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Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I am delighted to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, that he does not think that any cost will be incurred in obtaining medical evidence. However, I have a feeling that occasionally that may be the case. It may not always be the intention, but I am sure that some doctors will charge. It may not be very many, but some will do so.

The noble Lord emphasised that under the Bill medical evidence would cover only those who failed to make a jobseeker's agreement or who made themselves unemployed. That may well have come about purely as a result of their disability; it may not have been intentional. He also said that the question of vulnerability would be covered by regulations. All that this amendment seeks to do is indicate the kind of regulations that should be made. The noble Lord also said that people with severe mental disability or mental health problems should not reach the jobseeker's agreement stage because they would be covered by incapacity benefit. However, there is always the possibility of a slip and of things not going as they should. My amendment would cover that position and act as a check.

It is worth emphasising that my amendment is very modest. It proposes hardship payments only for those whose existing medical condition is likely to deteriorate if benefit is not paid, and whose health is such that non-payment would put them at risk of excessive physical or mental distress. I do not believe that it would prove very costly. Despite what my noble friend said, I still consider the amendment to be important. I should like to seek the opinion of the House. I commend the amendment to your Lordships.

5.27 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 115; Not-Contents, 152.

23 May 1995 : Column 959

Division No.
Division No. 3


Ackner, L.
Airedale, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Avebury, L.
Bancroft, L.
Birk, B.
Blackstone, B.
Brain, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Chorley, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Croham, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B.
David, B.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Foot, L.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L. [Teller.]
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grey, E.
Halsbury, E.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harrowby, E.
Haskel, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes, L.
Hylton, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Jay, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kennet, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Kirkhill, L.
Listowel, E.
Lockwood, B.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McCarthy, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McNair, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mayhew, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Moyne, L.
Nathan, L.
Nelson, E.
Nicol, B.
Ogmore, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Ellesmere, L.
Rea, L.
Richard, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Rix, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Bp.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Stedman, B.
Strafford, E.
Swinfen, L. [Teller.]
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Waverley, V.
Whaddon, L.
Wharton, B.
White, B.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Wise, L.
Zouche of Haryngworth, L.


Abercorn, D.
Aberdare, L.
Addison, V.
Ailsa, M.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Barber of Tewkesbury, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Biddulph, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Borthwick, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brigstocke, B.
Burnham, L.
Cadman, L.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnock, L.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Cawley, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Clinton, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L.
Colwyn, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L.
Courtown, E.
Cox, B.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Crickhowell, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Derwent, L.
Digby, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Downshire, M.
Dundonald, E.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elibank, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Finsberg, L.
Flather, B.
Foley, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Gibson-Watt, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Gridley, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L.
Hanson, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Henley, L.
Hesketh, L.
Hives, L.
Hogg, B.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hood, V.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L.
Killearn, L.
Kimball, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Knutsford, V.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Long, V. [Teller.]
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Macleod of Borve, B.
Malmesbury, E.
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Middleton, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Monk Bretton, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E.
Newall, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orkney, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Peel, E.
Pender, L.
Perth, E.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Quinton, L.
Rawlings, B.
Reay, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Romney, E.
Saint Albans, D.
St. Davids, V.
St. John of Fawsley, L.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strange, B.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Swinton, E.
Tebbit, L.
Teviot, L.
Teynham, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Torphichen, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vinson, L.
Vivian, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Waterford, M.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

23 May 1995 : Column 960

5.36 p.m.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 8:

After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:

23 May 1995 : Column 961


.—(1) Regulations made under section 20(4) and under paragraphs 8 and 10 of Schedule 1 shall provide that a person shall be entitled to an income-based jobseeker's allowance from a prescribed date if he can demonstrate that he is at risk of hardship if payment is not made.
(2) The following are examples of circumstances where regulations may prescribe that a person be treated as at risk of hardship—
(a) the person is at risk of being denied some or all of the essentials of life such as food, water, necessary clothing, heating and cooking facilities or shelter;
(b) the person is at risk of suffering a deterioration in their physical or mental health;
(c) the person is at risk of being unable to meet the essential cost of any disability or health problem;
(d) the person will be put into debt for essential services or their debts for such services are likely to increase;
(e) the person will be prevented through lack of resources from actively seeking work.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to put on the face of the Bill a definition of hardship to enable reduced-rate payments to be made when someone fails to meet the conditions for jobseeker's allowance.

Currently, the definition of hardship is left to the discretion of adjudication officers, with guidance referring to situations in which the claimant or family could be denied some or all of the essentials of life, such as food, clothing, heating or shelter. This amendment seeks to place on the face of the Bill a definition of hardship which builds on the current definition by including reference to a risk of deterioration or of falling into debt if benefit is removed. It also includes reference to people who may not be able to meet the costs of their disability.

My noble friend the Minister has given few clues as to what "hardship" will mean, apart from a reference to alternative access to funds and capital. During the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, stated that:

    "We consider that it is right in JSA, which aims to set out a clearer sanctions regime, that criteria should be made more explicit in regulations".—[Official Report, 25/4/95; col. 877.]

If criteria are to be made more explicit, why are the relevant matters not on the face of the Bill? A list of examples would not preclude other circumstances being taken into account. Indeed, that is the approach taken by the Government in their own redrafting of clauses concerning availability for work and actively seeking work.

People on low incomes are particularly vulnerable to debt and deprivation, when families may be going without an essential item. Studies suggest that a third of households with incomes below £100 a week have debts and one in five parents have gone hungry because they did not have enough money to buy food. Researchers at Bradford University and the family service units found that over two-thirds of the families that were surveyed had health problems and that fluctuating health problems could be badly affected by a financial crisis—for example, bronchitis and asthma worsen under stress and cold temperatures.

Sick and disabled people are also particularly vulnerable to debt. The Disablement Income Group found that 20 per cent. of single, disabled adults

23 May 1995 : Column 962

describe themselves as "permanently" in debt, with another 15 per cent. getting into difficulties and 40 per cent. currently behind with payments. Asked how they would spend an extra £10 per week, 27 per cent. replied "on food"; and 37 per cent. would spend a windfall of £200 on paying off debts. Recent research by Sheffield CAB and Debt Support Unit found that for disabled people with long-term low incomes, even a small change in income could trigger debt problems. "Hardship" therefore should include a full assessment of any risk of greater stress or indebtedness if no hardship payment is made.

People with ill-health or disability can often be faced with financial difficulties because of extra disability-related costs. The OPCS surveys found that over 50 per cent. of disabled people incurred additional heating costs as a result of their disability. People with poor circulation or limited mobility need constant warmth; others will need hot water for extra baths or laundry.

Disability costs do not only arise for people with the most severe disabilities. Both the Policy Studies Institute and the Disablement Income Group found that even in lower severity categories, sick and disabled people could incur costs of up to £22 a week. Such costs can include fuel and heating, transport, wear and tear on clothing, laundry and chemists' items.

Of particular concern is the position of the thousands of sick and disabled people who may have their incapacity benefit removed and therefore have to sign on. Such people may not be the most severely disabled but could nonetheless incur additional costs because of their disability. For instance, someone who loses control of his bladder once a month and loses control of his bowels only occasionally would score only 12 points, which is below the incapacity threshold of 15. Yet such a person could incur extra costs in laundry, hot water for bathing and incontinence aids. Such problems could possibly worsen under the stress of being without any form of income. Where someone would be at risk of being unable to meet disability costs, their health should be considered to be at risk and a hardship payment made.

Amendment No. 8 would also offer important recognition that jobseekers need some form of income in order to be able to seek work. Jobseekers with a health problem or disability may incur additional costs when looking for work, yet they may not be covered by the Employment Service. Some deaf people have found that interpreters have not been available even for interviews with disability employment advisers. It is important that those costs are recognised for hardship purposes and that the person is not prevented from looking for work through lack of financial support. The amendment would place a definition of "hardship" in the Bill which develops current rules and ensures that the Government's objective of protecting those in hardship is met. I beg to move.

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