HC Deb 08 December 1958 vol 597 cc23-4
28. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Health what was the daily average during 1957 of patients employed in the laundry at Cane Hill Mental Hospital; what were the maximum weekly rates of payment to male and female patients so employed; what is the maximum number of hours per week a patient can work in the laundry; how long the present scales have existed; and what action is being taken to improve the present unsatisfactory cash payments and tobacco allowances where work of a reasonably high standard is achieved.

Mr. R. Thompson

53. Occupation is essentially a part of treatment and remuneration as such is therefore not payable. Male patients do, however, receive a weekly allowance of up to 2 oz. of tobacco and female patients of up to 6s. in cash, as an incentive. Patients may attend the laundry for up to 38 hours a week, but none in fact attends for as long as this. The tobacco allowance has existed for many years, and the present scale of cash rewards was introduced during 1955. In a few cases this has been raised to 7s. 6d. a week.

Mr. Dodds

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in the evidence before the Royal Commission there was reference to the work done in the laundries? Would it not be wiser to put away some of the money which these people should be earning until the day when they get out? How can the Parliamentary Secretary refute the allegation about cheap or slave labour if the rates paid are 6s. a week to a woman and 2 oz. of tobacco to a man? Is it not time this was investigated?

Mr. Thompson

As I have said, payments are made not as remuneration for work but in respect of patients who undertake and persist in an activity which is desirable from the point of view of their own cure and well-being. The adequacy of the payments must be judged by whether they fulfil this function and not by commercial standards of what patients would earn outside.

Mr. G. Thomas

Is the Minister aware that this practice of employing people who are mentally sick for this work, while understandable from a physical point of view, is causing a considerable amount of concern to those who realise that when many of these patients eventually are able to go back into the community they have no resources with which to face the world?

Mr. Thompson

It is our desire to return as many of these unfortunate people to the community in the end as are equipped to go there, but I must point out to the hon. Member that it is very generally agreed that work is a valuable part of the treatment.