HC Deb 11 July 1955 vol 543 cc1565-6
35. Mr. N. Pannell

asked the Minister of Health what steps are being taken to deal with the large number of mentally defective children for whom there is no available accommodation in institutions under the control of his Department.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Iain Macleod)

Local health authorities provide supervision, occupation and training for children outside the hospitals within the limits of the children's capabilities and the authorities' resources. As regards plans for more hospital beds, proposals so far approved include some 7,000 additional beds for mental defectives of all ages.

Mr. Pannell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Liverpool alone there are 54 low grade mentally defective children awaiting accommodation, and would he be prepared to consider interim measures to relieve the terrible strain on the parents of such children pending the provision of permanent accommodation?

Mr. Macleod

I have been doing that. The figures in the Liverpool region have gone down each year for the last three years, and we are deliberately doing a major part of our new building programme for mental defectives in the Liverpool region. Apart from that, the major measure which is of use in the problem which my hon. Friend has in mind is the plan in our circular which enables children to be taken away for short-term care. I hope that this Question will direct further attention to that because it is of great value in easing the strain on mothers if children can be got away for a short holiday.

Dr. Summerskill

Can the Minister say what proportion the 7,000 bears to the total number of beds which he proposes to provide, and, in particular, will the right hon. Gentleman say when these 7,000 beds will be available?

Mr. Macleod

Not without notice. We dealt with the second part of the right hon. Lady's supplementary in the recent debate.

Mrs. Braddock

Is the Minister aware that in Liverpool some of these children have been at home for two or three years, and that the figures are not reducing but are increasing? In view of this fact, cannot the right hon. Gentleman make some interim arrangements with the local authorities to take responsibility for the care of these children instead of their being left at home where they are causing a tremendous amount of difficulty?

Mr. Macleod

The figures I gave are the figures I have for the Liverpool hospital region, which have been reduced year by year for the last three years. In view of what the hon. Lady says, I am quite prepared to look at the special problem within the city.

36. Mr. Renton

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the shortage of places for mentally deficient children in institutions in the East Anglian region; and what steps he is taking to overcome the shortage.

Mr. Iain Macleod

One hundred and four additional beds have recently been opened, and further substantial increases will be made when building schemes now in progress have been completed.

Mr. Renton

Can my right hon. Friend say to what extent these proposed new beds will solve the problem and how many mentally deficient children will still be kept in their own homes instead of in institutions in accordance with Government policy?

Mr. Macleod

I should like to have notice of the first part of my hon. and learned Friend's supplementary. By and large, over the whole country we have enough beds planned and approved in our building schemes to cover the waiting lists.