and appropriate individuals available to support them. That must be put in place. 

It is entirely possible that some disabled people will not want to be part of a trailblazer area, or the measures that are being put in place in trailblazer areas, and there is no problem with that. It is absolutely right and proper that individuals can opt out of the new approach. I hope that that does not happen on a regular basis, because I think that these important measures will assist disabled people with independent living and achieving the best that they can in their community. I hope that they will not take that course of action. 

However, as my right hon. Friend said, it is important to ensure that there is support for individuals who want to participate, and that it will always be there, no matter where in the country they live. That is why setting aside £7.5 million for implementation of the trailblazers is so important. It will ensure that that support can be cultivated, and that it is in place in every community in which we run trailblazers. 

“Right to control” is a landmark—it really is—and the regulations mark another step forward in establishing the rights of disabled people in law, and in empowering disabled adults to have greater choice and control over their own lives. I wholeheartedly commend the regulations to the House. 

Question put and agreed to.  

Resolved,  

That the Committee has considered the draft Disabled People’s Right to Control (Pilot Scheme) (England) Regulations 2010. 

5.8 pm 

Committee rose.