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Pensioner Power

February 22nd 2008

A Newport local historian and pensioner may have spurred a worthwhile Government move.

Hansard records on Thursday's Commons Debate:

?A constituent of mine, Mr. Cliff Knight, who is a doughty campaigner for pensioners and a local historian, is finding that the ageing process comes with
many unwelcome companions. He now needs many services that he never previously required. He was refused a grant to buy a stair lift. The means test for disabled facilities grants is based on the housing benefit rules. Although the weekly needs of a disabled pensioner are assessed at �186.55 for housing benefit purposes, increasing to �194 this April, the figure for calculating entitlement for a disabled facilities grant is �171.40, which was the housing benefit rate for 2005-06. Surprisingly, that makes a huge difference. The failure to increase the sum since 2005-06 makes a difference of up to �8,812 in the amount of grant payable.

That is staggering. It means that many people, who are entirely deserving of the grants, are floated off them by the failure to uprate the amount in line with inflation. We must examine that?a large cohort of pensioners has been badly dealt with because of this.?

Minister Mike O?Brien: - ? My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) raised several issues. He is right to say that the disability facilities grant has not been uprated since December 2005, when we implemented the proposal to exclude children?s cases from means-testing. We are expecting to update the regulations shortly and we will also consider a packet of changes. The Government regard the DFG programme as an important means of helping more than 35,000 older and disabled people each year to continue to live independently. We have substantially increased funding for the programme from �57 million in 1997 to �146 million in 2008-09. Further steps will be announced shortly.?

There seems to be a strong hint there of more money. If it happens, it will be thanks to Cliff Knight and my researcher Tony Lynes.