The ODPM and the Department of Health are to review the disabled facilities grant programme, including the operation of means testing, housing minister Lord Rooker told peers.
He said it was 'a very serious issue about which there has been pressure on government for some time'. Last month the government announced the means testing of the disabled facilities grant was to be abolished in Northern Ireland. Lord Rooker said he understood the Welsh Assembly would be undertaking a review this year.
The minister was replying to Labour's Baroness Wilkins, patron of the National Disabled Persons Housing Service. She said that research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation more than a year ago showed that one in three families who were assessed as needing to make a contribution towards an adaptation to their home for their children's needs could not afford to do so and no adaptation was made -blighting the life chances of thousands of thousands of disabled children, and causing their parents acute stress, back injury and sometimes loss of employment.
Lord Rooker responded: 'There is no doubt that in respect of the disabled facilities grant there is a perverse disadvantage for children because the chances are that one or both parents will be working'.
He said it was an important issue, and the government would report its review decision later this year.
Crossbencher and veteran campaigner for the rights of disadvantaged children Lord Rix said the Audit Commission last year had also highlighted the necessity for housing for parents caring for a disabled child.
The minister acknowledged that, adding: 'The disabled facilities grant is the last of the mandatory housing grants still operating in England and Wales. In some ways, it is an area in which local authorities have no discretion. There is a ring-fenced amount of money available.
'The amount has increased from£56m to£100m in the last four or five years, so it is not as though the issue is not being addressed. Nevertheless, there is still an unmet need out there, some of which is caused by the perverse operation of the means test in relation to children because, unlike elderly people - the main recipients of the grant - one or both parents probably works'.
Hansard 5 Jan 2004: Column 1 - 4