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Lord Higgins: After the experience of the previous Sitting of the Committee when the noble Baroness proposed a measure which was said to be entirely benevolent but we discovered it contained all kinds of snags, when she uses that expression I immediately start to read the small print. However, having done so, I note that the proposed new subsection (9) states,

At least we have a clawback position if there turns out to be something which is less agreeable than was thought to be the case. Having said that, I believe we can accept the noble Baroness's assurance that this amendment is intended to do good rather than to be restrictive.

Earl Russell: It seems that peace has broken out in this Chamber in a big way. This amendment embodies another considerable victory. Both the Minister and I have argued that the all-work test has considerable limits on the grounds--as the Minister outlined--that most people with disabilities are capable of some work but not other work. Pilots will obviously be necessary to test the effect of this measure. The proposed new subsection (6) is particularly important; namely, that the effects of the pilots will be entirely benevolent. I particularly warmly welcome it. I am delighted to see this measure. I add one small note of caution. We do not know exactly what we shall find when we try to discover what work people can do and what they cannot do. For one thing, we do not know how much of that kind of work will be available. If we get a new incapacity test which is genuinely medically sound, I do not think we shall know until we put it into effect whether we shall save money.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I add my congratulations to the Minister. It is quite a change to offer congratulations rather than some of the harsh words that have been exchanged as regards some aspects of the Bill. This is a helpful and progressive measure which will be warmly welcomed by disabled people. It ends the old, rigid demarcation between those who can and those who cannot work. That is extremely valuable because of the continuum of ability to do different kinds of jobs. It breaks that terrible log-jam that has bedevilled disabled people for so long. This may well lead to the provision of a partial incapacity benefit, which has been a requirement of disabled people for many years. My noble friend has shown the value and the benefits of constructive consultation with disabled people. They will be encouraged by the proposition of my noble friend, and also by its potential if the pilots are successful. I have no doubt that they will be successful. I again thank my noble friend for a helpful and constructive suggestion.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am delighted at the warm reception that the amendment has engendered. It

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is indeed dear to my heart. As my noble friend Lord Ashley said, the current incapacity benefit test is based on the assumption that disabled people are either capable of work or are not capable of work. As was pointed out in the debate on disability last week, disability is a continuum. People's conditions improve or deteriorate; they fluctuate by the week or month. Therefore we want a more tailored and sensitive system of benefit support to disabled people, taking the risk from them of moving into work.

My noble friend mentioned the question of a possible partial capacity benefit. If one puts together the piloting of the jobmatch scheme of £50 a week, which the person takes into work with him, the proposals for the disabled person's working tax credit and the linking rules of 12 months, one begins to see the proposals, changes, flexibilities and support mechanisms in place for disabled people so that they can assess the possibility, as they tell us they want to do, of returning to the mainstream of society through the world of work. I am delighted that the proposals have received the Committee's support. I commend them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6 p.m.

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 127:

Before Clause 75, insert the following new clause--

Secretary of State to publish benefit information

(" .--(1) The Secretary of State shall take such steps as appear to him appropriate, including the publication of advertisements and leaflets, for the purpose of informing persons of their possible entitlement to a relevant benefit.
(2) The Secretary of State shall report annually in writing on the steps he has taken under subsection (1) above.
(3) In this section "relevant benefit" has the same meaning as in section 9.").

The noble Earl said: It would be pleasing if we could achieve a hat trick. The amendment deals with the encouragement of take-up. I know that that, too, is a cause dear to the Minister's heart. I have heard her dwell on it many times. Some of the information I have to present, such as the percentage of pensioners who do not take the income support to which they are entitled, is information I have heard the noble Baroness recount many times, including a number of occasions since she came into office.

We wish to encourage take-up of benefits for exactly the same reason that we want to discourage fraud. We want to ensure that money goes to the right people and not to the wrong people. It seems to me that a genuinely even-handed policy will attempt to do both things at once.

The need to encourage take-up is particularly intense for those who are old and who do not always feel that it is worth reading all the paper that comes their way. That may be a valuable conclusion from experience. But every now and then it is one which leads people astray. For example, a citizens advice bureau reports a case of a woman of 84 who visited the bureau to ask about hospital taxi fares and was quite unaware that she could claim income support to supplement her pension. There must be many more such cases.

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I know that the Government review benefit leaflets to see what they can do about that. They might manage to do a little more. In so doing they might find that they can do a great deal to encourage good health, and therefore save in one place what they spend in another. However, the essential case for the amendment is that of justice and the efficient working of the system. Any savings that resulted--I believe that there could be some--would be an uncovenanted bonus. I beg to move.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: I add my warm support. The Government have a clear responsibility to inform and to ensure awareness among people of the benefits available; otherwise the most vulnerable lose out. What is truly amazing is the lack of awareness of means tested benefits revealed by the citizens advice bureaux in their splendid briefs. It seems there are still people who are oblivious of the disability living allowance, the ICA and housing benefit. The lack of knowledge is quite remarkable. If the Government can help people to understand these matters, it would improve the take-up.

I make a plea to the Minister that special care be taken to ensure that the information is accessible to disabled people such as the blind and the deaf. The blind can often miss out on notices unless the information is in braille. Deaf people can miss out unless the information is clearly visible. Mentally handicapped people can also miss out. If those categories can be borne in mind by my noble friend, it will help many millions of disabled people.

Viscount Mountgarret: Perhaps I may add my support, for the reasons given by the noble Lord. Not only are the deaf and blind important. I have some small experience at home, with a number of elderly people living in almshouses. Before we know to what extent weekly maintenance contributions may be made, it is necessary to establish their income. When one asks them their entitlement to any benefit, they invariably do not know. In the end we find ourselves advising them. Without doubt they would not be able to get to offices which may well have the information in leaflets. The noble Earl suggests that the information should be made available. It is a small request and could easily be achieved to the benefit of those who have difficulty knowing the various rules and regulations. I hope that the Minister will take note of what has been said and consider whether it is possible to incorporate an amendment on these lines in the Bill.

Baroness Pitkeathley: I support the amendment, and speak also to Amendment No. 128. The bottom line is that people do not know the benefits to which they are entitled. The Green Paper on welfare reform, A New Contract for Welfare, recognises that take-up, for example of the disabled living allowance may be as low as 40 per cent. to 60 per cent. I know from experience that even though 375,000 carers claim care allowance, there is still much underclaiming. For example, in the first three months of this year when Carers National Association ran a take-up campaign on invalid care allowance, in the first eight weeks we had over 3,000 inquiries to our CarersLine about the benefit. It is also well documented that 1 million pensioners do not claim the income support to which they

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are entitled. The Government's moves to encourage take-up of income support, with the projects announced today, are most welcome.

At Second Reading I pointed out that many people take years to realise that they are carers. Most describe themselves as wives, fathers, daughters and sons. The name of the main carers' benefit, invalid care allowance, is also misleading since it appears as though it is intended for the disabled person, not the carer. Since carers' benefits are dependent on those of the disabled person for whom they care, it would be a logical step to include a leaflet about ICA in the DLA and AA claim packs, alerting carers to their possible entitlement.

Carers National Association was delighted to note that in correspondence the Secretary of State for Social Security told a carer in Southwark:

    "I believe the inclusion of information on DLA/AA claim packs will significantly increase awareness of ICA and help prompt claims from carers".

Last week I spoke to a carer called John who has been caring for his wife since she suffered a stroke eight years ago. He called our north of England office to ask about invalid care allowance. He had read something in the paper which was part of our campaign. John found that because he was 66 years old he was not eligible to claim ICA. Had someone told him about invalid care allowance when his wife first became ill, or had a form been included in the claim packs, he could have been receiving vital income of around £30 a week and had his basic state pension protected.

I hope that the Minister will remember John and the thousands like him and will acknowledge in her reply that the amendment proves an ideal opportunity for the Government to show their commitment to a continuing programme of improving take-up.

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