Friday, 20 November 2009

Plaid AM welcomes Minister’s support to retain disabled benefits

Plaid AM Leanne Wood has welcomed support from Deputy Social Services Minister Gwenda Thomas for the retention of Attendance Allowances as a benefit for disabled pensioners.

The South Wales Central AM has been campaigning on the issue because of fears that the UK Government could axe the Attendance Allowance following a Westminster Green Paper published last July and proposals in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

Leanne Wood, speaking during a debate on Paying for Care in Wales, told Gwenda Thomas: “You are well aware of the arguments against the abolition of disability benefits such as attendance allowance. Such a move would have a disproportionate impact on Wales and on the Welsh economy as well as on disabled pensioners, because the number of claimants is much higher here. I would be grateful if you could reiterate in the strongest possible terms your opposition to the abolition of attendance allowance.

“I was comforted to hear that you were committed to an effective dialogue with your ministerial counterparts in the UK Government to help you to achieve a shared view on the way forward. I know what your position is on attendance allowance, and I am confident that you will express the opinion of Welsh stakeholders to your counterparts in Westminster.”

Leanne Wood also welcomed plans to improve social services in Wales.

“I hope that that will mean that local authorities will recognise how important those services are to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

Leanne Wood said that she was disappointed that taxation was not favoured as a way of paying for care.

“Can you confirm that, while taxation may be ruled out by the UK Government, you will not rule it out, and that, if a majority of people as part of the consultation favour that option and feel that it is the best way forward, you will argue for it among your counterparts in Westminster? People find it very difficult to understand why social care can be paid for out of progressive taxation in Scotland, but that we cannot afford it here.

Responding Gwenda Thomas said: “Personally, I believe that attendance allowance will still have a role to play in supporting people to live independently. I do not understand clearly enough what the UK Government is saying about people in receipt of attendance allowance retaining the same level of care. That is an issue on which we need clarity and which needs to be a part of this consultation process.”

The Minister pledged that the views of the people of Wales on paying for social care would be conveyed to the UK Government.


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