HC Deb 29 May 1952 vol 501 cc1644-6
33. Mr. Shepherd

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the advantages which short-term stay homes for mentally-defective children give to harassed parents; and whether he would be prepared to assist financially in the setting-up of such homes.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Iain Macleod)

Yes, Sir. In a circular issued on 21st January last, local health authorities and hospital authorities were fully informed of the conditions under which assistance may be given in providing such accommodation in the case of family emergencies. I am sending my hon. Friend copies.

Mr. Shepherd

While I appreciate the merits of the circular, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he is able to go further and say that he will grant financial assistance even to private or quasi-private organisations who are prepared to run these homes if they have the capital to equip them?

Mr. Macleod

The local health authorities have powers which I could aid under Section 28 of the National Health Service Act, and they also have powers to make grants in suitable circumstances to voluntary associations. These matters are covered in the circular to which I have referred.

Mr. Janner

As a large number of children coming within this category are not receiving the assistance and attention which they should have, will the right hon. Gentleman do what his hon. Friend has asked and encourage local authorities by offering them further assistance?

Mr. Macleod

That was the purpose of the circular. I am delighted to do anything I can in this way to encourage local authorities to take action in the matter.

Mrs. Braddock

Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Minister of Works about this, because it takes a very long time to obtain the licences for altering premises which are required to house these children? If there could be some arrangement with the Ministry of Works to provide licences quickly for this purpose, the placing of children in the short-term homes would be expedited.

Mr. Macleod

I appreciate the point which the hon. Lady makes, and I will consult my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Shepherd

Is my right hon. Friend aware that any sums used for this purpose must come out of the fixed amount available to these authorities? As this is perhaps one of the most urgent needs in the public health field, will my right hon. Friend consider taking some special measures?

Mr. Macleod

I fully agree about the urgency of these cases, and in view of that I am prepared to look further into the matter.