HC Deb 08 July 1954 vol 529 cc2338-9
44 and 60. Mr. H. Johnson

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is satisfied that adequate powers are possessed and adequate provision made by local authorities for homes for aged and infirm married couples;

(2) whether he will send a circular to local authorities calling attention to the desirability of publicising the existence of homes for elderly married people where they are allowed to live together.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

County and county borough councils have all the necessary powers under Part III of the National Assistance Act and my right hon. Friend is satisfied that the proportion of accommodation for old people provided for elderly and infirm married couples is normally reasonable. Before approving proposals for the construction of residential accommodation for elderly people in need of care and attention, care is taken to ensure that a number of double bedrooms for married couples are included. Local authorities are well aware of that policy and have undertaken in their schemes for development of the service to make this type of provision.

Mr. Johnson

Has my hon. Friend's attention been called to the tragedy of Mrs. Lily Dudgeon, who died on the beach at Brighton after sleeping out because she feared that if she went into a local authority residential home she would be separated from her husband, who was an old-age pensioner? Can my hon. Friend confirm that, in fact, the woman was offered accommodation by Brighton Corporation and that any separation would have been only temporary? Does she not think that it would be good to have additional national publicity to dispel this ignorance and to avert any further tragedy of this nature?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

My right hon. Friend is aware of the tragedy of this case but, in view of the publicity that has been given to it, it is fair to point out that, when this couple were evicted from their accommodation, on the day they made application to the local authority they were offered Part III accommodation, which they declined. It is not always possible immediately on application to find double married accommodation, because that would mean leaving some idle and empty which might be used for priority cases. The couple were told that it was hoped within a reasonable time to give them joint accommodation. They refused the offer of Part III accommodation, and we all regret the tragedy which ensued.

I hope that the publicity given to the Question and answer will assure those who have criticised the service that the local authorities offered accommodation and proper shelter to this couple.