§ Mr. Gareth Wardell
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will examine the waiting times for approved home adaptations for the disabled in each local authority in Wales.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones)
Local councils must deal with all applications for disabled facilities grants within six months of receiving them.
§ Mr. Wardell
As renovation grants and adaptation grants for the disabled are usually mandatory under the Housing Acts, why has the Welsh Office discriminated against disabled people by transferring the funding of those mandatory grants from the special credit allowance to the basic credit allowance? That change of policy has effectively ended the ringfencing of a vulnerable group in society. Does not that mean that elderly and disabled people throughout Wales look forward with trepidation to the implementation of the Community Care Act next year?
§ Mr. Jones
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that there have been no changes to the regulations; the disabled facilities grants remain mandatory. The policy changes give local councils far more flexibility, which is necessary as they need to consider all the options in order to respond effectively. In the current year we have provided £26.3 million to deal with disabled facilities and other grants, compared with last year's expenditure of a little over £7 million.
§ Mr. Wigley
Does not the Minister understand that local authorities in Wales face a crisis which has a knock-on effect for disabled people? Until 31 March, work to renovate houses to an acceptable standard and the installation of disabled facilities was possible in most districts, and the money spent was refunded. Now, as that refunding has come to an end, it is not possible to bring houses for disabled people up to acceptable standards. Disabled people will have to live in dampness and poverty for years to come unless we revert to the original policy.
§ Mr. Jones
As I have explained, we have substantially increased the funding for disabled facilities grants to £26.3 million compared with a little over £7 million. We have made a generous increase in allocation of £80 million for all mandatory home renovation grants, bringing the total figure to £143 million.