Letter: Returning choice to disabled people

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Sir: If you are disabled and need assistance getting up in the morning, washing, bathing, going to the toilet and with many of your other daily needs you would like to be able to choose who carries out those tasks, when they are done and in what way.

This flexibility is particularly important if you are fortunate enough to have a job. For some severely disabled people this has been achieved in the past with a cash payment from the local authority instead of service provision. It means disabled people can employ their own assistants rather than relying on local authority provision, which, with the best will in the world, may be less responsive and flexible than assistance organised directly by the individuals.

It costs the local authority no more - indeed it has been shown time and time again to be cost-effective. It provides consumer choice, independence and control - all that the Government wishes to achieve from its community care policy.

Now such arrangements have been declared illegal and, so far, the Government has blocked a measure that would give local authorities the necessary empowerment to make such payments should they and the disabled person want them. The National Assistance Act, which makes them illegal, is 45 years old.

Tomorrow a Private Members Bill, the Disabled Persons (Services) (No 2) Bill, is coming up for its second reading in the Commons. It has already passed all its stages in the House of Lords and to complete its parliamentary passage this session would bring considerable benefits to all concerned - including the taxpayer.

We, the undersigned, are representative of the strength and breadth of support for the measure, and we urge the Government to allow this Bill to reach the statute book this session.

Yours faithfully,

Lord McCOLL of Dulwich, Lord TEBBITT of Chingford, Baroness DARCY de KNAYTH, Baroness MASHAM of ILTON, Lord ASHLEY of Stoke, Sir JOHN HANNAM MP, ANDREW ROWE MP, ALAN HOWARTH MP, PETER THURNHAM MP, ALF MORRIS MP, LIZ LYNNE MP, RICHARD WOOD (director, British Council of Organisations of Disabled People), BERT MASSIE (director, Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation), STEPHEN BRADSHAW (director, Spinal Injuries Association), FRANCES HASLER (director, Greater London Association of Disabled People), ROY TAYLOR (Chair, Association of Directors of Social Services Disabilities Committee), JOAN TAYLOR (Chairman, Social Services Committee, Association of County Councils), TOBY HARRIS (Chair, Association of Metropolitan Authorities Social Services Committee), Dr ALISTAIR RIDDELL (Chairman, Community Care Committee, British Medical Association), GWEN SWIRE (Assistant General Secretary, British Association of Social Workers)

House of Lords

London, SW1

30 June