Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Defending Disability Benefits - the Record

I raised my concerns about UK government plans to scrap Attendance Allowance with the First Minister yesterday:

Leanne Wood: Social care is an important public service, and last week I met the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, to discuss the implications of the UK Government Green Paper 'Shaping the future of care together’. She told me that she hoped the devolved administrations would work together to provide a joint response, expressing their concerns about the green paper. It argues for integrating some disability benefits, such as the Attendance Allowance, into the care and support system, which is a clear indication of an intention to scrap the Attendance Allowance, and potentially other benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance. The proposal threatens the incomes of thousands of older people in Rhondda Cynon Taf, for example, who currently receive the Attendance Allowance. Will you outline the Welsh Government’s concerns about the Green Paper and explain the points that you intend to put to the UK Government on this matter?

The First Minister: There is a slightly ragged edge of devolved and non-devolved responsibility in this area, and that has been true for a long time. Just when we think that an area of policy is clear, and it is not our responsibility, we tend to find that a corner of it is our responsibility. Therefore, when changes are made in Westminster legislation relating to some care allowances, it changes that ragged edge, and we then have to be careful that if we acquire a new responsibility, it comes with new money attached so that we can fulfil that responsibility. Secondly, so far as the patient, or the frail person, is concerned, they should not, ideally, notice any difference. In other words, this should not be something that they have to panic about, being concerned that they will fall between two stools and be left uncovered. If there is such a switch of Government responsibility for the funding, the patient should not necessarily notice this because the service should continue as before—that is the key.

I am not clear on the details of the meeting that you had with Gwenda Thomas, so I might ask her to cover what I have said in a follow-up letter. However, I believe that this is a field where that kind of ragged edge is not new—it has always been there in one or two corners of that area between welfare benefits and benefits that are provided by the health service, or which we fund and are provided by local government.

If you share my concerns, respond to the UK government's Green Paper consultation which runs until 13th November 2009.

You can respond by post to: Green Paper Team, Room 149, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS or email:

Visit the Benefits and Work website for more information.

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